How One Designer Saves the Day When You Just Can't Find THE Dress

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We spoke with fashion designer and Chicago-based couturier Veronica Sheaffer about the process of creating a custom bridal gown.  Strapless. Backless. Lace details. Blush accents. With all the gorgeous wedding dress options out there, there has to be something for everyone already in existence, right? Wrong. Some brides just can't find THE dress that perfectly fits the wedding day look they're envisioning in their heads. So what happens then? They turn their dreams into reality by going the custom route, of course!
Going the customized dress route can be daunting, but you have several years of experience under your belt with the bridal market and your own fashion line.

How does your custom design process work for brides?

For custom, we start with a consultation, where we discuss even the smallest details of the wedding. I really want to understand the feel of the bride's wedding day, from the flowers she’s imagining to the venue and time of day. I’ll almost immediately get a sense of what I think she should wear based on her overall aesthetic. We also go over the “wish list” for her overall look, of course. Then I’ll do some sketches, and we’ll go back and forth, making adjustments until we land on the perfect design. We’ll typically do around five fittings, starting with muslins before cutting into the final fabrics to get the gown just right.

 Fabric is such a tricky aspect of any dress. What fabrics & silhouettes have you found that work best for a tailor-made ensemble?

The beauty of custom is that it doesn’t matter at all what looks good on anyone else—it’s only important that it looks amazing on YOU. No one silhouette is going to flatter everyone, which is great, because who wants a dress that everyone else has? I almost always use silks: chiffon, taffeta, charmeuse. We definitely use a lot of lace as well. I recently put a bride in silk chiffon covered in sequins, which I'm super excited about.

 How do you get inspired and keep your design process exciting?

I prefer to start with fabrics when I’m working on a collection. I’ll spend a lot of time searching for something new and interesting before ever sitting down to sketch and drape. Of course, that’s a totally different process from when I’m designing a custom gown for a bride. I find each woman to be completely inspiring for the very things that make her unique. We love the idea of celebrating personal style while drawing upon other people for inspiration.

Who are some of the top brides from history or pop culture that your clients have cited as inspiration for their wedding day look?

I don't often get women wanting to look like other brides. Certainly I've heard Grace Kelly mentioned quite a bit, but that's more about the overall woman and her style, not her wedding look, per se.

Instead of looking to the past, what can we look forward to for bridal trends in the future?

"Boho" is huge right now! There’s absolutely no denying it: Slimming, drape-y silhouettes and vintage-style lace are everywhere. And sleeves. Brides LOVE sleeves! I think it’s great–the majority of my brides and friends want to look a little cool on their wedding day, and this style really achieves that.  
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