Deconstructing Couture

Many clients have approached me to make a custom piece for them, but are not aware of the time commitment it takes not only for myself but also for them.  Often they are surprised by the process, but all have said they enjoyed the process required to make a custom piece.  I am going to write about the steps of making a custom made piece here at Kajan Cake.  I will use the wedding gown that I made for my friend Haley who got married in 2012, as the pictorial example.

Step 1:  Consultation.  This is the “get to know you” step, and in many cases the “get to know themselves” step for many clients.  My job here is to find out what the garment is for, i.e. wedding, cocktail party or an opera premier.  In this step we also discover what types of shapes and silhouettes the client likes as well as to what body features on themselves that the client feels confident about.  Going forward, customers can choose from designs from the Kajan Cake’s collections and have the design tailored for them and their needs such as fabric type and subtle details; or do a design completely from scratch.  The second option will be more costly, but ultimately unique and one of a kind.  Based on this information I can begin to sketch out ideas that I can share with the client and progress to the next steps.  As I said earlier, some clients get to know themselves during this step.  They realize that while they like certain silhouettes or styles, some might not work for their particular body type.  Many times a client discovers that they actually like a particular silhouette or style that they never considered before as a good match for themselves.

Step 2: Design/Sketch:  This step is done if a fully custom, one of kind design, is what is desired by the client.  Based on the information I learned from the consultation, I can begin sketching out ideas.  I usually use their suggestions along with my impression of the client’s personality, i.e. are they daring or conservative.  Sometimes a client will state that they like the conservative look but discover a hidden confidence once we come up with the right design.

Step 3 Fabrics, Colors and Measurements:  This step is usually done on the same meeting when we review the designs with the client.  It’s pretty straight forward what we do here.  We go over the fabric and color choices that are appropriate for the design of the garment.  Along with the design review, clients have the most fun with this step of the process.

Step 4 Making the Pattern:  In my personal opinion this is the most important part of the garment making process.  It is not overly difficult to sketch out ideas for a dress.  It’s translating what is on the paper into something that can actually go onto a person is where the real talent lies.  Taking something two-dimensional and adding the three-dimensional curves of arms, torso, hips and so on to the design is a challenge.  I haven’t even mentioned that it needs to look good too.


Step 5 Cutting and Sewing:  This step actually happens twice.  Once we are fairly confident with the pattern, we will do the first cutting and sewing using muslin fabric, to make prototype of the garment that we will use to do the first fitting with the client. 

Step 6 First Fitting:  In this step of the process, the client will try on the prototype garment.  The muslin fabric will not have the small details of the final garment, just the basic design and silhouette that we are looking for.  Here we will see if our pattern is correct and our design works with every curve and undulation of the client’s body.  Hopefully everything works and only minor adjustments are needed before we go on to the next and most rewarding step.  

Step 7 Second Fitting:  Once we have confirmed that our pattern is correct for our clients body and needs, we will now cut the real fabric and begin construction of the final piece.  All the major sewing is done and the garment begins to take its true shape.  The client will come in to try on the real garment.  Usually this is when the client sees what they had dreamt about when we had begun discussing what they wanted in a garment.  In this fitting we not only do we verify that we have achieved the right silhouette from the pattern, but we will also check to see if the garment moves in the way that the design had intended.  Meaning that we will make sure there is no gathering or bunching and that the garment moves or flows with the client’s movements.  Hopefully everything is as it should be and all we need to do is minor tweaks and fixes. 

Step 8 Finishing:  After the final fitting we will begin to fix any minor issues and do the final finishing work such as the any detailed handwork or additional embellishments. Once complete, the garment is ready for delivery.


Step 9 Delivery:  This is pretty self-explanatory.  The client will come in one more time to pick up their garment and if requested or needed a final fitting will be performed.