By Kristy Kurjan
What is a bride to do when the gown she craves doesnt exist? Have one made.
Enter Ali Frankhouse, a Northern Michigan designer who creates custom
gowns for the bride-to-be. Her one-of-a-kind wedding dresses have
graced weddings from New York to Northern Michigan.
The couturier designed her first official wedding dress just after
graduating from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles with a
BFA in fashion in 2001. Her attention to detail was displayed in a
gorgeous white lace wedding gown for a close girlfriend. Since then,
clothing design has been her passion and word-of-mouth advertising has
established her name in the wedding industry.
The process begins by creating a design based on a picture,
silhouette, or sketch. Clients often have an exact dress in mind or a
basic idea of what they want. Frankhouse will sketch a vision and the
process begins. Before cutting any fabric, she tells her clients to
try on a lot of dresses first to know what looks good on their body
and what they like.
Next, she drapes an initial shape on a mannequin in muslin, an
inexpensive fabric, of which she creates a sample for the first
fitting. At this point it doesnt have any bells or whistles, says
Frankhouse. It is just the basic silhouette, to get an idea of what
the dress will look like and how it will fit.
The dress is then cut out of the actual fabric made of delicate fibers
like silk, satin and lace. Frankhouses brides have the option of
choosing from swatches or bring in their own fabric.
From there, the designer finishes the dress in steps, requiring
multiple fittings along the way. Im picky so I do a lot of
fittings, says Frankhouse. Depending on the style of dress I can do
anywhere from 5-10 fittings on a wedding dress. Even a simple sheath
dress might require five appointments.
For the designer, one of the most difficult aspects is dealing with
her perfectionist tendencies. I stay up late, sometimes until 3
a.m., she says. It is stressful, but its how I get things done.
Once all of the beads are in place and the hems are tailored, her hard
work pays off when the blushing brides dream becomes a reality.
Everything comes together and fits perfectly, the designer explains.
It is a relief to know it worked out the way it was supposed to, and
it always does!
The experienced designer advises to keep wedding gowns classy. Some
brides want to show too much and are looking for a backless and
strapless dress, which is impossible to make. I would tell those
brides that they can be sexy without showing everything.
In 2008, Frankhouse designed her own wedding dress with inspiration
from her fathers Spanish heritage. I knew I wanted ruffles, and the
flamenco look, so I researched Spanish wedding gowns, both recent and
as far back as the early 1900s, she says. A long time ago black was
the wedding dress color in Spain... Initially, I wanted an all black
dress, but decided against it, went with a white dress, and then added
a black sash.
How much does a couture creation of hers cost? The designer charges a
base price of $1,000+ depending on the complexity of the gown in
addition to fabric cost. This price includes all aspects of the dress
creation from the initial sketch to the alterations which usually
takes about six months. Also in her repertoire, custom
mother-of-the-bride and menswear.
For quotes and availability contact: Ali Frankhouse at 231-409-3770.