The fashion designer and the bride tell all and give tips.
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A Very Special Dress Fitting
Cassandra DeVos Thorndill got married at her parents' home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on September 19th, 2015. Several weeks prior, we tagged along to the fitting, where she tried on her two custom gowns designed by her mother, Pamella Roland, who also took on the task of outfitting the bridesmaids and herself.
"I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to have two dresses," Cassandra explains. "I wanted a traditional wedding at a big, beautiful church, so I knew I would want a more traditional look for the ceremony—but I also knew that having sleeves and a long train for the entire night may be difficult and hard to dance in."
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Choosing the Fabrics
To make the dream of a traditional (think Kate Middleton) gown, Pamella and Cassandra chose a lace from several samples swatched at Solstiss (a fabric house specializing in lace) and Pamella set out to work on shapes and styles. They both took inspiration from the laces selected and allowed their creative visions to steer them on the best ways to use them and how things would look on Cassandra's body.
For the off-the-shoulder ceremony dress with its six-foot train, they selected a traditional corded French Alençon lace, framed in double face silk satin, and backed it with two layers of tulle.
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Sketches of the bride-to-be were paired with swatches of the fabrics and trims. "I wanted my daughter's dresses to be perfect and to make her happy," Pamella says of designing for the special occasion. "Cassandra showed me ideas and inspirations, which we could turn into her dream dresses. She was very decisive so the process moved forward quickly."
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"Although I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for, my mom and sister really talked me into trying on all different styles of dresses to make sure," Cassandra says. "In the end, I'm glad I did because I ended up with a more mermaid-silhouetted dress, which I hadn't envisioned in the beginning. I suggest spending time trying on all styles of gowns, as you may be surprised that look amazing on you."
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Considering All Options
Pamella concurs, noting that it's not always what's "on trend" that should be chosen—it's important to focus on what looks best on your body. "This is the one time in your life where you can try on anything, and it is one of the most important dresses you will ever wear," she says. "Do not limit yourself, and have fun." Pamella typically has clients asking for a gown in a current collection in white for her big day. Colorful gowns lined the wall of a room in her headquarters.
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Adding the Veil
They say the moment you put on the veil you feel the most like a bride. Here, the first time Cassandra tried on the hand-appliquéd veil with the gown, she had a magical moment.
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A Second Dress to Dance In
Cassandra planned to put her hair up and add an embellished headband by Jennifer Behr for the dancing portion of her reception and asked for a shorter train and spaghetti straps. "In the end, it was a perfect party dress, and a collaboration between us," Pamella says. The designer recommends testing out any dress to see if a bride can move in it—after all, there's the first dance and her dance with her father before getting down the rest of the night.
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An Important Consideration
And pick a color that works with your skin tone. Pamella explains that even though white is the traditional color, a lot of brides will find ivory or off-white is more flattering on them. Pamella and her team also run through the couple's photo list, as well as venue specifics, like if there are staircases, what is required of the bride during the ceremony, or if there will be a different dress for dancing.
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Tips for the Fitting
As for the fitting itself, she recommends doing your hair and makeup (either yourself or at a trial) right before your fitting, as it will make you feel pretty and give you a glimpse of what you will look like on your wedding day. "It will be important to look at your reflection in the mirror and see the total package as you try on dresses," Pamella says. And make sure you bring shoes and appropriate undergarments, too.
At Pamella Roland, there are typically a minimum of three fittings, with the last one happening no more than three weeks before the big day.
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Pamella designed her own dress, too—something she says is harder to do than designing for others. "Everyone is their own worst critic, as I am with myself," she notes. "I have a wonderful design team helping me take my designs and make them a reality." She went with an off-the-shoulder charcoal silk faille number, which flared below the knee. A few abstract motifs were hand-embroidered using small crystals and metal chain so the dress wasn't too plain, and to add a bit of sparkle for her first time as mother-of-the-bride.
When outfitting the mother-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom, Pamella suggests they consider the colors of the wedding and select a look that coordinates without conflicting with the existing color palette. She also advises choosing a look that is appropriate and not too sexy. "Your daughter is the star of the day and you should not overshadow this," she says. And lastly, she proposes selecting a style that is comfortable; explaining that the dress will be on all day, as you greet guests, pose for photos, and well into the night.
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Dressing the Bridal Party
Cassandra's sister, Sydney, served as maid of honor, and together, with the other bridesmaids, wore a custom-dyed green silk tulle gown. The bridesmaids chose from three different styles, and Sydney's had a bit of beading on the shoulder strap so she stood out in her role.
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When it comes to the maid of honor, Pamella suggests adding a little something special to their dress to set them apart from the other bridemaids—like a little beading or an embellishment. She can also carry a slightly different bouquet on the big day. Her other tip? Celebrate your biggest supporter with a special piece of jewelry to wear at the wedding.