"One of the many blessings that come from an original tailored garment is the opportunity to incorporate personal, poetic and sentimental touches," explains local designer R. Brooke Priddy of Ship to Shore. "Often my clients bring items from loved ones of generations past."
It's a concept that goes far beyond the "something old, something new" adage. Priddy repurposes and incorporates gloves, scraps of lace, velvet flowers, pearls, hats, even entire wedding gowns into one-of-a-kind dresses for the brides who come to her shop.
That's a really big difference — a world apart, in fact — from the process through which many women choose a gown. Catalogues, bridal superstores and mainstream mall-style shops offer plenty of selection but in impersonal settings and with few if any options for customizing. When it comes to weddings, few brides would admit to wanting a cookie-cutter feel to the big day.
So what stops many brides from purchasing a custom-made gown? Price. Tales of nest egg-cracking designer gowns are the stuff of both legend and nightmare. FYI: The most expensive wedding dress in the world, to date, is the $12 million Diamond Gown, a collaboration by Renee Strauss and jewel dealer Martin Katz. But that's hardly everyone's style, and when it comes to custom design (within reason), Priddy points out that "People don't seem to know that the prices are not that much higher than local off-the-rack chain retailers. Sometimes much less." (Alterations and extras are hidden costs of off-the-rack gowns.)
While buying locally might mean spending less; it definitely means keeping money in the local economy and avoiding unfair trade or sweatshop practices associated with many mass-produced clothing lines. But most importantly, a local designer provides one-on-one consultation and personal touches. Back to that "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" tradition: "Each of these lucky items can be sewn in like secrets under hems, or woven into accentuated waistlines," says Priddy. "In my experience, the more the dress tells a story — laced with a history unique to the bride — the more emotionally fulfilling the whole experience can be."
WNC boasts many talented designers as well as small boutiques that can offer personalizes service when it comes to finding the perfect dress. Brides on a budget can check local consignment and vintage shops for second hand and antique gowns. These dresses, at the hand of a tailor or seamstress, can be updated and made to fit perfectly. Have a family heirloom wedding gown that's brimming with emotional value but is hopelessly out of style? Consider hiring one of the area's many alteration shops to take in, let out, shorten, remove sleeves or otherwise revamp the dress.