Wedding Dresses 101: With Andrea Hawkes

Andrea Hawkes is one of the UK’s leading wedding designers. Having dressed countless brides throughout her impressive career, she knows a thing or two about looking your best on big day. From favourite dresses to the one piece of advice she gives every client, we asked her to share her advice.

The first wedding dress I ever designed was for Lucy Hockings – the BBC World news presenter. We found each other through a mutual friend, during the very early stages of my design career. But it was such a crucial experience at what turned out to be such an important time for me. Designing, making and fitting the dress so closely and personally with the bride continues to sit at the heart of what we do at Andrea Hawkes now.

The wedding dress that will always stay with me is the Cecilia from my first collection – simply because of the importance to me and to Andrea Hawkes as a business. It set the tone for our aesthetic style and was quite different from what bridal was expected to be and look like at the time. It set the precedent for our style and our bride ever since.

The client I’ll never forget is Alice Casely-Hayford. There have been so many memorable brides over the years, but the story behind her dress, the significance and the outcome were magical. There was and is a wonderful feature which gives readers some background and explains why it was so special for me to be a part of it. 

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My preferred dress materials are all NATURAL. It’s so important for us to create designs that are SUSTAINABLE, BREATHABLE and COMFORTABLE to wear.

My preferred dress material is silk. It has a quality and drape like no other. A lot of people don’t know there are different silks you can use in a wedding dress – a matte silk marocain creates really clean lines and is wonderful for modern brides, while silk satin has a gorgeous sheen that drapes and flows in a more relaxed manner. One of my favourite details is our handmade silk covered buttons – the perfect finishing touch. I also love making buttons a key focus of a dress – the Ottilie dress from our new Amaryllis collection has button detail through the front of the design and it’s a real statement. 

The one thing every bride should know is natural fabrics are the best. When it comes to finding your wedding dress, you’ll see many different materials out there, which can be overwhelming. Natural fabrics such as silk, cotton and tencel will make a huge difference to how your dress falls and how it feels. Natural fabrics have a luxurious composition that allows us to create beautiful silhouettes, flowing skirts and structured bodices. The versatility in natural fabrics means you will never have to compromise either; it’s just about finding the perfect one for you.

The way to find the right dress for you is to stay true to yourself and choose one that reflects your personality. That said, don’t be afraid to explore your options and let your stylist in the boutique guide you with different ideas. There can be a lot of opinions to take in, but my main piece of advice is to listen to your gut. Everyone is unique and loves different styles, fabrics and shapes – but ultimately you need to feel confident and 100% yourself on your wedding day.

My most complicated commission is a dress we’re about to start work on – although I can’t give too much away at this stage. All I’ll say is it’s really special. Prior to this, there have been so many designs and ideas which have taken time to process and consider. Because we offer bespoke and create patterns in house, we’re a blank page when it comes to design. Bespoke design is a process and requires trust – our reputation has made this easier and now we’re often approached with unique design ideas. It’s always an exciting time meeting a bride who has such personal vision.

My all-time favourite celebrity wedding dress is the Givenchy dress designed by Clare Waight Keller for Meghan Markle. I loved the simplicity and the shape – so modern yet so timeless.

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The way to handle conflicting OPINIONS on a wedding dress is to stay TRUE TO YOUR VISION and try not to let other opinions OVERWHELM your own.

The common mistake I see brides make is visiting too many stores and trying too many designs. Before you set out on your dress search, spend some time researching designers you like. It’s always great to get a recommendation from a friend, but if that style doesn’t align with your own, you may have an unsuccessful trip. Discover the aesthetic you love most and spend more time early on making sure you are exploring the right options for you. Work out what is truly important to you: is it natural fabrics? Sustainably made? Made in London? All of these questions will help define you as a bride.

The best way around a tight budget is to have an open and honest conversation with us. Our entire team are here to support you no matter what. We also have a fabulous selection of sample dresses in store that are in amazing condition and more gently priced. It’s a wonderful way to find the perfect dress without blowing the budget.

The way to handle conflicting opinions on a wedding dress is to stay true to your vision and try not to let other opinions overwhelm your own. It can be very difficult when a family member or friend disagrees with your choice, but it’s important to remember everyone has their own personal style. We all gravitate towards things we personally love, so try not to take it personally and focus on what makes you feel incredible.

The one thing all brides should spend money on is made-to-measure services and alterations. The fit of a dress is so important, and we always encourage our brides to go for made to measure or have their fittings in-house with our expert team. Having a made-to-measure wedding dress is such a wonderful experience and will ensure your dress fits you perfectly. It also allows you to customise your design, making it entirely personal to you. Having your fittings in-house ensures you are working with the same team who made your dress, know the fabrics and how to alter them in the correct way. Made to measure and alterations can often come as a secondary thought, but we always discuss this with each of our brides in their first appointment.

The biggest bridal trends right now are square necklines and statement sleeves. Square necklines are such a flattering shape, and they look great with or without sleeves. It creates a modern, clean feel while also tapping into classic bridal features. Our Brie dress from the Together collection is one of our client favourites at the moment – Nicola Peltz has been a huge inspiration. Big sleeves are having a moment and we’re working on a few bespoke commissions that incorporate dramatic, structured sleeves. It can be real nod to 80s fashion but done in a modern, clean and simplistic way – it’s a really fun combination that our team are loving.

Going BESPOKE is a fun, creative and EXCITING journey. It allows brides to create their dress of DREAMS with guidance from the experts.

There aren’t any trends you have to steer clear of. The great thing about a wedding dress is that it is unique to you – trends come and go but nothing should be ruled out. Just try to choose features that feel timeless to you, and you’ll feel incredible on the day.

What makes a wedding dress special is fabric and fit. This is the one day you have the chance to choose luxury fabrics and have a dress fitted perfectly to your body by an experienced team of pattern cutters and seamstresses. The smallest details make the difference, too – from buttons through to cuffs and delicate pleating. The skill and time that goes into making a wedding dress makes it one of the most special garments you will ever wear. 

Going bespoke on a wedding dress is a fun, creative and exciting journey. It allows brides to create their dress of dreams with guidance from the experts. It’s a really lovely process if you have a clear vision in mind. Brides can explore different ideas and focus in on their favourite aspects of their wedding dress without any compromise. It can make it even more memorable.

My top tip for co-ordinating bridesmaids looks is to mix things up. I love variety – mixing textures and prints so that they feel cohesive but still unique. Each of your bridesmaids have their own personality, so play up to that and don’t be afraid to use colour and pattern. Make sure each bridesmaid feels comfortable in their outfit so they have fun on the day too.

The biggest changes in bridalwear in the last two years is brides embracing a true sense of celebration. Weddings are always exciting but now brides are even more excited to celebrate and enjoy time with their family and friends. There’s much more focus on the meaning of a wedding and the celebration of that relationship. On the dress side of things, we’ve noticed a lot more brides going all out – dramatic veils, overskirts, fuller skirt shapes, statement sleeves… the list goes on. Our brides are loving transitional accessories as well, that can take them from day to night, and having multiple reveals throughout the day. These days, there’s a lot more playfulness in bridal.

The final piece of advice I’d give all brides is find a good post-wedding alteration service. We encourage all our brides to come back after the wedding to rework their dress into something they can wear time and again – there are so many ways to repurpose your dress and style it up in ways you never thought possible. 

The Andrea Hawkes Amaryllis collection is online now and will be available in store from 11th August. By appointment only.

Visit AndreaHawkes.co.uk

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at info@sheerluxe.com.

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