The Couture Experience
Here is a great example of the couture experience in all its aspects. Our client, Julie, came to us with a few wedding dress inspiration photos on her Pinterest board. The thing that caught her eye was a vintage-inspired dress with piping on the bodice.
We found more inspiration from the Valentino 2013 spring haute couture line.
The silhouette would be sleek and minimalist- a silk crepe column with an open back, full circle chapel train and long sleeves.
The primary feature would be the bodice; a hand appliquéd filigree of soutache cord and roleau piping over sheer silk organza.
There were two parts to the process. While I worked on the pattern and shaping of the gown itself, Katey began to put together samples of piping and trimming techniques and motifs to share with the client.
After the initial consultation we had a style meeting. Instead of a sketch, I draped fabric onto a dress form so we could get a clear idea of shape and proportion. There are always changes at this point, but I can move seam lines and make adjustments while the fabric is still pinned to the form. This can go through several revisions before even being presented to the client.
We looked at fabric samples and made decisions about the materials to be used. Every fabric has particular qualities that make it perfect for one shape and a disaster for another. Soft, flowing crepe, for example, will never make crisp, formal pleats. For this collaboration, Julie chose diamond white silk 4-ply crepe for it’s soft drape and smooth, matte surface. For the appliqué detail, a combination of white crepe-backed satin piping and champagne soutache cord was selected.
Before making the actual gown we needed to check the fit and shape of the pattern. For this, we made a version of the dress out of polyester crepe. The first fitting in this sample dress gave everyone a chance to make subtle changes in proportion and to be sure that we had interpreted Julie’s ideas accurately. This is the first time a client sees themselves in the dress they imagined. If there are dramatic changes to be made, this is the time.
A shape can be exquisite on the dress form and not at all right on a person. The woman wearing the gown is the most important element of any design. If you don’t design to respect a person’s shape, you cannot have a beautiful outcome. In this fitting, Julie decided to remove some of the fullness of the skirt, deepen the keyhole back, and make the sleeve completely sheer, extending the appliqué further down the arm and adding more bareness to the look.
The next fitting is a full lining with a second mockup of the sleeve and sheer top.
This was our last chance to make corrections before cutting into the fabric. It was also the last time to check proportions on the trim design, since much of the appliqué had to be assembled while the dress was still in pieces.
We presented Julie with a drawing of the appliqué placement, along with more piping samples. She approved, with a few minor tweaks, and we began creating her dress.
Motifs of radiating concentric circles were created by hand, using a heavy steam iron to shape the flat strips of soutache cord. Each piece was made in a custom size to fit a specific area of the design, and great care was taken to ensure balance and symmetry.