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The Tutorial

How To: Buy Made to Measure Wedding Dresses Online

Why Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online?

Apart from the fact that I own a made to measure shoe company, I decided to go this direction after a brief time spent retail wedding dress shopping. While unusual, I saw a lot of advantages in buying a bespoke wedding dress: you get the exact design you want, it’s an original, and it should require less alterations than buying off the rack. Less intuitively, it can often be faster (the time quote for my dress was 3 months) and doesn’t have to break the bank. Depending on your design, maker and fabric, bespoke dresses can be had with mid-range prices and up.

THE INSPIRATION

Kate Middleton Jenny Packham

Reese Witherspoon - Water For Elephants

I was mostly inspired by:

  1. The gorgeous teal Jenny Packham dress with the lace back worn by Kate Middleton, and
  2. The white, hi-lo mermaid dresses worn by the ladies in Dream Girls (check out my Pinterest board here). The other direction I also considered going was the sleek dresses worn by Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants, which costume designer Jacqueline West was nominated for at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Going the bespoke route became the obvious choice if I wanted to fuse these two fairly distinct, elegant and vintage wedding dress styles.

How-To: Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online - Poppy Barley

My made to measure dressmaker was Danielle from D’Marie Bridal Couture, who I found on Etsy. I loved this couture dress she created (pictured above), and felt it was a strong indicator that she could achieve the style I was looking for. Danielle was great to work with, super responsive, and did a great job executing on the design.

THE PROCESS

 How-To: Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online - Poppy Barley

  1. I sent Danielle pictures of dresses with one or more aspect I wanted incorporated into the dress.
  2. Danielle sketched out variations of the dress (pictured left), filling in some of the blanks I hadn’t specified, like adding a row of pearl buttons down the back. We finalized the design/sketch.
  3. Danielle sent me fabric swatches and price information for each option.
  4. Since Danielle is in California, I got my mother to measure me and sent Danielle my measurements. (You definitely need someone to help you measure – there were over 30 measurements required for my dress.)
  5. Next, I got a linen version of my dress. (Not with any lace detailing or beading – just the basic outline.) I found this step very reassuring. I liked the shape of the dress, so knew we were on the right track, and we were able to double check my measurements and the fit by pulling the dress in to see how much I needed taken in.
  6. I was sent a photo of the almost-finished dress. This allowed me to make any last minute changes. In my case, I had the back lowered another 8 inches or so, and covered with lace.
  7. The dress arrived! I loved it, but it did need some alterations.
  8. I went to Capital Tailors for my alterations. In addition to achieving a perfect fit, Capital Tailors, who were wonderful, improved the dress by adding a back zipper, cups, and boning.

In the end it was $1550 for the dress and $200 for alterations

How-To: Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online - Poppy Barley

How-To: Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online - Poppy Barley

How-To: Buy a Made to Measure Wedding Dress Online - Poppy Barley

INTRIGUED? Here are the first two steps to buying made to measure wedding dresses.

Step 1: Get a clear idea of the design/style you want. You’ll need to be able to communicate this to potential makers for them to determine A) if he/she can make that dress, and B) a price estimate.

To do this: Figure out (or at least short list) the location and season for your wedding. Both will help dictate the style of dress that suits your wedding the most.

Go wedding dress shopping in retail stores. This is fun to do at least once (and there is a chance you’ll find your dream dress.) If not, it will help you figure out what you do and don’t like, and if what you think you want looks good on you (this isn’t always the case and you are better to find out now). Keep an open mind the first time shopping and try on a variety of shapes and fabrics.

Find inspirational photos online and start pinning what you love. Then review your board(s) and note any common themes (for me, it was the multiple images of lace-covered backs and a mermaid shape) and select your favorite images.

After that, start composing the elements of your “perfect” dress, like cap lace sleeves, or an open back. Don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out or if you can’t draw, your designer/seamstress can help you with both.

Step 2: Find your maker. Etsy is a great resource. Ask local wedding publications and planners about local designers/seamstresses in your city.

A bridesmaid, not a bride? A great new start-up based in New York, Indira, is also making custom bridesmaids dresses possible.

 

Justine Barber

Co-Founder, Poppy Barley
Justine started Poppy Barley with her sister Kendall in 2012 after a seemingly endless frustration with boot shopping. An avid runner and reader, Justine shares her life in Edmonton with her husband Connor, son Jude, and puppy Quinn.