07:06 Wednesday 19 December 2012

Elegant and vintage

When Kate Middleton stepped out in her highly anticipated wedding dress, a nation of girls swooned. It harked back to another much loved wedding dress from history, lovingly referencing Grace Kelly’s 1950s wedding dress.

It seems that the new Duchess of Cambridge isn’t the only one who wanted to emulate fashions of times gone by on her big day as the trend for vintage style wedding dresses increases

Sarah Willard Couture on Eccleshall’s High Street is the shop to call upon for brides who are seeking something vintage inspired.

“I’m a vintage nut!” laughs Sarah, “at the moment I am nuts about old Hollywood and the 1930s and 1940s.” She speaks of a love for the soft cuts and the light elegance of this period.

“It’s the sort of dresses the debutants wore or the Ascot fashions and stars like Ginger Rogers from old movies.”

Sarah Willard Couture has been running on Eccleshall’s High Street for five years with a dedicated team of girls who do the stitching and running of the store whilst award-winning Sarah takes care of fittings and designs.

She designed her first wedding dress 20 years ago after studying general fashion at Stoke College and embarking upon a couture course in London in the 1990s.

At the time, she explains, “a lot of people who had been designing and making the evening dresses for Diana, Princess of Wales suddenly weren’t making them any more so they were teaching. So the people that made for her taught me.”

This fascination with couture developed during her studies compliments Sarah’s love of all things vintage.

This is why she takes great fascination in the mechanics of what goes into making the perfect wedding dress: “how things go together and what goes behind a dress to make it work. The way you use a particular fabric, the way you engineer a corset inside it or the way you cut a pattern to flatter a particular sort of body shape.”

Interestingly, Sarah is actually a dancer by trade, which explains her eye for shape and form, which comes across as she giddily recalls the mechanics of Kate Middleton’s dress: “I really loved the fact that her skirt was cut in a very innovative way so as she walked, the pleats sort of moved.”

“That said I am very romantic and it’s a huge privilege to be able to live that through with every bride.”

As well as Sarah Burton’s work for Alexander McQueen, (Sarah Burton designed Kate Middleton’s dress) Sarah Willard also cites designers Dior and Vionet as great inspirations, and describes the Queen Mother’s dress as being fabulous for its time.

This is all translated into the shop. On the rails hang a series of beautifully made, floating elegant dresses which embody the romance and glamour of classic Hollywood. The shop sparkles with pretty pearls and jewels and sumptuous fabrics. This can all serve as inspiration for brides, whether they have had a vivid image of their dream dress in their mind since they were a child or they are completely clueless on where to start. Sarah can tailor the process to every bride’s needs.

“It may be that they try on a dress from the rail and absolutely love it and take that one and as everything is made and designed on the premises, dresses can be altered in colour or material to suit the taste of the bride.

“It’s very much about sitting down and finding out what makes them tick and what their dream dress actually is and how we can help achieve it.”

Rather than the physical specifications of the dress, this could be a feeling - elegant, glamorous or pretty. This bespoke service that Sarah offers all goes back to the interest in couture. It is not just about the luxury of a made to measure dress, but also the service that comes with it.

If, heaven forbid, something happens to the dress on the day, Sarah is on call to go and help. Hers is clearly a service well appreciated, judging by the many lovely thank you cards dotted around the shop.

With the vintage style, old-fashioned romance, and traditional bespoke service of Sarah Willard Couture, every bride can truly feel like a princess for the day.

For more information call 01785 851208 or visit www.sarahwillard.co.uk.

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