Not too many years ago, wedding gowns came in two shades: white and ivory. It was rare to see a bride wearing a color (other than “something blue”) unless it was her second trip down the aisle. But times have changed, and many brides are now looking for distinctive dresses in colors and patterns that reflect their own personality and style.
In 2002, rocker Gwen Stefani shook things up on the wedding scene by getting married in a gorgeous chiffon dress layered with shades of hot pink. Bridal designer Harper Della-Piana, owner of SEAMS Couture in Wenham, says color is hot now in the bridal gown industry: “I ask my brides when they’re trying to select a dress, what’s your favorite color, what’s the color that makes you happy? If a bride loves yellow, then she should wear it.”
One way for a bride to add color and individuality to a dress is to have it hand-painted. Painting directly on the fabric enables an artist to transform a simple dress into a showstopper.
“Today’s bride wants to stand out in the crowd. She wants to be the center of attention, and she wants her dress to reflect who she is as a person,” says Markus Lewis, co-owner of Markus & Leslie Boutique in Chelmsford. Over the past few years, Lewis has been swamped with orders for his colorful, hand-painted creations. He and his wife, Leslie, (both artists) work closely with their clients to create their dream dresses. “Some of my clients will come to me with photos of celebrity dresses that they want to replicate, and others will ask me for help with the design. We get a lot of inspiration from museum pieces, trips to New York City and cutting edge couture,” Lewis explains.
North Andover artist Monika Roglic gets inspiration from her Mediterranean roots. Her hand-painted dresses burst with vivid colors and romantic patterns. She is passionate about her work and takes pride in the fact that her dresses are all truly unique. “I feel a strong connection to my clients through my artwork. Everything I create is “handmade with the heart,” Roglic says.
If these fabulous dresses sound too expensive for your budget, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Roglic’s designs include hand-painted dresses that run from just $450 for a knee-length silk dress to $1,200 for a longer style. She calls her creations “wearable art.” Roglic also sells hand-painted lingerie embellished with Swarovski crystals for the wedding night, and hand-painted ties for the groomsmen. Most of the custom artwork from Markus & Leslie runs from $100 to $200 (with the client providing the dress). “We can create a custom look at the price of off-the-rack,” Lewis says.
Many wedding dresses are worn only once and end up sitting in a box in the attic, but hand-painted dresses can be worn again and again. The artwork can be strategically placed on the dress to make alterations possible, so a long gown can be transformed into a short party dress. Designs can also be tactically placed to flatter the bride’s figure, Lewis explains. “If a bride is trying to accentuate the bust or camouflage a tummy,” he says, “we can put the artwork on all the right places.”
So if you are a bride-to-be who is looking for a nontraditional dress that makes a statement, a hand-painted dress may perfect for you. “The rules are off, traditions are what you make of them, and everyone can pick and choose what they like, which is fabulous,” Della-Piana says.