Some dresses come together beautifully: from the original sketch to the production sample, it’s 100% EXACTLY as envisioned. Our Leyla, was not one of those gowns.
Sketching went a little like this: I himmed… I hawed… I agonized over every silly seam. How can I make the dress interesting and unique, yet at the same time, understated and easy-going? Let’s start with the original sketch:
I was actually very happy with the original sketch. I wanted something that was simple and clean in the front, but that had a "wow factor" in the back. Over the years, we've gotten a lot of "ooh’s and ahh’s" over Tamarisk and her low back with crystal buttons. So, I wanted to give them another version of that. I kept the open back and crystal buttons down the center seam, but changed the sleeves and appliques. The gathered sleeves and beaded shoulder details gave it a 1940’s Hollywood starlet vibe. Which of course, I was all over!
When it was time to review sketches, Leyla (or letter J at the time) was a frontrunner and made it through the first round of cuts. But after that, Lourdes and I talked over certain details. She worried that it wasn't the right balance of modern and vintage. That it leaned towards too vintage. I could see her point and went back to the drawing board. Wanting to keep the sleeves, I figured opening the center front a bit would help bring it into the 21st century. This is where we get iteration #2.
Relatively speaking, what a sexy difference! The high collar balanced out the now low front and back. To make it even sweeter, I wrapped the bow around the collar. I figured this would also help keep the collar from looking too Mandarin-collar-esque. We agreed to see what this version looked like in fabric, and away I went to make a muslin.
Fast forward to the fittings. Now I will tell you: sometimes ideas don’t translate to fabric, but most of the time we are pretty darn close. This dress was not one of those cases. It was opening in the back… it was flailing open in the front… it was too long in the bodice… and, it was awful. (I would post a picture of the front of this muslin, but it is a touch NSFW.)
We cried. We laughed. We cried from laughing so hard. We went back to the drawing board again. So at this point, the only thing I knew I wanted to keep was… was the sleeves? I looked at what had already been designed for the 2018 collection and tried to bring in other elements. Lourdes had put a beautiful hand-embroidered trim on the back of the gown that was to be Iset, so I tried that element. But in the end, I went back to the beading at the shoulders to give it that little something extra. I opened the center back up, but instead of just open, I put a tulle in it to keep the dress together. It started moving in the right direction. I was getting closer!
Pretty good, pretty good. But still not 100%. I was stuck on the front seams and the sleeves. You can see it too, right?? I wanted something more than the regular "old" princess seams. As for the sleeves, I was still convincing Lourdes of a gathered 40’s sleeve. I created another muslin with the new open back, keyhole front, and several sleeve options.
We hated all the sleeves. Of course! So after much discussion, we decided to go with a flat-capped sleeve. I vowed to Lourdes that she would see a gathered sleeve in the future, there's no escape!
I moved on to making the dress in silk crepe. To my surprise, after what had been an arduous design process, sewing the sample was a complete dream! The dress went together beautifully. The sheer back was looking sexy yet secure, and I was very happy. The placement of the beaded trim took the longest to figure out. But once Lourdes was in town and there to drape it on the dress form with me, we figured it out in no time.
Although I was happy with the outcome and that it was done, the hanger appeal wasn’t there. To me, it looked like a sad nightgown that was frumpy and not alluring at all. But there wasn’t anything else I could do. Leyla was officially done and the photoshoot was coming up fast. I hung her up and breathed a sigh of relief. But I promise you, that’s not how it ends! Fast forward to our beautiful photo shoot and our beautiful model putting the dress on. It has curves! It’s sexy! It’s sweet! It’s actually more than I could have hoped for!
Some wedding dress shopping advice for brides: Just like Martha says, "Some dresses look like paper bags on the hanger and drop-dead gorgeous on your body. With that in mind, don't turn your nose up at anything until you try it on." Aka, there are dresses that have ZERO hanger appeal and need a body in them to look good.
Leyla has a wonderful mix of elements from other gowns in the collection, as well as, new elements to set her apart. She is a lovely blend of 1940’s glamour and modern-day minimalist, and we wouldn’t take her any other way.
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