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A Custom Dress For Less!

February 15th, 2012 by Jeannine

A Custom Dress for Less!

Here’s the scenario… You’ve been shopping for a dress for weeks, in and out of different sample dresses in various bridal salons and you can’t seem to find the one that’s you. Why not get a dress made just the way you want it? Too expensive? Yeah I guess it could be… But there are ways to cut costs! I chatted up Gabrielle Bayona of Ellebay Bridal Boutique. She and her mom, Merly, make custom wedding and grad dresses at their New Westminster shop, using all local materials. Gaby is the designer, while Merly is the couturier, she’s got over 10 years experience after all!

The first question I asked is…

“what affects the price of a custom gown?”

Gaby says…

The main cost is how much work gets put in, like how many hours we’re putting into each dress. The more embellishments you do, the more it’s gonna cost.

Fabric plays a huge role in it as well. Lace for example can be very expensive, especially since you’ll be mostly using the edge only. Chantilly lace can cost upwards of $150 per meter. If you have your heart set on lace, Gaby says there are a couple of options. First, local fabric shops (such as Fabricana) offer tons of lace alternatives, which can be just as beautiful! If you go to the right places, you won’t have a problem finding the perfect lace at price points between $30 and $90 per meter. Second, consider doing lace accents. Lace edges are very beautiful, and some manufacturers make designs that are thinner and made solely for edge work.

Another popular fabric brides opt for is silk. It’s a beautiful & luxurious fabric, but Gaby says they’re not that durable. Here are some of her suggestions for cheaper, yet comparable alternatives to silk:

Silk Chiffons for example, they’re nice and beautiful, they flow very nicely, but you can also do a polyester chiffon. They flow just as nicely and they’re more durable. You can wash them, you don’t have to worry about getting water on there, getting a huge water stain, and having to pay for drycleaning afterwards. Almost all of our dresses are made with that kind of chiffon, which helps the price a lot! Also, people are infatuated with Duchess Silk Satin and a regular Duchess Satin is just as nice but a tenth of the price.”

Dupioni and Raw Silk are both on the higher end of the spectrum but for a bride on a budget, Gaby suggests getting a synthetic fiber like taffeta. Without a trained eye, it would be difficult to tell between a silk and a taffeta or between a Duchess Silk Satin and a Duchess Satin. You won’t be able to see the difference in photos, the only ways to tell is by feel, weight, breathability, sheen, and how much money you have left in your budget. ;)

The different styles of wedding dresses can affect the price too. The more elaborate the design, the higher the price will be. Gaby says that anything with a lot of structure, rouching (they have to be pinned by hand), and gowns with crinoline (like ballgowns) will cost more than simple dresses. According to Gaby, a cheaper option for those who want the ballgown pouf is to rent the crinoline separately. Less work will go into the dress, making it cheaper, and the crinoline rental makes it even more affordable.

Gaby’s Words of Advice

Before you head out to get a dress made, Gaby recommends…

  • Find a seamstress/designer you trust – Ask for references, look for reviews, and be sure you are confident that the person you hire will do the job well.
  • Order early – Seamstresses have other dresses to make too, especially during grad time, not to mention any alteration projects they accept. To be safe, if you want a custom dress, order early!
  • Know what you want – Bring lots of photos to your dress consultation to help illustrate how you want your dress to look like. Tell your designer which parts of the dress you like and which you don’t like so both of you will be on the same page.
  • Know your budget – It is better for a designer to work around your budget rather than creating your dream dress and finding out it’s too expensive for you. Make sure you know what your bottom line is before you go for an appointment.
  • Be open to other ideas – Sometimes the style you want won’t work for your figure (it happened to me!) so it’s best to take their advice seriously. If in doubt, try on a sample dress in a different style first to give you a better idea of what it’ll look like on you. You might be surprised!
  • Avoid over-altering – Don’t buy a dress from another store and have it altered to much to suit your design. Alteration costs could add up to the same amount (or more!) that you’d have to pay if you bought a dress that looked like that anyway.

I want to thank Gaby Bayona for sharing her tips with us, I definitely learned a lot and I hope this article will give you a better idea on how to order a custom dress. To see more of her beautiful designs, be sure to check out her website, Facebook page and see what she’s up to on Twitter! You can also stop by her shop in New Westminster across from the Bridal Gallery :)

All photos provided by Ellebay Bridal Boutique and courtesy Jeremy Jude Lee Photography

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  • November 1st, 2014 at 2:14 pm
    alex says:

    I was looking for a custom wedding dress with a very specific design in mind. After looking for good designers, I ended up at Ellebay Bridal Boutique thanks to this article but what a disappointment.
    Compared to the other designers I already met, no discussion about the fabric I would like, the different type of laces which can double the price of the dress, no explanations about the process and how they could handle the fact that I will have a baby 2 months before the wedding… after seeing the picture and showing me three different dresses they had in the store, the final price was offered… and it was not cheap :)
    The only positive thing I can keep from this meeting : I did not loose my time neither Merly’s one because it lasted 5 minutes! Just the one hour drive to go there :)

  • November 18th, 2015 at 10:39 am
    Liz says:

    can you please tell me what is the size of a dress that has a 26″ waist? I may have one made but not sure what size to ask for.

  • January 3rd, 2016 at 9:50 pm
    Salma says:

    Wonder how much it would cost to do chiffon long dress beaded on the top with high neck, just labor only. Will provide materials


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