A Diary of the Making of a Wedding Dress: Behind-the-Seams with Carolina Herrera
The designer shares the handiwork behind her one-of-a-kind creations.
How does a gown go from a designer's dream to runway reality? "The process requires many steps, and each is very important," says Carolina Herrera. At her New York atelier, nearly 20 people spent more than 120 hours constructing this showstopper, called "Collette." It's one of Herrera's favorites from her Spring 2015 collection, which she says focuses on "softness and grace, created by the effects of layering and lace." Here, we walk through dress's evolution, from its first sketch to its catwalk debut.
Putting It on Paper
Herrera finds inspiration everywhere, from museums to music, and works with her design team to create sketches. This dress began with the idea of giving lace a lifelike, 3-D effect.
Drawing the Lace
Next, a patternmaker takes the sketch and draws a blueprint that maps out each detail, including bead placement and where the swirls of Chantilly lace will fall.
Planning the Layers
The skirt of the final dress will include three layers of embroidered tulle, and each layer is color-coded.
Developing the Bodice
The specific lace patterns on the bodice are drawn separately from the skirt patterns.
Making the Pattern
Following the blueprint, artisans embroider the lace, sequins, and beads onto tulle. Depending on the intricacy of a gown, this step can take as long as two weeks.
Measuring the Lace
Here, one layer of the skirt waits to be joined with the others.
Layering the Fabric
Once the embroidery is complete, a patternmaker layers the tulle over muslin, an inexpensive stand-in fabric used to line the pattern. Silk organza will replace the muslin in the finished gown.
Fitting the Design
The gown is placed on a form so Herrera can see how the dress will drape. "The beauty of 'Collette' is how it moves," she says.
Testing the Movement
Herrera fluffs the gown to see how each layer falls against one another.
Trying It on a Model
Each dress is also worn by a fitting model several times and tailored to help perfect the cut.
Hitting the Runway
Before the gown, which includes 12 layers of tulle and organza in the skirt alone, can be presented to editors and buyers, Herrera approves every last detail, from hair and makeup to the bouquet.
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