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11 Expert Tips for Ordering a Custom Wedding Dress

Aug 21, 2014

by Aleksa Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Choosing a wedding dress is one of the most exhilarating and stressful choices a bride makes, and deciding on a custom gown raises the stakes. Fear not! We’ve collected nearly a dozen tips from three dressmakers – Katie Jean, Elizabeth Dye (of The English Dept.), and Megan (of Grace Loves Lace) for finding and custom designing the gown of your dreams.

1. Take a peek inside your closet. Think about what you already own that fits and flatters you and what makes you feel pretty. Your “regular” clothes can be a touchstone for finding your wedding dress; your wedding dress shouldn’t be a costume — it should be an extra-special version of you.

2. Keep an inspiration board of images you are drawn to. You will start seeing trends in your photos, like if you love lace or favor a dropped waist.

3. Pursue one strong design concept, one statement, and go with it. Don’t try to cram every good idea you’ve ever had into one dress. That wouldn’t be a pretty dress!

4. Ask questions. There should be a very open dialogue between designer and client, especially when designing a custom gown. Good communication leads to the best dress.

5. Take accurate measurements. If you can’t or don’t want to go to a professional for measurements, you should ask for a measurement guide and have someone to help you. Although your fiance is the greatest guy in the world, before asking for his help, think about if he is good with details and being thorough. If not, find someone who is.

6. Make sure the design process is not a guessing game. When ordering a custom dress, client and designer should be on the same page before scissors touch fabric.

7. Be flexible. Your dressmaker is likely either professionally trained or has made enough dresses to know what may or may not work for your dress. If you read all of their feedback, love everything in their shop, and like their style, you should try to give them the overall look you want and let them add their designer touch.

8. Get comfortable. Don’t get too caught up in all the glitz; you don’t have to spend a fortune. The most important thing is to wear a dress that suits your body and that you feel comfortable in. There’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable bride.

9. Remember, custom is possible at any price point. If you’re on a budget, try adding custom details to a simple dress; vintage lace, silk flowers, hand beading, or adding buttons down the back can really set a dress apart without too much time and expense. Adding or changing straps is another simple alteration that can contribute a lot of custom flair.

10. Don’t obsess. If you love a dress, that usually means you should buy it — don’t think about it for too long.

11. In the end, it’s all about the fit. No matter what your budget, it’s really worth it to invest in a skilled alterations seamstress. A dress that fits you beautifully will always look dynamite.

Looking for more tips for ordering a custom gown? Read our full interview with dress designers Katie Jean, Elizabeth Dye(of The English Dept.), and Megan (of Grace Loves Lace) here.

1 Featured Comment

  • FalconandFinch

    Lynelle Miliate-Ha from FalconandFinch said 3 years ago Featured

    Etsy made it completely possible to have a bespoke wedding dress created for me on my very limited budget. I ordered mine from the wonderful Miss Brache, based on a tea length, vintage style pattern she had already created. I provided yards of vintage, embroidered French silk, and my measurements, and a few specific details, and I ended up with a gorgeous, high quality, one of a kind gown that was exactly what I wanted. When the dress arrived (from the other side of the country, of course) it took one little trip to my neighborhood alterations person and it fit perfectly. My only regret is that I only wore it once!

100 comments

  • Circa810

    Thom Aten from Circa810 said 3 years ago

    There is so much talent on Etsy it is mind boggling ... Beautiful ideas for the bride to be. Thanks For Sharing

  • tori1220

    Victoria from Masonbottles said 3 years ago

    I wish I had this information when I was getting married. Great tips!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 3 years ago

    These are such helpful tips! Sometimes you just know its the one :)

  • QiQi1201

    Rick Lee from QiQiDresses said 3 years ago

    Great shareing!

  • katishainy

    Katyooshjewelry jewelry from Kattyoosh said 3 years ago

    Beautiful dresses ! Great to see you featured! Congratulations!!!

  • PiperPixie

    Piper Pixie from PiperPixieDesigns said 3 years ago

    ╔╗───────╔╗╔╦═╗ ║╚╦═╦═╗╔╦╣╚╬╣═╬╦╦╗ ║╬║╩╣╬╚╣║║╔╣║╔╣║║╚╗ ╚═╩═╩══╩═╩═╩╩╝╚═╩═╝ Wish Etsy had been around when I got married... But maybe a second one for our 20th anniversary is in order;)

  • PiperPixie

    Piper Pixie from PiperPixieDesigns said 3 years ago

    My keyboard's gone crazy! Think I hit paste. ooops

  • WetDesert

    MJ Toops from WetDesertVintage said 3 years ago

    A great article. I love to sew a bit here and there but I am truly impressed by the craft and attention to detail in these gowns. What a beautiful treasure to create for a bride.

  • nlbgrammy

    nlbgrammy from Qt2t said 3 years ago

    Wonderful tips on custom fit dresses!!!

  • TheFigLeaf

    TheFigLeaf from TheFigLeaf said 3 years ago

    Oh so beautiful!!

  • RenataandJonathan

    Renata and Jonathan from RenataandJonathan said 3 years ago

    Great tips!

  • JewelrybyDorothy

    Dorothy from JewelrybyDorothy said 3 years ago

    Gorgeous!

  • laralewis

    Laurie Lewis from ShopHedgerowRose said 3 years ago

    So much pretty here!

  • ArtisanSoapInVegas

    Cristy Ramos from ArtisanBathandBody said 3 years ago

    Wonderful tips!

  • Bridalize

    Xiu Li from Bridalize said 3 years ago

    Wonderful tips. Fit and comfort is as important as the overall look. =)

  • happybdaytome

    happybdaytome from happybdaytome said 3 years ago

    Cool !

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 3 years ago

    great tips, thank you.

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 3 years ago

    Gorgeous! It's so important to be comfortable on your wedding day!

  • Nikifashion

    Natalia from Nikifashion said 3 years ago

    Nice dresses!

  • PruAtelier

    Jeanne B from PruAtelier said 3 years ago

    Perfect advice! I would also add - having done a few dresses myself - not to let too many opinions of friends, family, relatives and others influence your decision as you will be going around in circles becoming more confused as time goes on. It's one thing to have another opinion or two from only those whose opinions are truly objective...take it and value it, but ultimately you will be the one wearing and celebrating in the dress. In a time of stress for many brides to be, conflicting opinions and arguments on how YOUR dress should be, brings nothing but heartache when it should be a time of joy and celebration!

  • PruAtelier

    Jeanne B from PruAtelier said 3 years ago

    I forgot to add that you will be saving the designer/dressmaker from pulling her hair out too having to change the design to suit all the opinions!

  • muchandquick

    Kalisa L. from MuchandQuick said 3 years ago

    Another tip might be to remember that with a custom dress, you are not relegated to what others might consider a "proper" wedding dress! Look washed out in white? Go for a color that suits you! Don't want a traditional Western style wedding dress? There are a bajillion Etsy sellers that can offer you saris, kimonos, fairy/pirate/zombie costumes, pant suits, whatever you can think of! I was honestly a little surprised to see only white dresses used as examples (all of them beautiful and exquisite, don't get me wrong) for this article when Etsy sellers can go so far beyond the norm.

  • kaylali

    kaylali from B2KDesign said 3 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • lowelowejewelry

    Lowe Jewelry from lowelowejewelry said 3 years ago

    Adorable !

  • AGORAA

    AGORAA from AGORAA said 3 years ago

    all so beautiful!!

  • Agasart

    Aga from AgasJourney said 3 years ago

    gorgeous dresses !

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 3 years ago

    Beautiful selections!

  • QueenBeeVintiques

    Kim from RiverHomeVintage said 3 years ago

    All great advice...yes, don't obsess...if you love a dress then buy it!

  • MrsGingerandWasabi

    Marta DQ from tribomo said 3 years ago

    They are all beautiful but I totally agree with Kalisa L. (some posts above) !

  • FalconandFinch

    Lynelle Miliate-Ha from FalconandFinch said 3 years ago Featured

    Etsy made it completely possible to have a bespoke wedding dress created for me on my very limited budget. I ordered mine from the wonderful Miss Brache, based on a tea length, vintage style pattern she had already created. I provided yards of vintage, embroidered French silk, and my measurements, and a few specific details, and I ended up with a gorgeous, high quality, one of a kind gown that was exactly what I wanted. When the dress arrived (from the other side of the country, of course) it took one little trip to my neighborhood alterations person and it fit perfectly. My only regret is that I only wore it once!

  • judit123

    Lilladesigns from LillaDesigns said 3 years ago

    Beautiful dresses illustrated with wonderful photos. Great article with very useful tips to help that special day memorable for life. Well-done!

  • vsc83

    Victoria from VictoriaCampAllison said 3 years ago

    These dresses are so beautiful! A custom gown is so much more special than something mass produced, not to mention the benefits - for them and you! - of working directly with the designer.

  • BeadingTimes

    Zeynep from ZeyJewel said 3 years ago

    Great to see you featured! Congratulations!!!

  • markh93

    Mark Houlihan from SideOrderofHooli said 3 years ago

    My sister is getting married next year- how much do these generally cost?

  • kerryannstokes

    Kerry Stokes from KerryAnnStokes said 3 years ago

    great advice for bride-to-bes!

  • zoetees

    Shop Zoetic from ShopZoetic said 3 years ago

    Stunning gowns!

  • myheavenlydesigns

    Sabina from myheavenlydesigns said 3 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this special feature. There are so many gorgeous hand made wedding dresses here on Etsy, and talented people just waiting to make that dream dress come true. Beautiful!

  • flowersnstars

    Katie Porterfield from flowersnstars said 3 years ago

    These are wonderful tips and beautiful dresses!!

  • sukran

    Sukran Kirtis from SukranKirtisJewelry said 3 years ago

    Gorgeous pieces

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 3 years ago

    talented and beyond ~ brave brides and trusted vendors go hand in hand

  • kathyjohnson3

    Kathy Johnson from kathyjohnson3 said 3 years ago

    Beautiful dresses, but don't forget about your hair and shoe accessories!!! I Love weddings and making the bride feel like a princess on her wedding day! You can really put together a gorgeous wedding on a small budget with all the wonderful vendors here on Etsy who are so willing to work with the bridal party to make the whole day special and fun!! I LOVE Etsy!

  • lorenabr

    Balea-Raitz from LorenasLaceDesigns said 3 years ago

    Gorgeous dresses and shops!

  • 2bloomsdesignstudio

    Michelle from twobloomsds said 3 years ago

    Pretty gowns and great tips.

  • tracychu1999

    Vivi Chu from embroideryphotos said 3 years ago

    Amazing work!!!

  • lunahoo

    lunahoo from lunahoo said 3 years ago

    Gorgeous wedding dresses! I love how Etsy dressmakers can add value to the wedding fashion sector.

  • lannapants

    Bangkokpants Pants from bangkokpants said 3 years ago

    So stunning

  • SavoyFaire

    Gail from SavoyFaire said 3 years ago

    Do not give sizing too early! The biggest issues is they want their dress now but hold them off if they could lose or gain weight along the way as well as due to style, color and so many other changes that will happen! So many times my brides have said thank goodness you didn't let me send for this already! Limiting your wedding posse's input is another great tip already mentioned but I cannot stress that enough!

  • elisabergstrom1

    Elisa from FleurDeLisArtGlass said 3 years ago

    Great and practical tips with beautiful dresses!

  • literacy2007

    literacy2007 said 3 years ago

    When I had a custom wedding dress designed and made for me 25 years ago, I chose the reasonably-priced option of having a mock-up dress made out of muslin before the real dress was made. That way, if I didn't like the design on me, I could change it without much expense.

  • stormisimonson

    stormi simonson said 3 years ago

    I got married April 19th of 2014, I I had Gail , from etsy make my dress! Gail makes hand made wedding gowns and more! I wanted flair sleeves put on the dress. Gail said she has never made the dress I picked with sleeves but she would try it! Gail picked the perfect material and made it work! My dress is beautiful! I had a traditional wedding and wanted a some what simple but beautiful dress. Turned every head! I have had many compliments on my gown. People ask to borrow it often. I have not done that because I am saving my gown for my daughters. I do tell them to go to etsy homemade gowns by Gail! Gail has unbelievable prices on her gowns, can't beat it! The sleeves she added for me that she has never done before made a huge difference to the gown I picked and made my wedding day wonderful! Gail, thank you so much for making such a beautiful gown! The gown is what everyone waits to see, I felt like a princess! Hand made vintage gowns by Gail is the way to go!! She will work with you and do all she can to make the dress of your dreams!! My dress is the fairy tail wedding gown, check it out on etsy hand made gowns ! Thank you Gail !!!!!

  • literacy2007

    literacy2007 said 3 years ago

    Tell the designer at the outset what your budget is and ask what he or she can do within that budget. Don't mortgage the house for a dress you will wear once. If you do have your gown custom-made, you may also want to have your bridesmaids' dresses custom-made. That way, you can ensure that the design of their dresses complements your bridal gown. Their bridesmaids dresses shouldn't be copies of the wedding gown but should coordinate with it. They could, for example, be made out of the same fabric but in a color, and could "echo" a design detail such as a dropped waist.

  • sewandso

    Donna Davis from sewandso said 3 years ago

    My answer to Mark Houlihan and others who want to know good prices for bespoke gowns and other clothing: Check my prices. If you can add up all the seams, hems, layers, and fabric, you will have a good ballpark figure of the price for labor. Don't forget shipping. There should be about two complete sets of shipping charges for a perfect fit (one to you, one back to the seamstress, and another round trip -- and maybe a third is the gown is tight). http://sewandso.wordpress.com/sew-so-current-price-list/

  • bestbudsbabysitting2

    Olivia and Abby from TinyForestPrints said 3 years ago

    Great tips! And the dresses are gorgeous!

  • goingapecostume

    Becky Lee Evans from GoingApeCostume said 3 years ago

    I cannot emphasize enough that when you have any custom clothing made, you have someone else who is detail oriented take the measurements for you. I often make clothes for clients who order over the internet. In the contract in big bold letters I state that if they take their own measurements I cannot guarantee fit. This is because the lifting of your arms to take some of them can have measurements off by several inches. I make clothes by the measurements given. Good measuring means good fit.

  • maba718

    Katie Baker from GracefulAndElegant said 3 years ago

    I love these dresses. They are so pretty!

  • camelotvintage

    Camelot Vintage from camelotvintage said 3 years ago

    Great Advice! Keep it simple and stress free. Nothing is more elegant than clean simple lines.. vintage or custom.

  • felt4soul

    Nadia Morgan from Felt4Soul said 3 years ago

    Wow!

  • erinbonnie

    Irene from Erinbonnie said 3 years ago

    beautiful!

  • chachalouise

    Cha Cha Louise from chachalouise said 3 years ago

    great points.. especially the last.... as we designers do our best with measurements.. nothing beats a local skilled seamstress for nips and tucks.

  • TastefullyMismatched

    Mandy Spivey from TastefullyMismatched said 3 years ago

    Yes yes and yes!

  • Madapcreations

    Madap creations said 3 years ago

    I Have seen your Blog its about Wedding Dress Which Looks Awesome than k you for sharing with us. http://www.melbournemandapcreations.com.au/

  • Leebeevee

    Libivee from Libivee said 3 years ago

    Great tips and lovely dresses!

  • Calandralee

    Calandra lee said 3 years ago

    highqualitybuy.com offers products in many categories of wedding dresses,wedding party dresses,special occasion dresses,women's clothes and other widely high quality products at attractive price.

  • KatsKube

    KatsKube from JamellaDaisy said 3 years ago

    Perfect dress for a perfect day. Good tips.

  • ElenaVorobey

    Elena Vorobey from ElenaVorobey said 3 years ago

    perfect :)

  • aviantijewelry

    Avianti Jewelry from AviantiJewelry said 3 years ago

    So fabulous! Have to keep this in mind when it's my turn to buy one. Thank you for sharing!

  • ViennaIsLove

    Jennifer Serene from ViennaIsLove said 3 years ago

    Makes me want to go wedding dress shopping again!

  • danielbryan4211

    Daniel Bryan said 3 years ago

    Great tips to share and learn a lot. www.ClothingRIC.com

  • tantawanlights

    Sirikuwan Thipkum from tantawanlights said 3 years ago

    Nice !!

  • FallsvaleCrochet

    Fallsvale Crochet from FallsvaleCrochet said 3 years ago

    Loved the article, thanks for sharing!

  • QiQi1201

    Rick Lee from QiQiDresses said 3 years ago

    Great Tips! Thanks to share!

  • 32paces

    Jenna Keller from LoveJennaK said 3 years ago

    These are wonderful tips!

  • Lorrainebridal

    Lorraine Layman from LorraineBridal said 3 years ago

    I love the first suggestion to check your closet for styles you like and wear. Having a similar style dress made with bridal fabrics, lace and trims can be a great way to reflect your personality, and know that the dress will look perfect...for you.

  • angelonlinedress

    vicky zou from Angelonlinedress said 3 years ago

    very good

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage said 3 years ago

    Beautiful wedding dresses!

  • Valena2011

    Valena2011 from PeraMantica said 3 years ago

    Nice!

  • laremi

    Laremi Lace Wedding from HandmadeLaremi said 3 years ago

    Lovely wedding dresses!

  • yzfashionbridal

    YZfashionbridal Inc from YZFashionBridal said 3 years ago

    Lovely wedding dresses!

  • graphizoo

    Dot-te-juju from DotteJuju said 3 years ago

    Beautiful

  • BaysideBoutique

    Esther from BaysideStudios said 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing these tips; great for sharing with customers to help guide them. I love giving a personal touch to dresses, often including embroidered secrets or messages on the underlayers for the bride.

  • TastefullyMismatched

    Mandy Spivey from TastefullyMismatched said 3 years ago

    These are great tips!

  • carolgelman

    FrenchPaperMoon Gelman from FrenchPaperMoon said 3 years ago

    Wish I had this when I got married!

  • etkrafts

    Lalita P from EtKrafts said 3 years ago

    Great tips. One more option for the more creative is to design your own dress and getting it made from re-cycled Indian sari. Not only it reduces cost dramatically, the fabrics are also absolutely gorgeous. And you do your bit to the environment.

  • josephthompson4

    J Thompson from ForgetMeNotandCo said 3 years ago

    great advice. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ForgetMeNotandCo

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 3 years ago

    This is a great read! Number 3 and number 11 are especially good tips!

  • leTsmarRy

    Ngoc Tran from leTsmarRy said 3 years ago

    Best way to save time. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • ukrasizakosubysandra

    Aleksandra Marosevic from Rozenhandmade said 3 years ago

    Wonderful and concisely written, a lot of good information that are necessary for future brides in choosing their wedding dress . Dresses that are shown are excellent, simple but effective. Each in its own way beautiful and special. With some lovely accessories such as hair accessories and jewelry are a great choice. :)

  • svartlilja

    Lina from svartlilja said 2 years ago

    Pretty risky thing especially if you do it right before the specal day! If I would ever decide to start to make the wedding dresses I would prefer an empire style as it can be also used by pregnant brides!

  • dressmesewchic

    Kim McKellips from Dressmesewchic said 2 years ago

    I am a newbie here, just open my non-traditional bridal dress shop last month. I enjoy reading this wedding blog. Yes, for custom dress, precise measurements help dressmaker to create a proper fitted dress, follow the guide on how to measure, best is to have someone help you measure. Talk to your dressmaker if you need help. Custom made or ready made dresses sometime still need some alterations here or there to get the perfect fit.

  • aviantijewelry

    Avianti Jewelry from AviantiJewelry said 2 years ago

    This is perfect knowledge for buyers and sellers! Great advice!

  • HappyEverAfter1314

    HappyEverAfter from FairyParadise said 2 years ago

    Thanks for the helpful tips!

  • PepiZ

    Petranka Zdravkova from PepiZ said 2 years ago

    so great tips:)

  • laremi

    Laremi Lace Wedding from HandmadeLaremi said 2 years ago

    Good to know!

  • boloties
  • silkfabricforsale

    Jack Wang from silkfabricforsale said 2 years ago

    So good, Make wedding by silk fabric

  • felipahanson

    Felipa Hanson from CardsinStock said 2 years ago

    Stunning gowns, helpful tips.

  • TangJamine

    Yushi Zhao from TDJasmine said 2 years ago

    amazing!

  • sheusestngerins

    sheusestngerins said 2 years ago

    Hey Etsy-- friendly reminder not to assume that a bride's fiance is a man!

  • myonejoyinlife

    David Masamitsu said 1 year ago

    David is my fiancé, I am C.j. I am looking for a belle epic style gown with embroidery and very sheer ivory cotton fabric. I would like the gown to be made in the era of the early 1900s late 1800s tea gown that is full length either full length or three quarter length sleeves. If I can't find a gown that is vintage (already made that fits me), I would like to find someone who can make it who understand historical clothing of that era. Thank you, c.j.

  • gazzellechampy

    Gazzelle Champy said 199 days ago

    Excellent advise, I believe that if you only custom make one garment in your lifetime, let it be your Wedding Gown! The process is easy when you work with a professional who you trust and relate to their style and good taste. https://www.ciampibridals.com/custom-made-bridal-gowns

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