Whether you’ve always dreamt about your wedding day since you were a kid, or you’ve never actually thought about it until you found your better half on their knees… Finding your dream wedding dress is kind of a big deal!
Why, you may ask? As a wedding photographer, I can tell you: if you wear a dress that’s perfect for you, you will radiate even more confidence and beauty on your wedding day, and your wedding pictures (and memories!) will be even more precious to you. That sounds super cool, right?
Right! Now, let’s assume you want to wear a gown that makes you feel stunning. However, chances are you’ve never worn a wedding dress before, so… what to look for?
Questions like: what shape is best for my body? What fabric do I like the most? How about color and laces? And where should I even begin? may come to your mind… and it is completely ok to feel a bit lost! In fact, the world of wedding dresses is fascinating, HUGE, and full of infinite possibilities!
You believe your wedding dress is an important part of your day, but you are confused and don’t know where to start with your search
You want to feel beautiful, sexy and comfortable in your dress, but you can’t find exactly what you want
You want to wear a unique dress, that perfectly suits your features *and* your personality, but you don’t know how the process works
Keep reading! You’ll thank me later :D
To help you navigate this fascinating world, as well as get you some actionable tips, I interviewed Copenhagen-based, bespoke wedding dress designer Sheryl Yip, owner of SHERYL YIP ATELIER and author of the fashion editorial column Style Stil on The Copenhagen Post.
Hi Sheryl! Thanks for being with me today! Let’s start with some background: tell me a bit about your story!
1. What brought you to become a wedding dress designer?
I have dreamed about being a fashion designer and having my own brand since I was very young :) Fashion and design are both fascinating to me and I find a strong passion in these fields. Hence, it has been a journey of exploring and learning before I am specializing as a bespoke wedding dress designer. I am glad I found my own path that I am truly in love with - designing feminine yet modern wedding gowns and bridal attire for bespoke brides.
After years of working in the fashion world, I have a profound feeling about “fashion fades, style is eternal”, a famous quote from YSL. I believe dressing well-fitted to your personality and body-figure is the strongest fashion statement, and I view customisation as one of the best ways to highlight women’s femininity and confidence.
Back then, I graduated as a fashion designer in Hong Kong, my hometown, in 2012, and have been to an exchange study in Sweden, The Swedish School of Textiles. Then I further studied Haute Couture and Bridalwear in Central Saint Martins in London after I first designed a bespoke wedding gown for one of my best friends in 2014. After years of exploration in the fashion world working and designing ready-to-wear (blouse, jacket, skirt, pants, etc.) with celebrities and influencers, high-fashion retail brands, I am grateful to be the bridal designer for a London brand, Catherine Deane, and worked closely with the founder/ creative before I relocated to Denmark.
So why Copenhagen? What brought me here? A fun fact is that I am always attached to Copenhagen because this is the first European city I traveled myself - for a freezing 2011 CPH Fashion Week (yes it was also because of fashion lol). When my husband decided to relocate to Copenhagen, I settled with him here in 2019.
I thought this would be the best moment for me in life to realize my childhood dream - having my own fashion brand! I was asking myself - “If not now, when?” How many more years do I want to explore, research and prepare? So I launched my fashion brand - SHERYL YIP ATELIER, in Copenhagen in 2020 during the pandemic year - focusing on designing and handcrafting wedding dresses for bespoke brides from scratch, and created by myself.
I am glad I took the first step to start my business here. Since then, I have been working and collaborating with different locals and expats - creative talents, artists, photographers (so now I meet you!), singers, etc. At the same time, I share and inspire brides and women about the “appreciation and art of bespoke”.
2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I mostly draw inspiration from nature, and also from different art forms and textures.
I often find new inspiration when I go to a new place or enjoy a new experience. For example, going to a new museum exhibition, visiting a garden, or enjoying a beautiful meal.
When I look at the shape of a sculpture, a flower, or a plant that I find interesting, I automatically link it to fashion design. I start thinking about how to create that beautiful flow on a woman’s body, or what kind of material to resemble these interesting textures.
Most of the time, I take pictures to capture that moment and create a pile of elements and an archive library for my later design journey. Then, I do experiments and explore those ideas with fabric at my atelier. I do have a lot of fun when draping fabric and lace on my mannequins :)
3. I am curious: can you explain to me how bridal fashion changes over time? What happened over the past decades?
It is a huge topic, isn’t it? Let's categorise this into 3 design aspects: color, material, and shape.
In the past, when we thought about wedding dresses, the color used to be the classic “White”. Over the years, the color trend has evolved and added some hints of subtle blush, champagne, and almond nude colors. These colors apply as a base on the lining to contrast any white lace and embroidery on the shell. The newness visually creates a layered effect on the wedding gown, instead of plain white color, we can see the depth and the richness of the dress. Some dress designs are without lining underneath the pattern and lace fabric, this also gives a seductive and sheer result to the bridal dress.
The gown silhouette in the past decades used to be the "Ball Gown", with a heavy and voluminous petticoat underneath the skirt. We also saw "Mermaid Gown", most of the time with a high-neck and all-over lace. Nowadays, brides are more concerned about comfort and practical reasons. Hence, we could see more airy and flowy dress styles in the market. Among these, it is not only limited to long dresses, short and tea-length skirts, pants, and sleek silhouettes are practical and opted by many non-traditional brides.
In terms of material, I would say the use of fabric is more creative and fashionable in today’s bridal fashion. You can see many different kinds of textures on wedding gowns, e.g. motifs, lace, embroidery, feathers, or sometimes colorful prints.
Generally speaking, brides nowadays pay more attention to comfort and freedom. They want to be themselves - why do we wear a heavy petticoat if we can’t even sit and eat comfortably on our wedding day??
4. Which trends have you seen often lately, and which trends do you foresee for 2023?
Fashion trends impact a lot on wedding dress designs. However, trends in bridalwear last a little longer, say a few years - mostly because brides-to-be request more time to adapt and digest the newness to their “one-and-only”.
A good example is “Sleeves”, which is still staying strong but keeps evolving since 2018. We have seen various off-shoulder, detachable pairs, puffy and dramatic sleeves in recent years. I received a lot of requests to design unique and statement sleeves for my bespoke brides. Sleeves designs are versatile when they can be detachable, and undoubtedly become a signature highlight to your wedding outfit.
Another current hit is the neckline design. A detail we see more and more is the strapless scoop neckline, or I call it the “Smile” neckline. It gives a new vibe to the classic sweetheart or flat neckline by showing a bit of cleavage. It is indeed a seductive detailing.
SYA Bride on Bespoke Wedding Gown in Dramatic Bubble Sleeves and “Smile” Neckline. Photo credits: Evia Zachariah, Bespoke Gown by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
Moreover, wedding gloves with different opacity are a pair of bridal accessories you’ll definitely see more in the coming season.
SYA Bride on Bespoke Wedding Gown in Detachable Glove Sleeves. Photo credits: Jewanzoom, Bespoke Gown by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
Another element, while perhaps requiring a few seasons to become widely digested and established is "Cape" (we saw bit by bit in the past seasons but transformed in this season)
The trend of wearing a cape or overskirt on top of a bridal mini-skirt will be a new look for the wedding reception. Brides can achieve a ‘two-in-one’ look, and resemble wearing a high-low dress. When the night is going down, she can then detach the cape from the skirt and look like having a new look on the dance floor for easy movement. Brilliant, right?
This is all about the “Bridal Separates” concept that I appreciate a lot and design for my brides. You can mix and match the wedding attires yourself, eg a top paired with wedding pants and with a fashionable overskirt, etc. It is a new bridal and sustainable concept since season 2016 (more or less). With this combo concept, brides can achieve different looks in the same outfits, and can wear the bridal separates again for another occasion afterward. It is usually more functional and modern when compared to a usual wedding dress. What I have mentioned earlier about detachable sleeves is also part of this “Bridal Separates” concept.
Photo and Bespoke Bridal Separates “Top-and-Pants Combo” by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
I have a lovely SYA bride who had a bespoke order of "top-and-pants-combo" for her second bridal outfit for dancing. She and her husband later told me they love this idea a lot and feel super comfy when dancing.
5. And now, to the juicy part: as a bride, I want to find my dream wedding dress, but I have no idea where to start: what do I do?
With years of consultation experience as well as from my own bridal experience, my No.1 tip to all brides if you desire to find the best dress - is to start by trying on different gown silhouettes!
I encounter different brides who, either knowing or not knowing what dress fits her the most, will be overwhelmed by the gown trial experience at my atelier, which provides different gown silhouettes to suit different body forms.
Try not to limit yourselves to only one certain skirt style, but take the opportunity to explore A-line, Ball Gown, Mermaid, Column and Bridal Separates, etc. Silhouettes that you hesitated before may sometimes surprise you in the end. I am certain you will have a new insight when you see yourself in front of the mirror wearing different kinds of wedding dresses:)
The hidden reason is - you wear various fashion wardrobes in daily life but probably never put on a wedding dress (unless you're a model or actress!). A wedding dress is normally long, trained, tight-fitted, structured, and/or voluminous, so its shape is completely different from your daily casual wear. Same concept as piling up a bunch of ‘dream dresses' on your Instagram and Pinterest, you are "imagining" but not "visualizing".
Hence I always advise brides to have a gown trial session, which can give you a real fitting experience of what kind of dress style looks good with your body figure. You will thank me a lot :)
If you are interested to know more about this topic, you may read my column, Style Stil on CPH Post - link
6. Should I go for a bridal shop or a custom-made dress? What are the main differences?
There is no ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’! However, you should be aware of the different experiences you will get from different wedding salons.
Off-the-rack: You try on a dress, pick your size and buy it. It is ready-to-wear with standard sizing. A daily example of your daily wardrobe or bridal sample sales.
Made-to-order: Most wedding shops offer this option. When the design is on the rack and ready to be ordered to the closest standard size against yours. It generally takes less than 6 months for brides to wait for their dresses. The wedding shop will contact the wedding brand or manufacturer to ship the ordered sizes. When the dress is delivered to the shop, you will likely need an alteration as the fit is not customised to your body measurements.
Made-to-measure: It is a service offered by top bridal designer brands. You visit the designer shop for a gown trial. When you confirm the gown style, your body measurements are also recorded. Instead of the existing standard size, the dress is made according to your measurements using a pre-existing design and pattern. The design, color, and material of your confirmed gown style are mostly restricted and can only be slightly revised upon request at an additional charge.
Bespoke: The most exclusive and top-tier for “creating” a wedding gown, as it is entirely customised to you, and the gown design is “one-and-only”. Instead of an existing design and dress pattern, there is no template for the dress. In other words, a bespoke gown is made from scratch – everything is made especially for you. It generally takes at least 6-9 months for completing the journey from consultation, design, fabrication, sampling, and a few times personal fittings. You experience a completely different journey but memorable in a lifetime.
For more information, you may check out my article on this topic on CPH post!
Photo by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
7. How does a bespoke wedding dress journey work? Can you briefly describe your process?
I call my process the “5-Step Bespoke Bridal Journey’ in which every bespoke bride in my atelier will enjoy this unique experience. The entire journey consists of 5 stages and usually takes at least 6-9 months to complete a bespoke wedding gown. (some brides also find me 1 year ahead)
During the whole bespoke process, everything is customized to you.
Step 1: You will be invited for a 1-on-1 bridal consultation with me, where I will understand your wedding gown preference, body concerns, and seasonal and venue concerns. Then we will have a gown trial session in different gown silhouettes, to compare and comment on what shapes fit you the most. After this initial meeting, you will get a better picture of what dress can be designed and how far I can go to customise a bespoke wedding dress for you. For example, we can select a lining color that matches the color of your skin, iris, and hair. I have a huge fabric and laces library that is easy for us to achieve.
Step 2: After I have taken your body measurements, and after further communication about the design, a design presentation session will be offered to you - we will have several bespoke designs, sketches, selected fabric, and draping ideas for your final gown selection.
When the design is confirmed, I will then make the paper pattern myself from scratch, with measurements that are customised for you. All dresses at my atelier are with a fully-constructed corset, whether revealing or concealing, it will shape best to your body shape.
Afterwards, you will be invited for a few personal fittings in Step 3 to 5.
Photo by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
Step 3: Mock-up Fitting: A mock-up/prototype is sewn in calico fabric, and we will comment on the fitting and fine-tune the design and measurements.
Step 4: Real Gown Fitting: Where laces and/or draping will be fine-tuned when the real gown is semi-completed. We will also determine the wedding veil and any styling concerns. All handcrafted work will be continued.
Step 5: Final Fitting: We will meet 1-3 weeks before your wedding day for a final fitting session.
Fit alterations are of course included in your bespoke journey with me :)
SYA Bride on Bespoke Couture Lace Wedding Gown, All made by hand with love. Photo credits: Isabelle Hesselberg, Bespoke Gown by SHERYL YIP ATELIER
This bespoke bridal journey is unique and valuable for every woman - who dreams of a perfect wedding gown, and timeless style that speaks for herself.
8. Is it a good idea to bring someone with me while on this bespoke journey?
I recommend brides meet me 1-on-1 for our initial bridal consultation, where the designer and bride will have a deep and trustful conversation about her body concerns, gown preferences, personalities, wedding ideas, etc. These are the critical points to take into account when we are starting to customise a holistic gown design for you.
Having a 1-on-1 meeting at the beginning of the journey is preferable because the bride can open up and freely share her own ideas without any privacy concerns or interference by others' opinions. We have to admit that not all women are comfortable enough to disclose their hidden scars, body form, or belly fat in front of friends.
If you’re expecting your mom or granny may give you different opinions towards your own fashion taste, but at the same time you love them to be part of your wedding gown journey, no problem! You are welcome to invite your family or girl squads to your second or third fitting session, when the gown is mostly defined.
9. Do you have any tips that will help me feel at best in my dress on my wedding day?
I would say opting for a bespoke wedding gown literally translates this concept - feel the best:)
In my vision, a wedding dress should always be comfortable, not only fit physically but also fit sentimentally. It is very important that the dress is not a burden to you, and the dress should not speak louder than or override you.
If you’re wearing a dress that really represents you, then you will carry the dress at best.
10. Let’s sum up! What are your tips for a bride who is embarking on her journey to find her dream wedding dress?
Do your dress research at an early stage and allow yourself months in trying on different gowns silhouette and refine your ideas. Most wedding dresses require 6-9 months for delivery!
Listen to your heart! Always wear a wedding gown that fits you the most - both physically and sentimentally
Don’t hesitate to share your ideas with the designer if you have any doubts during the bespoke process, we are here to help you and give the best advice and design options that suits you the most. As most of my brides comment, the design solution I offered often surprised them, and appreciated me in realizing their one-of-a-kind dress :)
11. Lastly, where can people find you?
If you have any questions or wish to hear more about how I could design your dream wedding attire, you can send me an email, and I will be happy to send you my brand and bridal catalogue for more info.
You can also follow my Instagram @sherylyipbridal for behind-the-scene, editorial photos, and real brides in everyday stories.
Lastly, I hope you enjoy your dream-come-true journey during the wedding dress hunt :)
Hope to hear from you soon. Good luck!