As a bride, choosing your dress is one of the most important aspects of planning your wedding. This process can be fun, stressful or both. If you can’t find the perfect dress, there is always the option of having a custom dress designed especially for you. The path to a custom dress looks a little different than choosing a dress off the rack. We had the chance to catch up with Leah Langley-McClean from ElleNelle Bridal (pronounced LNL). Leah is a custom dress designer based in Nashville, TN but works with clients all over the United States.
LHE: Tell us a little about yourself, elleNelle Bridal and your path to designing custom dresses.
Leah: I’m a Chicago native. Since I was young, I’ve always been very passionate about designing women’s apparel. Despite my passion for fashion, I moved to Nashville to study accounting at Tennessee State University. I practiced accounting for over six years. During this time, I also continued to perfect my sewing and designing skills; creating a women’s line and doing numerous fashion shows. Although I’ve taken a much different path, I still found a way to become an exceptional fashion designer.
I transitioned into bridal in 2015 while planning my very own wedding. I’m a true testament to why brides should consider custom gowns. I struggled with the decision to make my own gown or buy off the rack. I experienced dresses not fitting right, a very limited selection for my size, pushy and just downright bad customer service, and the constant reminder that due to my shape I would have to spend a pretty penny on alterations. Beyond all of this, each dress that I did try on was always missing something. With that being said, it was obvious what I needed to do, so I designed and sewed a one-of-a-kind couture gown for myself.
Since my wedding, I’ve found myself wanting to stay in the bridal business. It’s one of the biggest days in a person’s life and I want to be a part of it. I’m prepared and honored to take on the responsibility of helping brides look their absolute best on such a big and special day.
LHE: Wow! That’s an amazing path. What is the difference between a custom bridal gown and an off the rack gown?
Leah: Custom means we start from scratch to design your dress. So, we’re picking out the color, fabric, silhouette, and all the details in between. The dress is made to your measurements for a personalized fit. Off the rack dresses are pre-designed, so what you see is generally what you get. Occasionally, there are some off the rack dresses that allow for “customizations”, meaning you use the pre-designed gown as a base and you can make subtle changes to the dress to fit your style. Oftentimes, the customizations that can be made are limited and vary based on what the dress designer allows.
LHE: How far in advance do you suggest bride’s start the custom dress design process?
Leah: I suggest that brides schedule their consultations 9-14 months in advance. Creating a dress is a timely process, from the creative process of designing your gown to sourcing fabrics, it takes time. At a minimum, we must have 16 weeks to complete a wedding gown.
LHE: After a bride inquires with you about designing their dress, what is your process?
Leah: Brides can schedule a free 15 minute pre-consultation call to address any initial questions. If a bride prefers, we can jump right into a consultation and design session, which is about a 90 minute process. The consultation is very in-depth. We will cover all of the bases! We discuss your inspiration, fabric choices, budget, and more. Another fun thing we do is create sketches based on your actual silhouette that we get from a head to toe photo of you. With this method, you can get a better idea of how the gown will look on you. The process is normally $100, and applied to the final cost of your dress but for a limited time we are running Covid friendly pricing of $50.
LHE: In order to have a dress custom designed, what is a budget range that most brides need?
Leah: Custom gowns can range greatly depending on the fabrication and difficulty of the gown. Our gowns start at $3,500 and can go as high as $10,000+. On average most brides should expect to budget $3,500 to $6,500.
LHE: Do you design other custom dresses or only bridal gowns?
Leah: Yes, we offer bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, and evening gowns. Since our main focus is bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses the availability is limited for the mother of the bride gowns and evening gowns.
LHE: What are some of the latest trends you are seeing in bridal wear, in general?
Pearls, pearls, and more pearls. We’re also seeing a lot of transitional bridal pieces that can give you multiple looks. Additionally dramatic puff sleeves are totally a thing this season
Thank you so much Leah! We appreciate your time. You’ve given us great insight into the path to custom dresses. It’s a territory unchartered by many brides but a path to consider. By the way, I LOVE pearls and puff sleeves so it’s good to see this is a trend for the new year.
Brides, if you would like to discuss a custom dress for your day or have additional questions, you can reach Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org . To book a pre-consultation call or consultation/design session, you can book an appointment here or at the link below.
NOTE: all photos in this post were provided by Leah of elleNelle Bridal