I've just finished finalising my own wedding dress a couple of months ago, and with the outfit nearly being ready (not long to go now!), I thought I'd post some tips for brides who are designing their own dresses, especially as I found it a lot harder than I thought I would myself!
One of the biggest problems was that I have seen so many different types of wedding dresses, that it was hard to narrow down what I liked, and what I could afford as well. As much as I would have like to have gone with a high-end Pakistani designer for my wedding outfits, my budget wasn't as high as I wanted, and if I had gone with a designer outfit, it would have meant a much lighter outfit. Being the diva that I am, I wanted a little more work and colour on my outfits, so opted for a non-designer for my wedding dress ( but more about my experience with that once the outfit actually arrives!)
Whether it's your wedding dress, registry outfit, mehndi dress or reception gown, it's a special day and every girl wants their dress to be perfect.
1. Know what you want. Make a collage, a mood board, draw your own dresses, whatever helps you design and put together your outfit. You don't need to have an exact image of your dress, and it's probably better if you don't so that there's room for altering ideas, but it's also good to know what you prefer as well. Over the last few months I've been saving images of outfits that I liked before I designed my wedding dress, so that I could put them all together and pinpoint the bits I liked. This really helped when designing my dress, because I was able to see what I preferred and what worked for me.
It's always a good ideas to have a look at wedding dresses in the shops too, sometime photographs aren't enough or don't justify how pretty an outfit looks, and it can be easier to see up-close what looks good and what doesn't.
Here are just some of the bridal dresses I had saved, for various reasons like colours, design and styles - they're not all the same, and a lot of the ideas I had got discarded as I got closer to a final design. There's a lot of factors to look at with bridal dresses - colours, styles, cuts, materials and kaam, and it will help to see the range that is out there.
2. Keep an open mind. Don't worry if you don't know what you want! I remember when my sister got married a couple of years ago, she didn't have a clue what she wanted in a wedding dress. In a way, it was easier because it meant she was open to colours and ideas, at one point she considered a hot pink maxi dress, then an ivory lengha and corset top, then finally settled on a gold and champagne wedding dress with a red dupatta! Having too many ideas about what you want can restrict you a little, especially if you really want to stick to one design without looking at other ideas. Have an idea of what you want, but it helps to look at other ones to compare ideas, or to see if you can mix them - we all want something beautiful and unique, and I know a lot of people who have experimented with ideas and loved them.
Working with your designer will also mean you will hear suggestions from them - sometimes it can be helpful to keep an open mind and consider them. I asked my designer a lot of questions and suggested a lot of ideas which she gave her feedback on, and which I found invaluable. Most likely your designer will have worked with a lot of wedding dresses before, so they will have a good idea of what works and what doesn't - make use of that fountain of knowledge!
A lot of bridal outfits I've seen lately don't always conform to the usual colours or cuts - it's less about the traditional red lenghas these days. One of the things I was really keen on was having an unusual colour somewhere in my outfits, both mehndi and wedding days, so it was great to see outfits with other colours - and I eventually decided to have a little olivey/lime green in my bridal outfit to add a little spark to it make it stand out more. Here are some of the colours and styles I also considered, which I loved because they looked a little different:
3. Think about colours - particularly the ones which suit you. For me, colours was important as this is something I really enjoyed, and I consider myself to have a good eye for colours. I was sent a colour book by my designer with samples of colour and also fabric samples, which I found really helpful in visualising the colour combinations and materials I wanted. I also found it really helpful to visit local fabric shops to look at colours in silks, chiffon and georgette so I could see what they would look like against me.
Most of us have a good idea of what colours suit us, and we tend to gravitate towards certain colours - although I would also say be confident about colours you don't normally wear! I know a lot of girls who don't wear bright red, for example, and shy away from it, to which I say try it on in your local shops, wear a bright postbox lipstick and see whether it suits you. It is also my opinion that if you like something enough, you can make it work for you - if bright red doesn't suit you, try a cooler red, a bluer-toned red, or even a pinky-red.
My sister wrote a really useful post about colours recently, and the season theory. The idea looks at your physical colouring and skin tones, and what shades suit you according to whether you are 'warm' or 'cool' and also whether you are a spring, summer, autumn or winter. I've always seen myself as a winter colouring, and always go for rich, deep colours, although lately the brighter and softer colours are in my wardrobe palettes as well!
4. Think about cuts, styles and shapes - what suits your body shape? I find these days that there is such a huge variety of wedding dresses, that there really is something for everyone. Again, most of us know what our body shapes are, and there are certain tricks which help flatter your body best.
With Asian wedding dresses, there's a range of styles, and you don't necessarily have to stick to the traditional lengha either. You could go for a traditional sharara, a chic sari, or even a maxi dress - I've seen all of these done beautifully. Again, it really helps to go and try on wedding dresses, you won't know what works until you try it, even if you are opting to use a designer online or even going to India or Pakistan for your shopping.
There are hundreds of wedding blogs, forums and websites (and Pinterest!) out there which show the best of the wedding outfits out there, and lots of inspiration - use them to your advantage. I've always suited long, A-line outfits, and opted for a similar style for my wedding outfits as well, without it being too bulky or puffy. I also wanted something simple and not too complicated in design, so I looked at a lot of traditional brides and also a lot of cuts which would be easy to carry and comfortable - a lot of the dresses I saw online and in the shops leaned towards this shape, so it helped with the designing the rest of the dress as well.
Below are just a few forms which I've seen bridal outfits in, there's a good few more styles as well I haven't included because there are lots more (and some of the below may not be entirely accurate!) but it's an idea of what you can go for.
5. Think about themes and styles - do you want vintage? Modern? Retro? Traditional? You don't have to have a theme, but it helps if you know what look you are going for. You may have an overall theme for your wedding (or mehndi, reception etc!) which you want to match your outfit to, which can help with colours and styles. Alternatively, you don't have to have a theme at all - you can use your wedding dress as the focal pivot to base the rest of your wedding around too!
Below are some of the ideas I considered for both wedding and mehndi outfits, some of them more extravagant than others! I will be posting more about different themes and styles soon, as there are so many to pick from. And it doesn't have to be restricted to purely Pakistani or Indian themes either, there are plenty of others ones to pick from - I have seen beautiful English wedding dresses incorporated and mixed into the Asian wedding scene, which create a great fusion.
6. Be realistic about your budget. Be aware of how much you have to spend, and how much of a margin there is as well in terms of going over your budget. A reasonable designer will be able to work with a certain price, whether it means adjusting the design to make it cheaper, or adding more work to an outfit to make it look more bridal. Make sure you are aware of exactly what you are paying for, and how much - the amount of kaam the outfit will have, where it will be, and what will be used, which helps to know that you are getting your money's worth.
Bridal outfits will always be expensive, but you can try and control the costs by giving the designer your budget. One of the things I did to make my mehndi outfit cheaper was to add embellished laces and 'pattis' to the outfit in place of heavy metal and crystal work on the skirt - this reduced the price significantly but didn't take away the overall look that I was going for. Ask the designer for price comparisons as well - sometimes it can be nearly the same price or cheaper to change things on an outfit - such as mirrors instead of crystals, or sequins instead of stonework.
7. Try to be as accurate as possible - designers rely on this. When you finally get down to designing your outfit, the more details you can give, the better. This can be from measurements (I had to measure so many random things like the length of my waist to my hips, the length of my knees to my ankles, and so many more!), colours (colours swatches and samples are a big help), materials and details of kaam. The more accurate you are, the more likely the finished product will be the way you want it to be. Again, a good designer will ask you for all of this information, and will also inform you about the materials and kaam that will be used, which will also help in designing.
There is a good guide here which explains the different type of kaam used on outfits, and what it looks like - you may want to know about the different types of work used on your dress and which is cheaper.
8. 90% of the dress is designing it. Once you've gone over all the details, finalised colours, kaam, materials, measurements, styles - leave it to the designer. It sounds like a lot to do, and it is important to be thorough, but once it's done, you don't have to do much apart from wait for it to arrive! As I have said before, a good designer will keep you updated on your outfit, and how it is progressing - mine has been sending me samples and showing me updates as it goes along, which has really put to rest my worries.
9. Prepare for it to not be 100% perfect. I don't meant to say that the outfit won't look good, just prepare for it to not look exactly how you imagine it in your mind. This is particularly something you need to be aware of if you are copying a designer outfit (or five!) and getting it made with a lower budget. Having said that, bridals are a lot of money and paying a lesser amount than you would for a designer outfit shouldn't mean that you get something with poor quality. Whether you buy online or from the store, make sure you are happy with what you get - and if you aren't, don't be afraid to take it back and change it.
10. Don't worry too much about it! Have fun with the dress, it can be stressful but it can also be really fun designing your wedding dress. Part of the experience of getting married and organising the wedding is the dress, going shopping and trying on outfits.
Of course, I know that there's a lot of other factors you may wish to consider - for example if you
would like to wear hijab with your outfit, whether you would like it to
be modest, whether you want something simple so you can wear heavy jewellery, and lots more, and these are all things which will influence your outfit.
I also found it really helpful to brainstorm and discuss ideas with other people like my sisters and a couple of friends when I felt a little lost with my outfit. It can feel like you are going a little crazy looking at bridal ideas all day long as well, so take a break and get a second opinion, it can help!
For all the brides-to-be out there, I hope this is some help (and the non-brides, you can still apply this for dresses you are getting made for various events!). I'm sure you can tell my taste leans quite strongly towards the Pakistani style, and there is a lot of influence from Pakistani designers, but I've tried to add in others as well! I also haven't posted any pictures or designs from my own wedding dress yet as I'd like to wait til the big day for the big reveal - not long to go though, so you won't have to wait long!