Create the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams With Local Designers


(Tuesday, January 9, 2007 11:40 AM EST)

Few brides-to-be will settle for less than perfection when it comes to their dress for their big day, but finding the dream gown isn't easy. That's where designers Wendy Pepper and Karen Ewbank can step in and help.

Both live and work in the Middleburg area, and make wedding dresses to order. They recently sat down with Middleburg Life and talked about their craft and offered advice for women in search of the perfect dress.

Pepper, a 17-year Middleburg resident, is a self-taught designer who uses her 20 years of design experience to help brides express themselves as completely as possible.

“I really concentrate on what makes people's weddings unique,” she said. “I can help a bride realize her own style.”

Although decoration is a very important component of a wedding dress, Pepper believes that function is just as significant.

“First and foremost, the bride has to feel comfortable,” she said. “A dress should not wear the bride, the bride should wear the dress.”

To get a feel for what kind of dress might work best, Pepper recommends that brides-to-be look through books and magazines, and to make a file of some of their favorite designs. Recurring themes, styles and shapes are easier to see this way.

Women who want Pepper to custom-design their dress should be prepared to wait six months for the finished product. From getting fabrics in New York City, to making personalized sketches, to constructing the dress, to final fittings, making a wedding dress is a very involved process.

“It takes me a long time, because it's a huge responsibility on my shoulders to deliver something so central to that woman's day,” Pepper said. “I tend to agonize over my dresses, because I'm very aware of that I'm involved in someone's memories.”

Brought to the public eye through the fashion design reality TV show “Project Runway,” Pepper now has clients across the nation. And even though she makes frequent trips around the country, she prides herself on her personal service.

“I do this because I believe so strongly that each client should have a unique fashion experience for her wedding day,” she said.

Although Ewbank, owner of Ewbank Clothiers in Berryville, designs primarily riding clothes and evening wear, she takes wedding dress designing very seriously when she is called to the task.

“I take months to design a wedding dress, because it's really got to be right,” she said. “I do more fittings on wedding gowns than anything else.”

Favoring natural fabrics like silks and cottons, Ewbank focuses on texture when it comes to wedding dresses.

“I love flow and texture, a certain softness about the dress,” she said. “The way something feels is important, because if it feels nice, you're going to feel comfortable.”

One of Ewbank's biggest pieces of advice to women in their search for the perfect dress is to remember that “it's important that a gown be styled for them, not for someone in a magazine.” Women, especially younger brides-to-be, often get stuck on one dress they like in a picture, but they have to realize that what looks good on someone else might not be perfect for them, she said.

She urges women who want a personally designed wedding dress to “trust me to see their personality, coloring and what will suit them.”

“A garment must suit your personality, or else you're a contradiction,” Ewbank said.

Ewbank, who has lived in the Middleburg area for 18 years, has a background in theatrical costume design, and modeled for French and Italian Vogue and Elle magazines in the early 1980s.

Ewbank started her clothing business three years ago. She said it had been about 20 years since she'd made a pattern when she started, but now she's in the swing of things and is enjoying herself immensely.

“I love it,” she said. “And I think I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”

Designers Karen Ewbank and Wendy Pepper, who both live in the Middleburg area, want to work with brides to create the perfect wedding dress. This wedding dress is part of Pepper's spring collection.

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