We Love Love Betsy Wise Bridal

I'd like to introduce you to a talented woman, fellow Hudson Valley resident, and friend, Betsy Wise.  Betsy is an amazing designer and maker of custom wedding gowns for Betsy Wise Bridal.  She has mastered the timeless art of dress making and brought it into the modern world, along with the vintage and heirloom gowns she makes new again.  She works with each bride to help conceptualize and and bring to life their dream gown.  I asked Betsy to answer a few questions about her craft and the wedding industry at large.  

Betsy Wise Bridal

How long have you been running Betsy Wise Bridal and how did you get started? 

I have been sewing and designing for as long as I can remember, but I have been making wedding dresses specifically since 2011. I was working in a bridal boutique at that time, when a friend asked me to make her wedding dress. She had a really cool story. She had been backpacking through Southeast Asia with her (then) boyfriend, and they got engaged on the trip. While in India, she purchased some beautiful colorful silk that I made into her wedding dress. The light bulb in my head turned on at that moment. I realized that finding a wedding dress is not a process that fits into a box or an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. It can be an incredibly unique and personal experience. So I quit the bridal shop, and Betsy Wise Bridal was born. 

Betsy Wise Bridal

What is your speciality?  

When it comes to custom, I can really make anything a bride can possibly dream up, but my true passion and specialty lies in Vintage Reconstruction. A bride will bring me a vintage family heirloom gown, and we will use it as fabric and inspiration for a completely new, modern, one of a kind gown. Its such a fun process for me because not only is it an amazing piece of family history that deserves to be honored, but its also like a puzzle trying to figure out how to utilize the materials in a way that looks fresh. 

Before and After: Vintage Reconstruction from her mothers 1975 wedding gown

Before and After: Vintage Reconstruction from her mothers 1975 wedding gown

Did you find your niche immediately?  If not, what was the process like to get there?

It took me a couple years to find my niche. I always want to be open to anyone and any request that comes my way. That is what keeps my job interesting, I'm never doing the same thing twice. But at a certain point you do have to hone your skills. I ended up doing my first Vintage Reconstruction for my sister from the wedding dress worn by my mom and my grandmother. I fell in love with the process. Once I posted that one dress on my website, other people started seeking me out specifically for reconstructions. I realized that was the thing setting me apart from other bespoke designers out there. 

Betsy Wise Bridal

What is your day-to-day like?  and what is your favorite part of the process? 

Weekdays are generally my studio days. Those are the days I spend designing and creating. Weekends are usually dedicated to clients for fittings and consultations. 

My favorite part of the design process is seeing my ideas come to life in fabric on the dress form. That moment when a sketch becomes reality. 

Before and After: Vintage Reconstruction from her grandmother's 1955 wedding gown 

Before and After: Vintage Reconstruction from her grandmother's 1955 wedding gown 

Do you do custom requests?  

Absolutely! Everything I do is custom, and I really welcome ideas that are outside of the box. Thats what keeps it fun and exciting. 

What is your favorite thing about working in the wedding industry?

I have had the chance to work with some of the most incredible brides. It is such a pleasure and an honor to work so closely with people and get to know them, and their families. Making a woman feel happy and beautiful on the most important day of her life is so incredibly rewarding. It's what gets me up in the morning. 

Betsy Wise Bridal

Any trends you you are seeing in gowns?  Any trends you notice clients are asking for?

The latest trend that I love is the bohemian look. I love the easy feel, and the soft flowing fabrics. I have had a lot more requests for flowing fabrics and no train. With the bohemian trend I have definitely seen an increase in outdoor field or lakeside weddings, so the dress has to fit the setting. 

Do you have any advice for brides looking for a gown?  

  • You don't have to follow trends, just be true to yourself. 
  • No matter what you should look like you, not like you're dressed up in a costume. 
  • Less is always more. 
  • Imagine yourself looking at your wedding pictures in 20 years. You want to choose something timeless. 
  • If you don't have any idea what you want, the best thing to do is just go try a bunch of silhouettes on and see what works best on your body. 

And one more fun wedding question, in your opinion, what makes a good wedding great?  

The best weddings are a true reflection of the couple's unique personalities. There are no rules anymore when it comes to weddings. Your can make your day whatever you want it to be, and I love that!

Thank you so much, Betsy for taking the time.  Your work is truly amazing!!  Make sure you visit her site and follow on instagram.  

We Love Love Alix Kivlin, Wedding dress designer for Celia Grace

I am so excited to introduce you to Alix Kivlin, the designer for Celia Grace, the only eco-friendly, sustainable wedding gown company in America!  Celia Grace was formed by two long-time friends, designer, Alix and Marcie Muehlke, after Marcie found herself unable to find a wedding gown that fit her sustainable values for her wedding day.  After traveling overseas to meet with various local fair trade producers skilled in creating luxury wedding gowns, Celia Grace partnered with multiple small producers in India and Cambodia to create these beautiful, ethically made, non-mass produced wedding gowns giving each bride added beauty to her big day.  Ladies (and gentlemen), these gowns are not only gorgeous, I've seen and touched them, but they have amazing and wonderful stories behind them.  Do yourself a favor, and click over the to the website to meet a few of the artisans that make Alix's designs come to life.  Alix is pictured below (on the right) with business partner, Marcie.

How long have you been designing wedding gowns and how did you get started?

I come from a background of designing womens sportswear with major brands for the past decade in NYC, and had never considered going bridal until creating Celia Grace with my partner Marcie Muehlke.  It was a very organic transition that started with a Thanksgiving holiday brainstorm about different fair trade markets and where there were holes, and acknowledging that most people had very little concept of what fair trade was and stood for (everyone thinks of coffee or chocolate, but never luxury wedding gowns!).  We saw a big gap in the bridal market, it was either custom made or mass produced polyester gowns which surprised us.  Marcie and I did loads of research into the bridal market, business models, fair trade producers, and our desired design aesthetic, which then rolled into me swatching, sketching, draping, and designing our collection and traveling overseas a few times to work one on one with our extraordinary producers in India and Cambodia.  I am so in love with our collection and our mission, it's been a beautiful evolution of my design career and to feel confident sticking to my values, which can be very hard to find in fashion.

Do you have any advice for young designers looking to design wedding gowns?

Listen to what brides/women want for their big day.  It's such an epic day in a woman's life and they aren't compromising how they look, it's valuable to get real feedback.  Look at real womens bodies and know who you're designing for.  Don't scrimp one bit on knowledge of construction, draping, how fabrics move and form to the figure (or don't), and how to design something beautiful yet comfortable to wear for 10+ hours.  The inspiration gathering, designing, picking fabrics, and creating embellishments side of bridal is the most creatively fun part, but in the end it must be made impeccably and your customer needs to "oooh" and "ahhhh" over how she will look and feel on her one big day - that's the pressure!

What is your favorite thing about working in the wedding industry?

Everyone I have met and worked with is incredibly friendly and happy.  There are no fashion-ista attitudes to be found!  Pleasing the customer is incredibly wonderful too; knowing how beautiful and proud she will feel on her wedding day in a Celia Grace gown I created.  I'm very privileged to work in the fair trade sector, so I work with producers I personally know and build bonds with.  I see the love they put into each dress and feel very fulfilled knowing exactly how each of our gowns are made - beautiful dresses, made by talented workers, for beautiful brides on their big day - doesn't get much better than that.

Besides making beautiful dresses, you guys do so many great things at Ceclia Grace, from using sustainable materials, to giving back, to helping women by providing jobs.  What do you find the most rewarding and impactful?

As I mentioned above, I find it incredibly rewarding to literally see the love and care put into each handcrafted dress, seemingly woven into the fibers of the materials.  All the details going into the gowns are indigenous to the specific locations where they are produced, making the collection very unique and keeping with traditional practices.  For example, there's embroidered netting from eastern India, 100% natural dyes and specific folding techniques to create patterns from western India, organic cotton from south India, heirloom silks traditionally woven on hand looms from Cambodia...all these craft details that can't be found in other places in the world. 

Our impact can be seen on both small and larger scales, another rewarding aspect not just for myself and our customers, but for the workers themselves.  With working on wedding gowns our seamstresses continue to learn and fine tune precise skills and master their trade. We work with some womens organizations which provide them with regular jobs and fair pay in regions where women aren't commonly working, thus giving them great opportunity to not only master their trade but to be rewarded for it with steady work and pay.  Celia Grace donates a water filter to a local family with each wedding dress sold, again, giving these women and their families the right they deserve to live well with clean drinking water.  On a larger scale, our producers can better care for themselves, their families, and their community.  With the money they have earned they can put this back into the economy, afford schooling for their children, not fear of going hungry, save for their future goals, and travel on their vacation time off.

Is there any specific inspiration for the 2015 collection?

I can't say there's a specific one inspiration, but I do keep within a romantic, slightly vintage, slightly bohemian focus.  I am often inspired by nature, which is reflected in our floral embroideries, the shibori folding and dying which looks like light dancing on rippled water, our slubby raw silk looks like super feminine and sheen tree bark, and beading patterns to mimic waves and flowers.  Because we work with smaller producers this does slightly limit what materials I can use in the designs, and working within those boundaries actually helps to keep the design process focused and cohesive. 

Which is your favorite gown from the collection? 

The Bella Gown (pictured below)!!  This dress makes me want to get married!  It has the shibori folding and natural petal pink ombre dye from the hem fading into white.  I love everything about it: the color, the organic rippling pattern, the overlapping strapless bodice, the flowing column skirt, and it has pockets - which is an absolute must for everything I wear, wedding or not! 

And one more fun wedding question, in your opinion, what makes a good wedding great?

Ooooo good question...I haven't had a wedding (yet!) so I'm basing this on personal hypothesis, but I think a truly great wedding is one where you feel 100% comfortable, not just in your dress but in every decision and action that takes place, and with every person present at the event.  Too many brides seem completely petrified, or overwhelmed with details they can't fix, or bitter about a guest they may have been pressured to invite, and I occasionally hear women complain that so much of their big day seems like a blur because of all the small details they were fixating on.  I think if one feels completely at ease and at peace with what they've planned and what decision they are making with their partner, they will have a day of being able to value and relish every joyful moment, and have the ability put a positive spin on the things that may go not according to plan. 

Thank you so much, Alix for sharing your story!