PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF
I’m Felicity, I make unique, bespoke wedding dresses for brides who want something they can’t find anywhere else. I work from my home studio in Redhill, Surrey, which is frankly busting at the seams after 15 years of me making dresses but I love my little space and sharing it with clients who visit. I’m pushing 40 now but with my badger stripes (grey hairs) comes the experience only gained through time and seeing many many brides, body shapes and trends come and go.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START YOUR BUSINESS?
My parents were both self-employed, the idea of having a ‘proper job (as others might see it) was just never on the cards. I worked as the alteration seamstress for a local Bridal shop to help pay my way through university. I told them when I started I’d be too nervous to ever try making a dress but after 4 years turning 150 dresses a year inside out I had gained enough knowledge and confidence to accept my first commissions!
My university course was a degree in costume design which gave me the perfect grounding in designing for the ‘character’ – not to please myself. I love that every bride I meet is unique and that every dress is unlike any I’ve made before. I want to show her uniqueness in my design and make her feel fabulous.
HOW DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
Up, kids breakfast (three of them!) and school runs: only then I can open the door to my sanctuary of a sewing room. I usually answer emails and check social media first in case anything imperative needs answering but then try to leave the screens alone as much as I can. I like to listen to music or radio 4 while I work. This might be pattern drafting, cutting out, machine or hand sewing. Some days it’s just me alone all day and I really crack on with the task in hand, other days I might have two, three or even four client visits for fittings or consultations. I’m an introvert so I relish my time alone in the studio but even introverts need some social time so having the clients visit is lovely too! I finish the day around 5pm if I’m working to good time but I often see clients in the evening and at weekends too.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
Seeing a happy bride in her dress at the final fitting and knowing my work has made her feel that way! And then getting thank you letters and wedding pictures back a few months down the line. A wedding day is a work of art, a participatory piece of performance art where the couple direct many suppliers to orchestrate a day that speaks something about themselves and their hopes for the future. I really get a buzz from seeing my designs and handiwork being a part of the whole!
AND WHAT IS THE WORST PART?
I hate cutting out! I have never had space for a proper cutting out table so I’ve been spreading rolls of silk on my (very clean) living room carpet for the last 15 years and then crawling around with pins for a day at a time to cut all the pieces for each creation. It hurts my back and my knees and was particularly difficult when I was pregnant. I’ve recently acquired some tables I hope to convert (raise up and cover) into a cutting out table – it’s just finding the time!
Social media is also a bit of a slog for me. I know it’s necessary or brides won’t find me but I’d much rather be sewing pretty flowers onto a dress!
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
“It’s not my job to make other people’s wedding affordable”. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re on a tight budget I respect that (I lso take alterations to shop bought and vintage dresses)! But as a creative and as a woman so much in our culture encourages us to undervalue ourselves. It’s important for creatives like me to remember that the reason people come to us is because we posses skills and experience that isn’t run of the mill. We deserve to expect to be paid on a parr with any other professional and I love it when I meet clients who understand that.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT COUPLES TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I’m not a shop so I don’t have samples to try on. You do need to have a certain level of imagination to be able to trust me and picture where we are heading from samples, sketches and the practice run (toile). My ideal client has been to bridal shops and tried things on but just not found ‘the one’. I pride myself on being able to pull together the look you want from a pinterest board or ideas you’ve found elsewhere but we always need somewhere to start from. If you don’t know what you DON’T want I could design a hundred dresses and still not design the one you DO want!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR COUPLES PLANNING A WEDDING?
When thinking about your dress don’t give yourself unobtainable ideals! For example: nice fabric creases! Unless you want to walk down the aisle in a suit of armour your dress will bend. The movement and flow of a dress and its fabric is part of the beauty, embrace it.
You don’t have to follow any traditions that don’t feel comfortable. If you want to wear a leather jacket and trainers with your white dress, go for it. If you want a colourful dress you can! If you want your bridesmaids in trousers suits, rock that! You can’t and won’t please everyone who comes to the wedding, we all have different tastes. So please yourself, feel amazing and everyone will see that happiness on your face and agree it was the best choice you could have made!
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU DIDN’T WORK IN THE WEDDING INDUSTRY?
I have been considering this very question recently. My eyesight won’t allow me to sew for ever (like my father who started out as a jeweller but had to give up as his eyesight changed) so I am weighing up options for down the line. I love teaching, I have taught sewing classes to adults and might make that more full time. I grew up in a hotel where I watched weddings ever weekend. I am good at organisation and design so maybe a wedding planner would be another line I would excel in. I also work really well under pressure and am not afraid of conflict or bodily fluids so perhaps a paramedic career beckons!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR TIME OFF?
My partner and I love acting and take part in plays with our local amateur theatre several times a year. I make clothes for myself and I cross stitch (basically I love sewing). I also love to walk outdoors and plant flowers and veg in my garden. I have recently started painting again after not having picked p a brush since a-level art 20 years ago. Another hobby I have reignited in lockdown is singing and composing songs at the piano – I am no singer really but it pleases me.
ooooo… it sounds unadventurous but I’d love to have a week away with me and my partner alone on a tropical island and a chef on hand. Holidays with kids in tow as always one activity after another and sometimes I just want to STOP.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
Hopefully in a studio space so I can spread out and create more dress-art! A shop or studio is an indulgence really, I can’t make more dresses by being in a bigger space but it somehow feels like something worth aiming for. Sometimes we should have a little indulgence and celebration of self, don’t you think?