Images 1 & 2 via Bell Street Bridal
One of the most exciting parts about getting engaged is choosing your wedding dress, but it’s not always easy to find the right gown to fit your style, body type and budget. This week on Behind the Door I’m thrilled to head to a bridal gown store with a difference, Bell Street Bridal.
Owner Ali tells me that the idea for Bell street came quite organically. “I made my first wedding dress back in 2009 for my cousin, after we had a bad experience trying to shop for a wedding dress”. After making that dress, Ali had a couple of friends ask her to make dresses for them and she realised it could be a business.
Ali had been previously trying to start up a handmade clothing label (also called Bell Street) and decided to change direction and focus entirely on bridal dressmaking in 2013, after loving the experience of making her own wedding gown.
Image via Christine Mcnally
Ali started running a custom bridal gown business from home and tells me she liked that custom wedding dresses already have a wearer before they’re even made, so there is less waste. The idea for Borrow from Bell Street, her hire business, crept it’s way into Ali’s head about two years ago, after she had a few brides who decided at the last minute that they were worried about being cold on their wedding day.
“I thought it would be a good idea to have a little collection of cardigans and faux fur jackets for brides to borrow for the day” says Ali “That little collection expanded into a shop full of beautiful vintage cocktail dresses and evening wear that people hire for all sorts of occasions and I’ve had the shop open for one year now”.
Image via Bell Street Bridal
Bell Street Bridal is located in Marrickville in Inner West Sydney and Ali tells me it is quite a large area in comparison to other inner west suburbs, and you can get pretty much anything you need. “Most of the shops and restaurants in Marrickville are small businesses and the locals are really keen to shop local and support everyone.
Whether it’s the older family businesses that have been in the area for years, or newbies like me” says Ali, “The Cook’s River is a lovely place to go for a walk and feel like you’ve left the city, and there are so many small bars and micro breweries for a really fun night out.”
Image via Shu Yeung
The store has a beautiful big shop window, displays of headpieces, veils and dresses to hire with some fantastic vintage furniture adding to the eclectic vibe. Further in are the change rooms and Ali’s studio where she creates her gorgeous gowns.
“I love working with lace as there are so many different kinds and I like how the design of the fabric can guide me on the design of the dress – it will tell me what it wants to do!” says Ali, “I am also addicted to sparkle and love doing intricate hand sewing, beading and embroidery and I especially love using these methods to include little pieces of a bride’s personality in their wedding look.”
Image via Ann Marie Yuen
Ali tells me sustainability is a really important part of Bell Street and at the very heart of her business. “While I love making wedding dresses, I personally had a lot of issues with the amount of waste created in the wedding industry, and Borrow from Bell Street was my antidote to that”. Brides can now borrow almost everything they need for their wedding – dress, veil, petticoat, bridesmaid dresses, and something to keep warm on the day.
An unexpected perk is that Ali has found a huge market in wedding guests who love being able to wear a “new” dress to every wedding they attend. “When it comes to making custom wedding dresses, I try to be really economical with fabrics and use vintage materials wherever I can”. Such a fantastic option for brides who care about sustainability and it sounds like the dresses speak for themselves!
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