All Posts in Case Studies

August 1, 2015

Carol – Custom Couture Mother-of-the-Groom Dress

Creating a couture garment is perhaps one of the most satisfying (in the thick of it) and rewarding (after the fact) activities. It's no walk in the park, however, and requires meticulous hand-work, continuous problem-solving, and extreme patience to get past the finish line. People often ask me about the pressure of working with such expensive and often irreplaceable materials, and catering to such demanding clients. Bottom line, you have to love it (or at least be well-compensated for it!). With any type of work that's so technique-oriented, it's the ability to apply intense focus, and to also walk away at intervals, that helps you navigate through the project. Having an incredibly skilled assistant named Aris also helps!

When my brother found his lady for life, I had the honor of making his beautiful wife's gown (blog post to come), the dress I wore (of course), a few rehearsal dinner ensembles, and also the dress my mom wore to the wedding as mother-of-the groom. My mom is a beautiful woman who takes amazing care of herself. She also works her ass off, yet always thinks first of her family and rarely treats herself to nice things. I could not have been happier to have the opportunity to create a custom, one-of-a-kind piece that made her look and feel like a million bucks (I wouldn't know exactly, but I guess that's a good feeling?)

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September 11, 2012

Laurel – Reconstructed Vintage for the Jazz Age Lawn Party

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August, Laurel found an adorable summery dress on eBay. However, when she received the piece, it was in a sorry state of wear & tear. She brought the piece to me, and while I deemed the bodice a patchwork of repairs, the skirt (delicately smocked at the waistband and cleanly bound at each skirt tier) was in great condition. I proposed disassembling the bodice to remove and reuse all the cute blue & white gingham cotton trim, and creating a new bodice in silk organza to match the skirt. In this manner we were able to salvage the best parts of the original, and make a new dress constructed to endure endless dances.

The talented photographer and fellow dancer Lynn Redmile captured Laurel in her dress at the Lawn Party (above & below).

Below, I outline the process of reconstructing this vintage dress, starting with disassembly of the original dress and cleaning the usable parts to bring back the white and blue pop of the gingham print. The trim and the skirt were re-used in the recreation.

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September 11, 2012

Lyana – Restored & Altered Vintage Dress for the Lawn Party

For her first time attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governor's Island, Lyana wanted a special dress for the occasion. Her friend Laurel had found her a vintage chiffon dress with a precious dance-and-flower-themed print, but which needed some work to be wearable, and a little extra care for a more contemporary feel.

When I received the original, several parts were disintegrating, most significantly the shoulder area. While the sleeves were also shredded in some spots, there was enough salvageable fabric in the sleeves to cut a new shoulder yoke to replace the disintegrated areas on the bodice. Read more

January 15, 2012

Brit – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Brit, a sustainable-minded person and regular vintage shopper, brought me not one, but three vintage dresses from which to create her custom wedding gown. They are pictured below from left to right:

1) Her grandmother's wedding dress (circa 1950s) - a beautifully constructed satin, lace, and tulle dress, which her grandmother recalls in retrospect as being very out of character in terms of her style!
2) A vintage (circa 1940s) lace dress discovered at Brimfield, the amazing antique fair Brit has been frequenting with her family since she was young.
3) Her mother's wedding dress (circa 1990) - a very Stevie Nicks-esque satin and lace creation replete with winged sleeves and flowing skirt.

My biggest challenge in combining these dresses was integrating them into  a cohesive look that maintained a high level of taste and sophistication, instead of reading as a hodgepodge. Here is the lovely bride in the final dress, which we both ended up being thrilled with. I describe the process from A-to-Z below.

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January 13, 2012

Janine – Evening Gown from Bride’s Own Wedding Dress

The idea of wearing something only one time, or of storing that item away indefinitely, was not one that resonated with Janine. Therefore, she decided to turn her wedding dress into something new and completely re-wearable! Janine attends formal events on a semi-regular basis, so we decided to design an evening dress for her.

Her wedding dress was made of a blush-coloured silk shantung, which we considered either dyeing another colour, or overlaying with a contrast-coloured lace. From my material library, Janine selected a beautiful French Chantilly lace with a semi-abstracted floral design, to overlay the blush shantung. While the ballgown silhouette of her wedding dress had been fun to wear at her wedding, Janine's typical aesthetic is more streamlined. We wanted the evening gown to be classic enough in styling to transcend seasonal trends, but also with design elements that provided an element of surprise and sexiness.

I designed a full-length sheath gown with soft v-neckline in the front, and an almost completely open back. We loved the look of the lace sheer on the skin, so the straps and back were constructed with no shantung underlining. To support and cleanly finish the lace, I used tea to dye sheer silk organza the same shade as Janine's skin to appear invisible behind the lace. I found two delicate vintage black buttons for the back closure.

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October 29, 2011

Molly – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

Molly brought me her mom’s wedding dress from the 1970s, a cotton kaftan, to integrate into her own dress. We were able to use materials from her mom's dress and incorporate them into a fresh silhouette worthy of Molly’s adorable style.

We decided on a fun tea-length design with a fitted bodice, low back, and a full circle skirt. In looking for a more formal and structured exterior fabric than the muslin from her mom’s dress, we layered silk gazar over silk taffeta. I was able to use the cotton muslin from her mom's dress as inner layers of the bodice, and turned the crochet hem trim into straps. For a final subtle decorative element Molly selected her favorite embroidery pattern from her mom’s dress, which we appliquéd at the back bodice.

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October 29, 2011

Stephanie – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Stephanie brought me her mother's wedding dress, which had been made by her grandmother and aunt in 1972. The dress was in great condition and the perfect length for Stephanie (she and her mom are quite similar in size). But the bodice was a bit dated and too covered-up, and the long train was not Stephanie's style. We decided to use the skirt portion of the dress (without the train), which was a satin with corded trim at the princess seams, and tailor it to Stephanie for a more contemporary fit.

We chose a halter neckline to frame Stephanie's beautiful face. We  created the bodice from materials I had in my library: an ivory silk satin in the same shade as the skirt, overlayed with a taupe re-embroidered lace from France. We added a ruched sash in taupe silk satin at the empire waistline, which tied in the back.

Here is Stephanie in her mom's dress (sans the bow veil!) before dismantling occurred

A benefit of being able to attend the wedding is being on-hand during pre-ceremony prepping. Helping the bride get dressed before the big event helps relieve any stress over last-minute styling decisions, and brings the dress to life for me. Plus there are typically countless other tasks to help contribute to, such as stitching corsages. Stephanie was relaxed and happy before her wedding, and enjoyed being surrounded by her mom and closest girlfriends.

The ceremony took place at an idyllic setting on a quiet lake at the Hanes (of underwear fame!) lodge and cabins near Elkin, NC.

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October 10, 2011

Rachel – Custom Bolero Jacket

As a laid-back and low-frills person, Rachel seeked out simple, yet elegant wedding solutions that also reflected her personal environmental and social consciousness. She found a cotton eco-conscious dress on Etsy from South American designer Zelaya. To soften and tailor the dress to Rachel, we garment washed it and added darts for shaping. We also created custom straps, and added a textured green suede trim at the empire waistline for a little colour accent.

To cover her shoulders and dress up the look slightly, we designed a custom bolero jacket in silk shantung lined in soft cotton voile.

Rachel & Tyler were married on the coast at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

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December 1, 2010

Lev – Custom Kittel

Inspired by his fiancee's working with me on custom bridal accessories, and disappointed with the tent-shaped, mass-produced, yet overpriced options available, Lev contacted me about having a custom kittel made for their Jewish wedding. I was thrilled to take on the project, and went about researching kittels to start the design.

Lev informed me that kittels were often worn not only on a man's wedding day, but also when he leads passover, on Yom Kippur, and when he is buried. I discovered that kittels were not meant to have pockets, because a man should be marrying for love, not possessions, and should also be buried without any belongings. For the silhouette, I created a pattern that was tailored for Lev's slim build, but would also fit comfortably over a suit jacket. We hemmed the length just above the knee, added a vent in the back, and a belt to tie at the waist. For design details, we wanted to keep them subtle but tasteful and unique, so opted for a Mandarin collar, and a decorative trim at the front placket and sleeve cuffs.

Lev and Gabby had previously lived in NYC but recently moved to San Francisco; we were able to manage our design discussions over email, phone, and text, and fittings during already-planned trips on both of our parts to the opposite coast(s). Together, we picked out the high-quality cotton from a wealth of options at Britex in San Francisco. I sourced heaps of different trim options from the garment district in Manhattan until we both agreed on the perfect one, which just so happened to include bells in its pattern. We were pleased to learn that bells had been worn on the hems of garments by the High Priests, and carried positive symbolism. I also found lovely white covered hook & eye frog closures for the front opening and cuffs.

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December 1, 2010

Gabrielle – Custom Shrug & Veil

Gabrielle had already purchased a Lanvin dress to wear to her wedding, but approached me to create a custom shrug and veil to complete the look. For the shrug, we wanted something soft, unstructured, simple, and elegant to go with the dress. Since the dress had a lot of voluminous tiers, the shrug needed to be cropped in the back to sit just below the top of the dress. But we wanted the shrug to have some shape of its own, so I draped a silhouette (in just one pattern piece!) with full sleeves that tapered just past the elbows, and a curved front opening. For the materials, we picked a super soft cotton & silk jersey, and trimmed the neckline and hem with a double layer of raw edge bias-cut silk chiffon.

For the veil, we draped a custom blusher style in tulle that could be worn covering the face or pulled back and to the side.

Gabrielle and Lev were married at the Metropolitan Building in Long Island City, Queens, NYC.

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