I've been converted to couture.
It started when I had my wedding dress designed and made for me by Edel Tuite. At our first meeting we sketched it and she assured me she could make the dress exactly as I saw it in my mind. It took a certain leap of faith because I only had my imagination and my faith in Edel as a guide. There was no trying on my dream dress; there was no dress to say yes to but I was committing to spending a lot of money.
But the process was a lovely part of my wedding preparations and it felt special. I decided on the shape and feel of the dress as well as where the detailing went. I decided the neckline and the cleavage exposure (lots, as ever). I decided on all embellishment and where to put it. It was worth every penny and they altered it right up to a couple of days before my wedding to make sure it fit like a glove, even sewing in a bra for me.
There's no point arguing cost per wear here because I wore it once and I'll never wear it again.*
When it became apparent that we would have to have a separate civil wedding as well as the big white wedding, I researched Irish designers and asked Sean Byrne Couture to design and make a dress for my civil ceremony. I had nothing in mind except that it had to be pink. Again, the process was fabulous. Sean and I met and a few days later he sketched some designs for me to choose from. I really need to find those because I want to frame them! We agreed on a mixture of two styles he had suggested and decided it would be a deep pink crepe. We had weekly fittings to get it right. Sean initially made a cotton mock-up then tweaked the design before making the dress itself in thin wool crepe. Sean delivered a bespoke deep pink dress (with pockets!) which I have worn to two other weddings as well as two black tie work functions.
So the cost per wear argument works here. It cost about €1,000. I could afford it at the time because I considered it an extension of my wedding dress and I spent allocated wedding money on it, seeing as I would get legally married wearing it. I promise I don't usually drop a grand on a dress. I wish I could! It's had five days out so far. So that's €200 a pop. Still a lot of money but many girls will spend that and more for an outfit for the races or a wedding or other formal party. I know I'll wear it again, further reducing the cost per wear.
A colleague actually complimented me on the dress and said that it looked like it had been made for me. I literally beamed and said that it was!
But then I went mad...the story of the couture cashmere coat is for another day...
But when couture isn't an option (like now with a baby, a mortgage etc...and no lotto win in sight) tailoring is the next best thing. I mentally factor in the cost of alterations when I buy clothes. Inevitably skirts are too long or jacket shoulders fit while the back gapes. Sometimes I'll fall in love with a dress that's only available in a bigger size than I need and I'll buy it anyway, knowing that inches can always be taken off.
The Stitch Shop in Ranelagh did a great job altering and repurposing a couple of plain work dresses that needed to become cocktail dresses just after I had Pearl and nothing fit me except those dresses. They lowered necklines, raised hemlines and gave princess length sleeves so that I had something to wear to a wedding and a few parties about 10 weeks post-partum after a C-section.
My newest project is a classic vintage Burberry trench I found but which needs alterations (it's way too long) and a little updating. I'm trying the Zip Yard and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Proper post soon!
If it works out, I'm going to entrust them with helping me to make a cocktail dress for a particularly posh thirtieth birthday party. I've seen what I want but I can't find it anywhere in real life...so I'll have to improvise! It's not quite couture but if it works it could be fab. Will post if it does!
*Except around the house vacuuming obviously. Everyone does that.