Wedding Dresses and Accessories

Creative Alternatives to Designer Dresses and Accessories

The wedding dress is the masterpiece of the wedding party, a focus for the ceremony, and the inspiration for the wedding theme. Although there are hundreds of elements that go into handmade weddings, most crafty couples will still put wedding attire at the top of their to-do list. For the creative and ambitious DIY bride, creating a wedding outfit is a chance to explore all of the imaginative fashions already out there, and rearrange them into something remarkable.

Personal Touches Transform Simple Dresses

Sky-high prices, flamboyant styles and boutique fittings can make assembly-line wedding couture more of a pain than a pleasure. Somewhere along the way, weddings lost their simple elegance and communal effort, but you don't have to move with the rest of the pack. Tap into your creative side and get back to simple grace with some clever approaches to a handmade gown:

  • Make a new dress out of old wedding gowns. This might be an ambitious project, but with the right fabrics and a talented seamstress (or a friend who knows her way around a sewing machine), you can build your perfect dress from the ground up. Collect old dresses from thrift stores, consignment shops and family members who won't mind their gowns evolving into something new and modern. Rather than competing against each other, the combination of different laces, satins and silks can strike a balance between timeless and trendy.
  • Dress up a plain white sheath dress with layers of fabric and accessories. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a plain white dress to use as a canvas, whether it's a simple a-line sundress or a more formal floor-length satin number. Look for sales and don't write off dresses that have a stain or other defect: you can easily cover things up with new fabric, and even alter the neckline, sleeves or hemline with a quick run under the sewing machine.
  • Go for a sample dress off the rack, and update it with some adjustments. This is a great way to save money, and the right touches can bring a formal yet mundane dress to new heights. Sure, sample dresses have been tested by other brides-to-be, but they are also spectacularly affordable and you won't feel too bad about ripping off and adding to them.
  • Forego custom and buy a non-specific dress or wear a dress you already own. Be adventurous and go colorful with an evening gown, or consider adding length and sophistication to a casual cocktail dress or a summer sundress with a longer matching skirt for a bottom layer. Remember that the right accessories will elevate an outfit, so a striking veil and a formal bolero over your modest dress may be all you need for a wedding-worthy look.

Clever Accessories to Revamp Your Gown

If you want a one-of-a-kind piece for your hair, neck or gown, visit your local second-hand stores instead of a jewelry counter. Vintage costume jewelry can add flash in all sorts of new ways:

  • Combine a pretty pin or broach with a simple hair comb for a homemade fascinator.
  • A sparkling pendant can find new life as a shoe clip or purse closure.
  • Strings of pearls or glass beads can become part of a sash or belt for your dress.
  • Metal flower pins and broaches can come together in a striking and unconventional bouquet.

Your local fabric store is another goldmine when you're making your own wedding accessories. Match the textures of your dress with complimentary laces, tulle or satin for a perfectly compiled look with minimal effort. For instance, you can whip up a simple bird cage veil with a bit of netting, lace and glue, or create a bold headpiece with ribbons and feathers. These ornaments are so affordable that you might want to buy a variety and play around with combinations until you find what suits you best.

Something Borrowed

Who says you have to wear a brand-new outfit? If a friend or family member has worn a wedding dress that you've admired, ask them if they would be so kind as to let you borrow it. Most alterations can be temporary, and many women would be honored to contribute such an important element to your wedding.

Wedding dresses and jewelry are also opportunities to bring in family heirlooms, significant pieces from your childhood, or a special gift from your closest friend. Diamonds are not for everyone, and they're certainly not the only way to add glamour, so branch out from traditional choices. Whichever route you take, be patient and experiment with different effects: the perfect look can take some work, but a handmade outfit will be more rewarding and distinctive than a store-bought ensemble.