I've had the pleasure of designing dresses over the last few years for Lacerlot's bridal clients, so I'm familiar with the hopes and anxieties involved in the creation process. As sympathetic as I may have been to a bride's emotional journey, nothing replaces the experience of getting married yourself.
Here's the Top 6 Things I was most surprised to learn while designing my own wedding dress:
1. Location Mattered Most for Me:
When thinking about your gown design, consider starting with the setting first.
Years ago during a visit to Kleinfeld's, I thought I found the blueprint of my future wedding attire when I tried on a $23,000 gown. The dress sang Cinderella: a massive princess ball gown with shimmery silk material, a long train, a tight corset, and a bulbous skirt. People had to step out of the way from the yardage of fabric surrounding me in the store so that I could walk to the mirrors.
Through Lacerlot, I possessed the tools to recreate a dreamy and expensive dress exactly how I wanted. But I didn't, and here's why: my fiancé Peter and I decided to elope in Maui. I would have looked ridiculous, and felt hot and uncomfortable, in a giant ball gown on the beach. (Not saying you shouldn't do it.)
I went so far as to submit Cinderella-esque ideas to Lacerlot seamstresses, then immediately changed my mind and got serious about a design that would be most enchanting in the tropical environment we had chosen.
I envisioned the summer Hawaiian heat, the sand, sun, ocean spray, wind, and I began focusing my design inspiration on breezy dresses. The environment answered a lot of design questions for me: hem length, material, train length, sleeves, etc. I was still able to exercise creativity with my embroidery, but our location determined the silhouette.
2. I Wasn't Overwhelmed By The Style Choices:
I expected to be indecisive when faced with the multitudes of bridal gown styles. Despite the infinite options, there were just 2-3 dress candidates that I loved enough to wear on my wedding day.
My Pinterest wedding board features over 300 dresses. It was illuminating to realize that while I admired many, I only pictured 2-3 different styles that I genuinely wanted to get married in. I know my body, and while there are plenty of beautiful gowns in the world, many silhouettes don't work with my frame.
3. I Cared More About the Memories than the Dress:
Popular culture, and my own preconceptions as a dressmaker, often paint the wedding dress as the single most important aspect to a bride. While your dress matters a lot, so do many other logistics that you will undoubtedly care deeply about.
In regards to our beach elopement, which represents about as low-key a wedding as you can get, I still worried about the possibility of rain, how many strangers would show up to the beach and watch, if I'd blink in all the photos, whether my flowers would wilt and die by the time we got to the beach, whether I'd manage to cry streaks of mascara and eyeliner down my face during the ceremony - the list goes on.
My primary hope was that all the elements of my elopement - planned and unplanned - would coalesce into romantic and joyful memories. By the eve of my wedding day, the standard that I set for my dress was exclusively that it fit, look pretty in photos, and otherwise not distract from my experience.
4. The Dress is Not Exclusively Decorative, It's Functional:
As a designer, I used to conceive a wedding dress as a sculptural piece of art. And it is, but it also needs to come through for you in a practical way - just like a ballerina's costume shouldn't impede her performance.
I didn't want to worry about sweat showing through the fabric, or flashing my chest to the officiant during a gust of wind (a thought I'll return to). I needed to sit down in the car to drive to the beach without causing disarray. The photographer asked us to walk into the water, run along the beach, and twirl. I even climbed up some rocks for a few shots. And during our wedding dinner, I needed to be able to use the bathroom without anyone helping me to unzip the dress.
I'm all about impracticality (see my wedding manicure below), and yet I learned that you shouldn't overpredict your willingness to tolerate inconveniences on your wedding day.
Banish compromising thoughts like: "I just won't sit down!" or "My husband can spoon feed me so I don't have to raise my arms" or "I'll carry my 8ft train in my arms the rest of the day!" or "It will be fine if I'm [freezing, starving, sweating, immobile, unable to breathe]!"
Protect your mental space on your wedding day by assuring in advance that you can trust your dress enough to ignore it. Which leads to my next learning...
5. Fit is More Crucial Than Anything Else:
If your stunning dress doesn't fit, you will not feel confident or beautiful.
In some cases, if the dress is too big, or too small, or merely fits in an unflattering way, you may not be able to wear it at all.
Peter and I decided to elope on the beach during our upcoming getaway to Maui, which allocated less than 3 weeks to design and construct my dress, and ship it from India to Hawaii. After many late nights overseeing my rush order, and frantic calls to DHL, my dress arrived the day before my wedding.
As most wedding dresses do, my gown needed tailoring. I did a quick Yelp search, found a highly rated seamstress, and drove over that afternoon for adjustments. As much as I loved the dress as soon as I opened the package, there was a risk pre-tailoring that I would flash the officiant and photographer, and that was an unacceptable possibility in my book.
Plan to have your dress tailored, and schedule the fittings as far before your wedding as you can manage. Ideally you'll have multiple fittings to ensure that everything looks right and moves correctly.
6. Having a Plan B Will Help Your Mental Health:
This is a universal rule for most of life, I've found.
Given that my elopement was so spontaneous, and we weren't certain that the dress I'd designed would reach an island in the middle of the Pacific in time, I organized two backup plans.
First, I packed several dresses that I already owned that made me feel pretty and photographed well. Not ideal, but at least I'd have something nice to wear on my wedding day.
Second, I knew if all went wrong, I could rent a dress from Gossamer. These ladies curate a stunning selection of designer vintage gowns, which they ensure are in immaculate condition. Their rental collection is a wonderful resource for one-of-a-kind options.
Having acceptable backup scenarios in place meant that I could embrace an aloha spirit and relax in the face of uncertainty. The Maui seamstress even commented in wonderment at my apparent ease about needing my dress tailored the day before my ceremony.
Here's the thing: if you allow yourself to get too stressed out right before your wedding, you very likely will grow a big rogue zit. So think about that, breathe, and approach the unexpected with laughter.
Reach me at email@example.com to design your own dream gown.
- Dress by Lacerlot
- Photography by Rachel Thurston
- Florals by Bella Bloom
- Hair by Laura at Making Waves Salon
- Nails by Annie at Teke Nails