After I got engaged, one of the first things I wanted to do was find a wedding dress. I loved looking through magazines and finding ideas and inspiration of what I wanted. Even though we would not be getting married in a traditional setting, I still wanted a 'traditional' long white dress. I didn't want a huge train, and I preferred simple over ornate. Beyond that, I was open to suggestions.
One afternoon, my mom and I hit up a bridal store near our houses. It was a nice store, with nice staff, however I was a little overwhelmed by it all. All of the dresses felt 'cheap', even though they cost thousands of dollars. I'd never spent more than a couple hundred dollars on a dress before, and I had envisioned beautiful fabrics that would feel smooth and silky on my skin. Instead, most of the materials were polyester and felt scratchy on my hand. I tried on a few and wasn't blown away by anything. Getting undressed in a tiny fitting room, and then waiting in line behind other brides for a turn at the mirror felt a little anti-climactic. I wanted to be sipping champagne and relaxing! Not fighting for mirror space.
After another ill-fated attempt at shopping in a boutique, a friend recommended a dress designer based in Vancouver. I was apprehensive at first, fearing that the cost would be astronomical, but she relayed that her friend had confided it was actually cheaper than many bridal stores. Since I was visiting Vancouver a lot, in preparation for my wedding, I booked an appointment.
Immediately when entering the studio I felt comfortable and relaxed. The designers dog greeted me, and she was one of the cutest little things I'd ever seen! The space was airy and bright, and I was invited to sit down and flip through some of their past designs. My friend was with me, and we had such a great time flipping through photos and learning more about the design process. I tried on a few samples to get an idea of fits or fabrics that suited me, and those that did not. After a couple of hours we had a rough idea of what kind of dress I would like, and I left feeling happy and excited.
Several weeks later I received sketches of some dresses - I really wish I still had them! The designer and I emailed back and forth as we discussed options and pricing. A great part of the design process was the amount of control I had. I was offered many fabric choices, ranging in price, and was given a detailed explanation on how the fabrics would 'perform' on my wedding day.
Once I finally decided on a gown, a muslin mockup was created. I tried it on about a week before my wedding, and some minor changes were made. Then, I held my breath and prayed it would be ready in time! Actually, the designers assured me that sewing the actual dress would only take a couple of days, and they were only working on my dress. We did have a little wiggle room had something gone wrong. Luckily everything turned out great, and I had a dress that was unique and beautiful. It was comfortable to wear and I felt very confident in it. (I've even tried it on in the years since... and it still fits!)
The price was cheaper than many dresses I'd looked at. I believe I paid around $1500, and that was five years ago. It was a fun experience and definitely something I recommend to brides who are having trouble finding the gown they want.