Maybe you have visions of your dream wedding dress in your head, but it doesn't exist in any store anywhere. Or you want a Dom Perignon bespoke aesthetic, but on a prosecco budget (and minus all the fuss and snooty salespeople). Or you just got engaged and you need that dress in six months because that's the only date your fantasy wedding venue is available. Or, let's be honest, we live in an immediate gratification, tech-powered fashion world, so why wait an interminable 12-plus months for a dress?
You could "see-now, buy now" or just go for a fast fashion look for your big day, but — surprise — customizing a wedding dress is actually incredibly straightforward, quick to deliver and won't blow your entire wedding budget. Of course, the term "customizable" can run the gamut from sizing to style modifications (like, sleeves, level of back or cleavage coverage, trains, etc.) to building a one-of-a-kind gown, whether via modern technology or just the old-fashioned way — by visiting an atelier.
So here's everything you need to know about the seven ways to customize your wedding gown, and a couple bridesmaid dress options, too.
FAME AND PARTNERS
How It Works: The world's first mass-customized contemporary womenswear brand Fame and Partners introduced it inaugural bridal collection in January, and it's just as technologically impressive and on-brand is its Aussie-meets-LA aesthetic).
The wedding dress offerings include 21 made-to-order styles that can be customized six different ways to suit both style preferences (neckline, sleeves, length, train, belts, etc.) and body type. The styles fall under four comprehensive themes: Classic, Modern, Bohemian and Rebellious to include silhouettes ranging from a slinky, '30s-style bias-cut silk mermaid dress to a cropped lace halter top and ballgown skirt set.
The wedding collection also offers minimalist-cool bridesmaid dresses, featuring a eye-popping 40,000 style combinations offering 16 colors, two fabric options, six skirt lengths, five style and five additional functional customizations — guaranteed to satisfy your BFFs's diverse set of demands.
Sizing: From 0 to 22 for both wedding and bridesmaid dresses.
Extras: Fame and Partners debuted The Wedding Atelier App, which offers a social opportunity for you and your bridesmaids to design, discuss and eventually purchase your dress orders via the e-commerce platform. Whether you're shopping for your wedding or looks for the rest of the year, you can also book a styling session with the in-house fashion guru, Amber Bond.
Cost: $299 to $1,299 for wedding dresses; $199 to $248 for bridesmaids. Fame & Partners also offers group dress buying discounts.
Wait time: Wedding and bridesmaid dresses will deliver within four to six weeks.
Return policy: Wedding and bridesmaid dresses (customized or purchased as-is) are exchange only within 30 days of receipt, but not subject to the usual 50 percent restocking fee.
How It Works: Direct-to-customer brand Floravere, debuted last year with wedding dress styles speaking to seven style "archetypes," with five additional styles to be added this spring. Founder Molly Kang partnered with artisans from established design houses — including Carolina Herrera, Monique Lhuillier and Reem Acra — to create the line. Dress styles range from the romantic, off-the-shoulder Capulet to the minimalist column A. Hall and offers modifications, such as, train length, waistline, leg slit, back coverage and/or sleeve length.
Prospective brides can order samples of preferred styles, which are now available in sizes six or 12, to try on at home.
Sizing: 0 to 12 via the drop down menu on the site, but gowns can be special-ordered for sizes 14 to 24 by texting (310) 596-1612 or emailing email@example.com.
Extras: The dress sample(s) arrive in a pretty "Bride Box," which contains goodies to enhance your own at-home try-on experience. (You'll have to supply the champagne and trusted guests, though.) Also, Floravere stylists are available via text and email above.
Cost: $45 for each sample, with free shipping each way and the cost goes toward your final order. Dresses run from $1,550 for the minimalist A. Hall to $3,550 for the hand-embroidered illusion S. O'Hara.
Wait time: Between 10 to 15 weeks upon final order. Rush requests can be made by contacting Floravere via text or email above.
Return policy: Returns not accepted; however, you can request to modify or cancel an order, but only before the dress goes into production.
How it works: David's Bridal offers size and style alterations on all available dresses, for example, adding straps, sleeves, creating a sweetheart neckline and/or a bustle, depending on the original style. Size alterations are also available. The international chain offers styles and brands to suit a range of tastes, from the classic in-house gowns to romantic-glam designs from White Vera Wang and Truly Zac Posen.
First, make an appointment via phone or DavidsBridal.com at your closest David's Bridal, which conveniently has over 300 stores across the U.S., U.K. and Canada and set up an initial fitting and consultation and go from there.
Sizing: 0 to 26, depending on the brand and style.
Cost: Dresses are priced between approximately $90 to $2,000, plus additional costs based on the complexity of alterations and modifications to be determined during the consultation with an alterations specialist.
Wait time: David's Bridal is essentially "see-now, buy now," so there's the standard time spent purchasing the dress, whether in-person at the retail location or via online order. Then, allow four weeks in between the first fitting and the pick-up fitting, but the time frame will depend on extent of work to be done.
Extras: David's offers everything bridal, from veils to shoes to sashes to outerwear, so a bridal stylist can help you put your entire look together at the consultation. An app is also available to browse, shop and book your appointments.
Return policy: No returns for modified/altered gowns, but per a company rep, "David’s Bridal will work with you until you're satisfied" with the dress.
SACHIN & BABI
How it works: Sachin & Babi launched its bridal collection last year for spring 2017 with a modern, fashion-y, but still classic take on the category in the same vein of its contemporary womenswear line. The New York-based label offers both bespoke gowns and customizations to existing styles, from modifying trains to creating that sweetheart neckline to interchanging the bodice of one dress to the skirt of another.
Depending on the customization of an existing dress, the modifications can be done via the Manhattan flagship store at 1200 Madison Avenue and/or consultations with partner retailers. For a custom-made dress, make an appointment to meet with Sachin & Babi designers in the New York showroom at 132 W. 36th Street. The design process includes embroideries and artwork tailored to the bride; Sachin & Babi emphasizes that the bride will be involved in the process "from start to finish."
Sizing: 0 to 18, but a custom gown can be made in any size.
Cost: Depends on what you need done. Fit customizations start at an additional $300 for existing gowns, which start at $2,695. For a full-custom work, prices start at $8,000, plus a designer fee, which covers the consultation cost that's eventually applied to the final cost of the gown.
Wait time: Three to six months, depending on the work needed.
Return policy: No returns or exchanges on customized gowns.
How it works: Bluethread Bridal offers wedding dresses any way you'd like them. The Boston-based company offers preexisting gowns in standards sizes to buy as-is (classic princess ballgowns to the above more minimalist Michelle in luxury fabrics and trims), or "semi-customize" the existing styles with a different neckline, sleeves and/or silhouette. Play around with options on the site's Design-My-Dress app, which also gives you ideas to fully custom-design a gown.
Bluethread also offers custom-sizing on preexisting dresses, which involves a "fitting muslin" that you can fit remotely (consultants can Skype you through the process), bring to a tailor to be pinned or do the fitting in-person, either at the Bluethread retail partner where you purchased the gown or in person, at the Boston Parlor (1007C Chestnut Street, #304, Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts) or Mountain View Showroom (775 S. Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, California).
Sizing: 0 to 30, for preexisting gowns, but Bluethread can customize to any size.
Cost: Dresses from the pre-redesigned collections run from $1,700 to $3,000 for standard sizes. Custom sizing ranges from approximately $300 to 400 extra. Cost for style customization, from semi- to full-, is dependent on the work involved.
Wait time: Varies, but the typical delivery time is within three to four months for a standard size or semi-custom-size gown, if a first-step fitting is not required. Bluethread suggests that a bride avoid custom-sizing if the wedding is in four months, but they can rush a dress at an extra fee. Full custom-design wait time is dependent on the work involved.
Return policy: All sales are final.
How it works: Indie designer Rebecca Schoneveld carved out a niche in the industry as a go-to for maternity bridal wear, so growing her overall bridal offerings out to custom or semi-custom makes complete sense. Her interchangeable classic-with-a-Brooklyn-modern twist designs can be designed to your liking by swapping a top of a dress with the skirt of another, modifying the sleeves, selecting your ideal color and so on. Schoneveld also offers one-of-a-kind gowns designed from the ground up, including, of course, maternity, and she specializes in sizing the gown based on your timeline.
Wedding looks (from dresses to separates to pants) can be ordered and customized via one of the brand's partner retailers around the country, an upcoming trunk show or at the atelier located in The New York Times-beloved Gowanus, Brooklyn, where everything is made. Brides can also order directly from the boutique via the website or calling 718-788-3849.
Sizing: Standard sizing runs 00 to 30 before alterations.
Cost: Starting at $1,600 to $5,000-plus, with most styles averaging between $2,000 to $3,000. Additional customization fees may apply, depending on the request. Full custom gowns run approximately $1,000 more than a similar style gown in the line. A deposit of 50 percent is required to confirm the order with the final 50 due upon pick up or shipment of the finished the gown. Bridal separates, such as lace tops, jackets, and skirts, are also available from $300 to $2,500-plus.
Wait time: Usually 20 weeks to make. Although rush orders, with an additional fee, can be made for as fast as four weeks, when possible. They recommend allowing an additional six to eight weeks for alterations, which are not done in-house.
Return policy: All sales are final.
How it works: Venice-based designer Lily Ashwell offers color-customization for her capsule wedding collection of five romantic, lingerie-inspired and very LA-girl boho slip style gowns. Each dress has an option of 10 color choices, from traditional neutrals to deep jewel tones. The options to mix and match styles and colors also offer creative license for a bridesmaid motif. Customers who aren't near the Venice boutique at 566 Rose Avenue can order a silk swatch booklet for the most accurate color selection. All dresses are handmade in Los Angeles.
Sizing: Extra small to large.
Cost: From $385 to $550 for each dress. The swatch booklet is available for $10.
Wait time: Eight weeks.
Return policy: No returns, wedding dresses are final sale.