Wedding dress shopping isn’t what it was a decade ago. Back then your choices were limited to a few popular silhouettes. Now you can acquire any dress you dream up.
To help you navigate the sea of choices, I want to introduce you to two local designers. One offers dresses made to order in standard sizing and the other offers custom, reimagined dresses. Both make me want my husband to propose, again.
Elizabeth Dye started out designing wedding gowns for friends who were looking for more stylish options than they could find in salons. A decade later Dye is one of the best-known Portland-based designers, offering her made-to-order, off-the-rack collections to brides all over the world. Her dresses are daring and dreamy.
Her process almost always starts with the materials and her love for beautiful fabrics. Her executions are always thought through. She tells me designing a gown is based on “physics, art and textiles.”
“My dresses are machines that have to look beautiful but work on the body. They have a Portland vibe: free-spirited, timeless and made locally.”
Though Dye is in tune with trends, she mainly uses the backlog of creative ideas she’s collected in her decade of designing. I “like to play by my own rules but it’s important to show brides what I can do.”
When I ask for the best advice to give a bride-to-be, she suggests, “Surround yourself with the right people. Hire a stylist or invite only your most trusted few.” It’s important, she says, that those around you are advocates for you.
Grace Marièe Bridal
Does your mother or grandmother want nothing more than for you to wear her wedding gown on your day? The problem is, it’s not your style.
Amy Sim and Wendy Mathews of Grace Marièe Bridal can take your grandmother’s dress from the ’50s or the ’80s wedding gown your mom wore and transform it into the dress of your dreams.
“A vintage reimagined dress just means so much more than an off-the-rack choice,” Sim tells me. “We always start with a personal consultation to get an idea of the bride’s style. From there we present her with our design ideas and the collaboration begins.”
Visualization can be challenging, so Grace Marièe Bridal always does a drawing to show the bride-to-be just how her vintage dress will look. “Sometimes it’s more than the bride who needs to sign off on the dress, so it’s important for everyone involved to agree on the finished design.”
From there the vintage dress is meticulously deconstructed and then remade. The designers add lace or fabric where needed, always paying great attention to detail. Every piece of lace should lie just right and each sequin is hand-sewn to perfection.
It’s not just wedding gowns Grace Marièe Bridal can reimagine. Any prom or bridesmaid dress can be rethought into the perfect engagement party, mother-of-the-bride or rehearsal dinner dress. Mathews tells me, “The ’80s dresses are great because there’s so much fabric to work with.”
Whether you buy made-to-order or go custom, the designers gave future brides the same advice: Try on different styles, see what feels good, find out what flatters you most and don’t settle. The perfect dress can be found, or made, for you.