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In Search of the Perfect Dress Designer
Article by: Pat Giuliano

So you've decided to have your wedding gown made, but you don't know any dress designers? When it comes to your wedding gown, you deserve the very best you can afford. This does not mean to say that your parents mortgage their house for your wedding dress. It does mean though that simply making a few phone calls and then choosing the cheapest designer is NOT the way to go.

Many brides-to-be have great difficulty finding the right designer to design and make their wedding gown. Since it is the most important gown you will ever wear, you need to do some planning and researching before committing to a particular designer. I have attempted to make this task a little easier for you, having had several years of industry experience. I hope the following points are helpful in searching for the right designer for you.

Consult friends or relatives:
If your cousin who recently got married hired the services of a designer, ask her about it. Was she satisfied with the designer's work? How did the designer handle problems, if any? Was the finished gown exactly what she ordered? How many fittings did she go to? If the answers to these questions satisfy you, perhaps you should get the designer's contact details and make an appointment to see her. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising a designer can have, so a satisfied client will often refer her friends and relatives to her. Much like hairdressers and solicitors, dress designers often have a loyal client base, so chances are if your cousin was over the moon with the work of her designer, so will you.

What if you don't know of any dress designers, how do you find a good one? If a designer is experienced and confident with her work, chances are she will advertise in some way. The Yellow Pages is a good place to look, under the Dressmakers section, as well as the Bridal and Eveningwear section. Also many dress designers advertise in bridal magazines. You will have to make a few phone calls and ask some basic questions in order to decide if a particular designer is worth visiting.

Make an appointment:
Once you have spoken to several dress designers on the phone, make an appointment with one or two of them. This way you can go to their studio and inspect their standard of work for yourself. A reputable designer should have a couple of sample dresses on hand for display. If only photos are available, look closely at details such as seams, points on collars, and the general appearance of the garments. If the photos are not very clear, and she has no samples to show you, I would be very skeptical. It's possible she has something to hide. Things to look for include: a well-lit studio with ample space for consultations and fittings; sample garments of her work; clear photos which show the types of dresses she has made (if the dress looks bad in the photo, it probably looks worse in reality, but if a dress looks great in a photo, it would look even more fabulous in reality because photos often don't show detailing very well);

A skilled designer should have lots of suggestions regarding design, fabrics and colours, and be able to design a gown that is perfect for you.During this time, you should also be able to decide whether or not you get along with this designer. This is very important, as you will see her several times by the time the dress is finished. I find that by the time I have completed the gown, the bride and I have become friends, and are no longer just client and dress designer. I will do my utmost to ensure she looks perfect on her wedding day, going to her house on the morning of the wedding to make sure the dress is put on right.

Determine your budget:
There is a huge misconception in our society today that getting a dress made is a cheaper alternative to buying it off the rack. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. If you are looking for a reputable dress designer, who is capable of designing the dress, making the pattern, and sewing it to perfection, you shouldn't expect this to be a cheap service. For more information about pricing, see my article "In search of the perfect wedding dress".

Consult bridal magazines:
Go through several bridal magazines, and cut out the dresses that you like. Make a file and take this with you when you go to visit the designer. Notice details like necklines, sleeves, design lines; fabrics such as laces, brocades, satins and silks; trims such as piping and embroidery. A reputable designer should be able to advise you about which styles suit you and which don't.

Get quotes:
If you've decided on a design by now, get a firm quote for the dress. Find out what that quote includes, for example, some designers charge extra for fittings, petticoats, and alterations. Be sure to know everything before you place your order to avoid any nasty surprises.

Finally, remember that your wedding gown is the most important gown you will ever wear. It is the gown in which you will say "I do" to the man of your dreams. It is the gown in which you will be remembered long after the wedding. You may even see your daughter wearing it on her wedding day. Most importantly, you should have a lot of fun when you have your wedding gown made. It should be a very pampering and enjoyable experience that you will remember fondly, long after the wedding day.


Pat Giuliano Couture
Pat Giuliano is a Melbourne based designer - couturier specialising in exquisite bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses, and evening wear.

Website: www.patgiuliano.com.au

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