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  • Carol Alayne

For gawd sake, get me to the church on time!

I had request from a bride-to-be this week. It was not for a new commission, but rather a desperate plea to remedy a gown she had ordered from another supplier. The poor woman was beside herself. She had invested a five figure sum for the privilege of four fittings and a wait of 12 months before finding out that her dream dress had not been realised. She approached me just 3 weeks before the wedding to take remedial action! During the course of the amendments it became obvious that this was a factory made garment, not the bespoke item she thought she had paid for.

I am called upon to do this sort of 'emergency surgery' from time to time. Things always get fixed. The bride and everyone involved ends up happy, and there are massive thank-yous on the day.

However, I don't know how businesses (and there are a lot out there) have the audacity to make claims of bespoke services when in fact they are middle men to factories overseas. They have limited knowledge and experience with fit and are lost if the garment needs amending or rebalancing. They fudge their roles with a product that has been couriered to their showroom by strangers who have never seen the client's physique. And they tie the customer into a disclaimer that prevents them from taking the garment away unless they confirm satisfaction with the product. Such a disgrace when you think about the investments in time, trust and emotion for all family stakeholders on these poignant social occasions.

There is more to making these creations than meets the eye. Creating a bridal gown means making the studio ready for garments made of the finest cloths that become divas in their own right. New needles, clean hands, polished equipment and an obsession with cleanliness abound, while entering into a creative process with women intent on defining themselves in public. It is a serious, delicate, and courageous business. Not to mention the risk of pricking a finger over white silk satin...a risk in a factory, too.

I can see why brides are seduced into this gamble. it's difficult to envision the process of assembling a garment from an image, or a dressed mannequin in a showroom. The behind the scenes making processes (for many products) has been mostly lost in our instant internet society - our click and collect purchasing habits.

Clients are told by sales staff that changes in fit or design will not be a problem. In fact, it may be that only minor changes are possible, and these may come with a large premium in price. It's a good idea to do some homework on this; to find out what it is your are actually getting for your money and to test the aisles for authentic know-how at point of sale.

Ultimately, if you really want to 'take back control', it's worth balancing the opportunity cost of using an authentic bespoke service as against the rather more ersatz offering which can, in the end, work out more expensive both in economic and emotional costs.

Bespoke gowns; Eva and Simon photographed by Chris at

Hiroko's photograph a gift, photographer not known

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