Phillipa Lepley is famous for her ability to create a wedding dress with completely bespoke embellishments, designed specifically for an individual bride. The embroidery and embellishments on her dresses have become a design signature, and they are one of the reasons why No. 48 Fulham Road has become the go-to atelier for a couture bridal gown.
From French lace with hand-embroidered pearls, custom diamanté detail on a sweeping cathedral veil to a hand-draped silk-tulle bodice adorned with crystal and rose gold embroidery – it’s these artisan touches that take a tailored dress to the next level of beauty.
Once the shape and style of a wedding dress has been selected by a bride, the bespoke embroidery process will begin:
Creating the paper pattern:
Through two toile fittings, a basic cotton mock up of the design is fitted to the bride to gain the style lines and fit of the required silhouette. This is then translated into a paper pattern, which in turn is then used in the making of the couture gown.
Developing a swatch:
If a bride desires a completely bespoke design, the embellishment team will meet with her at the very beginning of the process to discuss how she would like the ‘look’ of the fabric to be, demonstrating the various methods of beading, threadwork and embroidery. The team then work on swatches for the bride to view and approve.
Developing the artwork:
Once a swatch has been approved by the bride, the embroidery design is drawn out on to a paper pattern, or directly on to the toile during the fitting.
This is referred to as the preliminary ‘artwork’ stage, where the embroidery design is mapped out. Tweaked and moved millimeter by millimeter until it sits perfectly across the fabric in the most flattering way, it will cleverly draw the eye of the onlooker to the right areas of the body, making it as flattering as can be.
The embellishment team work closely with the client to create the perfect design for her, with the right amount of embellishments across the corset, shoulders, sleeves and skirt. The bride is invited to agree the precise placement before any embroidery begins.
The embroidery process begins with panels of fabric being placed within a ‘frame’ to gently pull it tight and secure, like a blank sheet of paper. The picture below shows a circular embroidery hoop being used to enable a seamstress to sew a small, detailed motif on to some fabric.
Various techniques are then used to create the embellishment, depending on the design. Tambour beading creates a superior finish for beaded gowns, and is a traditional French couturier technique not used very often anymore in UK ateliers as it requires a very specific skill, and a high level of experience. Beads are held underneath the fabric and a hook is inserted from above, to pull the beads on to the fabric (Pictured below).
For fine-detail thread-work, we experiment to establish the best technique for the task. A small delicate flower may require a simple satin stitch, but a bold corded motif may require a specialist ‘wrapping technique’, which offers a defined detailed edge as opposed to a harsh solid edge.
Once the embroidery is complete, the fabric is taken out of the frames and cut.
Assembling the Piece:
The embellishment team sew the numerous panels of fabric together, and the final look designed starts to take shape. The seamstresses expertly hide all the joins in the panels, so that the whole dress looks like one piece of fabric.
Phillipa Lepley is widely recognised as being the leading British couture wedding dress designer. Her wedding dress shop in London, Chelsea, has over 50 dresses, all of which have been made in England from start to finish at her atelier.
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