A dress to remember

If you’ve dreamed about a truly unique and special dress for your wedding, you’ll need to track down a good designer to turn your dream dress into a reality. This is the one day where you’ll want to look your best, so choosing a designer who’s in tune with your thoughts will be the key to a fabulous dress.

But be prepared to change that dream, advises designer Valaiporn Bunnag. She recommends keeping an open mind when consulting a designer. "You’ve got to know what style and colour is going to suit your body," she says – and a good designer will be able to tell you. But to start with, it’s a good idea to know whether you want to go all out and have what Valaiporn calls the "Cinderella look", or if you’d prefer something understated that can be modified and worn again later on. It will cost a little extra to convert the dress, but in the long run this will save you buying a completely new dress for that next cocktail function.

And do shop around for a designer whose style you like, and whom you can work comfortably with. But if you already have a dressmaker and she’s skilled enough to make a wedding dress, trust her. "She will know your figure," Valaiporn says.

One thing to check if shopping around is whether the designer can offer you a calico fitting. This will be your chosen design made up in a calico the colour of the dress. It lets the designer learn more about your figure, and lets you see if you really like the style. "There will usually be an extra charge for this, but it’s always a good idea," Valaiporn says. "If they don’t offer, ask."

Research is important, says Rico-a Mona designer Jakrapong Wanchana. "Keep researching! The client should look in wedding magazines, fashion magazines, wedding shops and books to get as many ideas as posssible. Go to shops to touch and look, and try on dresses." Then take along a collection of pictures that you like and your ideas to a designer. "If the cut or the design doesn’t really suit you, we’ll suggest some changes in the design to try to make it enhance your figure. We know how to conceal flaws and enhance assets."

It’s also a good idea to let your designer know about things such as what jewellery you’ll be wearing, whether you’d like a veil, flowers in your hair, your hair up or down and so on. If you don’t have these details finalised yet, your designer should be able to make some suggestions and even introduce you to people they have worked with before.

And don’t leave things until the last minute. If the designer is not busy, one month would be the minimum time to allow, but busier places could take two to three months to finish a dress, depending on the complexity of the pattern. For a plain dress, two or three fittings are necessary, while something more elaborate may require up to four.

Prices can vary. Valaiporn charges a flat rate of Bt8,000 for labour, with materials extra. Obviously the better the quality of materials you use, the higher the final cost of the dress will be. Good quality satin will cost around Bt800 to 2000 per metre, while 2-ply Thai silk will cost upwards of Bt650 per metre, and most dresses take between five to seven metres of material, depending on style. Head to Chinatown or Pahurat to get started, or Shinawatra or Jim Thompson for silk. Rico-a Mona collection dresses start at Bt25,000, but they can alter their designs to suit the customer’s budget – by for instance, allowing the client to bring in her own fabric. "It’s good if the client tells us her budget, then we can work on a design to suit that budget," says Jakrapong.