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C L O V E, Wednesday July 6, 2005
What’s white, worn only once in a lifetime and leaves you with memories that last forever? Three women tell BOEY PING PING how their wedding gowns grew from a single thread into a vision of a dream.

YOUR wedding is your chance to live out a fantasy, be a princess for a day, walk down the bridal runway and take everyone’s breath away. Renting a gown is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to get a gown. Buying a gown from the bridal shop means you get to keep it for yourself while designing your gown gives you the satisfaction of seeing your ideas materialise.

Whether you decide to rent, buy or design your own gown, there are two sides to a story. Three women tell their story of why they chose to have their bridal gown made to measure.

All dressed in white

After her sister’s successful attempt to look gorgeous on her wedding day, Elizabeth Chen followed in her sister’s footsteps by hiring Eric Choong to design her wedding gown. She said, “I wanted something simple, nothing lacy or complicated. And I wanted a very soft look.” The result was an empire-line, bustier dress made up of layers of silk chiffon and silk satin covered in organza embroidery lace, attached with an organza train.

Why I decided to tailor my wedding gown:
Chen, a 30-year-old restaurateur, relates her sister’s wedding gown nightmare: After paying the bridal shop a deposit for her wedding gown, she had gone looking for an evening gown and chanced on Eric Choong’s boutique. She liked Choong’s style and let him tailor her evening dress. Two weeks before the wedding, she went to collect her wedding gown at the bridal shop but after trying it on, felt something was wrong. The design was similar but the colour was different. After much argument, the shop owners admitted they had sold off her gown. Luckily, Choong came to her rescue and in two weeks produced a better gown than the one she had booked.

Working with the designer:
Initially, Chen had planned to have a garden wedding and wanted something light, comfortable and easy to wear. Choong suggested creating something akin to a second skin that would allow for easy movement. Although the wedding was finally held in a hotel, the dress was equally appropriate.

“My designer was very open minded,” she says. With a budget in mind, Chen and Choong collaborated and discussed ideas, design, material and colour. Chen says: “Having a designer to exchange ideas with is good because you get professional advice and it felt like he was fitting in the missing pieces of the ‘jigsaw puzzle’.” Choong let Chen make the first decision before giving his opinions. He respected her ideas while trying to improve on them.

Chen’s designer worked around her busy schedule, dedicating four hours every visit to provide that personal touch. He also advised her not to overspend on shoes and helped her pick a pair that would be suitable for both her wedding gown and evening dress. After four months, the dress was ready.

Chen says, “You cannot compare it to (shopping) at a bridal shop. It’s very personal. My designer treated me like a friend – as if I was his friend who was getting married.”

What makes my gown special:
The A-line silhouette of the gown’s skirt gave the illusion of a taller and slimmer Chen. “The result was very nice because a lot of time and effort, heart and soul had been put into it. He was happy designing the dress and I was happy wearing it.”

What makes it worth the effort:
“Every part of the dress fit me right. I didn’t mind paying a premium price for a gown that I had great confidence wearing.”

What I intend to do with my gown:
Chen says she’ll cut and redesign the gown later. But for now, she still gets a thrill just looking at it.

Tried and tested L’oreal White Perfect Instant Radiance Facial Whitening Mask:
“It’s convenient to use and feels like a mini (brightening) facial.”

Bride ideas

After much thought and browsing through bridal magazines, Vivian Chua remembered a gown design a friend had cut out from the newspapers and kept for her some time ago. “She thought it would look great on me when I got married in the future. So I dug up the picture for another look and thought it (might) suit me,” says Chua. The picture was of an empire-line dress with embroidery above the waistline and a simple patterned skirt. She explains her preference for elegant simplicity: “I did not want any extra fuss over the dress like a very long train or a big skirt to distract me from enjoying myself on the special day.”

Why I decided to tailor my wedding gown:
“It was a design that I liked and thought was rather unique. I hadn’t seen anything else like it when I shopped around.” While the 31-year-old music teacher was doing her rounds at the bridal shops, another bride-to-be gave her a contact for a fashion designer. She checked out the designer and was convinced.

Working with the designer:
“The designer was quite accommodating, but at the same time honest and diplomatic about ideas and designs that would suit me. That to me was a rare but valuable quality in tailors. She had some unique ideas which I included in my dress, for example, replacing embroidery with French lace encrusted with crystals and tiny pearl-like beads. The tailor also suggested an A-line mermaid cut for the bottom half of the dress instead of a straight-cut which would help enhance my slim build. All these made the dress uniquely mine.”

The whole process took roughly four months and the end result was, as Chua puts it, “better than I had envisioned it to be”. She adds: “When I tried the final cut and saw it as it should be for the first time, I felt happy that I had made the right choice.”

What makes my gown special:
“Simply because it’s mine. It fits me perfectly and there’s no other dress exactly like this one.”

Why you think it was worth the money:
Chua admits that the cost of making a wedding dress is definitely more than renting or buying one off the rack. “And you can’t really wear it again unless you re-design the dress. But it was worth the RM1,500 I spent as it was what I wanted and suited me well. I know of friends who have spent much more but the dress wasn’t quite what they wanted. Anyway, my husband still complements me on how stunning I looked on our wedding day whenever we look at our wedding photos and if it made such an impact on him, I certainly think it’s worth it.”

What I intend to do with my gown:
“I haven’t made any plans for it, but I think I’ll still keep it as it is for now. It’s certainly a keepsake of that special day and to me, it looks too beautiful to change.”

Tried and tested L’Oreal White Perfect Deep Whitening Double Essence:
“The product is reasonably priced and very affordable.”

My dream gown

Market risk manager Huang Paik Ling remembers the excitement of planning her wedding. She says, “Being an excited bride-to-be, I bought many bridal magazines and surfed the internet for design ideas.” The end result, a replica of a Carolina Herrera gown was inspired by a present from her maid-of-honour, which was a copy of InStyle Wedding Magazine. The gown was a combination of soft chiffon and stiffer bridal satin to create contrast between the top and bottom halves. Capped sleeves, an unusual feature in wedding gowns, were incorporated to suit Huang’s preference.

Why I decided to tailor my wedding gown:
“Initially, I looked at the gowns offered for rental and sale but the designs did not strike me as unique. There were also instances where the top half was pretty but the skirt was not appealing and vice versa. So it was difficult to find something that met all my specifications. Some of the gowns also looked ‘aged’ as they had been left on the rack for some time,” says Huang, 28.

She felt that tailoring her own gown would allow her to make all the decisions, right down to the tiniest detail. The other plus factor was knowing that the gown was custom-made for her.

The only worry she had was whether the dress would turn out as expected as she had been disappointed by past experiences.

Working with the designer:
Huang was introduced to fashion designer Anna Lee Rajkumar of That Special Occasion by her maid-of-honour. Impressed by the delicateness of her work and attention paid to detail, Huang was confident that Anna would put her heart and soul into helping her realise her dream wedding dress. Huang says, “We were both out-spoken and I felt that we got along very well and Anna knew exactly what I wanted.”

During the first fitting, Huang couldn’t really tell how the gown would turn out as the fitting was only for the top half. “Due to the complexity of making the top half, I had to go for two more fittings to ensure the chiffon folds turned out well.” Other than attending fittings, Huang left the work to her designer who kept her well informed of the progress. She says: “Anna made a few judgment calls for me which turned out really well. She also added extra length to the train of my gown which was a pleasant surprise.”

Huang remembered feeling quite grand watching the gown being developed little by little. “I was overwhelmed when I tried on the gown because it was exactly what I had imagined it to be, if not better. I was so happy that I could not wait for the wedding day to wear it.”

Memorable moments:
Huang also had her evening gown, inspired by a dress Reese Witherspoon wore in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, custom-made. “I still laugh at the fact that I made Anna watch the movie on DVD to capture the design I fancied. I was told she had to watch the same scene repeatedly.”

She remembers her designer’s dedication, saying: “My designer tirelessly re-did the top half of the dress until the inner lining tore and she had to replace the entire lining piece. She became my confidante, advising me on accessories, ideas for wedding favours, reminding me to buy shoes, print cards and finalise the guest list. In the end, my designer was also my wedding planner.”

What makes my gown special:
“The fact that nobody had worn the dress before, that the designs were exactly what I wanted and tailor-made for me. I spent more than RM2,000 for both the dresses but it was definitely worth the time and money. (Baulking at) the cost involved faded when I heard the ‘wows’ on my wedding day and, especially, saw the appreciative looks from my husband, which were worth a million bucks. I definitely have no regrets!”

What I intend to do with my gown:
“As with any sentimental married woman, I hope that I can hand the dress down to my daughter, although she may also opt for a tailor-made dress. I understand that my designer buys back the gowns but I cannot bring myself to part with them. Just looking at the dress brings back fond memories – from the day the dress was merely a sketch to the wedding day itself.”

Tried and tested L’Oreal White Perfect Deep Whitening Double Essence:
“I can really feel the difference. My skin tone and texture is more even, less oily and less prone to breakouts and the big plus is that the whole product range is so affordable and smells great.”

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