The Truth About Custom Wedding Gowns

Have you been dress shopping for a while but you’re having a hard time finding “the one”? Maybe the perfect dress is in your head but you can’t find it anywhere. Did you know you can have your wedding dress custom-made? Now you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s a thing?” Yes! “But Desiree, I don’t know anything about having a custom wedding gown. That sounds kinda scary or a lot of work.”

Well, dear reader. I have the perfect person to tell us everything about having a custom-made wedding gown. After this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of the custom wedding gown process. This will help you decide whether it’s right for you.

I talked with Ali Eagan, who is the owner of Made by Anatomy in Buffalo, New York. Ali has been designing and sewing custom wedding gowns since 2010. She also provides gown reconstruction and tailoring services. I wanted to learn more about the custom wedding gown process so I turned to her.

And now, here’s all you ever wanted to know about custom wedding gowns. 

Is a custom wedding gown right for you? Find out everything you need to know if having a dress custom-made or reconstructed is right for you with this interview from one of New York's top dress designers. New York Custom Wedding Gowns | Verve Event Co. #customweddinggown #customdressdesigner #nyweddinggowndesigner

What kinds of brides work with Made by Anatomy?

Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Hello Bright Eyes Photography.

We attract our brides for three reasons. 1) They don’t want the ordinary bridal shop experience. 2) They want a dress that no one else will have, and/or 3) They can’t find their dream dress in a store.

Who should have a custom wedding gown?

Custom beaded wedding gown bodice by Made by Anatomy | The Truth About Custom Wedding Gowns | Verve Event Co. #newyorkcustomweddingdress #customweddinggown #beadedbodice #beadedweddinggown
Custom beaded bodice by Made by Anatomy. Photo by City Lights Studio.

The custom designed and made-to-measure experience attracts creative, vibrant, and distinct brides. Most of our custom brides know that they want an intimate experience. They want to be able to be part of the process from start to finish. Most of the time, brides try on a sample in a store. They have to imagine what it will look like on them once it’s altered to fit their body.

At Made by Anatomy, we present them fabrics, trims and sketches that are the perfect likeness to the finished product. We make each pattern specific to each bride using her unique measurements. This ensures everything will be in its right place to flatter her the most.

Who should have a gown reconstructed?

Dress reconstruction from an heirloom wedding gown is perfect for the sentimental bride who still wants that intimate experience we provide. There’s nothing like spending time with your special family members as the vintage dress takes on a whole new life. This is really when we need the tissues!

Who should NOT have a custom wedding gown made?

Custom wedding gown designer Made by Anatomy | The Truth About Custom Wedding Gowns | Verve Event Co. #newyorkcustomweddingdress #customweddinggown #weddinggown
Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Seventh Arrow Studios.

If you need control, maybe even have a little bit of anxiety, then I would not suggest a custom-designed dress. One of my closest friends explained this to me when she got engaged and it made perfect sense. She needed to see it; like it; want it; and buy it once she tried it on in its entirety. The thought of waiting until the end of the process was too stressful for her. And she needed to be able to check things off her list in her own time frame. 

The custom process is also not for those who have unrealistic expectations of custom garments. Sometimes people hope for things that fabrics can’t or don’t do. I’m proud to say we have serviced over 500 satisfied clients since opening in 2010. Each of my sketches quite literally comes to life on each bride’s body. There’s no doubt or wondering what it will look like once it’s finished.

What’s the timeline? When should brides begin the process?

Custom wedding gown sketches by Made by Anatomy | The Truth About Custom Wedding Gowns | Verve Event Co. #newyorkcustomweddingdress #customweddinggown #weddinggown
Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Seventh Arrow Studios.

We need at least five months to create a custom gown or a reconstruction. Both begin with a consultation. Then we review their sketch, take measurements, and receive a deposit. Several fittings occur. First, we have a muslin fitting of the overall shape and fit of the garment until the garment is complete. Reconstructions can often need extra fittings. When you start from an existing garment and transform it into something else there are usually little tweaks and tucks needed here or there. Guests are welcome at our fittings where you can enjoy champagne and take as many photos as you’d like! 

What do you wish brides knew about custom wedding gowns?

Custom wedding gown by Made by Anatomy | Verve Event Co. #customweddinggown #newyorkbridalsalon #customweddingdress
Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Shaw Photography Group.

It’s always worth the investment. We’ve worked with so many brides who’ve already purchased a dress elsewhere. [Then they bring their dress and need us to make several alterations to make it what they want]. At times, those alterations add up. They can also place stress on the bride and take up a lot of valuable time.

We’ve helped brides with a range of issues. Their dress was too tight or too big; it needed details added like sleeves or new longer skirt layers. We’ve replaced lining layers, added crinoline layers, and added more details for drama. The list goes on. It’s likely they would have been better served if they had started with me from the beginning.

Also, I find it disappointing when retailers encourage brides to choose dresses that don’t flatter their body type. Some also tell the bride the dress structure can change during the alterations, but it can’t. It’s not fair to the bride if the dress store is giving them unrealistic expectations.

While we can do it and will always do it – so many of those stressors aren’t even a factor when your dress is custom made for you. “I wish I had known about you before I went wedding dress shopping” and “I should have come to you from the start” are things we hear all too often.

What most excites you about working with your clients?

Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Seventh Arrow Studios.

They’re all so exciting and unique to me. I’m in the perfect field because I hate doing the same thing twice. I thrive on newness and change, so having the opportunity to always be creating something new gives me life. It’s a true honor to be such a big part of their most special day. I love incorporating their personal style and who they are into their gowns. I get to know each woman in our consultations and figure out what makes them tick. I’ve had women come to me who say “I haven’t worn a dress in years” and have no creative bones in their bodies. But I’m able to create a piece that is truly fit for them in style, and in size.

What’s pricing like for a custom wedding gown or reconstruction?

Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Rich Paprocki.

Our custom wedding gowns begin at $3,600, and reconstructions start around $1,500. Some reconstructions are much more simple. We can pull those off for between $450-$1,200. But others are total gut jobs. We need to dismantle the entire dress and remake it into something totally new! Those jobs can reach as high as $3,500. If there is much restoration needed for the fabrics the price will also increase. 

When is gown reconstruction not possible?

Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Lydia Maybee Photography.

If the fabric is too damaged or brittle, it can be difficult to reconstruct the gown. We have to be so careful when using fabrics that are over 50 years old due to the weakening of the fibers that make up the fabrics. They can begin to pull at the seams and wear down. The more we handle these vintage fabrics, the more they can crumble. We’ve had to restore lace and beading and that can definitely add up. 

Final Thoughts

Photo courtesy of Made by Anatomy. Photography by Lydia Maybee Photography.

We take great pride in our customer service and do everything we can to please our customers. We offer a variety of alteration services and offer creative solutions that you can’t find from many other tailoring shops. We are the “yes” ladies in the bridal industry and can always find a solution to any wedding dress problem. We take on any challenge that comes our way, and will always try and help when we can. You can find even more information on our website, and our most current work on our socials!

Conclusion

I know this post was a long one, but I hope it clears up (almost) all your questions about the custom wedding gown process. Having a custom wedding gown made is such a special and intimate experience. It’s best for people who are ultra creative or want something very unique. They also need to feel comfortable trusting a professional who is amazing at their craft. It’s not a good fit if you need control over the process or you need to see what it will look like before the gown is finished.

Gown reconstructions are also another route if you have an heirloom wedding gown. Some may be a cost-effective way to have a unique wedding gown. But the costs of alterations can add up, depending on what it entails. Working with a professional wedding dress designer and seamstress is such a special experience. I would love to hear your experiences if you had a gown custom made! If you have more questions about the process, let me know and I’m happy to put together a follow-up post. 

And if you found this article helpful, make sure you subscribe to the blog in the link below so you never miss more wedding planning tips. If you prefer short format answers, be sure to sign up for my Alexa Flash Briefing and micro-podcast: Ask the Planner – Answers to wedding planning questions you never knew to ask!

If you scrolled to the bottom . . .

Ali Eagan is a phenomenal wedding dress designer and seamstress. I’ve seen clients glowing in her creations. She’s also a wonderful person who genuinely cares about giving you the dress that makes you look and feel your absolute best. If you’re considering this option, make sure you reach out to her if to have your questions answered. Having a custom wedding gown made is best for people who are ultra creative or want something very unique. But you need to feel comfortable trusting the dress designer. It’s not a good fit if you need control over the process. It’s also not a good fit if you need to see exactly what the gown will look like before the designer finishes it.

A gown reconstruction is a viable option if you have an heirloom wedding gown. It might be a cost-effective way to have a unique wedding gown, but the costs of alterations can add up. Either way, it’s a very special process and I would love to hear from you if you went this route!

Happy planning!

PS: DON’T FORGET TO SAVE THIS POST SO YOU CAN COME BACK TO IT LATER!

Is a custom wedding gown right for you? Find out everything you need to know if having a dress custom-made or reconstructed is right for you with this interview from one of New York's top dress designers. New York Custom Wedding Gowns | Verve Event Co. #customweddinggown #customdressdesigner #nyweddinggowndesigner

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