If you’ve ever dreamed about designing your own one-of-a-kind wedding dress, you need to read this. Alabama-based bridal designer, Heidi Elnora designs customized wedding gowns. The Project Runway alum thinks every bride is one-of-a-kind, and they should have a custom gown to match. Heidi has a new show on TLC, Bride By Design, which shows the process of designing couture bridal gowns. We interviewed Heidi to find out more about what goes into creating customized wedding gowns. Read on to find out more about the process, and Heidi’s tips if you want your own unique gown.
Q. A lot of people know you from Project Runway. How is the wedding gown design process similar to the show’s?
A. The process of designing a wedding gown is very similar to that of designing a ready-to-wear garment like we did on Project Runway. We use the same techniques such as sketching, draping, cutting your fabric and then sewing your actual garment. Then, of course, you have fittings with your clients. So, it is very similar. It is different in the sense that I use all white fabrics versus colors and prints. But the process at the end is basically the same.
Q. How do you turn a bride’s vision of her dream gown into an actual dress? What is the most difficult part?
A. The most difficult part is just making sure we are on the same page. That just takes me really getting to know my bride and that is something that is extremely important to me as a designer. In order for your client to truly be happy, you must understand what they truly want. Once we are on the same page, I will show her fabrics and educate her on why certain fabrics will drape or hang better, what fabrics are more breathable, what fabrics are better for the theme of her wedding and what the overall look is that she is trying to achieve. My main job is to listen and then take all of their thoughts and ideas and make it exist.
Q. Describe the entire design process from idea to final gown. How long does it normally take?
A. When it comes to a couture gown, that process can take from months, and months, and months to years. It just depends on if it is something complicated or difficult that my bride wants, like if I have to go out and source a fabric, or if I have to look all over to find a certain trim or lace that a bride might be looking for. It truly depends on the bride.
If it is something that I am designing for a new line, that is kind of based on me and timelines in order to get it into stores on time. Usually, for me designing a line, it probably takes about 6 to 9 months.
Q. The Build-A-Bride concept is such a great idea. Tell us more about it.
A. Oh, Build-A-Bride. She’s fun. Build-A-Bride is something that I started probably around 2008. I had so many brides coming in and requesting the same shape: a sweetheart-trumpet style dress with chapel length train and low V-back. They all wanted this foundation and I thought “You know what, there has got to be a simpler process. How can I create all of these different dresses when everyone wants the same thing?” So I created Build-A-Bride.
There are 15 basic dresses or silhouettes that girls can choose from. Then we have around 60 add-on pieces which we offer in multiple fabrications. Build-A-Bride offers so many options. One day we tried to count how many and it is not even possible! But it is nice for brides because no two dresses are ever the same. One girl might have a lace bodice in an Italian lace and she may have another friend that has a lace bodice in a cotton lace, or even with buttons. Every single dress is going to be unique and there are just so many variations, so it really gives the bride the opportunity to play designer without having to do all the hard work. Wedding dress shopping can be exhausting for brides-to-be and this makes it fun!
Q. What is the most difficult request you’ve had?
A. Sometimes dresses can be a bit of a challenge, but I wouldn’t say any of my dresses have been difficult. There is never anything where I am like “Oh my gosh, this is impossible.” We always find a way to create whatever it is that our client wants. So sometimes we are challenged, but, honestly, my team and I enjoy a challenge, to open our minds up to possibilities and things that we have never done before. So, there has never really been a difficult dress, but challenging dresses, which we love.
Q. And the most unique idea?
A. Oh man, there have been so many different brides over the years! I mean, you name it and I have done it, I’m sure. My most interesting bride, she was really cool, she was from Mississippi and she came over with her mom and she was getting married under a full moon and she wanted moonstones sewn onto her dress to capture energy. I was like, “Okay, I’m down with it girlfriend. Let’s do it.” That was pretty cool and interesting. So we had to outsource moonstones, which is interesting. I don’t know how many designers have ever done that. Her dress turned out absolutely gorgeous, it was a couture gown. It was a beautiful wedding, it was really amazing.
Q. What would your advice be for a bride who wants a custom dress? Any dos and don’ts?
A. The dos are to go to someone reputable, a seamstress and a designer are two different things. I would definitely go to someone that you have seen their work, you’ve met with them and you’ve heard really great reviews about them. Because so many girls will find a “designer dress”, however, when the dress comes in, it isn’t the quality they expected. So it is really important to do your research about who you are going to trust with creating something for you that is a true couture gown.
Bride By Design premieres on Friday July 25, at 10/9c on TLC.
Check out the Heidi Elnora website to see more wedding gowns.