Wedding Guide

Heidi Elnora on Custom Gowns and Bridal Style

posted: 03/21/15

On "Bride by Design," bridal designer Heidi Elnora invites the TLC audience to witness something incredibly unique: the creation of a custom wedding dress. Once you understand what "custom" means, you'll have an even deeper appreciation for Heidi's work. spoke with the Birmingham, Alabama-based designer to learn all about her designs. What exactly does "custom" mean when you're talking about a wedding dress?
Heidi: To have a custom wedding dress means that we are creating a customized piece for a particular bride - a design that's never been created before and is made just for your body shape, your personality, your venue. When a bride comes to me, I have to really get inside her head to understand what she wants. I'm the bridal whisperer. How does the garment itself differ from one you can buy off the rack?
Heidi: When you buy off the rack, you can make small changes, like adding straps, deepening a sweetheart neckline, or possibly lowering the back. But you can't change the foundation of the dress; it is what it is. With a custom dress, you have full control of what you want. I'm going to source the perfect fabric, lace and beading for you. We'll do a muslin fitting [a working replica of the dress in basic cotton] to make sure you like the shape and the cut and that everything fits and lays exactly as you want it to. What motivates a bride to get a custom dress?
Heidi: First, they can't find what they want on the rack, or they don't want anything that anyone else has had. These girls are the ones who want something that is theirs and theirs alone. For those who can afford custom, that's awesome to be able to get something made for you! And they're usually very particular about what they want. They have a distinct way they envision themselves on their wedding day and want to let their personality shine through. It sounds like custom can be pretty expensive. If it's important for a bride to have a custom dress, how can she make that a reality with a modest budget?
Heidi: Yes, custom comes with a big price tag. It starts at $7,500 for me and goes from there, according to time and labor. I created Build-a-Bride for the bride who doesn't have a custom budget but wants a customized look.

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Wedding Dress Designer Heidi Elnora Calls Her Job a Sweet Blessing Tell us how Build-A-Bride works.
Heidi: You pick a basic dress and add on from there; it gives you that custom feel without truly creating your dress from scratch. With 15 silhouettes and 25 add-on pieces in six different fabrications, the combinations are endless. I've seen brides play with Build-A-Bride looks for hours and hours. Sometimes I'm at a point where I'm like, "Can I just pause and get a cheeseburger?!" Brides always say, "Heidi, this is so much fun!" And I wonder, at what point in our lives did we ever think dress shopping wasn't fun? It should be fun. This is a precious time in your life. Since you're based in Birmingham, have you designed for many Southern brides? Have you noticed common regional tastes among brides from other parts of the country?
Heidi: A lot of people think I'm a Southern designer based on my location, but I'm not. My roots are here, but I've got wings from all over. I understand so many points of view, you could come with any request, and I can figure out what you want. My Southern girls love lace and pockets. Then I've got my girls from San Francisco who want a little more edge, like texture and color. I have my girls up North who want something streamlined, sophisticated, chic and minimalistic, and the girls from New Jersey want more sparkle. Where you grow up and where you live really does affect your sense of style. I try to be open to all of it and channel their personalities - and I've become all of those girls! That's why I had four wedding dresses. What's the most important thing you want the TLC audience to know about you and the custom designs you create?
Heidi: I want to be seen as someone you can relate to, who will help you and be your biggest cheerleader. From a design aesthetic, I can do anything in the world. But overall, I want my brides to be happy - and I want this show to be happy!

To see the four dresses Heidi created for her own wedding day, flip through the images in this photo gallery. And you can learn even more about Heidi in this feature from!


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