What Would They Know? Caitlyn Elliott of Studio C Bridal

by | Fashion Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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With a passion for creating beautiful one off designs, Caitlyn of Studio C Bridal is in her element amongst sumptuous silks, satins and laces. We all dream of looking like a princess on our wedding day, and her ability to design and advise on the best ways to bring out our best ensures that each gown she creates fits perfectly and incorporates all your design dreams. Add to that her love of creating and sewing, and a world of experience in theatre costuming and you know that you are in great hands. Join me as we explore Caitlyn’s world.

Where is Studio C Bridal situated?

In Sydney’s inner west – Alexandria specifically.

What is your fashion background?

My background is actually in theatre costumes. I studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), graduating with a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Costume. I have worked for Opera Australia, Bell Shakespeare Company, and on big musicals including Strictly Ballroom, South Pacific and My Fair Lady. This gives me extra insight into sewing techniques, materials, and how to work hard for a deadline!

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Image by MacDougall Photography

What was the catalyst for you to go into designing and making bridal gowns?

Natural evolution, really. My career developed from exclusively costumes and working in workrooms to then include bridal dresses, and then to set up my own workroom and my own branding. I love being able to bring my theatre skills, and knowledge of fashion history, to every bride who comes through my doors. I studied 2000+ years of fashion history as part of my course, and a major thing that I learnt was that every era improves on the last, creating new trends, and that every era believes it’s fashion is the most beautiful. I love being able to see how beautiful every idea is, that every bride brings to me.

What do you most enjoy about your profession?

I love so many different elements of my job. I love developing ideas with a bride, and I love the look on her face change over the course of a fitting as her dress comes to life. The difference between a design and the real thing is quite drastic, and can require a bit of trust and imagination at times. It’s always so rewarding at every step.

You’ve just had the excitement of creating your first collection. What were the joys of creating your first collection?

It was incredibly exciting. I’ve been working on designs for as long as I can remember, and have books of concepts and developed ideas. I love seeing my gowns on models and in photos, as much as my brides love seeing their dress comes to life. The fabric shopping was a highlight too – choosing the best fabrics can be equally inspiring and exciting. There’s nothing quite as heart stopping as waiting to see if the crowd like your designs.

What was the creative inspiration behind your collection?

I’ve taken inspiration from various sources. History has provided us with some beautiful, unique shapes and constant inspiration. Instagram and Pinterest is another large source of inspiration, where I follow designers of theatre and fashion. Most importantly, I have specifically chosen every element of every dress. There should be something for everyone to fall in love with, or use as further inspiration. Some of my gowns include delicate laces, some full skirts, some intricate patterns, and even a tailored jacket style dress. My inspiration comes from anywhere!!

Where do you find your fabrics? Do these in themselves inspire designs?

Sometimes the design comes first, sometimes it’s the fabrics. I’m often sourcing fabrics, and will always look at what’s around, not just what’s on my shopping lists. Some fabrics are just perfect at lending themselves towards a particular design. Mostly, my fabrics are sourced locally, from retailers and wholesalers around Sydney, but I have a few contacts interstate and overseas. The lace for my heirloom garters is exclusively sourced from England, where I buy the last pieces in the world of the particular style of lace. They are made on 19th Century embroidery machines, and when a machine piece breaks, that pattern can no longer be produced. I then buy the last available from my supplier, which can be such a short run that larger fashion houses couldn’t be interested in.

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Image by MacDougall Photography

What is unique about your gowns?

I believe everything is unique about my gowns. From individual style, to customised fit, and the ability to tweak the design as we go through the process. Every fabric is bought to suit each bride, and every design is made to suit her style and body shape.

Are they made in Australia?

Yes, 100%! Everything, start to finish, is made in my Alexandria studio. Designs, patterns, sewing, alterations, are all done within Studio C Bridal. In fact, you have to walk past my cutting table and sewing machines to get to the fitting area! I love teaching brides about my process, so they can see how much love and attention to detail goes into their gowns. I love every wedding dress nearly as much as each bride does!

Do you consider that you have a design ‘style’ that you are known for?

I’m building my profile with the release of my first collection. This reflects my style based on timeless elegance and classic design principals. Most styles through my doors lately have had a very strong 1930s, 40s and 50s vibe, with fitted bodices, full skirts and gorgeous lace details. I’m very happy to follow the lead of my brides and produce their style, not enforce my own. I also have a top secret ‘bucket list’ of styles I’m dying to make!!

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Images by Studio C Bridal

What is the process from when a bride initially approaches you to make her gown?

My entire process is always very open and friendly. We start with an initial consult, usually lasting an hour, approximately 6-10 months ahead of the wedding day. During this time, the bride (and any bridesmaids or mum accompanying) will tell me details of the wedding day, as well as discuss ideas about the gown. Usually we reference a Pinterest board, or favourite designers. We may go into detail about other dresses she has tried on, and liked or not liked. A very important part of this early stage is learning to speak the same language. For example, I may use terms like Guipure or Chantilly to describe a lace, but it’s more important that you understand how heavy of light it is, and how this effects the design.

After an initial design is settled upon, I put forward a quote. This number includes all fittings, alterations, and fabrics, as well as shopping hours, drafting, cutting, sewing, and alterations. There are no sneaky add ons. Payment plans are available, and a deposit is required before work can commence.

Our first fitting is called a Toile (pronounces ‘twarl’) – a basic mock up of the dress, in a not very precious fabric. This is so we can start to fine tune the shape before the beautiful real fabrics are cut into.

Second, and all subsequent fittings are done in varying amounts of the real fabric. Something like a lace we may not include until the third fitting, or a petticoat may even be included in the toile fitting. We discuss shoes, underwear, and accessories as we go and set mini deadlines to coincide with how the dress progresses.

Most commonly, the bride takes her dress with her on the 5th or 6th meeting.

Short turn around times can be negotiated in exceptional circumstances. My theatre training has taught me that a lot is possible in a short time.

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Image by Content Productions

Your business name mentions the word ‘trousseau’. What is included in this aspect of bridal attire?

Trousseau is a French term (pronounced ‘True-sew)’. This encompasses all the accessories that go with your wedding dress – everything else a bride wears on her day. I make garters, corsets and shapewear, and have an option to bring a milliner (hat maker) along to fittings. This allows us to work in tandem to custom make a veil or fascinator to go with your gown and get the perfect balance and design as well as fit and shape.

Do you make these to align with the style and fit of the wedding dress?

Most definitely. Occasionally, shapewear can be built into the dress, allowing support along with structure. As you may have discovered, a lot of dress colours define themselves as ‘ivory’ at the moment. But, how many different colours are you seeing? Not all ivories are made the same!! In choosing to have both gown and trousseau custom made, we do everything possible to get colours, tones, and textures to be best suited to each other.

Are you able to professionally alter heirloom gowns, or gowns bought elsewhere?

Yes and I love doing so!! I prefer making gowns, but I know that it may not be for everyone. Heirloom gowns are a specialty of mine. I have experience altering original gowns from as early as 1910! I know the care that must be taken, and some very cool tricks to be able to make the gown fit and flatter best, even though there is no spare fabric. Of course, if you are bringing in an heirloom, then the highest respect is given to the gown, as well as to the original wearer.  If you’ve already bought your dress from another shop, you are welcome to bring it to me for professional alterations. My hours are flexible, and my prices are fair. It is best to allow 2 months for alterations to a new gown, and 4 months for an heirloom gown.

Are you also able to design and make the gowns for the bridesmaids?

I am! I love being able to give every girl the best attention to detail, and what better way to complete the bride’s vision of her wedding day than to make for her maids as well! I’m starting a range of flower girl dresses, and I’m being asked to make a lot of Mother of the Bride/Groom outfits at the moment, and am very happy to do so.

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Image by MacDougall Photography

What are the factors you consider when making the bridesmaid’s gowns?

The best part of custom making bridesmaid dresses is that while every body shape and colouring is different, and I will always work to achieve the best outcome. With custom made, we can tweak and alter each gown to suit each girl. Budget and body shape are the two key factors in producing beautiful bridesmaid dresses. This combination is very hard to achieve the best results when buying off-the-rack.

If you could design a gown for anyone, who would it be (and why?)

I would have loved to make something for Grace Kelly, when she was a Hollywood star or in her life as royalty. Her classic style, timeless beauty, and genuine nature have always appealed to me, since I saw her in Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock.

Your most treasured item is….

I treasure my husband, my family and my friends above all other things in life. But I also couldn’t be happy without access to my studio – the inspiration, the peace, the love that I get from sewing have been with me for years.

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Image by Content Productions

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

In business and career, it would have to be “Make your Vocation your Vacation”, and in life “We’re not on this holiday to save money” (thanks Dad!). Two great philosophies to live by!

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

My husband and I love snowboarding and sailing – water sports and fresh air are a pretty amazing combination, great for the soul! If it’s rainy, then antique and market shopping is a pretty great way to find inspiration and spend time.

Thank you Caitlyn for sharing your story. A gown that you love made with passion and love – what more can you ask for? To find out more about Studio C Bridal visit the website.

Headshot by Content Productions

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