A "short, round, and very busty" girl's guide to having a dress custom made

December 2 2013 | Guest post by kindofpalejewel  
Photos by: Claire Morris
Photos by Claire Morris
Photos by Claire Morris

The idea of wedding dress shopping was something I had always found challenging. I love clothes and am very feminine in my fashion tastes, so you would think wedding dress shopping would be right up my street! But I had many friends who had told me how difficult, even humiliating, dress shopping could be.

As someone who is short, round, and very busty, I hated the idea of being clamped into an off-the-peg sample dress four sizes too small. I looked at dresses aimed at curvier brides and felt that most of them were ugly, and seemed to be about hiding your body, not celebrating it. I knew any dress I bought in a bridal store would have to be massively modified to fit me. So instead of dealing with all that, I started thinking about having a dress made-to-measure.

Search for dresses online

I did a lot of research online, and The Couture CompanyThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them was a place I felt very excited about just from its website. There were fun, flirty dresses, darkly romantic dresses, coolly elegant dresses… And they were modeled by women of different sizes.

See the dresses you like in real life

I decided I wanted to see the dresses in person, and so in November we went to the first Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza. There I got to see the dresses I like in action, and they were as beautiful as I'd hoped! And as a bonus, I won 20% off a commission as part of a competition. That made up my mind.

Do more research online

I spent the next couple of months happily honing my Pinterest boards until I had a pretty good idea in my head of what I wanted. I knew I wanted a '50s style dress with sleeves, a full skirt and petticoats, and I wanted soft vintage shades.

Choose a seamstress and get measured

In February I left my husband-to-be, Kieran, in a snug coffee shop and popped around the corner to visit the shop I fell in love with.

I took my trusty iPad along to show Jo, the shop owner, the kinds of dresses I was interested in, and she suggested I try on the a particular dress. I loved the way it swished, and the shape of it was very flattering. From there we discussed sleeve length, petticoats (lots please!) and colours.

I knew I didn't want a white dress, but I wanted something a little bridal. Jo brought out some lovely cream dupion silk and I was sold by its warmth and texture. I chose coloured silk for my belt and to trim my petticoats. And then Jo had the great idea of coloured buttons running down the back of my dress — just the kind of cute detail I like!

I also ordered a corset, to give me a good silhouette and so I wouldn't have to worry about bra straps peeking out!

It was a very smooth, simple process, because I already had a good idea of what I wanted, and Jo was very easily able to translate that into a design.

Keep in touch as the dress is being made

Over the next few months, things continued to go very smoothly. I watched The Couture Company's Facebook page, and one day I saw a dress with a flash of brightly-coloured petticoats underneath it. "That's what I want," I emailed Jo, and she was very happy to tweak my order to make me pale blue petticoats.

I loved going to fittings; I could see my dress slowly unfolding. When it came to my final fitting, there were no tears. I've never cried because I've looked at myself, and I didn't feel the need to cry this time, either!

Feel amazing

I've heard of brides saying they didn't recognize themselves when they tried on their dresses. But I looked in the mirror and saw me. Me in a wonderful ice cream-toned dress with petticoats that swirled in just the way I imagined. And I was very happy, because I had a dress that was about me, not about how anyone else thought I should look.

Our wedding day was wonderful, and my dress was a big part of that. It may have taken three bridesmaids half an hour to lace up my corset, when it had taken five minutes in the shop, but we got there in the end! Two hours later I was walking down the aisle, and Kieran's face lit up. As I reached him at the altar he said I looked beautiful, and I believed him.

They ♥ OBB; we ♥ themThis post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to Offbeat Brides:

  1. Yay!!! I'm another Couture Company bride. Jo from start to finish was amazing!! Totally agree with feeling like me in my dress. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I'm a 5'5" busty, short-waisted girl and I also did not like going dress shopping. Everything squeezed my belly in ways I didn't like, showed to much or too little of my chest, or itched, or just didn't fit right, so I went custom as well.
    I'm waiting for my dress to come next week and really looking forward to it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. The dress is perfectly crafted for her. Do you have like this for kids? My daughter is currently looking for what to wear (as a flower girl) on my sister's wedding. So far, we are considering to purchase from here http://www.wallao.com. I'm curious is someone here could help me. Thank you in advance!

  4. Are there any more dress pictures anywhere? I am a huge fan of coloured petticoats and LOVE the sound of coloured buttons down the back! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi everyone! Thanks for the lovely comments!

    Firstly – the photographer is the lovely Claire Morris. You can see her blog post on our wedding here: http://www.clairemorrisphotography.com/vintage-wedding-photographer-in-york/

    Scroll down for a petticoat shot!

    Also, I think there was a slight hiccup in editing where I talked about the particular dress I tried on. So my dress was made to my specifications and with my design features but it used an existing style as a template (Jo's "Steph dress" in case you are interested)!

  6. Is getting a dress tailor-made significantly more expensive than buying one and having to have it altered? I know it largely depends on how elaborate the gown is, how much a dress would need altering, etc, but I have never seen the exact dress I would want and would like to know if any of you got one custom made. How much did it cost? Did it turn out like you thought it would?

    • I think this is really difficult to say. If you bought a dress in a dept store and had it altered, then yes, it would be a lot cheaper. If you bought a dress in a mid-range or above bridal boutique and had to have it altered, it would be as or more expensive than having a dress made by an experienced seamstress, in my experience. Make no mistake – it wasn't cheap. My dress is the most expensive item of clothing I've ever bought by a long way! But I have seen far pricier dresses in bridal boutiques that I would have had to have modified, which could easily add on hundreds of pounds of cost in alterations. Good seamstresses shouldn't be cheap, because you should be paying them a living wage for what will probably be many hours of work. But you can certainly shop around and find more affordable ones – I could have had a dress made more cheaply by a local seamstress, but I really liked the Couture Company's work and so was willing to pay a bit more.

      • Thanks for the honest answer! I've always teetered between buying a dress ready-made and getting one sewn for me exactly as I wanted it, but I don't think I know anyone who didn't end up spending a ridiculous amount on custom clothing. I'm also an artist, so I agree that a living wage needs to be taken into account, especially for someone as talented as a seamstress! I'm just not the kind of person who would be comfortable spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a dress for just one day. There's not much advice on this subject so I'm so glad you were featured!

        • I'm glad you found it useful! If it helps, Jo's price range tends to be ยฃ800 – ยฃ2000, so we're not talking about the ยฃ5000+ end of the bespoke scale! But that is a lot of money. However, given in the UK a lot of bridal dresses at boutiques start at ยฃ1000, it seemed quite reasonable to me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. you look amazing. I find that dresses from the fifties really show off curvy feminine beauty much closer to the way nature made women. I'm rather bony and I look like a bag of bones in those dresses, I can't seem to fill them and look totally overpowered by the dress. You own it! A definit proof that instead of proposing tent like clothes for curvy girls the fashion industry could do better and enhance your natural beauty.

    • Thanks very much! And yes, the fashion industry should celebrate ALL kinds of shapes and recognise their beauty ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I love your dress so hard. It's been on my Pinterest board for ages and is probably the look I'll ultimately go for. Thanks for sharing it with all of us, and talking about the process!

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