The Making of Andrea’s Wedding Dress
When I started working in the bridal industry, I never imagined getting married. I say that all the time. When it was ‘my time’, it felt like I had to finally focus on me. I’m happiest when I’m helping others to feel the best versions on themselves and have put all my energy into that successfully for the past 10 years. The big question was now I’m getting married, how did I want to feel?
How did you feel starting the process?
To start with I felt overwhelmed. I have access to so many lovely fabrics, amazing makers but still at the age of 39 and with nearly 20 years of bridal experience, I had no idea where to start! I live in the countryside with 2 small children and so most of my time is spent in dungarees and t-shirts. Possibly a hint of fanciness with a silk neck scarf or a pair of jazzy Paul Smith socks. I live in my Grenson Boots and I’m quite happy with that. How do I then translate that into an outfit that would work for my wedding day…
What was the first step?
First stop, talking with Siobhan and Laurie, we thought the best thing to do was to have an appointment. Like any bride would have. A chance to really get a feel for what works for me.
I did this pretty swiftly and decided it would be best with just Siobhan who is our client manager and Laurie our head fitter and pattern cutter. They both know me so well and I know would be honest with me. I really wanted to keep it simple and focus on my thoughts rather than have other’s opinions at this stage. I’m very lucky anyway because my closest people would just be happy for me whatever I wore.
I had done some sketches of shapes and styles the months before that I felt might suit me. This was once we had set the date. I rarely wear many fitted clothes day to day so I needed to see my figure in a few shapes.
Which AH dresses did you try?
I started by trying on the Olsen jumpsuit. I absolutely love this neckline, deep low v with a wider shoulder. The fitted bodice was also nice and I was very sure I wanted to highlight my waist. I have rarely met a woman who doesn’t want to highlight their waistline, even if there like me and live in a lot of unisex, loose clothing.
Next step I tried on the Bloom dress which has a corseted internal structure to it. I loved that the fabric sat close to the bodice with a smooth, clean finish. It looks so classic but modern. I quickly discovered though that a strong neckline was key for me. Too open wasn’t right so I opted for a narrow, deep v neckline for a bit more coverage. This with a structured bodice was perfect and I felt gave the right amount of skin on show for me.
My strength is my eyes, I have a really sharp eye and I knew I wanted the finish to be perfect. the exact positioning of the point of the v had to be sharp and just low enough.
We discovered trying on the Bloom that a waist seam (around my waist) flattered me. It showed off my smallest bit and allowed us to create a really fitted bodice.
Structure, modern clean lines, to highlight waistline, be classic but with a hint of playfulness. Loved the idea of a dramatic sleeve or cape detail. It felt almost like a bird or having wings which felt powerful and free.
Comfort was also key..
How did designing your own dress compare to designing one of your brides?
Pretty similar actually, as I tend to put myself ‘in the brides shoe’s ‘ so to speak. Really get a feel for how they want to feel. What they’re about and what they want to say with their dress.
I did the same for myself.
Did you find it easy designing your own dress?
I felt a bit of pressure to pull something special out of the bag. Ultimately, I just wanted to feel the best version of myself and have the best day and I just always reminded myself of that. I didn’t really want to put too much pressure on it.
I have so much confidence and faith in the AH team, the fabrics we use and the quality of our production. I knew whatever I would wear would have been made with so much love, care and ultimately, I would be happy with that.
How did you feel trying dresses for the first time!?
I used to be our sample size model back when I first set up so I always had a good idea of how they felt on the skin and I loved that soft luxurious feeling. This was a really important part for me. With this being MY wedding dress, it felt more serious. I had to focus on what worked for me and my body now post childbirth and 10 years on.
It felt special, this would be the piece of clothing I would be excited to wear and would represent me firstly as a woman, mother and partner to Daniel.
I must say our dresses do feel amazing when you put them on.
What design did you finally decide on?
A bespoke dress based on Olsen Jumpsuit neckline
We worked on different drafts around the bust area to contour the shape of the bust whilst limiting the darts at the front of the bodice. The bodice had boning in the sides and underneath the bust area to give a really clean look to the bodice.
I loved the idea of a longer corset so we designed a corset that sat underneath my bust down to my top hip. Quite a traditional waist corset which laced up underneath my bust and down to my top hip. This would sit under the dress and made me feel so dressed for the occasion. What I liked about it was that our dresses never look overly corseted. They just fit well. The bodice had extra lining to give more structure.
I tried on a few different skirts, full circle skirts, soft a lines and fitted shapes. With and without a train. I finally decided and the team also agreed that a more fitted cross between an A line and fit and flared shape was best for me. Each fitting we took a little more in until the fit was perfect. This however came with its challenges as a corset underneath a fitted skirt is tricky to hide so we had to put in another layer of silk lining in the skirt. We also made the corset as thin at the bottom edge to unsure it couldn’t be seen.
The dress neckline and bodice started off being based on our Olsen jumpsuit bodice. The skirt started from the waist and had an internal corset worn separately to the dress. I had bust cups to add a smooth layer over my bust.
The dress was made in one of my favourite fabrics, a heavy weight silk Marrocain which is a matte silk crepe. We have a lovely fresh, pale ivory shade to our silks and this I felt worked well for my skin tone. It also holds its shape well for a semi structured style dress. I wanted it to feel like a gown, rather than a lighter dress.
Tell us about your Toile (prototype) fitting?
The toile base was made with the neckline I thought I would like. I created a design specification, as we do with all of our brides. This is a description of the initial details to be able to start to draft a pattern based on the brides measurements and design details.
We tested out how much boning to put into the bodice and where it would be best positioned. We looked at where my natural waistline was and whether it was best to sit exactly on this point or a little higher/ lower.
We tweaked the depth of the neckline a few times and in total I had 3 toiles. It feels a bit OTT but because we did a little bit here and there with my dress. Each fitting was shorter due to us making my dress during a busy wedding season. Toile 1 looked at the overall shape.
Toile 2 we checked this and tweaked the neckline and looked at the skirt. Toile 3 we worked on the sleeves which took quite some time!
What did you find helpful about having a toile?
It was so helpful to be able to really see the exact shape on my body. How the pattern would work on me and if we needed to change anything we could do this at the pattern stage as oppose to the silk stage when the dress is already made.
Did you adapt or change anything?
The initial idea of a cape was hand draped on me in the toile fitting and these became more like sleeves.
The skirt shape and I was able to trial a long train before making the dress.
I lowered the neckline too!
Tell us all about your silk fitting and your gorgeous sleeve cape!
Wow! This felt incredible, especially once I had my shoes and earrings on. I felt so proud of what we had achieved as a team. I finally felt like I could really understand how our bride feel having a dress made for them
I sketched the idea way ahead of starting the process. As mentioned I loved that it felt free and powerful almost like the wings of a bird. Well, my name is Hawkes after all!
I wanted to cover my arms to an extent but not fully so that’s how it started. I love our capes but wanted to keep my neckline open so the idea of a sleeve cape was born. The cape would’ve cover my back and as the dress was going to be all in one fabric (I loved the dress just being so minimal, clean and modern) then the sleeves worked better because I showed the back of my dress off and kept the focus on my waistline, rather than cover it up.
what happened at your silk fitting?
I tried on the dress and it looked amazing. We tweaked one should slightly as I am a little asymmetric so one side needed to be made shorter. We added boning into the side seams and we took in he skirt slightly.
The hem was pinned to my heel height and we decided how to finish the sleeves. They were lined in. heavy weight silk crepe so the satin would show when I moved my arms. We decided to pin hem them which is a traditional, neat edging used in couture making.
Final Try on Day before the wedding!
It was starting to feel real. It was happening. We really didn’t have a lot of time in each fitting because of the busy summer season. My dress fittings kept getting put back so my final fitting was the day before the wedding! The team were finishing the dress then we closed the studio and everyone headed up to the venue in Suffolk.
What accessories did you wear?
The earrings felt right, I wanted a bold look with these having short hair and I love earrings so much. I visited Aligheri studio in Hatton gardens and decided on a fantastic pair of gold and pearl drops.
My shoes by Manolo Blahnik felt comfortable and I wore them all day.
The veil was one that I made for my first ever collection. I adapted it finishing it on the morning of my wedding with the help of my Hairdresser, Katrina. We decided the short veil needed to go onto a band so I finished this just before the ceremony!
On the wedding day
As time goes by so quickly, I think its so important to stop and see yourself. On the day. Just take a moment. I didn’t entirely do this and I wish I had. To be honest, I was thinking about how everyone was, had my children eaten lunch before the ceremony etc etc…
My lovely best friends Stephanie and Rachel documented the whole day, privately. Taking little snaps and lighting a candle to create a relaxing environment at the tennis pavilion where I got ready. Jessica also took some nice candid pics so I could really remember the special time we all had together.
The minute I put it on, I felt like a queen. Honestly! I’m very happy going under the radar, I am a really private person and don’t like too much fuss but I truly felt the best version of myself. I was determined to genuinely have this feeling on the day and I did.
Putting on a small fancy heel was also very lovely, I really enjoyed this as I usually wear boots or trainers.
Siobhan, Beata and Rebecca helped me get into my dress along with my 2 best friends. This was because the corset needed to be laced up and then the dress positioned over the top.
The truth is we decided to get married over by the lake. The minute I stepped outside of the land rover, it was dirty. To be honest, I just didn’t mind! As much as I love the beautiful fabrics and appreciated every minute that went into making my dress, I wanted to enjoy being in it. I accepted it would get a bit dusty.
I took my shoes off and headed into the boat so it could’ve got really wet but I was happy to take the risk! Luckily my brother in law figured out how to get us to the other side and kept us dry! We stomped across the fields in our boots and I enjoyed just picking it up and being outdoors..why not!
We bustled the train for the evening and had finger loops for the sleeve trains as these were so long!
It was fun to dance in but quite shortly after Rebecca helped me remove the sleeves. After a few glasses of bubbles this was a challenge, but we got there. It was then nice to have the dress without the sleeves for a more relaxed feel!
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