Kathryn Conover creates custom gowns for women who know what they want … and women who kinda know what they want. When I sing Kathryn’s praises it’s because I have experienced the entire design process with her. She’s the one who made my custom emerald gown with french lace overlay go from dream to reality.
I checked in with Kathryn, who attracts such stylish brides that lately it seems every dress she designs ends up a star of wedding publications and blogs alike.
So, I wanted to know, two years after my own wedding, what are her brides looking for? She’s sharing, after the jump.
What kind of bride comes to you for her wedding gown?
Although I do get the classic girl who loves a strapless A-line lace dress, I also get the transcendent bride who is in love with fashion and wants something unique as well as beautiful. There are many variations on this theme as fashion forward clients are pristine and classic, but they seek a high-concept touch.
What are brides looking for this season?
There are so many romantic looks this season; among my favorites are appliqued flowers, embroidered flowers, off- the- shoulder looks, plunging necklines, illusion netting on the bodice. I love the skirts—there are skirts with feathers—and of course a well cut modern white suit is sensational.
Anything you’re seeing Brides want more of? Less of?
The nude look continues, and whereas it was previously an under layer on the bodice, more adventurous brides as clamoring for nude or illusion touches within the skirt. There is resurgence in long lace illusion sleeves, but what makes it very now is that the bodice is barer and the skirts are often fitted and narrow. It is sexy and classic all at once.
How about brides who want gowns with color?
I have been working with color for a long time, as you know, Ms. Emerald Green Bride! (She’s right – I arrived at her showroom on a mission)
This French lace was everything, and Kathryn did not rest until it was part of my dress.
It does seem that color has more acceptance than ever before and continues to be a trend each season with a particular color coming on strong. Last season it was blush and nude, this year it is pale blue, and I see gold on the horizon.
One of my dresses was selected by both Pinterest and Style Me Pretty as one of the top 20 gowns of 2014. It featured a large ball gown skirt with hand painted flowers. Brides have reached out to me from far-away places like France and the UK saying they want to wear flowers rather than carry them. European brides have historically been more accepting of colored gowns so it makes sense to get these calls. This is definitely more of an adventurous bride, though. Iconoclast brides are by definition among your rule breakers.
Kathryn’s popular hand-painted stunner.
What’s your typical timeframe from consultation to finished design? What’s your process with the bride?
The normal time line is 5-6 months from start to finish.
Custom beading and embroidery adds to the time line so the production time really depends on each individual style. If a client orders an existing collection gown the time line can be reduced to 3-4 months lead time, but I think the time to order is when you know for certain what your dress design will be.
How collaborative does the process get? Do some brides know exactly what they want and others need your expertise to help them make decisions?
In a word, yes, to both questions. However, I have to say most of my custom girls are incredibly well researched and specific about their look and style. They know what they love and what looks good on them. Still for me, I love designing into the unique possibilities within their own taste and style. I call it “Why don’t you…?”
You may recall that you had some specific inspiration you were channeling, and then your family had some other notions that were a bit more formal and studied. Do you remember my pulling you back to the initial feelings you expressed when we first met? Normally there is a design direction expressed and I like to see how far we can go within this direction in terms of the client’s comfort level and what is most beautiful.
(She’s right again. I came to Kathryn pretty adamant about what I was after, but was swayed into a few changes. Luckily I had her first make a muslin dress, and as soon as I put it on we both knew it was back to that initial desire, with a few of Kathryn’s professional design flourishes, of course).
Collection girls are more comfortable finding an existing dress they love and don’t care about the design process. Finding a beautiful existing dress is the right choice for them. However, small individual adjustments personalize a collection gown and really up the ante.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite bridal designs?
Here’s one: A delicate silk chiffon V-neck dress with an open back coupled with a full skirt with inset lace panels was perfect for a wedding on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. The bride’s mother wrote me that the bride loved her dress so much that she slept in it. I loved this as we always hear “I don’t want to take my dress off!”
And this bride was true to her word in this aspect.
The peek of lace and the open criss-cross back take this gown to the next level.
Amy, from Devon, England selected a gown with several shades of blush silk chiffon and netting and then I created some gorgeous hand embroidered flowers that cascaded down the bodice. This was a spectacular romantic dress…
Of course the hand-painted gown for the Block Island wedding is especially memorable. (See the wedding featured on Style Me Pretty).
Can you share some details about gowns you’ve made for lesbian brides? Are they keeping their gowns secret from their brides-to-be? Or do they create their wedding looks together?
In most cases my lesbian brides want some degree of secrecy. It is a little harder to keep a lid on this though, as being girls they are more curious and open about the process with each other. Normally there is a decision making process and once the style is “launched” there is more of a desire for secrecy. But one of the girls seems to be always “peeking” or hunting for information.
This all adds to the fun, I think.
One of my current brides is a Zen Buddhist practitioner and she is wearing the most gorgeous heavy silk Buddhist Kimono. Her partner is wearing a chic white wool suit from Bindle and Keep, and the look of both of them together is pretty divine. I love when the looks have some degree of co-ordination, but I have to admit, this is normally not the case. When the ensembles are kept secret, then the styles can turn out to be wildly different. But, somehow, it all works out in the end.
(Kathryn is right – for the third time. My wife and I kept our dresses a secret, but I knew she was wearing Vera Wang and she knew I was wearing a custom green gown. I didn’t think I should just surprise her with my green dress, because then our coordination could have been a disaster. Oh, and I totally tried to peek).
Our dresses side by side before the wedding.
That’s right – when you’re planning a two bride wedding you have to put some thought into how you’ll coordinate. So, how did we do? Check out our Real Weddings to see our stunning, complementary brides making it look easy.