A few posts back I mentioned that I had been to Cyprus. About 15 years ago I promised a friend that I would design her wedding dress. Earlier this year I got The Call.
1. Pen to Paper
It was an open brief. I had total freedom. The thing with wedding dresses, especially if you know the bride quite well, an image immediately forms in your mind. You intuitively know what sort of dress she’ll want.
6th sense, maybe.
I knew this bride quite well. Knew her enough to know that she wanted something sexy but simple.
She didn’t want the usual Turkish bride get up – all pouffy satin meringue, evening gloves (even in 36∘+ weather!), and a bit too much sparkle. She wanted to stand out in her simplicity.
She wanted to show the locals how its done. She’s a high-flying exec for BMW after all.
At our first meeting I teased her that I’d done Sweet F A. That “I had a vision”. She looked quite worried and wondered if this was a good idea after all…
I then pulled out a series of sketches, inspirational images and swatches all lovingly bound and tied together with a vintage grosgrain ribbon.
This was going to be fun.
I explained that this was only a departure. The actual dress wouldn’t really start to take form until after the first fitting. I warned her not to get her hopes up just yet. The first toile was going to leave a lot to be desired. It would be a way to start playing with silhouette and working on the corset.
She wanted to exaggerate her waist. And wanted to look as slim as possible. Fair enough. If you’re going to drop a few grand you most definitely want more than a few inches dropped.
I felt quietly confident.
2. The Process.
I think we had about 6 fittings all together. She kept losing weight and we kept on cinching the corset in further.
At the first fitting I basically threw out all the previous ideas. Initially I’d been feeling for drape. It seemed more appropriate to do a modern take on a vintage-y dress.
Inside out corset in silk faille with organza and chiffon finishings that had been left raw. And a layered skirt in washed silk chiffon – to take away some of the preciousness and give the fabric a softer handle – with an insert of sun ray pleats at the front and a train made entirely out of pleated chiffon panels. Or maybe washed organza.
The dress was a technical nightmare. My cutter/machinist – who’s an incredible craftsman that works with labels like Alexander McQueen and Roland Mouret – was put through the paces! Four layers of chiffon. No, two of chiffon, two of satin, shiny sides facing each other. No, two chiffon, two tulle, one satin… It went on.
She wanted the dress “to sway”.
And that sodding train! The pleats kept collapsing inward. She wanted it super long but the pleaters couldn’t pleat panels that big.
In the end I had a Eureka!! moment, one of many, and decided that we do concentric layers of pleats that would allow us to get the desired length of train.
3. The Last Stand.
I didn’t get to see the final dress in the flesh. I was in Italy for work.
We did the final fitting via Skype.
I was a bit fresh from knocking back the contents of the minibar. She seemed happy with it. It fitted well – as well as I could tell from the fuzzy screen. The train worked.
I took the dress with me to Cyprus along with those of the four bridesmaids. If anything happened to me or my luggage en route…
4. The Dress
I arrive in Cyprus. Fine. I unpack the dress. Miraculously uncreased. Fine. We try on the dress. Not fine. It will only close up halfway up the back.
Shit. F*ck! Definitely not fine.
My friend’s practically in tears. The bridesmaids want to drag me through hot coals and then slowly peel off my skin.
“Its your job to make it fit!!!!”
I feel like the most useless designer in the world. There is nothing we can do. I need a moment. I need three cans of beer, a couple of G&Ts and a pack or two of Marlboro Lights to think this one through.
We can’t alter the dress. Too complicated. No fabric. And without my trusty cutter I wont let anyone touch it. There has to be a way. What the f*ck went wrong?
God bless her. She came
to my rescue yet again….
The spare buttons!
This could work. Surely it must. The button flap on the outer corset to protect it from the zip of the inner corset. If I could stitch the extra buttons along the edge of the flap it might just give me enough to close the dress. Just about….
I have the exact amount of spare buttons that I need. 15.
We try the dress on again. My idea might work. Might…. I feel sick.
The following day I get sewing. This better work. The wedding’s the next day.
I hate sewing.
Cluck, cluck. The Night of The Hens. We bump into 90s house and garage supremo The Artful Dodger.
Re re-wind, when the crowd say,
5. The Long Walk.
The day of the wedding. It’s boiling. Everyone seems calm but I know that we’re all on edge. Will the dress fit?
It does!!! F*ck, it DOES!
Instead of tracing her spine the buttons now form an elongated “Y”. Almost like tuning fork. Cute.
A Design Detail, darlings!
I am shaking, verging on being emotional.
And I never cry.
This has quite possibly been one of the most stressful things I have ever done.
We are one hour late for the wedding although I think that was pre-planned.
That girl wanted to walk up that aisle, outdoors, the sea to the right, the mountains to the left and the sun just setting.
She knew what she was doing…
My hands were still shaking. I’ll post better pics of the dress when I get the professional pics.
My hands are still shaking.
She looked bloody GORGEOUS!!!
Job well done? ✔