Archive for December, 2011

Will you get your Wedding Gown Couture Custom Made vs Off the Rack? Tips to help you decide:

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011


A decision you may find yourself needing to make in the hunt for your perfect wedding gown is whether you’re going to buy it “Off the Rack” or if you will have one “Made to Measure”.

In my career I have designed bridal gowns for international labels who mass produced & also small couture labels who created one-off dresses, so I have a lot of experience in both choices. There are significant differences between the two, so I have endeavoured to list some of the major differences and benefits as follows:

Buying your wedding gown off the rack:

  • This is a good option if you would like a traditional style of wedding dress.
  • Buying your gown off the rack normally means that it is a mass produced style. Most stores will carry just one sample gown in stock and will have the factory make it in your size after you order it.
  • Generally samples are stocked in a size 10 or 12, so if you’re a different size you’ll only get a rough idea of how it will fit and look on you in your true size.
  • Your gown will come in a standard size so you may require alterations if it doesn’t fit you perfectly as is. It is a good idea to ask your sales consultant about possible alterations that may be necessary prior to purchasing your wedding gown so you are aware of any additional costs that may be incurred.
  • Length – if you are very short or tall, you may need to have the length adjusted on your bridal gown. Some boutiques will order your gown with a different length (usually up to 3 inches shorter or longer) depending on the style. Gowns that have full pieces of lace or embroidery may not be able to be adjusted because it will alter the whole look and proportions of the design. Your bridal consultant will explain to you which styles can be adapted. I would definitely recommend having the gown ordered with the correct length if possible as it is more likely to retain the original proportions of the design.
  • Straps, Sleeves & Jackets – Honestly these are not easy to find in a bridal boutique simply because there is still such a strong preference for strapless wedding dresses. If you shop around you may find them, but be aware if you’re looking for a wedding dress with a sleeve or a strap, you most probably will require alterations. This is because it is difficult for (any) designer to create a fitted sleeve style that fits ‘everyone’ as women are very different shapes around the shoulder/arm area (that’s why bespoke suit tailoring is so popular for men!).
  • Another option is to add a small capped sleeve to anexisting strapless style – talk to your bridal sales consultant if they offer this service or if they can order a small length of extra fabric or lace when they order your gown, and you can then have a dressmaker add these for you.
  • Design Options – An off the rack dress is limited entirely to the fabric the sample is made in and there may be a limit of 1 – 3 colour options. It’s generally not possible to customise the trims, lace or beading unless you take your gown to a dressmaker which is an extra charge.
  • So who should buy off the rack? I would suggest it if you are extremely time poor or feel more comfortable seeing EXACTLY what you are getting in front of you rather than going through the design process and viewing sketches and fabrics etc.


Having your gown made by a couture designer (made to measure/bespoke):

Obviously I do consider this a wonderful option – as I myself offer this service. However here are some reasons why:

  • The process of having a couture gown made begins with a consultation, followed by a series of fittings, and finally picking up the finished gown. So you get to enjoy the experience of wedding dress fittings! It’s a much more prolonged experience than just walking in and buying your dress off the rack and being done. It’s very exciting seeing it all come together and watching the design and fitting process.
  • It’s a perfect fit! Nothing will fit you better than a design customised to your bodyshape! Even the little details are customised including extra boning and support in the bust or waist if you need it. You’d be surprised how many little details are considered and refined for an individual bride’s gown both inside and out! This is part of the couture experience and truly is an art in itself.
  • On that note it makes it easier to find lingerie for under your gown. There is nothing worse than choosing a gorgeous low back wedding dress and then you can’t find a bra or corset to match because everything is too high at the back. If you have your gown made-to-measure then you can have the neckline of your gown adjusted if necessary to fit the lingerie. Or we can make special allowances in the design to allow you not to wear a bra etc.
  • You have limitless options in fabric and colour, lace and beading (depending on your budget). Dresses off the rack are only available in one fabric or lace.
  • The design is TOTALLY customisable. If you want sleeves/straps/a little matching bolero, garter or a veil that has matching lace to your gown – we can do this for you and more!
  • If you’d like a little button hole or fascinator/hair-piece for each of your bridesmaids that has lace from your gown, it’s also possible!
  • If you have religious or personal requirements about the height of your neckline or sleeve length etc, these are easily accomodated and we can still creating something very flattering for you within the boundaries.
  • I also offer my clients a special gift of a sketch of your gown to keep as a memento of your couture bridal gown experience.
Of course the decision is entirely up to you and there are many advantages to both. I wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect wedding gown and I hope this was helpful for you! As always if you’d like to leave me a question or comment, check my Contact page.
x Sarah

6 of the Best Tips For Choosing Your Dream Wedding Gown:

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Whether you have been dreaming of your wedding gown since long before you got engaged, or you haven’t given it any thought at all until now, one of the most exciting decisions you’ll make in planning your wedding is choosing your wedding dress.

You may have everyone asking what are you going to wear? & suggesting where you should go or giving you advice about what they wore to their wedding and what they think is appropriate.. Without a little bit of planning, choosing your wedding gown can go from fun to stressful.

So amidst all the excitement, if you keep a few simple points in mind it will help keep the process a smooth and memorable experience. Here are some of my top tips that you should remember when searching for your wedding gown:

     1. While researching online for ideas or visiting a bridal store, do not limit yourself to a certain look or fabric. Be open to trying different styles on and see what suits you.

For example, you may have your heart set on a strapless style, but you could be more comfortable and find it more flattering to wear a style with a softly ruched strap. This allows you to wear a bra with straps which will give you more support if you need it. A gown with straps can also have a much lower back than a strapless gown (because a strapless gown needs to be fitted high to hold it up).


Or you may have imagined your bridal gown would be in rich silk satin, but it might look too heavy or be unsuited to the style of gown you like. To achieve the look of the draping, skirt and train you are after, you might need to go for something lighter like silk chiffon.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking lace is too fussy for you, but depending on the style and cut of the dress (and the choice of lace) it could look amazing..


     2. If you have a particular budget in mind, communicate this to your consultant. Try on some gowns that fit into your budget first and this will give you an indication of what is possible at your desired price range. If you haven’t found anything that you’ve liked so far, you may wish to try on a couple of gowns in a higher price bracket. However at least if you have tried some gowns in your initial budget first you will be able to make an informed decision on how much difference there is in quality/fabrications/beading and fit between the different price brackets and whether it’s worth paying the difference.

When I design a gown for a bride, I am considerate of budgets. I use only the finest fabrications, silks and laces and this is something I won’t compromise on – even when trying to make the gown more affordable for a bride. However I can still make many allowances if you have a lower budget and this may mean I do less handwork, beading or different quality of crystals etc. I’ll always explain to you the options that you have so don’t hesitate to ask me about my price range.

     3. It’s best to limit yourself from visiting too many bridal boutiques or trying on too many wedding dresses. It’s difficult to remember what you have tried on or you liked (no bridal salon will let you take photos) and it can get very tiring and overwhelming as well. A lot of stores have a maximum number of gowns they’ll let you try on at an appointment, so you need to keep that in mind as well.

If you are getting your gown bespoke made (like I do at Sarah Alice Andrews – Bridal Couturier) then I would recommend only trying a few gowns on to get an idea of the silhouettes you like. If you are thinking T-Length, A-line, big and full skirted, or mermaid it will give you an idea of whether that style will suit you.

When I work with a client, I can see the shape that will suit you best just by looking at your silhouette. & During the first fitting which I do in calico cotton (a toile) we will discuss the silhouette and you can see a basic shape of what your gown will look like. We can make any changes we wish to the silhouette at that point and I’ll be aiming to give you the most flattering look possible.


     4. We suggest you carefully consider how many people you bring with you to your consultation or fitting appointment. It’s lovely to have everyone there with you (your mum, grandmother, all your bridesmaids and your aunties) but too many opinions can be confusing. It may also slow down the fitting process so you have less dedicated time focused on you and more time spent placating everyone else or trying on gowns you don’t like simply to please someone else (and remember time and the number of gowns you can try is usually limited).

I am happy for you to bring whoever you like (3 is a good maximum number) but bare in mind I work in a unique way from other bridal designers. As I come from a background of fine arts, I use a truly creative process to design your bridal gown so that it’s all about flattering you, your style and your figure and I can source inspiration from anything and anywhere. (an heirloom brooch, a beautiful piece of fabric, a ballet, a venue or an old photograph etc) So your experience will be benefited by trust and a little time and space for us to think about the perfect gown design for you so I can work my magic!

     5. So what else should you consider before you start looking for your bridal gown? I would suggest you have your venue solidified. If you have not chosen your venue yet, than at least have an idea of the settting eg. Beach/destination wedding, church or garden, and whether you’ll be dancing etc at your venue or how formal it will be and of course the season!

An idea of your venue helps with choosing your wedding gown because certain styles are more suited to certain venues. You wouldn’t choose a huge ballgown for a destination wedding for example (and it would be very hard to pack in a suitcase!). As an artist and a designer, I like to think about the venue and tie these elements into your wedding gown concept. These could be very subtle design attributes, but it’s all about choosing the right style for you, your personality, your dream day and the venue that you have chosen is a part of that.


     6. So lastly, when should you start your bridal gown search? We recommend brides start looking 8 – 10 months in advance of their wedding. Honestly the more time the better as we have limitless options for design possibilities. However if you have only a few months before your wedding it may still be possible for me to create your wedding gown. I will be more limited in my choice of laces for example as many of the laces I use have been woven to order in France which can take several months for that part alone, but don’t worry I will still source something Beautiful for you which is more readily available.

I hope these tips have helped you with some things you need to think about to find your dream wedding gown! Send me a message on Twitter (@SarahCouturier) or Facebook or send me an email if you have a question or a comment.


Sarah xo