Everything you need to know about having your wedding dress custom-made

Updated Jun 5 2017
arielmstallings
Image courtesy of Wedding Dress Fantasy.
Image courtesy of Wedding Dress Fantasy.

A while back I ranted about how I think brides are best off having their wedding dresses custom made — you'll get a better fit, exactly the design you want, and won't have to suffer the attitudes and obscene prices of a bridal boutique. (And remember: custom dresses don't always cost a fortune! My wedding gown was a combination of a custom corset and skirt, with a total cost of $500.)

There was some grumbling in the comments about "Ok, fine: but how do you find a custom dressmaker?" My best advice is start in your immediate circle and work your way out — do you know any seamstresses or amazing sewers? Do any of your friends or family known any? If not, search online or in the Yellow Pages for someone locally. Being able to do fittings in person is a big bonus. If there's no-one in town you like, then start looking online for seamstresses with styles you like who will work with you via email.

The ladies of the Offbeat Bride Tribe came to the rescue with lots more tips on picking a custom dressmaker, as well as specific dressmaker recommendations:

If any local college has a fashion program, you might be referred to someone that way, either a prof or a student. I'd definitely go in with a design and fabric swatches in hand. If they start telling you about how they don't need any references or what not, leave!

When selecting a seamstress, see photos from a portfolio AND actual dresses. And talk to past clients if you can. Photos can look amazing compared to looking at them up close. Although it is very important to know what you want when it comes to style, it is just as important to make sure the seamstress has sewn other dresses in that same style. Find out if they have had to make their own patterns in the past, and see how those have turned out.

A good tip for finding a seamstress is calling the costume department of your local theatre. Costume ladies are kickass stichers and love creative challenges. Also, be wary of buying really cheap fabric. Most of the time, cheap fabric makes a dress look cheap.
Ask to see some samples, pay attention to quality, look at the seams, ask to see photographs, etc. Once you find a seamstress you like, bring in as many photos as possible to show garment construction, color, style, fabric, etc. Your seamstress will probably have her own opinions on what will work fabric-wise. Settle on what you need and go fabric shopping or take her with you to do so. Then turn it over to her. Be brutally honest at the fitting.

Can't find 'em local? GO ONLINE!

If you just can't find a seamstress near by, there are some truly phenomenal indie dressmakers who work online:

(PS: If you're a dressmaker or seamstress, get in touch with us about placement on Offbeat Bride!)

There's also the option of outsourcing your dressmaking overseas, which has saved many offbeat brides huge wads of cash (although it also comes with thorny ethical questions). Here are just three of literally hundreds of options:

Be aware that going this route can also cause major hassles.

And now I'll open it up to the peanut gallery: Did you have your wedding dress custom made? How did you pick your seamstress? Any tips or advice?

  1. This page(and feed)has been really helpful. I've figured that I would opt for a completely original gown of my own design for a while, now. I've searched high and low and I can't seen to find a gown that is a relaxed trumpet with lace, sleeves, lengthy train, and buttons all the way down the back. However, until now I was at a loss at going about finding someone for the job.

  2. I'm from Australia and I got a custom design wedding dress tailored through http://www.lillybridal.com.au. They only sell to aussies at the moment but I can definitely recommend to all AU buyers. I sent them some info about the dress I wanted and they had it tailored and delivered to me in about 6 weeks. The dress fit perfectly and I probably saved around $1k too. I don't have a model's body and I got treated like lower class in bridal boutiques 🙁 ordering online was way better 🙂 🙂

  3. My Fiance has been really worried about finding a good place to get a custom wedding dress. As the wedding gets closer its important for her to know exactly what the dress will look like. I like how you talked about searching locally for one. I feel like that will help a lot as she can physically see the dress, and get fitted correctly, thanks!

  4. I think it'd be so fun to have a custom made dress. The only hard thing that would be hard is that custom made dresses are so expensive! I think it would be awesome to be able to rent custom made dresses that are able to make easy alterations.

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