Over the years I have fully cemented my passion for creating beautiful wedding dresses. If anything, my love for bespoke couture wedding gowns has become even stronger. But like most creative minds, I have always struggled with pricing my products. Or rather; getting people to understand the true value of a bespoke, handmade wedding dress. Brides sometimes unwittingly compare the cost of a bespoke dress to the mass-produced dresses sourced at bridal boutiques. I understand this, it seems obvious. However, it is not the same at all. With weddings back on the brides’ agenda, I thought I would try to explain what goes into the cost of a couture wedding dress.
Cost of marketing
This is perhaps an obvious but often forgotten cost. Each inquiry has a cost and time-spent attached to it. Whether it’s a wedding fair exhibition we pay for, styled photoshoots for various promotions, the cost of a website and maintenance, internet advertising, social media content, etc. This is why I am so grateful for a recommendation where I can genuinely offer something extra knowing the lead didn’t cost me anything other than doing my job so well people trust me to refer their friends or family.
Time spent with a bespoke customer
I love engaging with brides personally, via e-mails, or zoom and phone calls as my entire business ethos is offering a truly personal bespoke service. I don’t actually count the hours spent on e-mails and correspondence, or time spent preparing for a consultation, the in-depth research for a design proposal, and of course, a number of dress fittings. I would say, it amounts to between 12-18 hours on average. So that’s two or three days of work time in addition to creating the actual dress.
Years of experience, expertise, creativity and design
How does one cost years of learning and researching, so that my portfolio of skills and abilities are always at their best so that expensive mistakes and disappointments are avoided? The same goes for my creativity. This is an abstract, and therefore difficult to quantify as a cost of a bespoke wedding dress. It is what gives each and every project a unique artistic quality combined with professional techniques and knowledge honed over many years. Luckily, most of the brides I have had a pleasure to work with not only understand this but admire and appreciate my level of expertise and talent.
A couturier at work
Here is where it gets really interesting and unique. Nothing compares to the couture process of making a dress pattern from scratch to reflect a unique design and individual measurements. Each and every piece of the dress needs to fit together like a puzzle. This is fully bespoke, so there is no quick template to copy. Instead, the art of creative pattern drafting begins. It can often take up to two days with a toile (calico) being produced as a prototype. This is the first and very important step: a preview of a dress for a designer and a customer to fine-tune and perfect the fit, shape, and style at the first fitting.
So; even before the actual dress is started, there is almost a week of a designer’s time spent.
Most dressmakers and designers have a large library of materials that you can choose from for your ‘feature’ fabrics. I have accumulated thousands of samples, established many business accounts, and fostered relationships with many suppliers over the years. There are multiple materials included in the structure, interlinings, corsetry, underlays, shaping, etc. Altogether, these amount to a considerable cost of a bespoke wedding dress. Rest assured, I will always source fabrics of the best quality and most suitable for your particular design. Again, the knowledge and expertise are so valuable.
Cost of labour
Beautiful dresses take time to make. The couture process is very different from mass-produced high-street clothes. A bespoke wedding dress is made in stages. Each element needing its own unique and carefully thought-out approach and techniques. Finishing touches in particular cannot be rushed, as it’s those wonderful details – often applied by hand and precision – that sets a couture dress apart. Any shortcuts would be noticeable and impact the outcome. I am sure we all know a ‘horror story’ when the ‘perfect’ cheap wedding dress was just too good to be true and wasn’t.
Then probably the most obvious consideration is the cost of labour. The cost of professionals in the UK is higher in comparison to cheap and often exploitative work rates and environments in some factories abroad. What I and other bespoke designers do is guided by love for our profession rather than a low-cost margin. I don’t just sell – I create.
Working space and its cost
Whether it is a workshop, shared space or a studio; making a bespoke wedding dress requires renting a large enough space and its overheads, where all the equipment, fabric, patterns, machines and customers can all fit comfortably. Simple maths dictates that if your dress takes two to three weeks from start to finish, the cost of the dress needs to cover these costs.
There is more to the cost of a bespoke wedding dress I am sure I have forgotten to think of, but these are universal costs shared by all wedding dress designers and dressmakers. I absolutely understand a bespoke wedding dress is not an option for every bride, but I believe it can be made available to many. Most of us are small and nimble enough companies and can be flexible with time, attitude, design styles, and costing accordingly. I would encourage every bride to consider having a bespoke made and make an inquiry so we can share our passion and knowledge.