Ballpark Estimate: $150 to $20,000
If you enjoy watching what the hottest celebrities wear on the red carpet, you probably know that many of them have one-of-a-kind designer gowns that have been custom-made just for them. While you may drool over the fine fabrics, stylized lines and elaborate details of these unique creations, chances are you don’t have your own personal access to Dolce and Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld or Louis Vuitton to request something similar. But just because you may never have a designed-just-for-you Chanel number doesn’t mean that you can’t experience the lure of haute couture in a modified way.
A Long-Standing Tradition
In the true sense of the term, haute couture is used to describe the process used by high-end and prestigious designers to design custom clothing for a client using the finest materials and hand-finishing techniques. The extremely exclusive tradition, which began more than a century ago, continues today in top Paris showrooms and keeps the elite and extraordinarily wealthy very well clothed.
But while the true world of haute couture is closed to the mainstream, the concept of “made-to-fit” clothing has broadened beyond the high-fashion showrooms. Today, there are many accessible and affordable designers who bring the fine art of custom clothing to the general public as well. This is a particularly appealing option for brides and other people looking for something especially unique to wear for a wedding, prom, ball or a host of other special occasions.
What distinguishes custom-made clothes from items you can buy off the rack is the excellent fit. Custom-made pieces are specifically designed for your body type and your measurements, so they can show off your assets and minimize your flaws and, as a result, make you look simply great.
In addition, many custom-made dresses are sewn by hand, so the details can be exquisite. You will find tiny, neat stitching, extra attention to buttons and seams and better finishing overall that you won’t find in those mass-market items you can buy in a store.
While most custom-made dresses are created from very fine fabrics and accents, even one made of average-quality materials will appear superior to a similar design that hasn’t been customized for your perfect fit.
Perfection Can’t Be Rushed
There is a certain mystique that goes along with the whole process of creating custom-made clothing. It’s just so elegant and luxurious to have something tailored to your shape and your taste. Having something custom made for you also allows you the chance to give your input on what the designer creates. In fact, you can often suggest fabrics, cuts and special accents that you want to have incorporated into the final product. Many women who have worked with a designer to have something special made for them for the very first time often say it is an experience that can’t be replicated in any other way. In addition to getting elegant clothing that looks great, with a custom-made outfit, you can be sure that you will have a one-of-a-kind creation that won’t be similar to what anyone else has today.
That being said, real perfection just can’t be rushed. So keep in mind that custom-made dresses that look exquisite can take a long time to make. You can assume you will need to have several fittings. And the timeframe for completion of the project varies a great deal, depending on what you order, but it can take anywhere from a few months to close to a year.
What You Can Expect to Pay
The cost for a custom dress spans a huge range. Some of the variables that come into play include:
- Where you live.
- What type of dress you order.
- The quality of the materials you request.
- How well known the designer is.
- How long the process will take.
- What level of detail and handwork is involved.
Wedding dresses generally cost much more than a casual day dress, and more expensive fabrics can be more difficult to work with, so they can take more time to finesse. But whatever your budget, with so many options available, if you shop around you will find something that works for you and for your wallet, too.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $20,000 for a custom-made dress.
On the low end, you may work with a seamstress and use average-quality fabric for a simple but elegant item that is made to fit. On the high end, you can commission a custom-made wedding gown from Vera Wang that will be the highlight of your special day.
Where to Find a Designer
Many fashion designers who do custom work are located in large cities, such as New York and Los Angeles. But if you live in a more remote area, you can still find a talented seamstress or designer who will be willing to create a made-to-fit item especially for you. Better yet, many designers located in the smaller cities and towns charge quite a bit less than those in the larger cities. In addition, some designers will fill remote orders if you provide the measurements. Keep in mind, though, that without trying on the dress throughout the process, you may not get a perfect fit on your first try, so allow time and money for additional alterations to get it just right.
To find a fashion designer in your area, ask for recommendations at small clothing boutiques that carry local clothing lines. You can also see if a seamstress at a high-end department store is available for any custom side work. Finally, look in the advertising section of your phone book as well and ask people you know who are well dressed for their recommendations.
It is also worth mentioning that if you don’t have the time or budget for a custom-made dress but still want something with the same effect, you can work with a tailor to have a vintage dress tailored to your shape and add your own custom touches to turn it into a one-of-a-kind creation.
With a little time and lots of creativity, you can look and feel as good as your favorite celebrities do even without the high-end designer label.