Looking For An Alternative Wedding Dress?

Posted by Laura Howe on

Looking For An Alternative Wedding Dress?

UPDATE: We were just featured in an Associated Press story about non-traditional wedding dresses, written by the lovely Solvej Schou! Read the entire article HERE.

Recently, at Matrushka Construction (www.matrushka.com ), a cozy, one-room clothing shop in the hip Silver Lake area of Los Angeles that makes colorful dresses and other apparel by hand, owner Laura Howe — wearing a slouchy, off-the-shoulder sweater — laughed when recalling the most untraditional wedding dress she’s ever made.

“I once made a tutu dress, like a Degas dress, in lavender, and that was wacky,” said Howe, 49. “Usually people who want alternative dresses are people who have an understanding, an appreciation, for both fashion and handmade fashion. I also have clients who trust me from making dresses for them before.”

Howe started making custom wedding dresses 10 years ago. They range from $200 for a dress based on an existing Matrushka design to $1,500 for a more distinct and complex custom-made look.

Dresses with names such as the Jasmine (in sheer black and embossed green velvet, with long billowing sleeves and a V-neckline) and the Jean Harlow (a clingy Old Hollywood-inspired floor-length and knee-length design, with a plunging neckline and ruching) hang on racks throughout the shop.

For a tall “anti-anything froufy and kind of punk rock” concert pianist getting married in London, Howe said, she designed a silvery silk halter gown with a full-length skirt. For a customer who runs a yoga studio, she made a Jean Harlow in a cream-ish yellow.

“People have said, ‘I want an orange silkscreen with a poppy on it,’ or ‘I want it to be black,’ or whatever color they’re really into. It’s very personal,” said Howe.

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There is one dress that almost every woman will think about her entire life. However, not every woman dreams that dress will be white, lacy, expensive, and worn one time. Most of the women I know live a life that is more unique, more colorful, more special, and more practical. As long as I have been designing dresses, my friends and clients have asked me about designing custom dresses for brides and bridesmaids, and it is one of my favorite things to do.

Sometimes when working with my ladies to design their dress, we start from a fabric or a design in store. Other times, we start from an idea only and set about making it a reality.

Once we have agreed upon a dress I go about swatching fabrics. This can be a labor intensive process, anywhere between two to eight months. All of our fabrics are sourced and bought locally in Los Angeles, and I make trips for new fabric at least once a week.

Once the bride loves her fabric we start constructing the dress. We need to do a couple of fittings to make sure we get fit and length right, and work out details like shoe heel height. And, though I am not a fan of spanx and do not think woman’s bodies should be squeezed in to shape to look good, on these occasions it might be considered because wedding fabrics tend to be lighter in color and weight, therefore showing every little detail.

Once we have done our final fitting I give my bride a big hug and wish her love and happiness, and hopefully they send me some pictures of the dress in action, like my friend Jennifer, pictured below. Jennifer married her long time boyfriend in Chicago and they wanted to do something unique, fun, personal. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Photos: Jennifer Gutowski with her husband John Herndon at their wedding at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Photos by Jon Rienstra.

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