Although most brides love the excitement of trying on lots of dresses to find that ‘perfect one’ or are lucky enough to find the one in the first one they try, some brides have a very specific dress in mind so they find themselves steering away from off the rack style dresses and go for a custom made wedding dress. So what does this mean? Its a gown sewn from scratch, one of a kind, especially to order. It is important to consider some important things before embarking on this journey. Budget, have a budget in mind when talking to your dressmaker it will help them choose and guide you with fabrics. Time, having your wedding dress made takes time, on average 6 months, so this needs building into your plans. Don’t forget you will need several sittings with your dressmaker along the way. If you plan to lose weight you will need to tell them this too so they can build this into the timeline. Ask lots of questions throughout and trust your dressmaker opinion, don’t forget they are a professional at what they do. Relax and make it a magical experience, no stress required! One of our favourite custom made dresses is Victoria’s, grab a coffee and read her story….
When I was little two of my favourite films were Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights (later the only book I read so much that it fell to pieces, but oh Heathcliff!) so it was a perfectly reasonable ambition to aspire to grow up to be Merle Oberon or Vivien Leigh.
In my teens I made sure I got myself to the moors and the mountains and some of my happiest moments were riding over the moors with the wind and the rain in my face (just like Cathy), and exploring the wild highlands of Scotland when I ran off to ‘help’ on an RSPB reserve and stayed in a house called Ardtulichan (Ravens Nest). There were amazing adventures but none of it involved Scarlet O’Hara’s dress or swirling in silk at the house down the hill that I still secretly longed for. In English lessons I would design my own giant red gown in the back of my book and wander off in my mind to marry my current boyfriend, if Heathcliff wasn’t available.
It Would happen!
The next directions involved going to study conservation at college then Environmental Science at University. After just a year I cut my studies short and decided to completely change my whole world and become a single mum. I resolved to put everything into being the best person I could be for the baby I had chosen to bring into the world and everything went ‘on hold’. I moved to a horrible unhappy flat and, with only the support from a few good friends and no money, we made it a lovely (but I had decided very temporary) home. While my friends were living their lives I often found myself alone, with very little support from any family. It was hard, it was often very, very lonely but I adored my baby and did the best by her. She was breastfed (which then was still frowned upon by lots of people, including family), I learned baby massage, I decorated her room how I thought I should and then never let her sleep anywhere but next to me, and we were happy. I would take her everywhere with me: on the train to Cornwall, Wales and anywhere else my friends were. When I got a car we would drive to just about everywhere else. She was to see the world and I was going to make that happen.
For my 21st birthday my parents said they would babysit for 2 hours, so I went to the town with my friends and came home quickly, not the fanfare my friends were awarded for their ‘big birthday’ but I had made a commitment and this was my direction.
Forget Merle and forget Vivien, nevermind.
The following year saw some dreadful things happen and reality really kicked any lingering thoughts of fantasy completely away. Life was harder than I had ever imagined but I was, had been coping, until I lost a close friend to suicide. It ruined me and I felt very responsible. I hadn’t picked up the phone when he had called. I was tired, exhausted even. The next day when I did pick up the phone it was to ‘the news’.
The following few months were limped through. I had restarted university, this time studying Geology and Archaeology, and my university friends were good people who embraced me and my baby and we were lucky and Loved.
By the end of the year, a year where I am not really sure what happened, I would be married (the wedding was rushed and unremarkable except for everyone came in fancy dress, I can only think we got confused with the words ‘marriage’ and ‘party’.
It was often a very unhappy and unhealthy time and after two years of this university I gave up. Over the next three years I would have my lovely three boys and I adored them and, just like before, did everything with them, took them away to see everywhere I could and often alone. Often very alone. Not long after we moved from the flat to a shabby unloved house in the countryside I made the decision to end the marriage and I continued as a single parent, while simultaneously training to be a paediatric nurse.
I had grown into a strong, determined, independent woman, mother. Only accepting the very best for my children and never wasting an opportunity or a moment for them. They did so much and whenever a letter would come home from school I would do everything I could to make it happen. They danced and went horse riding and joined swimming clubs and played violin and joined brownies. Each year I took them to Stonehenge, I took them to festivals and drove them to camping holidays anywhere I could. I protected them vehemently and would stand up for them the best I could even when I was terrified inside, or I would smile and laugh convincingly, all until I could sit away behind a closed door and sob.
By 2008 I felt I was literally just a left over shell of someone, there was an invisible sign around my neck that read ‘not good enough’ and I had none of ‘me’ left, but whatever ‘me’ was wasn’t important or relevant, I needed to keep on getting by for the children. They needed me as their mummy and I was not going to let them down. I was in a lot of debt as paying for nursery while I trained as a nurse was the only option I had. I no longer answered the phone or opened letters as they would most often be bills or debt collectors. I became nervous about anyone coming up to the door and I still struggle with hearing a ringing phone or door knocks (a scar left over from then). The children knew none of this and my game face then was as good as ever.
Just before my 30th Birthday Paul appeared, he messaged me on Facebook “Hello Vic” (I loathe being called any contraction of my name, but tolerated it because this was Paul, my first boyfriend my English lesson fantasy, the boy who had always made me happy).
Soon enough he came into our lives and began to make all the things I had messed up better. I was reluctant to let anyone help me, I had got this far, but I was struggling and Paul took not even a bit of that achievement from me. It was ok. I was ok. Everything would be alright.
Nearly a year passed and I had gained weight (a very good thing at this time) and my hair had started to grow and I began to look less like a broken shape of a human and feel more like a woman again. The children were happy (as ever) but thoroughly spoilt and we went to Disneyland. Paul had produced a ring at some point and ta daa, let’s plan a wedding!
My dress! Oh my goodness! My big red dress!
Internet searches found a few people that might be ‘ok’ but nothing that would realise that dream that I had tucked away right in the very back of my mind in a tatty old box, a box that once used to glow a brilliant gold.
Then I saw Paula, a ‘real bride’ on Uptight Clothing’s website. She was beyond beautiful, her gown was The red, her wedding full of all the joy that it should be and she was dancing barefoot. The corset was beyond doubt the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, ever!
Oh my goodness, a golden glow filled me, it’s the gown! (Merle stirred in her sleep).
I messaged Janice and we arranged to visit her workroom. We pulled up outside a numbered door on a small industrial estate and knocked nervously ‘surely This wasn’t the place’ but oh my goodness it was. She opened the door and we saw drapes of beautiful material lining the ceiling of a glistening turquoise cave, with Janice and her wonderful welcoming smile and Elvis playing in the background. She wasted no time at all and before I knew it she had ‘gowned me up’ and for the first time ever I felt like that fantasy I had used to dream of when she put me into the Peacock gown. Then (with Paul watching and my youngest son dangling off the arbour in her workroom) she draped the red silk over the gown and had I not been so overwhelmed I would have probably cried with joy. I did on the way home, after she had sketched out the design, written the prospective date and arranged to send the quote.
Merle, Vivien, did you see that?!
It took 3 more years, me qualifying as a nurse (finally finishing a University course), and a baby before we got married and those long journeys to see Janice to get my dress fitted and altered were like pilgrimages, each time seeing myself a bit clearer as a woman in my own right, this was for me and I could see me taking shape as the gown did too.
When the wedding came Janice was there to ‘gown me up’ and set me on my way. The wedding itself was essentially a celebration for the children. It was what they wanted and had asked for and they loved it. The few minutes walking up to the castle in my gown, they were mine. I was Merle, I was Vivien and I was me all at once. That tatty old box in the corner of my imagination had been pulled out and restored back to that golden glow of my childhood dream, and opened, and it was wonderful. I felt all the good things about me that I would have been terrified and guilty of feeling before and I was allowed to. I wasn’t perfect, I don’t intend on ever trying to be anyone’s perfect but this moment was. It was as perfect as I desperately needed it to be.
The rest of the story you know, I am honoured to call Janice my friend. We run off on silly adventures and go frolicking in the woods and on the steps of buildings (sometimes where we shouldn’t be) and often with a selection of children (sometimes to be spotted in the background) and we get pictures of the beautiful gowns that will be the magic of someone else’s dream, the music to someone else’s story. We laugh until our sides hurt and I’ve met the most wonderful people. Life is happy, the children are crazy and I put the little golden box back away in my imagination, but it is stuffed full of magic and memories and I take care to look after it and keep it shining.
Thankyou Janice, you showed me that to dream is a wonderful thing, you taught me never to apologise for being yourself, you taught me bravery, you let me shine, you wrote the perfect finale to my little symphony, Thankyou always.
www.uptightclothing.co.uk 07884 477286