How does a dressmaker find her wedding dress? It's a conundrum, it's a nightmare, it's probably what I was fearing the most about getting married.
I was worried I'd hate everything. I was worried they'd fit terribly while an assistant gushed at how marvellous I looked. I was worried about spending a tonne of money on something I'd be constantly thinking 'Could I have made this for a fraction of the price?'.
So I made one hard and fast rule about my dress. It had to be something I couldn't make myself. No clean lines, no tulle, no pleats, no satin and absolutely not strapless! Because that's all I've ever worn and made for myself.
I wanted intricate, heavily beaded, sequins, Hollywood glamour, hand sewing, something I could never see myself putting in the hours, labor, tears and time. And also... I don't like lace. That cuts out about 95% of the wedding dresses in Melbourne.
Thank goodness my Matron of Honour was getting married nine months before me and had done the hard yards of dress shopping and could tell me the heavily detailed dress of my dreams was narrowed down to two stores in Melbourne. But that didn't stop her making me try on meringues, lace concoctions and some of the most ridiculous boned-bodice-to-the-thighs dresses around. All of which I hilariously enjoyed!
We finally, seriously, headed to Karen Willis Holmes (KWH). Where I'd looked at their dresses online and had convinced myself I wanted the Caitlyn.
The best thing about the KWH beaded dresses is that they're stretchy and oh-so-comfy. Which means you can eat AND drink wine on your wedding day. Hooray!
I tried on the Caitlyn and liked it but had quite the nagging feeling it didn't fit well around the shoulders and bust and made me look a bit... frumpy. I left assuring myself I could make it work but even as I paid a small fortune for my 'miracle' bra that feeling just wouldn't go away.
I returned the following Saturday alone (which I highly recommend anyone dress shopping does as you need that space for forming your own ideas of what you like and want without any else's opinions but your own) I tried the Caitlyn again with my miracle fix, low back bra and was still frowning in the mirror when the girls convinced me to try on the Anya.
The Anya dress was identical with the sequinned beading as the Caitlyn but instead had a structured bodice and very thin spaghetti straps. Alas I didn't feel dressed up or like it was fit for a wedding and the worst thing was... I loved it!
"What's wrong with it? I can see you love it" said one of the girls. I answered "It doesn't feel dressy enough, I don't feel covered enough or err demure enough for a wedding". The girls started adding different silk overlays and suggested having sleeves sewn on, put a veil on me and then I saw how the dress completely changed from party frock to bride.
It was starting to come together now. I could look like a 'bride' for the ceremony then take off the sleeves and overlay and still have my ultimate party dress for the reception.
I asked if I could go stand near the windows at the front of the store in the natural light. That's when I saw myself staring and grinning in the mirror and I knew this was the dress I wanted to be married in.
Part 2 next: The dressmaking, the finishing touches and the photos.
All photos courtesy of Karen Willis Holmes: https://www.karenwillisholmes.com/