Expert Advice from a Gown Designer

Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2009

Carlos Ramirez, Gown Designer
Miami, Florida
Known For: Handcrafted dresses with a traditional yet modern twist; body-skimming
silhouettes; and ethereal fabrics
Where to Find Him: Liancarlo, 1737 NW 79th Avenue, Miami, FL 33126; liancarlo.com

You design all of the gowns, right? 
Yes, I am the sole designer. I'm that neurotic person who doesn't work with an assistant. We don't contract anything out. Our 45 employees do everything: cutting, sewing, handwork. And one person makes a single dress. When that's the case, people take more pride in their work.

That seems pretty labor-intensive. 
It is. Sometimes it can take up to three months to produce a dress, so order it at least four to six months before your wedding. Many have frayed elements, or different types of embroidery, or appliques. Some of them are stitched by hand and some by machine, but it's an intricate process to get to the final effect.

What dress has been your best seller? 
A popular one this year is an Italian two-tier gown with tulle and organza fabric ripped into petals and formed into magnolias along the edges. It has elements of the traditional gown, but the frayed, raw-edged flowers give it a very modern effect. It's not all finished with hems.

How many dresses should a bride try on? 
It depends. Some brides buy the first dress they try on. On the other hand, there are those who are like professional shoppers -- they'll try on every dress in every store within a 200-mile radius. That makes it harder, because you just create this mental collage of ideas, and you'll end up with something that isn't right for you.

How does she know if she's found "the one"? 
They always say the bride has to cry, but some people need to go home and think. They come in looking for one thing and end up with something totally different. That change doesn't always happen in 30 minutes, and that's okay.

Have any advice for a bride on a budget? 
Less is always more. If you buy an inexpensive beaded gown, it's never done right. The construction always looks shoddy, like it's something you would wear to a costume party. If you go for something simpler and focus on a nicer fabric, it can look luxurious. By the same token, that gown must fit you impeccably, so don't skimp on a good seamstress.

Top Tip 
"Remember the role your gown plays. Of course you want it to be appropriate for the occasion, but you also need to consider whether you wear the dress or the dress wears you. The dress is a vessel for you to shine through, a vehicle to set you apart from everyone without detracting from you. At the end of the day, people should say how beautiful you looked, not what a beautiful dress you had."

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