Custom Bridal: Design The Perfect Gown For You | Desiree Hartsock | Skillshare

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Custom Bridal: Design The Perfect Gown For You

teacher avatar Desiree Hartsock, Bridal Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Developing Your Moodboard

    • 3. Cutting Images for Your Moodboard

    • 4. Questions to Keep in Mind

    • 5. Characteristics of Various Fits

    • 6. Choosing Fabrics for Your Gown

    • 7. Adding Details to Your Gown

    • 8. Placing Details on Your Gown

    • 9. More Creative Classes on Skillshare

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About This Class


Whether you've dreamed of this day your whole life, or are just starting to wonder what to show up in on your wedding day, this class will walk you through a simple, straightforward approach for coming up with a bridal gown style you'll fall head over heels in love with.

I've been designing custom bridal gowns and styling soon-to-be brides for 8+ years and in this class I'll share my tips and tricks for designing the ideal dress for you. We'll start with how to source inspiration that you can translate into a design perfectly-suited to you. I'll present different fits, fabrics, and details so you can begin to mood board and sketch an image of your ideal gown - an image you can bring to a bridal designer or store to easily communicate the look you're going for.


What You'll Learn

  • Gathering Inspiration. We'll cover where to look for styles, images and fabrics to inspire the look you want.
  • Knowing Your Fit. We'll walk through the various shapes, necklines and sleeves to consider when determining what will fit you best.
  • Choosing Your Fabric. Satin? Tulle? Chiffon? We'll talk about key fabrics and the benefits and downsides of each to consider. 
  • Defining Your Details. We'll cover the spectrum of detailing, from lace to beading and how you can add your point of view while keeping your dress timeless.

What You'll Do

This class is project-based which means you'll be able to follow along with my lessons to create a mood board for your bridal gown to share with your classmates for feedback. You will be able to communicate exactly how you envision your look for the big day. For anyone inclined, I encourage you to sketch your ideal gown, too!


Meet Your Teacher

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Desiree Hartsock

Bridal Designer


I'm best known for my season on ABC's The Bachelorette, where I met my fianc? Chris Siegfried, but aside from the cameras I'm also an accomplished designer and bridal enthusiast. I grew up in Colorado where my love for art and design was first established. After high school I packed my bags and moved to California to attend The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising where I graduated in 2006 with a degree in Fashion Design. While in school my passion for design in the bridal industry continued to grow which later led me to become a bridal stylist at various bridal salons. My work as a designer for a plus-size women's contemporary brand also gave me the knowledge and experience needed to understand the importance of quality and fit to flatter every shape. That passion is s... See full profile

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1. Trailer: Hi. My name is Desiree Hartstock, and I am a wedding gown designer. I have about 10 years of bridal experience. I'll be teaching you how to design the wedding gown of your dreams. We will be going through finding your inspiration, knowing what kind of fit is best for you, what kind of fabric you may or may not like, as well as the details you may or may not like. Chances are you have an idea of what kind of gown you like, but this class is going to equip you with the knowledge and understanding of what is really going to be right for you. By the end of this class, you will have a collage or mood board that will have all of your dress details worked out so that you can take the collage to a dressmaker or a consultant at a bridal salon so that they know exactly what you want. I hope that you can join me for this class and learn how to design the perfect gown for you. 2. Developing Your Moodboard: Thank you for joining my class in designing your dream wedding gown. I'm excited to have you here, and show you where to begin. You will want to have either card stock or a blank sheet of paper. To put your collage on, you'll want a black pen, scissors, tape, whatever you need to make your collage personal. You also will want a blank sheet of paper to take notes on for the questions that I will ask for you to write down. It's always good to have this, so that you can look back on your answers to know what you are looking for. To start, there are so many areas in your life to gain inspiration for your wedding gown. But, first off, I would love for you to close your eyes for 30 seconds to one minute, and really imagine yourself at the top of the isle, about ready to walk down to your groom. Imagine what type of silhouette you picture yourself in, what kind of movement do you see? Is it flowy? Is it a ball gown? Write these things down. Write down how you feel, or what you really picture yourself in, because it's always interesting to go back to that and really see if what you come up with is still what you imagined yourself in the beginning. All right. To gain the other inspiration, you will want to collect some bridal magazines, such as Bridal Guide, Brides, [inaudible] , Martha Stewart Weddings, and many, many more. There are good resource for finding different styles, different designers, and also inspiration for your wedding, and that will also help with your wedding gown. So, you will want to look through and kind of cut outs images that stand out to you. I've already cut out a few. But, let's say for instance, I am looking for I really, really love this lace top. I love the illusion of the straps. So, I want to tear it out. I want to circle what I like about it, so that I don't forget once the pile keeps getting higher and higher. You want to make sure you know what you like, even if it's her earrings. I mean, anything that really inspires the dress as a whole. Let's say, I've really loved the lace of this gown. Then, I want to also say that I like the neckline. It's really taking notes of everything that you like, so that you can look back, and it helps you narrow down the details. Let's say, I like the skirt of this. I'm going to circle the skirt, and maybe put "fitted." I like that is fitted, and then "flared". Just little notes that help you. Let's say, I like the feeling of this, where it's romantic and feminine. I like that she's in a garden. Anything that really motivates you or inspires you, you do want to rip out and cut, and really make note of what it is you are liking. So, I've tore out a few. Even if it comes down to the flowers, you see different colors of flowers. Anything that is going to register with you of the feeling that you're looking for your wedding, that's really going to be good for your mood board. There's also a lot of great resources online. If you are a little bit more tech savvy and enjoy searching on the computer, you can check out a few websites, they're, which is Leverly. They're wonderful. You can check out the, and also you can start searching for different designers, and see if there's certain looks that you really, really enjoy. 3. Cutting Images for Your Moodboard: Whether you've printed out images from online or cut out images from magazines, you're going to want to put them altogether and really cut them out and go through them and see which ones really stand out to you. If there's going to be a repetition of different neck lines or if there's going to be a pattern that you see, you're going to want to really narrow it down that way. Put your top 10 to 15 images onto your collage, and this is going to be the beginning of your mood board. Okay. I just want to cut out the areas that I really enjoy of each style. So for this, whatever I circled, I'm going to cut out to really make the board exactly what I like and what I want my gown to look like. I'm going to also make notes of what it is I was liking, if I didn't already when I tore the pages out. I really like the mood of this one, so I'm going to put that so that I don't get confused with the style or the look of it. Creating mood boards can be a lot of fun because, I mean, it's your special day and you want your wedding to reflect who you are. You want your gown to reflect who you are. So, I think it's very important to create a mood board because this really sets the tone for the wedding. Also I'm putting the images that are similar near each other so that I don't get lost with my moods board and so it's also still a little organized. I'm just making sure all of these images are going to stay. So, you can either glue, tape, get crafty and create something that's really going to reflect your personality. I'm using card stock because it is a little heavier and it's easier to carry to the bridal salon or to take to a dressmaker so that it doesn't get damaged. When I was a bridal stylist at various bridal salons, it was very helpful when a bride came in and had a specific idea in mind. So, she would give a mood board or a few images. That really helped. Being a bridal stylist helped me do my job the best. These mood boards really help the bride and they do help the bridal stylist if you are going to be going to a bridal salon because then you both know what you're looking for. Once you've cut out the images and placed them onto your mood board, you are one step further to being completed in designing the dress of your dreams. 4. Questions to Keep in Mind: In this next step of designing your dream wedding gown, we will be looking at the different neck lines and the different shapes to really narrow down what's going to be best for you. To start, we'll go through a series of questions that will really be a great reference for you when looking back at the different images. So, to start, what type of necklines and dresses do you typically go to? What is your little black dress? What does it look like? What kind of neckline really flatters you the best? You want to write down your go-tos. So, for me, I tend to go towards straps or something that is a little bit higher up, because strapless I don't feel is the most comfortable for me. But you may be different, you may love strapless. So, go ahead and write those down. You also want to write down what attributes you really love about yourself and what you really want to show off. Do you want to show off your shoulders? Do you want to show off your waist? Do you want to show off a little leg? It's going to be good when putting together the dress for you. So, for me I like showing off a little waist. I love when it cinched and it just looks really small. So, I'm going to go ahead and put my waist, it's what I want to show off, and maybe my shoulders because I've been working out and I want to show them off. The third question is going to be what areas of your body do you want to minimize, or do you want to tie it flatter. Per se, you don't like your hips or you don't like your arms. Write those down and it's going to be good so that you feel most comfortable in the style that we create. So, for me, I don't want anything that's going to be too tight along the thighs and the hips, because they don't want to emphasize that, since that is my larger part. So, I'm going to say, I don't want to emphasize my thighs. But I do want to flatter. So, that's good to know. So, we'll start with the most common that you'll see everywhere, especially if you went through the magazines, and that's your strapless gown. There's a lot of great strapless gowns out there and the most common is going to be the sweetheart that dips down. Because that is really a flattering on most girls. The only downside about strapless is that it doesn't have as much support as a gown with straps would have. It usually is dipped in the back as well. So, if you are a little bit busty, it is going to possibly way the dress down and you don't want that, because you do want to be comfortable. I've seen it way too many times before in alterations, where you want it to fit properly but the back is being pulled and it's really difficult to feel comfortable. So, a lot of times it is great to have a strap or an illusion neckline, just to have that extra support. 5. Characteristics of Various Fits: The next neckline I want to visit is going to be the V-neck. The V-neck can be done either in a halter or with straps so that's it's coming straight from the shoulder and going down to the center, and it is very flattering neckline when done well. You can be any size, any cup size and it's still going to look really good. You have the support you need. You have a flattering neckline that really shows off the décolletage, and if it's the right plunge, then it's really conservative yet still a little sexy, and I do really think it looks nice. The only downside of the V-neck is going to be if it's done in a more structured fabric, but we will visit that in the next step. The next neckline I want to visit is halters. Halters can be done in very many ways. You can either have the illusion halter that comes up in mesh or in lace, and those are very, very flattering because they do come off a little more conservative, but if they're see-through, then it's still adding a little bit of detail, that's really interesting. The only downside of halters is that it is going to be pulling on the back of your neck, and it depends on how heavy the dresses or what the construction is like, but you do want to keep that in mind for comfort. Now, let's talk about the different skirts. To start, there are poofy skirts, slim fit skirts, you have a fit and flare, or a mermaid, or a trumpet. So, there's a lot of different styles out there, and this is where it's really key to find what flatters you. The A-line skirt is going to be the most popular, and it is because it is the most flattering on most shapes. The silhouette is in the shape of an A, so it does give you that hourglass look. It can be done in a variety of fabrics, and it really does cinch the waist and that's what makes it so flattering. The only downside of an A-line shape is going to be if it's done in a heavier fabric. It is going to be a lot more fabric, so it can be a little bit heavy for you. But the good thing about it is that it does come out so your legs aren't so restricted. The fit and flare silhouette, which is going to be either mermaid or trumpet, is going to look good on a lot of different girls. It is going to look good on a girl that is a little thinner. If it's going to be fitted, it might give her some hips. It also looks really great on girls who do have curves because it's really showing off the shape, and it really does work. The only downside about the mermaid shape is that it is restricting in the thighs. So, if you're planning on getting down on the dance floor or being able to take steps, you are going to be a little bit more restricted than if you were to go with a ball gown or A-line. Another popular style is the sheath gown and this works so well for beach weddings or more casual style weddings because it is more like an evening gown. A lot of times done out of chiffon or silk, but we'll visit that in the next step. Now that I've gone over a few of the different silhouettes, it's really good to go into your own closet and try on the different shapes, try on the different necklines and the different dresses because that will give you a good idea of what it is you really love and what you feel good in. Just like I said in the beginning of the class, it's good to know what your go-to's are and those go-to's are going to be in your closet. So, it's good to try those on and to really see how you feel in them. Now that you've thought about the different silhouettes, write down the ones that really stand out to you. Write down the neckline and the skirt that really speaks to you, and that will be your favorite. Write that on the back of the collage so that it's with the mood board. Perfect. Now, for the next step. 6. Choosing Fabrics for Your Gown: In this next step of designing your dream wedding gown, I will be discussing the different fabrics and what works well for different weddings. The fabric choice really does set the tone for the entire wedding. So, it's good to know your fabrics, and also to know what you're going to be comfortable in. For starters, I'll discuss the benefits of chiffon fabric. It is a very lightweight fabric that is very good for summer spring weddings because it's lightweight, and you can breathe, and it's not going to make you sweat a whole lot. It also is very good for the romantic feel. If you are going more towards the flowy and whimsical, this is is going to be a great fabric for you. If you're interested in lighter weight fabrics like chiffon, you can also go with organza, which is a little bit thicker, but it's also opaque. So, it does still have that casual look with a little bit more structure. Another lightweight fabric that is used often is tool. Tulle is used for ball gowns. If you can imagine ballerinas and flower girls, a lot of gowns are going to be done in tulle, layers of tulle, because it is such a lightweight fabric. The only downfall is, if it is done in a ball gown, it is going to be a little bit heavier than just having a layer or two, so keep that in mind. Also, another downfall though is, if you're getting married in the woods or outside in a garden, you do have to be aware that tulle will catch on anything that's sharp. So, be aware of that as well if you do decide to go with a tool gown. Another very popular fabric is satin. I would say bridal satin has been around since weddings began. So, it is a very popular fabric, and it is really good for formal weddings. If you want to go with the elegant and glamorous style, then satin is really going to stand out and be really good because of the shine and the lustre that it does give off in the light. It's really good for indoor weddings because it does photograph really well in that type of lighting, and ballroom lighting. So, keep that in mind, too. If you do love it and you're getting married outside, it is going to steal photograph really well, but do keep in mind it is a little thicker. So, if it's going to be hot midsummer, you may sweat a little bit. So, just be aware of that when deciding on a gown and deciding on fabric. Other fabrics that are also good for if you are looking for a flowy dress, or a simple dress, or something that is going to move with you. That's going to be silk. Silk is always really nice, and really does flatter when you walk. Another fabric is going to be taffeta. It's similar to satin in the shine, but it is more lightweight and breathable. Now, that I've gone over a few different fabrics, be sure to write down what you feel is going to reflect what you want for your wedding, and where you are getting married, and the type of movement you want in your dress. Go ahead and put that on your collage. Put the type of fabrics that really stood out to you. This will help you gauge the styles if you do go into a bridal salon and really narrow down exactly what you want in a fabric. 7. Adding Details to Your Gown: Our next step in designing your dream gown is going to be taking a look at the different details that can be added to your gown. This is great because it makes your gown more personable, and it can really reflect your personality with the different beading or the different lace. So, let's get started. Take a look at your collage and see if there are any repetitive details. See if you tore out a lot of beading or if you were more drawn to lace. Take note of these and write them down on your separate piece of paper. For instance, in my collage, it looks like I was really drawn to a lot of lace. So, I do want to write that down. I was drawn to a different back. So, that's also going to be a detail that I need to write down. All right. Now that you've taken a look at your collage and wrote down the different details that really stand out, I'm going to go over a few of them with you. If you're going for more of a glamorous look, and you do want to really stand out, beading is going to be the best way to do so. If you love sparkle, and you love a little glam, then beading is definitely going to be for you. You can place beading almost anywhere you'd like. You can have it all over your gown if you'd like. But a lot of times it is added at the waist because it really does cinch the waist and add a little bit of detail. A lot of times beading is used as straps, and it does add a lot to the neckline. Another embellishment that is very classic and timeless is going to be pearls. Whether it's strung separately or together in this way, you can add it as a bow. You can add it just spread out, or you can have it in your hair. A lot of times, there's fabric flowers with crystals and pearls in the middle, and those are always really pretty. But pearls to me are very timeless and very classic. Another way of showing off beading is going to be with appliques. They can be sown on pretty much anywhere you'd like, and they do typically come separately. On gowns, a lot of times they are placed either in the center, or they are going to be strategically placed into a pattern. They work very well when you want to add just a little bit of sparkle, but not too much. Laces are very romantic common fabric, but it also can be used as a trim along with other fabrics to add just a little bit of romance to a gown. A lot of times lace can be done in a belt that is around the waist, or it can be done just in the neckline. It is really flattering, and it really does add a little romance to any gown. There are a lot of other ways to show detail besides adding beading or lace, and that's done in the construction of the gown. That's a lot of times done with gathering, or ruching, or pleating, such as this gown here. This gown has a little bit of pleating, and that adds interests to the gown. A lot of wedding gowns do have a lot of different textures, or pleating, or seams that add a little bit of style. These are great for girls who do want to accessorize their gown without having a lot of embellishment on the gown itself. 8. Placing Details on Your Gown: Now that I've gone over the different types of details, write down the one that stands out to you. Write down if you want beading or if you want lace and where you want that to be. A lot of times you might think you want it on your strap or on your waist, go ahead and write those down. Write that down on the collage so that you have it with all the other information. Now that you have your inspiration for your gown, you know about the fabrics, and you know about the details, and you know about the different shapes, it's time to show off your collage. It's ready, so now it sets the mood for what you want. You have the shapes listed, you have the fabric listed, and you have the details that you want in your gown. You can take this collage to a bridal salon, if you'd like, and a bridal stylist would be able to really pinpoint the type of gown you're looking for. As well as dressmaker, if you're going to have your dress made, this will really give them the best idea of what you want. There's just one more additional step I would love for you to try, and that is to sketch the dress of your dreams. You're equipped now with the inspiration, the details, the shape, the fabric, and the neckline, so go ahead and give it a try, then you will have exactly what it is you're looking for. If you're not filling up to it, don't worry the collage is a great tool to take to a bridal stylist or a dressmaker. Thanks for joining me in designing your dream wedding dress. I hope that it works for you and that you can take your collage to your local store or dressmaker to find the dress of your dreams. 9. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: