Your Wedding Day – Theatre for the Non-Performer (and how I became a wedding gown designer)

by Stephanie on November 14, 2012

After talking with fellow members of Ottawa’s wedding industry last night at Mill St Brewery, I finally realized exactly what I love so much about being involved in a couple’s big day. Back in 1997, when looking through the McGill course list, I read the words: ENGL 365 Costuming for the Theatre. I had always loved fashion and sewing so I thought it sounded like fun. I went for my admittance interview with the wonderful Catherine Bradley, who taught the course and that was it. I instantly fell in love with all things costume and theatre. I’ve done a fair bit of work in costume over the years, but then fell, somewhat unexpectedly, into weddings. After having made a few dresses for friends, then myself and creating all sorts of creative touches for my own wedding and others, I decided to make a business of it.

Working in theatre, you get a thrill creating gorgeous costumes for the actors and when it’s show time, you stand on the sidelines and watch as the crowd appreciates the amazing spectacle you helped to create. Unless you’re an actor, a wedding is your only opportunity to get dressed up in an elaborate costume, have everyone oooh and ahh over how amazing you look and have your stage set perfectly to showcase you and your co-star. The rush I get from being a part of a client’s vision for their special day is just amazing… and very like the feeling I’ve always gotten working in theatre.

Having fun with bride during final fitting

I still follow a bit of the “theatre” (some would say “non-fashion industry”) way of working. I use safety pins in fittings (straight pins just fall out and drive me crazy – how much was I supposed to take that in by again??) I have multiple fittings if necessary, doing mock-ups out of muslin until I get it right and before I go near the real fabric. The main difference is that in theatre, the costume designer calls the shots design-wise. If you’re the bride, you’re my co-designer. We look at pictures together to decide what you like, I make suggestions if I think certain cuts would flatter you and then design your dream dress. If I can use my creativity and experience to create more special touches throughout a wedding, I’m that much more thrilled. Using a funky retro-inspired fabric to tie the ring-bearer pillow in with the groom’s pocket square feels like the wedding version of having characters in a play wear bits of the same fabric or colour. Incorporating little touches like a treasured family locket or the fabric from a beloved grandfather’s necktie into a wedding is not unlike what’s done in theatre as well. There is often a deeper meaning behind a prop that an actor carries in a play.

Pocket squareRing-bearer's pillow

I had been thinking that I really strayed from my costume roots, but I’m happy to realize that I really haven’t. The production might not be Shakespeare, but if I’ve done my job right, it’ll be remembered by everyone in the audience.

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