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  • Royal Weddings: This Decade

    In case you missed it, I'm a bit obsessed with European royalty. Ever since I started doing bridal work, I've been trying to narrow down my top ten or even top twenty royal wedding gowns for a blog post. But it's hard. I'd much rather share ALL the royal wedding gowns I can find. So that's what I'm going to do - round up all the royal weddings I've seen and loved, decade by decade. We're only halfway through this current decade, but there have already been SO MANY great weddings. 

    Who: Prince Félix of Luxembourg and Claire Lademacher

    When: 21 September 2013

    She wore: An Elie Saab gown covered in lace, beading and embroidery, and a really pretty tiara.

    I thought: It was perfect. I love the texture on the dress.

    Who: Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este and Elisabetta (Lili) Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein

    When: 5 July 2014

    She wore: A dotty spotty tulle creation with lace and leaf motifs, and a matching veil. 

    I thought: Who are these people? Don't care. Yay! Spots!

    Who: Princess Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis & Hugo Wilson

    When: 13 September 2014

    She wore: A dramatic Vivienne Westwood dress covered in giant rosebuds

    I thought: ...Well, at least she tried something new.

    Who: Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo

    When: February 1 2014 (religious wedding - they had a civil ceremony in 2013).

    She wore: From what we can tell, a Valentino gown, a white fur-trimmed cape, a diamond fringe tiara and amazing princess hair

    I thought: I NEED to see more of this wedding. It looks like the ultimate magical fairytale Disney Princess winter wonderland wedding. Did I mention that it was snowing the whole time?!

    Who: Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Christopher O'Neill

    When: June 8 2013

    She wore: A lace Valentino dress with short sleeves and ruffled hem. Her favourite diamond tiara with little white flowers tucked into it.

    I thought: The whole thing looked so lovely and summer-y. I would've left the ruffle off, but then again I'm not a princess. She is, so it's all fine.

    Who: Prince Jaime Bernardo of Bourbon-Parma, Count of Bardi and Viktória Cservenyák

    When: October 5 2013

    She wore: An empire waisted, three quarter sleeved Claes Iversen dress with a wide neckline and textured embellishment at the hem. Spotty veil (yay!) and teeny tiny tiara (boo).

    I thought: This picture was my favourite because they look so happy, the yellow accents look great and it crops out the weird stuff going on at the bottom of the dress.

    Who: Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy

    When: October 20 2012

    She wore: An Elie Saab gown covered in lace, beading and embroidery... sound familiar? Her sister-in-law Claire wore an almost identical dress for her wedding to Prince Felix a year later (photo at top of this post). Well, when you're onto a good thing...

    I thought: Claire's tiara was better, but I like Stephanie's dress more with the belt and shorter sleeves.

    Who: Archduke Christoph of Austria and Adélaïde Drape-Frisch

    When: December 29, 2012

    She wore:Diane Lelys gown and matching jacket with fur trim.

    I thought: She looks so warm and cosy! The veil is too white for the dress but she seems like a practical kind of girl who doesn't have time to worry about matching shades of ivory or being cold on her December wedding day.

    Who: Princess Felipa of Bavaria and Christian Dienst

    When: May 12 2012

    She wore: A strapless satin dress with a long sleeved lace overlay that split from the waist. Plus her weird pointy family tiara.

    I thought: I can't think of anything interesting to say about this dress. Don't love it, don't hate it. But that Christian looks pretty pleased with himself, doesn't he?

    Who: Princess Carolina, Marchioness of Sala and Albert Alphons Ludgerus Brenninkmeijer

    When: June 16 2012

    She wore: dress with short sleeved lace bodice and satin skirt with split overskirt. Pretty laurel wreath-style tiara.

    I thought: This is a similar idea to Princess Felipa's dress above, but with much better execution. I love everything about the sleeves and bodice.

    Who: Albert II, Prince of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock

    When: July 2, 2011

    She wore: An Armani dress with a wide shawl collar and beading down the front.

    I thought: This dress suited her so well. From what we've seen of her as a Princess so far, she seems like a pretty down to earth kind of person who isn't really into the diamonds-and-ballgowns side of royal life. There was a lot of talk at the time about her looking miserable on the day, but it seems to me like this was far from the low-key wedding she probably would've had if she wasn't marrying the Prince of Monaco. 

    Who: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton

    When: April 29, 2011

    She wore: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, lace sleeves, big skirt... you know this one. Cartier scroll tiara.

    I thought: Yay! She got it right! This was so beautifully made. Those lace sleeves fitted so perfectly around the shoulders yet still allowed her full freedom of movement... I think this can only be achieved by magic.

    Who: Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall

    When: July 30 2011

    She wore: A Stewart Parvin dress with tulle cap sleeves and pleated skirt, with her mother the Princess Royal's Meander Tiara.

    I thought: They were smart planning their wedding so close to William and Catherine's, meaning they could plan their wedding in peace while the world focused on a different Royal Wedding. Unfortunately this does make comparisons inevitable and after the triumph of Kate's dress, this was... not as exciting.

    Who: Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Isenburg

    When: August 27 2011

    She wore: A layered asymmetrical dress by Wolfgang Joop, with a sporty sheer jacket and flowery tiara.

    I thought: Pretty tiara! I like the dress and the jacket, but maybe not together. Also, I can't work out if these two are related or not. German Aristocracy is confusing.

    Who: Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Alexander Johannsmann

    When: June 18 2011

    She wore: An ivory satin gown by Danish designer Henrik Hviid with repeating flower motif. She also wore the traditional Danish Royal family antique lace veil and the Cartier Khedive-of-Egypt tiara.

    I thought: It was very 60s/70s... I like the flowers down the front of the skirt.

    Who: Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark and Tatiana Blatnik

    When: August 25, 2010

    She wore: A strapless lace Angel Sanchez gown with a long lace veil and lace jacket.

    I thought: That's a lot of lace. Pretty, though.

    Who: Prince Carlos, Duke of Parma and Annemarie Gualthérie van Weeze

    When: November 20, 2010

    She wore: An empire waisted, long sleeved, mermaid skirted disaster of a dress by Jacques Devos and Pamela Hoffman with a big lace veil and a Dutch royal family tiara.

    I thought: The dress didn't work at all. And I hate that pointy tiara. She should've just wrapped that lovely veil around her and called it a dress.

    Who: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Duchess of Västergötland and Daniel Westling

    When: June 19 2010

    She wore: A duchess satin dress by Swedish designer Pär Engsheden. It had an off-the shoulder shawl collar and wide waistband. She accessorised this with the traditional family wedding tiara, the traditional family veil, and a sword-weilding guard of honour, because she is awesome at Princessing.

    I thought: If I'm being objective, I don't love the wide waistband and the cameo tiara looks like a crown a kid would make out of cardboard and stuck-on beads at preschool. But I can't be objective because it's Victoria and she can do no wrong.

    I hereby crown you world's cutest royal couple. 

  • In Real Life: January 2015

    A monthly update of what I've been up to away from the Internet.
    These photos all fall under the 'things seen while walking' category.

    In January:

    I made a fun gingham circle skirt with a big velvet bow on the back.

    I went to a talk at the Powerhouse Museum by Caroline de Guitaut, Senior Curator of Decorative Art at the Royal Collection Trust. The talk was to coincide with the Queen's diamond wattle brooch being put on display, but Caroline talked about lots of other royal jewels as well. The brooch was spectacularly sparkly and lovely in person!

    I went to a picnic with the girls from Sydney Babe Collective. Teddy came along too!

    My dad and I saw Paddington. It was adorable.

    All the dog owners at our local park are always discussing whether or not you're allowed to bring dogs on the light rail. I'd heard from a conductor that they're allowed on as long as they're in something, so we took a big gym bag along and tried it out. I walked Teddy down to the platform, got him to sit in the bag and picked him up and carried him on. Once I'd sat down he was happy to snuggle in the bag on my lap so all was fine. We took him to Darling Harbour and had a lovely walk!

    The air tastes extra salty at the harbour!

    My mum and I went to the Pop art exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW. It was such a big exhibit and a really good collection. We had a great time!

    It was raining a lot last week, so I made Teddy a dog raincoat out of a dollar shop bag. I'm so embarrassing.

  • Classic Weddings: Julie & Derek's Fancy 1970s Wedding

    This is the third of my Classic Weddings posts (find the others here). With the internet so full of modern wedding blogs, I thought it'd be nice to revisit some weddings that happened long before Pinterest came into our lives.

    Julie and Derek recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, so of course I wanted to hear all about their wedding. My mum conducted this interview for me, and I hear that she and Julie spent all afternoon giggling over the photos and how 'fancy' it all seemed at the time!

    When did you get married?

    November 15, 1974 - I was 21. The day after we sent our invitations, we got into a car accident and had to delay the wedding while I recovered from my injuries. 

    Where was the wedding?

    The Ceremony was at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Sefton, Sydney. We both went to primary school there! Derek was two years ahead of me at school.

    What was your reception like?

    Our reception was held at Elim in Burwood. It was a beautiful old home and seemed so fancy.

    We had 100 guests. The bridal party sat at the bridal table. I remember having a prawn cocktail, but nothing else. We spent a lot of the evening having photos taken with all the guests.

    During my recovery after the wedding was delayed, I couldn't work. Out of boredom I attended a cake decorating course at TAFE, so I decorated my own wedding cake. I decided the three tiers wouldn’t be stacked high, but sit beside each other - that was very new and modern at the time.

    What were you wearing?

    I had a long dress with a lace ruffle around the hem, and a high lace collar. Leg o' Mutton sleeves were the height of fashion! I saw a dress I liked in a magazine and had a dressmaker copy it for me - it cost $130. After the car accident I had to wear a corset to support my back, so the waist and bodice had to be altered to accommodate that. 

    I wore my hair in a bun with a long veil coming out from underneath. I had very sheer white stockings on and my shoes were platform court shoes from Raymond Castles in the Imperial Arcade in town.

    I had Stephonotis flowers in my hair to match my bouquet, which was made by a girl I know who worked at Chester Hill florist. She also made pink carnation bouquets with mauve ribbons for the bridesmaids.

    What did Derek wear?

    It's hard to see in these photos, but Derek's jacket was bottle green velvet! He wore it with white crimplene pants, shirt and shoes. We hired the men’s outfits from Ron Bennett at Bankstown Square.

    Who was in your wedding party?

    I had my school friend and a family friend for my bridesmaids. Their dresses were made by the same dressmaker who made my dress. Apple green was really in fashion, as were mauve and orange. Derek had his two brothers as his groomsmen.

    Tell me about this photo:

    Those were our going away outfits! In the 1970s every bride planned an outfit to "go away in" at the end of the reception. Bridal gowns weren’t designed for travelling! So at the end of the wedding we changed into our outfits for more photos and saying farewell to everyone. Derek wore a plaid bomber jacket over a red shirt and white cuffed pants. I had a blue patterned dress and matching jacket, with strappy white rope wedge platforms. I also had a small bouquet to throw to the young girls at the wedding. Traditionally, the real bouquet went home with your mum.

    So where did you "go away" to?

    The day after the wedding, we went back to my parents place and opened all our wedding presents. Then we went to Nelson's Bay for 4 nights. We stayed at the Marlin Motel... it's still there!

    I'd love to make this into a regular feature but it all depends on how many people I find to interview! If you or anyone you know has been married for more than 20 years and would like to reminisce about their wedding, email me at ali.dibley@gmail.com with 'Classic Weddings' in the subject line.

  • All the books I read in 2014

    For the last few years I've been using Shelfari to keep track of what I've been reading and making reading goals for each year. 2014's goal was 48 books, and I managed to make it through 49. Yay! 

    I started using the hashtag #alisbookreport to share what I'm reading on instagram, and quickly realised  that I am about as good at reviewing books as Andy Bernard is at reviewing food and art...

    So, rather than write in-depth intelligent reviews of the best books I read this year, I'm reviewing ALL the books I read, Andy Bernard-style. Here they are, in reading order:

    This photo doesn't show every book, as some were borrowed or digital copies.

    Also, affiliate links ahead. You've been warned!

    Jellicoe Road Melina Marchetta - Pretty good. 

    Saving Wishes G.J. Walker-Smith - Implausible.

    Dear Fatty Dawn French - Funny/sad/could've used more editing

    Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan - Loved it! Sparkly and fun (and good to read while surrounded by crazy rich Asians in the Philippines).

    The Interestings Meg Wolitzer - Misleading title. Not interesting.

    The Boy: A Holocaust Story Dan Porat - Great.

    NW: A Novel Zadie Smith - Not great.

    Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell - Young love! So well written.

    The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan - Didn't love it.

    Sarah's Key Tatiana de Rosnay - Loved this one (but it's sad).

    A Long Way Down Nick Hornby - I like Nick Hornby. Consistently funny and good.

    Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami - Perfect for reading in Japan!

    Sixty-Nine Ryu Murakami - Also perfect for reading in Japan - a bit funny and silly in a good way.

    Dodger Terry Pratchett - Victorian London shenanigans

    Looking For Alaska John Green - Ugh want to slap everyone.

    Indelible Ink Fiona McGregor - Set in Sydney. Yay Sydney!

    A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini - Great

    A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia Thomas Keneally - Also great

    The Girl Who Chased the Moon Sarah Addison Allen - Delightfully magical. I love this author.

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs - Loved it until the scary monsters arrived. 

     Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green & David Levithan - Oooh shiny cover.

    I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) Richard Polsky - Interesting look at a world I know nothing about (art buying).

    Dirt Music Tim Winton - Yep. Good.

    The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company David A. Price - Boring. 

    Hope: A Tragedy Shalom Auslander - Really bad.

    Time Out of Joint Philip K. Dick - Yay! Time travel (sort of).

    Ready Player One Ernest Cline - 80s geeky goodness

    #GIRLBOSS Sophia Amaruso - Motivation! yeah!

    Lullaby Chuck Palahniuk - Note to self: read more Palahniuk.

    The Book Thief Marcus Zusak - Loved it. I thought the movie was really good too.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway - Good. Long.

    The Younger Man Zoe Foster - I can watch crappy chick flicks all day, so if this was a movie I'd be all over it. Not a great book though.

    Marina Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Dark and Spanish and just wonderful. One of my favourite authors.

    Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein - Love a good twin story.

    Eucalyptus Murray Bail - Treeeeees.

    S. Doug Dorst & J.J. Abrams - So cool! A love letter to 'real books'.

    The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden Jonas Jonasson - Funny and silly.

    Paper Towns John Green - Why so many Manic Pixie Dreamgirls John Green?

    Oh Dear Silvia Dawn French - Would've been better as a play.

    The Railway Children E. Nesbit - Delightful! but please stop playing near the bloody railway, it's really dangerous.

    The Man From Snowy River Elyne Mitchell - Trashy novelisation of the movie adaptation of Banjo Paterson's poem. Loved it.

    Hannah's Dream Diane Hammond - Heartwarming elephant story.

    Out of Africa Isak Dinesen - Eh.

    Voices from the Titanic: The Epic Story of the Tragedy from the People Who Were There Geoff Tibbals - I can consider myself an expert on the Titanic now.

    Frog Music Emma Donoghue - Completely different to Donoghue's other novel, Room. Room was gripping. This was not.

    New Patches for Old Christobel Mattingley - Read for the 500th time (yes, re-reads count towards the list). Old favourite.

    The Mirrored World: A Novel Debra Dean - Russian.

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne - I loved reading this! I want to read all of Verne's books now (I read Journey to the Centre of the Earth last week).

    The Betrayal Helen Dunmore - The sequel to The Siege, which I read right before I went to the Philippines. I bought The Betrayal to read on the plane, and it somehow accidentally got packed with the  books to be stored in Sydney. So I waited over two years to read this book, but it was worth it!

    Phew! That was way too many books to talk about in one blog post. How about this year, I check in every ten books or so?

    I'm aiming for 50 this year. It's going to be a bit harder as we won't be travelling as much as the last few years, and I don't have a regular train commute which is usually great reading time. I'll try anyway!

    I'm going to ressurect my old #alisbookreport tag on instagram, so follow me there if you think reading is cool. I love talking about books!

  • In real life: December 2014

    A monthly update of what I've been up to away from the Internet.

    In the last month, I...

    Attended the Blogcademy:

    Had lookbooks printed so that I could have a tangible collection of my previous work to show people:

    Saw the first few pictures from Gemma and Olly's wedding, for which I made bridesmaid dresses and ties:

    Went for lots of walks with Teddy and took photos of what we saw:

    Continued to dress Teddy up in things he never asked to wear:

    Finally received our shipment from Manila and spent a few days organising my studio:

    Drove with my parents, husband and dog to Adelaide so we could spend Christmas at my brother's house:

    Teddy did not appreciate being woken up for car selfies

    ... and made some ties to photograph for the Etsy store (returning soon!) and to give away as Christmas presents:

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Years!

  • New FAQ and Services page

    I started out writing an FAQ page for how to order a custom wedding dress, and ended up with this big long informercial-type essay. What can I say, I was in the mood to promote myself! I usually hate doing that. So this will be on a separate page for new visitors to read, but I wanted to post it here so that blog readers see it as well.

    FAQ

    Do you only work with Sydney clients?

    No, of course not! Obviously if you are in Sydney or able to get to Sydney, it makes it a lot easier for us to meet in person and do fittings, but I work with international customers as well. I'll ask for lots of measurements, details and photos so I can get a really good idea of your size, and if you're still not sure, I can post a calico toile for you to try on before I start work on your dress.

    What the hell is a toile?

    It's a quick version of a dress made in cheaper fabric. I make these for various reasons: to test that the pattern pieces fit together properly; to work out sizing issues before I start on the main dress; and to give you an idea of how the style will look on you. Most wedding dresses require at least two toiles, sometimes three or four. This is all included in the final price of your dress. 

    Who does the pattern making/cutting/sewing/beading/embroidery work?

    I do all of that. It really is just little ol' me in the studio and your dress is designed and made from start to finish by me, right here in Sydney. OK, sometimes my mum helps with veil orders. 

    Can I write about you on my blog?

    Yes! I get most of my business through word of mouth so I LOVE it when people share what I'm doing with their friends & followers. Feel free to use anything you find on my site (as long as it links back to here) or email me for hi res photos and/or extra information.

    Can I come and visit you to try on samples?

    Sure! I'm still a few years off opening a proper shop front but you're welcome to come to my home studio to try things on or chat about a custom order. Just email me and we'll set something up.

    What if I freak out and change my mind after ordering a wedding dress?

    Email me straight away and see where I'm up to with it. Chances are it won't be too late to change the design, although it might cost you a bit more for the extra time or if I need to buy more fabric.

    You're pretty new at this. Do you know what you're doing?

    I'm relatively new to the bridal business but I've been sewing and making clothes my whole life. I have a degree in fashion design and I've worked in the fashion industry. Don't worry, I've got this.

    How long does it take to make a dress?

    How long do we have? Basically, I'll get it finished and delivered to you a month before your wedding date. If that's a year away, then yay! We have heaps of time to really work on making your dress amazing. If it's two weeks away, well, I'd better sew quickly! I'll always let you know if what you want isn't possible in the timeframe available, but it doesn't hurt to ask. You might be surprised at how quickly I can make your dress dreams happen.

    OK, so if you can make a dress in a week, why do I have to wait till a month before the wedding to get my dress? I want it now!

    A lot of brides lose or gain weight leading up to the wedding - whether it's due to stress, dieting, exercise or too many pre-wedding dinners at the pub (me). It's best to do your final fitting close to the wedding date. That said, if you really want it by a certain date, I can make that happen for you.

    How much is this going to cost?

    I work with a wide range of budgets. Custom wedding dresses start from around $500 for a very basic style and can go up to $3000+ for more complicated designs. The prices are based on cost of materials and time spent working on the project. We will agree on the final cost early on in the project and I will stick to that budget - I would never turn around and tell you that you need to pay more, unless you wish to change the design halfway through.

    My ready-to-wear samples are cheaper as they are often made from surplus materials and are made to fit my mannequin (Australian size 10), which saves a lot of time on pattern making and fitting.

    I have a tiny budget and don't fit your sample size. Is there anything you can do for me?

    As much as I love coming up with new designs for every bride (it's my favourite thing about custom bridal!), it's easier and faster for me to recreate an existing design. So why not have a look at my past work and see if there's anything that interests you? I could make your own version in your size, and I can find a nice fabric that will keep the costs down for you. Beading can add a lot to the cost, but using lace or textured fabric can be a nice way to add interest to a design without getting too expensive.

    Do you make men's wedding attire?

    I make ties and bow-ties for men. I also have some basic training in tailoring, so I am able to make suits and shirts if you really want me to. Having said that, I respect that tailoring is an art which takes years to master, and is best done by those who specialise in it. 

    Do you only do vintage inspired stuff?

    Vintage and retro wedding dresses are my favourite thing to work on, but it's not all I do. I'm a highly skilled and experienced dressmaker with an open mind, so I'm happy to work on any project you can dream up. In fact, I even made a giant list of the things I'm willing & able to do:

    Services

    • I can design a custom wedding dress for you
    • Make the exact dress you've been dreaming of all your life
    • I make short wedding dresses
    • Wedding dresses with sleeves
    • Coloured wedding dresses
    • Wedding dresses in a rush 
    • Dresses for pregnant brides
    • Wedding dresses with cats on them
    • Wedding dresses with birds on them
    • Any kind of wedding dress you can dream up!
    • I can make a dress using your own vintage or heirloom fabric
    • Design bridesmaid dresses that go with your wedding dress and fit your bridesmaids' individual personalities
    • Replicate a vintage dress
    • Replicate your mother‘s wedding dress in a style that would suit you
    • Alter or redesign a vintage wedding dress
    • Use part of your mother's wedding dress on your own dress (and restore your mother's dress)
    • Make flower girl dresses
    • Make grooms and groomsmen ties - or bow ties! pocket squares too
    • Make a veil to match your dress 
    • Wedding clutches
    • Pretty robes to get ready in
    • Make a beaded sash to go with your wedding dress
    • Make your garter
    • Design and make cover ups for church ceremonies 
    • Recreate your favourite royal wedding dress or movie wedding dress - I'd love to do an accurate Disney princess wedding dress!
    • Design a convertible wedding dress - How about a long ceremony gown that converts into a cocktail dress for dancing?
    • Two brides? No problem - I'll work with you both to design your dream wedding outfits and make sure they won't clash - and that neither of you need to find out what the other is wearing before the big day!
    • Destination wedding or elopement? I can make a wedding dress that will travel well.
    • Winter wedding? let's talk about wedding capes and warm wedding dresses!

    So... why not just put your mind at ease and let me dress your whole wedding party?

    If you're detail oriented, I love that and am open to as much input as you want. If you can't make a decision to save your life, leave it with me and I'll sort out everything!

    What you get when you work with me: 

    • Online consultation - I love using Pinterest's secret boards feature, but if you're not into Pinterest, we can work in whichever way suits you
    • In person consultation - come on over and let's talk about wedding dresses! Look through my magazines and books, bring any pictures you have, try on my samples. If you've sent me pictures and measurements in advance, I can even have a toile ready for you to try on at your first consultation
    • All ideas considered. Nothing is too crazy. I love crazy!
    • Minimum three fittings for local customers - toile fit, second toile fit, and final fit. Depending on the dress style and time frame, extra fittings may be required.
    • All shopping done for you - I won't send you out to buy fabrics all by yourself. But if you want me to use fabric you already have, I can do that too
    • Constant open communication - email or text me at any time during the project with any questions you have. 
    • Total confidentiality - I love sharing what I'm working on on Instagram but I never show a whole wedding dress before the wedding. It's totally up to you how much I share of your project as it's happening.
    • Hand finishing - I want the inside of the dress to be just as beautiful as the outside
    • Personalised brand label with your names and wedding date
    • An exquisite, one of a kind, beautifully constructed wedding dress that has been made with love just for you.

    How do we make this happen?

    Email me at ali.dibley@gmail.com with three essential pieces of information - what you want, your budget, and your wedding  date. I can't wait to hear from you.

  • Trina - A short white lace wedding dress sample

    Just wanted to share my latest bridal sample with you! I've named it Trina after a character in the book I was reading while making it (it's this one, if you're wondering - an old favourite I've re-read many many times). 

    Trina is made from fresh white cotton lace and has a Peter Pan collar and gathered knee-length skirt. She'd suit any sort of casual summer wedding, particularly in a lovely garden setting!

    The strapless dress I'm wearing underneath in these photos is actually just a placeholder. I have a great fabric in mind to use here but it's in our shipment which still hasn't arrived from Manila, so I'll make the inner dress when that gets here.

    My shop isn't active at the moment (due to the whole waiting-for-the-shipment-to-arrive thing), so she's not up for sale yet but don't worry, I'll definitely let you know when the shop is back up and running.

  • Classic Weddings: Val & Jack's 1940s Elopement

    This is the second of my Classic Weddings posts (find the first one here). With the internet so full of modern wedding blogs, I thought it'd be nice to revisit some weddings that happened long before Pinterest came into our lives.

    This wedding is a special one, as I've heard the story so many times from Val (my great aunt), who loves reminiscing about her rebellious past. We caught up with Val on our way back from Adelaide a few months ago and I made her tell me the story again - but this time I took notes!

    When did you get married? 

    We eloped in 1949, just after my 21st birthday. Our dad told us (my sisters and I) that we weren't allowed to get married before we were 21. So really I wasn't breaking any rules...

    Where did you get married?

    We got married in secret at Canterbury registry office. Jack organised the marriage license and we took the tram into Central, then out to Canterbury. The person who conducted the ceremony was a lady! I still remember her name - Euphemia Wilson.

    When we arrived, they said "Where are your witnesses? You need two."

    Oops! didn't think of that. So we went out onto the street and waited until a nice looking young couple came along. We approached and asked if they would mind coming in to watch us get married - and they eagerly said yes. They'd only been married four months themselves. 

    What did you wear?

    I made my own wedding dress, sitting on my bedroom floor. My mum helped me cut it out - I didn't tell her she was cutting out my wedding dress. It was light blue, with a sweetheart neckline and lovely little split petal sleeves. The skirt was New Look style with big deep pleats - there was miles of fabric in it.

    I wore navy court shoes, carried a matching navy bag, and had a gorgeous navy straw picture hat with light blue flowers on it. I looked fantastic! 

    Did you have any sort of reception?

    Yes, after the wedding we felt like celebrating with our witnesses, so we went to the milk bar down the street from the registry office and had strawberry milkshakes. We had a lovely time! 

    Then on our 50th anniversary, we tracked those witnesses down. We got their name from the marriage certificate and called everyone with that name in the phone book saying "Hello, did you happen to witness an elopement in Canterbury in 1949?"... until finally someone said "Yes! We did!". We met up with them and had a great catchup - over strawberry milkshakes, of course.

    Did you go on a honeymoon?

    Yes - we went to stay at Jack's parents house in Cooma. But they didn't know it was our honeymoon, because we didn't want to tell them we'd just got married. So Jack had to sleep on the verandah and I was in a different room. There was a lot of sneaking around after dark! We finally thought we'd better tell them, so we wrote it in a letter, posted it and drove off straight away.

    We called my parents and said "We're coming for Easter - and we've got some news". They thought we'd got engaged! Well, we had, I suppose. We just didn't tell them at the time. After we told them we were married, Dad took Jack down to the garden for a 'talk' - I still don't know what was said. I was inside with Mum, while she made up the guest bed for us and fretted over what the neighbours would think.  

    So, where are the wedding photos?

    Oh, I forgot the camera! We'd organised to have a camera for the day and I left it at home. I had too much to think about! Then we couldn't find a street photographer, so unfortunately we don't have any wedding photos. But that's ok, I've got the whole thing in here (taps her head).

    Mum, Val and I.

    I'd love to make this into a regular feature but it all depends on how many people I find to interview! If you or anyone you know has been married for more than 20 years and would like to reminisce about their wedding, email me at ali.dibley@gmail.com with 'Classic Weddings' in the subject line.

  • In real life

    Sometimes, I just get so caught up enjoying what's going on in 'real life' that I forget to check in online. The two main things that have been occupying my world lately are two things that I have been looking forward to for years - we bought our first home, and adopted a dog. Yay! Life is good.

    Our place is a pretty typical 50s/60s era 2 bedroom apartment in a small brick building. They're very common in this part of Sydney. The point of difference that I love about our place is all the beautiful natural light. Our part of the building kind of sticks out from the stairwell so we have no common walls which means lots and lots of windows! It's beautiful. 

    My favourite room is the living room because it's also our library! We're total book collecting nerds so for this place, we gave away or repurposed all our old mismatched bookshelves and got matching low white shelves to line the walls in the living room and hallway. After lots of Pinterest research on how to make Billy bookshelves look like built-ins, nothing seemed quite like what I wanted so we came up with our own solution (keep in mind our shipment hasn't arrived from Manila yet, so the bookshelves are only half-full and there's a big space where the TV will go).

    Before:

    After:

    My dad and I made wooden countertops to fit to the tops of the shelves that wrapped around the front and sides. My mum stained them to make them fit in with our other wooden furniture. Everyone who comes over asks if they were already here when we bought the place, so I guess my goal of making the shelves look built in was achieved! Also visible in the above photo, we installed Artracks around the living room so that I can hang artwork and change things around as often as I like. I'm enjoying playing curator in my little private library gallery. 

    Another little DIY was this side table/magazine rack thing. It was a cheap impulse buy at an antiques centre a few years ago. It's always sat in the corner in various apartments because we've never really had a use for it. We started using it as a coffee table in this place and I fell in love with it all over again, but it just didn't go with the room. So, spray paint + leftover wood + leftover stain = new coffee table!

    I've also been planning to re-cover our old couch for a long time, and getting it out of storage really confirmed how old and faded the upholstry was. It's still a really comfy couch, so I bought some nice textured green fabric and made new covers. I love how it looks now. Our dog is a big fan too.

    Speaking of our dog, meet Teddy! He's a four year old mix of... something that we got from Sydney Animal Second Chance. Our best guesses at his breed so far have been Glen of Imaal Terrier/Silky Terrier, with maybe some Corgi or Shetland Sheepdog thrown in. Ok, clearly we have no idea what he is. But isn't he cute?!

    He follows me around all day and sleeps under the work table when I'm working. He's very well behaved and housetrained but we don't think anyone ever played with him as he doesnt seem to get the point of most games. So we've been having lots of fun trying to teach him how to play!

  • Pink, pleats and Peter Pan collars - Hannah's wedding dress

    Today I want to tell you a bit about the process behind my one of my favourite ever bridal projects - Hannah's pink dress.

    Hannah contacted me about a year ahead of her wedding wanting to talk about a custom wedding dress. She said the words I love to hear: "I don't know exactly what I want, but I know I don't want strapless". Yay! Nothing wrong with strapless. I just happen to specialise in non-strapless wedding dresses!

    I knew Hannah was a Pinterest fan so I suggested that we set up a secret Pinterest board where we could both pin ideas and photos.

    I quickly noticed some common themes - peter pan collars, short sleeves, flowy skirts, and the colour pink! I drew some ideas for her and shared them on our board so she could choose a final design. Her dress ended up being based on this idea:

    My first step in designing a new dress is to make a 'toile' - a mock-up dress out of cheap fabric. My toiles are usually pretty hastily constructed and far from what the end product will be, but that's ok. I just need something I can try on the customer to figure out any fitting and design issues.

    I was still living in the Philippines when I was working on this, but we were in Sydney over the Christmas break so I squeezed in a first fitting with Hannah on New Year's Day.

    I spent a lot of time getting the bodice fit right, and we talked about different design elements like collar size and sleeve length. 

    Then I headed back to the Philippines and made another toile based on what we'd talked about, using fabrics that were closer to the real thing, but still not expensive.

    I also dyed some silk fabric in different shades of pink for Hannah to choose from. 

    I packaged up the second toile and the silk samples and sent them to my mum, who did a second fitting with Hannah in Sydney.


    Once Hannah had chosen the exact pink she wanted, it was time to buy the 'real fabric' and get it the right colour. Dumping ten metres of expensive, delicate silk into a hot dyebath takes a certain amount of confidence.

    Then there's the question of how to dry the thing and keep it clean...

    It took a few days of dyeing and drying before I had the colours exactly right. I had to get the lace, silk georgette and silk lining all to the same colour, and they all dye differently. 

    Once I was happy with the colours, I started playing with beads for the bodice.

    I sent a sample of different beading styles to Hannah, and worked on the skirt while I waited for her decision.

    I then spent many, many hours beading while watching Netflix.

    After the beading was finished, the rest of the dress was pretty quick to come together.

    One final fit with Hannah to cut the hem, and we're all done!

    A big congratulations to Hannah and Ben on their wedding, it looked like a beautiful day! 

    Photographer James Goff posted some more photos from the wedding on his site here.


    If you're interested in a custom dress, email me and tell me about your ideas!