On today's podcast we are talking all things wedding dresses from custom gowns to the perfect shape for your body type and setting realistic expectations for when you go dress shopping.
[Ashley] Hi everyone! Welcome to The Forever Bride podcast. I am Ashley Hawks and today we are talking all things wedding dresses. I have a really really special friend in the studio today and I'm so excited to have you. It's been so so fun just to see how far you have grown in the last couple of years! So Mara Marie is a custom gown designer based here in the Twin Cities. And Mara, thank you so much for being on today.
[Mara] Thank you so much Ashley I'm so excited to be here.
[Ashley] So when you and I first met a couple of years ago you were just starting your company, Mara Marie Bridal. I have a lot of things that we want to go over today, but before we go into that. Tell me more about how you got started in the wedding industry.
[Mara] Yes so I actually started sewing when I was in ninth grade from my home ec teacher. And after that I decided that I wanted to go to fashion design school. I've always had this fascination with wedding dresses. So I think it was obvious from the start what I was going to design. And then after graduating I just decided that that was the right path to start my own company. It was amazing to have brides ready for me to make their dress after I graduated and I haven't looked back and it's been two years and I'm loving having my company in Minneapolis. It's such an amazing industry here in Minneapolis. So everyone's been so supportive of the custom design process and I'm finding their dress that way.
[Ashley] That's so cool. So tell me more about the process, when a bride comes to you I mean where do you guys even start talking about a custom gown?
[Mara] Yes, so we usually meet around six to eight months out from their wedding date. Obviously, just depending on who the bride is and how much time they want for their timeline. And then it usually starts with sketching. I do suggest that they go to stores because, as we'll get into later, finding your dress is a very emotional process and if you don't try on some already made dresses I think you lose that sense of how much emotion is going to go into it. And then yeah I start sketching and I resource fabrics from all over the world; England, France, Italy. I usually find the best fabrics for them and then we dive into their final design after that. And then it's usually a series of about four to five prototypes. I build the dress on their body so there's no alterations needed, which is a huge cost that a lot of brides don't factor in to their wedding dress yet. It usually runs them around 500 to 1000 extra dollars so that is nice that I am able to build the dress on their body and then deliver the dress the month of the wedding.
[Ashley] That's awesome. Yeah. And to that point, my sister in law just got married recently and we found a beautiful dress on sale but it needed a lot of alterations. And I was telling her to expect to pay anywhere between like you know realistically you're looking at at least like three to eight hundred dollars and I was right it came to six hundred dollars for her alterations which she thought was crazy but I'm like, “Oh that's absolutely realistic with all those layers, all the beading.” That is a huge hidden cost that I think a lot of people forget.
[Mara] I think so too and I always say you can buy a seven thousand dollar dress but if you don't get alterations to match that it's not going to look like an expensive dress anymore. So it is a big selling point for a fully custom gown because you're able to build the proportions on the body for the bride.
[Ashley] So how does that work. I mean with Pinterest I think everyone in the wedding industry has a love/hate relationship with it, brides do too. But tell me it like how does Pinterest come into play?! I mean is that part of your process where you ask the bride to bring in some of their inspiration.
[Mara] Yeah I definitely encourage brides to bring in some inspiration from Pinterest or Instagram. It always is you know a two edged sword to that because I mean they can find a thirteen thousand dollar Berta dress but want to pay a thousand dollars and obviously that's just not feasible. So I mean I think it's great to have inspiration but I think that brides also need to stay true to who they are and also be a little bit realistic of what they want to look like on their wedding day as well.
[Ashley] So tell me more about like silhouettes and shapes and body types. I mean I think it's so important. Like on Pinterest, not all of us look like that. And it’s important to set those realistic expectations. What is your advice for brides when they're starting this process as far as silhouettes and things like that?
[Mara] Like you said, working in a bridal salon I got to see so many brides come in and only want to try on mermaids or only want to try on ball gowns, and one of the greatest things I learned is that brides who really try on every single style of silhouette - because it's not a prom dress, it's not an evening gown and they're going to have more of a connection to this dress than they had to any other piece of clothing. I saw so many brides leave the store with a completely different silhouette than they thought. And so I just think it's really important for brides to come in with an open mind and know that their mind could completely change and if they try on 16 mermaid dresses, every single dress is going to look the same. Nothing's going to stand out to them. So that's why if you do have them try on different silhouettes then it is just a better experience for them and they can narrow down their dream dress easier, because it can be overwhelming. Going to all these different salons and trying out over 100 dresses! I've known brides that have gone on such a journey to find their perfect dress and it ends up becoming exhausting and not fun for them.
[Ashley] And you have gowns at your location for the brides to try out too you know for them to actually see this or do you recommend they go to a bridal shop to do this before they come to you?
[Mara] I do recommend that they go to a bridal salon. It's also fun for them to get that experience. That is a dream of mine to obviously have my own salon and so then you know they can come in and drink champagne - I mean we can still drink champagne! But it's just a fun experience to have all your girls and your mom do that and usually most of my brides end up you know finding a couple of dresses and then they want to combine those dresses. So yes.
[Ashley] And you totally nailed it, like it is an experience. I mean this dress is the most important piece of clothing you're ever going to wear. You know I think even if you didn't grow up dreaming of your dress you still at least had some sort of idea or some sort of excitement about this this piece of clothing. When a bride does go to a bridal shop, whether she's planning on coming to you afterwards or she's just you know looking for her dress wherever that may be, what's the best piece of advice you can give a bride when she's starting this dress process.
[Mara] Like I said, just don't go in with one style of dress. I saw so many brides when I worked at the bridal salon just come and show me a picture and only want to try on basically that style of dress and then it's really hard for the bridal consultant as well to find a dress for you if you're super narrow minded on what you want for your wedding dress. I think it's important just to be completely open minded and have fun. It's kind of fun to try out a ball gown that completely takes over the room so you know, “That's not for me,” or, “Oh my gosh I feel like a princess!” So I just think be open minded and have fun because then it's gonna be just a more fun experience too for the bridal consultant as well.
[Ashley] Yes, well something that you and I were talking about before we started this morning was just how to be true to yourself and sometimes with Pinterest you can start creating these dreams of this grandiose wedding but that might not be who you are and the dangers of creating a wedding that isn't true to who you are and you were even talking about that with the dress. I mean how do you incorporate some of those pieces to make sure that the bride is really comfortable in showcasing like her best self.
[Mara] Yeah, I always say that brides should if they're mostly modest in their real life they probably shouldn't choose a plunging neckline because you know your grandparents are going to be there and are you gonna be comfortable hugging people in a very low neckline? So I think just kind of narrowing down like what brides are most comfortable with. What their best features are, what they want to show off, and being true to themselves. I mean you want to look back on your wedding dress and still love it in 30 years and you want it to be just true to yourself and classic.
[Ashley] And it's a piece of clothing that you are going to be wearing, not just standing having your picture taken for one hour, it is a long day you know?! So I'm sure that you can work with the brides and suggest different things, like you mentioned, you are hugging a lot of people that day.
[Mara] So many! And you're dancing and you don’t want to be worried about things coming out. Oh my gosh it's so important. I mean I always suggest to brides, when you go to a salon you should always be dancing (I know it seems a little weird), you should always do the sit test, you should hug people, raise your arms. I saw so many brides want sleeves, which I mean I love sleeves on wedding dresses, they're gorgeous but they also are so hard to dance in and to raise your arms. And so if you're so a bride that loves to have a good time and party, sleeves are a hard thing to alter so that it's a perfect fit. It's not just like your long sleeve tee.
[Ashley] Not exactly stretchy.
[Mara] No, not as much.
[Ashley] Unless that's what she wants and I'm sure you could whip that together for her!
[Mara] Yes exactly. I always say with the custom route sleeves are more feasible option. Like when you do buy off the rack it is really hard to alter the sleeve to fit you perfectly so you can have that full range of motion.
[Ashley] Ok. So tell me more like specific styles because you had mentioned a couple words like mermaid and plunging neckline and things like that. You know tell me more about what those terms are for the new bride that's just getting started on this process.
[Mara] Yeah. So obviously a Ball Gown is just like the complete fun full skirt I would say an A Line is like the softer version of a ball gown it doesn't usually have all of those under layers, or as we like to call it, the petticoat. Which I mean if you do find a ball gown in a salon that you love. usually your alterations person can take those layers out so it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming.
[Mara] And then you start getting into the Trumpets, which is fitted through the hip and then it has that nice flare at the bottom, not as dramatic as a mermaid. And then, the Mermaid is that more dramatic right above the knee. I always say that the perfect mermaid should hit you about an inch above the knee to really make you look super tall.
[Mara] And a lot of people I feel like when they come looking for a mermaid they think it is that that really stark difference of you know the in and then out. But actually a lot of designers are doing a design kind of between the trumpet and the mermaid. It's a lot more soft and subtle now.
[Ashley] And so you could actually walk.
[Mara] Yes you can walk and dance! And then obviously there's like just your classic sheath, which is just straight to the ground. A lot of people love to wear this for like a beach wedding or very boho wedding. Obviously, boho is super in right now. So those are kind of like the simple silhouettes and then obviously for neckline you have your traditional sweetheart which everyone thinks of their strapless sweetheart dress, which if you want to dance you want to get some removable straps for that.
[Mara] And then obviously the plunging neckline, I mean there's a great neckline. I actually personally love it, but it definitely is a little bit more risque. You can always add a little piece of illusion in there though to help keep everything in. A lot of those high end dresses, they usually do have some piece of illusion just so that you're fully secured. And I feel like it's kind of just a scoop neck or the bateau neck, the high neck, very Meghan Markle. Classic.
[Ashley] I love that dress.
[Mara] I know and that veil. Stunning.
[Ashley] Do you design veils as well?
[Mara] Oh yeah.
[Ashley] OK. So tell me a little bit about veils. Because I know like veils are such a beautiful accessory and it just kind of finishes that look and there's there's really cool history behind this too. So tell me about veils. I mean what are some of your favorite styles to make for those?
[Mara] I absolutely love veils. I feel like most brides come into the bridal salon and be like I don't want a veil. And then you'd put it on them and they're like oh my gosh I am a bride and I'm like yeah when do you ever get to wear a veil?! Like you don't wear that to Target! And so I mean I personally love like the big grand long veil with you know depending if you want lace on the trim or if you want beads. Obviously I did a styled shoot with you guys this summer (check it out here!) which is amazing. And I actually did the veil on the dress that was removable. I love that feature.
[Ashley] Well actually so we do show notes with these podcasts and I'll make sure that we put a picture of that dress because it was unreal I'd never seen anything like it. It was it was so beautiful and I think that's what's so cool too about custom is to be able to come and sit down with you and you're able to get to know the bride, learn a little bit more about her style, what she's looking for, how she wants to feel that day. And then having your creativity come to life and say well what about this or what if we tried this. Let's see how this looks. I think there's so much there. I want to know where do you get your inspiration?
[Mara] I get most of my inspiration from fabric. I just feel or see the fabric and like instantly a design comes in my head. I do get some inspiration from traveling and history and all that, but really I mean it's just seeing the fabric and the way that it moves or drapes. That really does inspire me. It's pretty crazy just touching fabric and I'm like, “Yep that's that!”
[Ashley] So tell me about some of the trends right now that are really hot for 2019 that you are really loving.
[Mara] I'm loving all the brocades. I just made a wedding dress in brocade. It was amazing. We did like a classic silhouette but then with the fabric just letting it have the showcase. That was gorgeous. I feel like designers are really doing experimental things with their fabrics. And like I said, doing the simple silhouettes, like I'm not sure if you're familiar with Peter Langer, but I'm obsessed with all of his dresses right now. He did one that's all gold and like amazing. But yeah I mean also just all the different laces. I feel like a lot of people are getting away from their traditional just like classic Chantilly lace and doing some amazing.
[Mara] I mean obviously I'm just really gravitated towards fabric so that's kind of what I see when I see the different dresses.
[Ashley] So I have to ask, you are engaged, right?!
[Mara] Oh yeah!
[Ashley] Okay, how do you decide on a dress?! I mean with all the options that you have. What are you doing for your dress? Or can we not say well we can say?
[Mara] My fiancee has already seen the fabric! He's actually won’t see any of the building of the wedding dress, but I'm definitely gonna have more than one. I've only been dreaming of this day my entire life! So yeah I mean obviously I've been lucky to work for designers and work for bridal salons so I've gotten to try on dresses and kind of feel what feels like the most like a wedding dress to me. So for my ceremony I’ll probably do something a little bit more full, not too crazy of a ball gown because I am traveling with the wedding dress. Then I'm going to do something more fitted kind of Elie Saab for the dancing part.
[Ashley] Oh yeah I’m so excited to see! We'll have to do a follow up after your wedding and share some photos! Also, you're getting married out of the country! At a castle right?
[Mara] I mean it’s pretty amazing. So yeah it's in London and it's it's gonna be magical. it's very Downton Abbey esque. So we cannot be more excited.
[Ashley] Oh I'm so so excited for you. So what is your one piece of advice if you could leave brides with one piece as as a gown designer, as a current bride planning a wedding. What is the one thing that you really want brides to capture?
[Mara] I just really want them to be true to themselves and not feel like they need to fit a stereotype that's perfect on Instagram or Pinterest because you should look back at your wedding photos and really love them even when you're 60. You just want to be true to who you are at that moment and go from there.
[Ashley] That's so good. Thank you so much for being on today. We're gonna have all of our show notes listed. If you'd like to follow Mara on social media. It's @maramariebridal both on Instagram and Facebook and it we'll have links to your website as well as how to connect with you if anyone's interested to come in for a consultation! Thank you again so much for being here.
[Mara] Thank you so much!
photos // Decora Topp Photography