Sunday, 19 September 2010

UK dressmakers. We're really quite good!

I was incensed by a comment in a wedding forum recently suggesting that UK based dressmakers weren't really up to the job of producing quality bridalwear, not like the offshore bridal companies! Well, let me share with you the experience of my client, Becky after she decided to purchase her wedding gown from one of the more popular 'custom made' bridal companies.

The website suggested the use of best quality fabrics and so Becky's wedding gown was to be made from taffeta with a beaded and sequined lace applique. The bodice was pleated with large swags of fabric to each side of the hip area.

I was concerned with the 'best quality fabric' used in this photo as you can clearly see the lining through the fabric easpecially at the hemline!

There are no beads or sequins on this lace.

The swags of fabric hang much too low which in my opinion, take the line of the gown out of proportion.

The back of the gown show the lace up back which again in my opinion is out of proportion.
So, when the finished gown eventually arrived to Becky, she wasn't exactly pleased or even loving her gown.
The petticoat which had been made to go beneath the gown was too long and was visible at the hem. On top of that, the bones were visible through the fabric. Becky asked for my professional opinion which was quite hard to do as I certainly didn't want to upset her further. However, this was as gentle as I could put it.
"I’ve been thinking about this, probably putting off the inevitable into giving you an honest opinion, but as you have asked I do feel I should give you my thoughts.
Ok. With my professional dressmakers hat on.

When I make a wedding gown, I source the best possible fabrics. I buy per job so I have to take into account the suitability of fabric for the dress. If a customer wants sumptuous, I advice pure silks. I tend not to use synthetic taffeta for bridal as the quality isn’t always the best. I tend to advise a silk dupion as silk taffeta is costly.
Beadwork. Beaded/sequined laces come in anything from around £40 - £100 per meter. There is non beaded variety which can be used but then you need to consider the time to bead. You can buy motifs which work well but can work out costly when you require a lot. Hence purchasing beaded lace by the meter and then carefully trimming out the motif itself.
When I make my gowns, depending on the weight, I build the petticoat in. I am using a white silk at the moment which has a hot pink petticoat. To avoid the colour grinning through the fabric, I have triple lined it. Wedding gowns with petticoats tend to be triple lined. (mine can be)

Quantities of fabric must also be taken into account. If I were to make something similar to the one you’ve ordered, I’d be looking at least 10-12 meters if not more to achieve the drape.
So, to my nitpicking.

1. I don’t feel there is enough sparkle on the lace. I did point this out after the last photos they sent. The lace had no beadwork on it what so ever. I know you raised concerns.
2. I don’t feel the distance between the corset at the top is adequate. It should be about 5”.
3. It appears the hoop is visible through the dress which draws attention to the interrupted flow of the skirt and detracts the eye's attention from the overall effect of the dress. (this could be corrected with the use of a net petticoat)
4. The fabric used looks flimsy for the design. This however could be improved with a well fitting/constructed corset and as before, a petticoat.

Whether inexpensive or costly, the dress must be fit for purpose. Fit for purpose with a wedding dress will include all the practical things like wearable without falling apart etc., but may also include unspoken expectations that matter to the bride but would be different things for others, eg. one bride may want a luxurious gown which will be the dress of her dreams which she intends to store as a keepsake, another may just want a dress for the ceremony and some photos and doesn't attach any emotional significance to the dress.

I think you have to weigh up what you think you’ve been sold and what you have been. Have you been told what fabrics they use to what the original is? If on their picture it says taffeta for example, then the picture I would think would be a pure silk not synthetic. Basically, do you feel you’ve got what you paid for?

I know this is no consolation and as I said, haven’t wanted to give you my honest opinion, but I think it only fair that I do

So, as Becky had already asked me to make her bridesmaid gowns, she asked for a quote and the rest was history.

Using a pure silk dupion, I sourced a super beaded and sequined lace which the most amazing scallop edge that worked perfectly at the bustline.

I used 15 meters of silk in the gown which had a fully corset inside and built in net petticoat.

To take the detail from the front swags to the back, I hand bustled the train adding the lace motifs to each pick-up point.

Becky being laced into her gown.

Taking inspiration from a wedding gown she had tried, Becky received a pure silk gown totally unique to her. No copies, no hassle just a beautiful gown for a very beautiful lady. The look was completed with a triple-tier diamante veil (made by me) and a tiara which Sarah from Simply Wedding Dresses. allowed me to borrow a selection.
I would like to thank Becky for allowing me to use the photographs and sharing her experience with an offshore wedding gown company.


  1. Have any of the wedding magazines picked this up? Surely everyone knows that "offshore" is a definition for "cheaply made in China" ..?? Perhaps you should write a piece for one of the Bridal mags LInda? I recently had a conversation with a Bride who had bought her gown (similar to this one you have made) off the peg at a bridal shop, she paid a fortune for it, and it didn't fit, so they wanted £70 to take it up, then £45 per side to take the corset it ... I was flabbergasted! She could only afford the £70 so spent her whole wedding day pulling at her top! I would always recommend that wedding dresses be hand made to measure. It's no more expensive and much more economical (in terms of stress/energy!) in so many ways..

  2. The gown you created for Becky is absolutely stunning and Im with the above comment...far far too much emphasis in the uk on 'designer' gowns that are mass produced in China and then having to be altered to 'fit' here. Designers of Lindas ilk need to be feted and treasured as a real alternative to mass produced tat that produces a homogenous 'look' and is driven by large bridal wear companies who have the clout financially to have a stranglehold on the bridal media in the UK which will not give any publicity to the home grown talent in the UK

  3. Julia, I have e mailed You and Yor Wedding so watch this space lol x