Having relocated from London to Stroud, wedding dress designer Ellie Lowe runs her bridal gown design business from her rural Gloucestershire studio, creating simple yet beautiful gowns to let brides shine on their special day.
In this expert interview, Ellie gives SoGlosWeddings the scoop on what it’s like to be a wedding dress designer, and offers tips on choosing the perfect big day dress.
I studied fashion design at university and then straight after graduating set up a company with a friend – we did ready-to-wear collections for about eight seasons. Throughout that time brides kept asking us to make really simple dresses in lovely fabrics.
After three or four years, in the year 2000, we decided to completely focus on wedding dresses and opened a shop in Clapham called Ellie & Charlotte. About a year before I moved to Gloucestershire we decided to split up the business, Charlotte left and I carried on under the name Ellie Lowe.
It was a completely random move. Me, my husband and son went to New York and lived there for three months. When we came back we realised we could move anywhere because we both work from home.
So, we got a map out and had a look at different areas and thought Stroud looked nice. We came up for a weekend, completely fell in love with it, and found the house that we live in now.
They’re effortlessly stylish, understated but elegant, so there’s no fuss, no frills and no massive skirts. It’s very much about the bride wearing a dress rather than the dress wearing the bride.
No, I’ve stayed really true to my ethos of keeping it simple. The collection is eight years in the making and involved finding the perfect silhouette that suits lots of different figures. You’ll notice that with my dresses it’s mainly the top that changes not the bottom half. I very rarely do strapless, there’s always some form of sleeve, and I think that’s why people come to me.
It mainly depends on the wearer. There’s a misconception that only thin people can wear silk dresses. With my designs that’s not true because I don’t cut my dresses on the bias which tends to cling to every lump and bump.
My dresses are cut so they’re figure-hugging on the waist and top half but then fall off the hips. I’ve done lots of size 16 and 18 wedding dresses to the exact style that someone who’s a size eight would wear, so I think they suit lots of different shapes and sizes.
It's very much about the bride wearing a dress rather than the dress wearing the bride.
In terms of silk, there are hundreds of different types, so all the dresses I make are out of silk but it could be crêpe, matte, or chiffon.
They work for all different types of wedding and I’ve had brides who got married in cathedrals wear my dresses, along with those having a register office wedding.
It all depends on the person. I think a key factor is whether they want to wear a veil or not. I’ve had someone wear one of my dresses with a flower garland and another bride who wore a 1920s-style headpiece. Because they’re very simple, I think you can style them how you want.
Brides normally come to me between six and nine months before their big day, but because I make everything myself I have done a dress in two months.
The bride will have brought along ideas at her initial consultation, and then I’ll go away and maybe put three or four different ideas together to make her perfect dress. I then draft a pattern from scratch and make a toile mock-up of the bride’s dress, normally with around five fittings.
Because I do everything myself I’m quite laidback with adapting my Ellie Lowe Collection dresses, and I’m very open to saying I can do those sleeves with that dress. I only really ever do a bespoke dress if it’s something completely different to my collection dresses, otherwise I work with an existing design.
It’s still stressful even though I’ve been doing it for so long; I think if you stop worrying about things, there is no point doing it. There’s an element of adrenaline when you’re doing a dress fitting because there’s only me to fix it.
The final trial, which is the last time they try on their dress on before the wedding day, is always a really emotional fitting because the dress is completely finished, the journey with me has ended, and for them it’s the realisation that they’re getting married now.
Yes, I loved it. It was amazing making my own dress but it was stressful. I tried to put every single idea I’d ever had into the dress and then had to have a talking to myself and said just keep it simple.
So, I stripped it back and based it loosely on one of my favourite designers, Madeleine Vionnet who invented the bias cut. She’s a designer from the 1920s and I absolutely love everything she does and I wanted the dress to have a feel of the late 1920s, early 1930s with lots of flowing chiffon. It was really nice being a bride and experiencing the emotions because I’d spent 10 years making dresses for everyone else and then finally I got to be on the other side.
I love everything that Kate Moss does and I think she would be probably suit one of my dresses. If I had to choose someone else, it would have to be Jessica Ennis-Hill because she epitomises strong women but is very understated and elegant.
Tuesday 24 March 2015
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