When it comes to ‘The Dress’, most brides have a pretty good idea of what they think will suit them. They’ve probably saved clippings from magazines and created a Pinterest board. But even the best-researched bride-to-be can still struggle to find her wedding gown.
“Brides come in with a notebook of styles. More than often than not, they want a little bit of everything, but they don’t know how to find the balance,” says Jade Swee, co-founder of Time Taken to Make a Dress.
Whether they are looking for a traditional white gown, a reception dress or a Chinese tea ceremony cheongsam, Swee is something of a fairy godmother to her brides. She advises on what would best suit them and opens their eyes to a world of possibilities. The result will be a bespoke creation that they never imagined.
The magic happens in the couture atelier she founded in 2010 with Letitia Phay, which is now located above a coffee shop in a shophouse near Singapore’s Arab Street. In the French couture tradition, their clients must be patient.
“It does take time to make a dress, especially if you want beading or flower applique,” says Swee. “Four to six months is the minimum timeline we like to work with.”
She adds that creating a bespoke dress requires steps that have to be spaced out. The budget ranges from around S$4,000 to S$9,000, depending on the fabric and level of detailing the bride asks for.
After a first consultation, the designers will take a couple of weeks to come up with a couple of sketches. “Usually, there are two or three permutations of what we’ve discussed, something that we know the client is certainly after, and then something that is a bit more daring and pushes her out a bit of her comfort zone,” Swee says.
Once a decision has been made on the design, a mock-up of the dress (a toile in calico) will be made for the client get a better idea of what the final creation might look like on her. In some cases, Swee notes that if the bride “still hesitates between two designs, we might create two mock-ups for her to choose from”.
Actual construction of the dress will start in the atelier where four petite-mains work full time. Swee notes that “at any given time, we have about four dresses on the go”. They require at least two fittings before the completion of the garment, for the perfect fit.
It’s In The Details
Swee credits her love of beading to her Peranakan grandmother who taught her the craft when she was a teenager. Her training ground was beading traditional Peranakan slippers. It was her friendship with Phay and their common love for dressmaking techniques that took her led to the two designers opening up the atelier.
They had been working in a bridal shop when they first met and “we were tired of cookie-cutter wedding dresses”, says Swee. “We wanted to step out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves.”
The two struck out on their own, and have gained a steady following.
For her own wedding, Swee gave Phay carte blanche on design. “She really does know me very well,” Swee says. “I like my clothes to be feminine but with an edge, and I think she translated that very well.”
Phay dressed Swee in a chic sheath dress with two overlays: one made of laser-cut polyester duchess satin that looked like lace and a second made of pleated tull. “The vibe was quite romantic with a bit of an edge and a slight vintage kind of feel, which is very me,” Swee says. In short, it was perfection.
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