6 tips for inexpensive and totally stunning custom-made wedding dresses

April 27 | Guest post by Amber
Custom-made wedding dresses don't have to be expensive
Bodice by Zeita Studios

I'm getting my wedding dress custom-made and I'm so glad I went this route. As a US size 16, and after watching my size 14 sister struggle to find places who even had things in her size to try on, and then settling for something at David's Bridal, I knew I was going to get a custom dress. Things NEVER fit me off the rack anyway and I did not want to deal with the aggravation.

Luckily, I have a lady who lives and works in my neighborhood who owns an alterations/custom gowns shop and she is making me the exact dress I want for $250 plus fabric! So cheap! I can't believe more people don't do this.

Tips for custom-made wedding dresses:

Custom-made wedding dresses don't have to be expensive
Hand painted silk dress from Marino Melotti

Know what styles work on your body

I'm extremely pear-shaped so I knew I wanted a low neckline, ruched waist, lots of structure up top to emphasize my small waist and bust, and a more flowing bottom to de-emphasize my wider hips and butt. Take a brutally honest friend and go to a store that has dresses in your size and try on different styles — but don't even think about wedding gowns. Find a garment construction that works for you and go with that style of dress. What looks good on me is going to look not as good on an apple-shaped girl and vice versa.

Be inspired by your interests

If you're a movie buff, geek, into fantasy, etc., look for dress inspiration, colors, and details from those interests. Here's a great example of a bride who was inspired by an anime she loved. It can be a subtle detail (golden snitch trim! TARDIS blue!) or something straight out of a storybook.

Shop around for a dressmaker/seamstress/tailor

Lots of people make custom gowns. Ask in your circle, check in Yelp, contact local theater companies (for costumers!), check online shops, and your local yellow pages. Ask to see some samples, pay attention to quality, look at the seams, ask to see photographs, etc.

Bring in as many photos as possible

This is to show garment construction, color, style, fabric, etc. Your dressmaker will probably have her own opinions on what will work fabric-wise. For instance, my dress would work in silk or satin, but wouldn't have a chance of holding up in charmeuse. Settle on what you need and go fabric shopping.

Be your own advocate for the fit

Be brutally honest at the fitting. If you don't like the way something is fitting, make sure they take note. You have to live with the dress, so now isn't the time to be shy for the sake of being polite. Bring an advocate with you if you know you'll have issues with this part.

Have fun!

Designing your own wedding dress can be awesome. Stretch your creative muscles and enjoy the process.

Custom-made wedding dresses don't have to be expensive
Champagne Wedding Dress from Jurgita Bridal

Going the online route?
Here are some tips for Etsy:

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  1. I completely second this! I'm very busty and thus a difficult fit (and definitely not suited for strapless gowns), and after a few months of pointless searching, I had my wedding dress custom-made. In my case, it cost about the same as the gowns I'd been looking at in the salons, and I got exactly what I wanted, without the added expense of alterations. Definitely look into a custom dress, and don't assume it's going to be astronomically expensive!

    1 agrees
  2. And custom dresses also works well for these with disabilities as extra features can be added that enables easy to get in and out of your dresses!

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  3. I am also going the custom dress route, but that does not necessarily mean you'll be saving as much as this person did. She was lucky to have a neighbour who charged her much less for the labour than any of the places I received quotes from. One place (this was a costume place) was going to charge $1100 just for labour (I didn't go with them). So while I am super happy for the poster about the incredible deal she received, this is not to be expected in every situation, unless you also happen to know a professional who will cut you a deal.

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    • Yeah I'm not saving much on a conventional dress cost – I thought that going for a non-white dress would save me buckets but not so much! Still, looking forward to working with the designer and getting the value out of the process 🙂

  4. I am a plus size woman and while I was able to find a dress that fit, I didn't love it and it was going to need a lot of alterations. I was able to get my seamstress to make my dress as she used to be a customer in London. My dress was $600 but I'm a size 30/32 in regular and this was a ball gown so lots of expensive fabric (the online dress that I was originally going to buy was $500 before alterations). In the end, she made it a corset back two piece to accommodate my pear shape. I LOVED my dress and still smile every time I see pictures. Totally worth it.

  5. I went the custom dress route because I just knew that I was not going to be able to find what I wanted from a shop. My dress ended up costing $198 total and was exactly what I was picturing. I think there's a misconception that a custom made dress costs MORE than a dress from a store. Most people were completely shocked when they found out how inexpensive my dress was and all said they thought custom dresses would be in the 1-2k range!!

    • Hi! Is your seamstress in the Seattle area? And, would you consider your dress a "wedding" dress, or a dress that you wore at your wedding? Thanks!

      • Hi Sharon! No, my seamstress is actually all the way in Northeastern PA.
        I consider my wedding dress my wedding dress but I know what you mean! I'd have to answer no. It was a red and leopard print medieval styled gown.
        You can see it here http://offbeatbride.com/halloween-costume-wedding/ However, my seamstress had done traditional wedding gowns before so if we'd gone that route I still would've used her!

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