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Choosing a wedding dress is one of the most exhilarating and stressful choices a bride makes, and deciding on a custom gown raises the stakes. Fear not! We’ve collected nearly a dozen tips from three dressmakers – Katie Jean, Elizabeth Dye (of The English Dept.), and Megan (of Grace Loves Lace– for finding and custom designing the gown of your dreams.

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1. Take a peek inside your closet. Think about what you already own that fits and flatters you and what makes you feel pretty. Your “regular” clothes can be a touchstone for finding your wedding dress; your wedding dress shouldn’t be a costume — it should be an extra-special version of you.

2. Keep an inspiration board of images you are drawn to. You will start seeing trends in your photos, like if you love lace or favor a dropped waist.

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3. Pursue one strong design concept, one statement, and go with it. Don’t try to cram every good idea you’ve ever had into one dress. That wouldn’t be a pretty dress!

4. Ask questions. There should be a very open dialogue between designer and client, especially when designing a custom gown. Good communication leads to the best dress.

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5. Take accurate measurements. If you can’t or don’t want to go to a professional for measurements, you should ask for a measurement guide and have someone to help you. Although your fiance is the greatest guy in the world, before asking for his help, think about if he is good with details and being thorough. If not, find someone who is.

6. Make sure the design process is not a guessing game. When ordering a custom dress, client and designer should be on the same page before scissors touch fabric.

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7. Be flexible. Your dressmaker is likely either professionally trained or has made enough dresses to know what may or may not work for your dress. If you read all of their feedback, love everything in their shop, and like their style, you should try to give them the overall look you want and let them add their designer touch.

8. Get comfortable. Don’t get too caught up in all the glitz; you don’t have to spend a fortune. The most important thing is to wear a dress that suits your body and that you feel comfortable in. There’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable bride.

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9. Remember, custom is possible at any price point. If you’re on a budget, try adding custom details to a simple dress; vintage lace, silk flowers, hand beading, or adding buttons down the back can really set a dress apart without too much time and expense. Adding or changing straps is another simple alteration that can contribute a lot of custom flair.

10. Don’t obsess. If you love a dress, that usually means you should buy it — don’t think about it for too long.

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11. In the end, it’s all about the fit. No matter what your budget, it’s really worth it to invest in a skilled alterations seamstress. A dress that fits you beautifully will always look dynamite.

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