Wedding Dresses
Article thanks to Sue Featherstone Bride Online Columnist

A Step- By- Step Guide to Having The Couture Gown Of Your Dreams Made


You love the beaded bodice of one gown, the sheer sleeves of another, and you’re fantasising about that breathtaking skirt overlay you saw in a magazine. How do you combine them all into your wedding dress? You get it tailor made. We outline the 10 steps to your dream dress. 

STEP 1: Research

When you go to your first consultation, you’ll want definite ideas about the outfit you’ll be creating, and unless you’re the bride who’s had a “Wedding Dress” file for 5 years, you’ll have to do some research. Trawl through the Internet, scour bridal magazines and visit wedding expos to get ideas for your frock.

I’ll admit that this planning stage is exciting, but I know that all you really want, is to try on wedding dresses. This is actually the best way to see what styles flatter you the most, and you may be surprised to discover that in reality, a portrait neckline, on a tea-length dress is more becoming than the strapless, floor-length gown of your imagination.

STEP 2: Finding the right couturier

A couturier is the professional who is going to design and make your wedding dress, but you can’t just use any old couturier; each one has a distinctive style, and they combine this with your ideas, to create a one-of-a-kind gown. Before you pick this person, you must make sure that you love their work and can see yourself in one of their creations.

You must also check on the quality of their work. Search online for feedback from other brides, look at their wedding portfolio and ask to see some real gowns. It’s a big decision, so take your time.

STEP 3: Your first consultation

Take all your pictures and plans with you when you meet your couturier, because you’ll be designing this dress together. Communication is important, so speak openly about your likes and dislikes, and discuss your aspirations for the gown and any special requests. You also need to be upfront about your budget, and chat about your timescale, the season and the formality of the day.

It’s fundamental that you have a good connection with him or her, because you have to trust their knowledge and experience. They’ll tell you if your ideas work, and if they don’t, they’ll propose some alternatives. This session is about getting to know each other, and it should be exciting and fun.

Christian Dior Gown Details, circa 1949. Photographer: Sheila Metzner for American VogueDecember 1986.

STEP 4: Sketches

During your next consultation you’ll see a variety of drawings, with different design suggestions, based on your previous meeting. Now is the time to find your voice, and say if you’re unhappy with any element of the design. Your couturier will make adjustments until the sketch is spot on.

In this session you’ll see swatches of fabric that are specific to each design. The material is normally supplied by the couturiers, as they have a thorough understanding of fabrics, how they drape, and if they work with specific dress cuts. Once you’ve settled on a design, ask for recommendations on a colour that complement your skin tone. Discuss fabric costs because, while French lace is beautiful, it may be out of your price range. Come to a decision on the material and the accessories that will bring your gown to life.

It’s a busy consultation as you have your measurements taken, and your shape and posture will be noted. It’s also customary to pay a deposit.

STEP 5: The toile

All the information is taken and translated into a paper pattern, and from this a toile is made. It’s a mock-up of your gown, and it’s usually made from calico or muslin. You try on your sample dress and it gets adjusted until it’s a flawless fit.

STEP 6: The pattern

The toile is then transferred onto a pattern and finally, your fabric gets cut. If there are any major technical problems, then you’ll have to schedule in another toile fitting.

STEP 7: First fitting

Your dress is taking shape and you now get to try on the lining. Be sure to bring your wedding underwear with you, because it’s your foundation, and it can affect your fitting. Check the neckline and sleeves, and if there’s anything worrying you – bring it up now! You still have time to make amendments. There can be multiple fittings while your gown is being constructed, but that depends on your couturier and the complexity of your outfit.


STEP 8: Hem

Yay, you finally get to see your dress. Don’t forget to bring your wedding shoes to this consultation, as your hem will be adjusted to the correct height. Final (but trivial!) changes can be made at this stage. Your gown is ready to be finished, so you’ll also need to decide where you want to place your accessories.

STEP 9: Final fitting

This should take place as close to your wedding date as possible, to make absolutely sure that it fits you like a second skin.

STEP 10: Collection

Your dress is complete, pressed and ready to go. You can ask for it to be stored, but I suspect you’ll be too excited to leave it there, and will want to ogle it at every opportunity. Some couturiers may also offer to help you get dressed on the big day, if your outfit is particularly complicated or especially delicate.

A couture gown is one that’s “made to measure”, and this means that you get something unique, of the highest quality, that fits you perfectly. Because it’s handmade it can take between 6-12 months to create, depending on how busy they are, how complicated your dress is to make (delicate beading and intricate embroidery are time-consuming), and if you’ve chosen fabric that is imported or hard to locate. There is always room for flexibility, but this is determined by your circumstances and their workload.

You may be surprised to discover that a couture gown don’t always cost the price of a small car, and you get exactly what you want – all you need to do is trust in your couturier and their expertise. Their reputation is at stake, so they’ll ensure that you’re completely thrilled with the final product.

Your dream dress has been brought to life – I’m sure you’re grinning like the Cheshire Cat – now it’s time to make your partner tear up as you walk down the aisle.

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