In college, TLC mainstay Say Yes to the Dress served as the entire basis for what I thought wedding dress shopping would be like. The process would be fun and glamorous, a day to celebrate with your besties by your side. Then came the day that I, as a bridesmaid, tagged along with the bride to shop. I realized that while there were moments of oohs and aahs, champagne, and even tears, the actual choosing of the gown was both emotionally exhausting and methodical. Is this too much cleavage for a church? Will the dress hide a food belly? What will my mother-in-law think? Oh, you like the bust of this gown and the train of another, but the styles can't be combined into one dress? Great.
It was precisely this kind of bridal dilemma that New Zealand-based wedding designer Trish Peng encountered with one of her customers that sparked a brilliant beyond brilliant idea: reversible wedding gowns.
"I had a bride who had chosen her dress silhouette, which was our Josie gown, and she was almost in tears because she couldn't decide between a lace dress or a plain dress," Peng recalls. "She was like, 'I don't know what to do!' And I said, 'Oh my gosh, well why don't we do both and not sacrifice one?' My head tailor was with me at the fittings and he was like, 'We'll figure it out!'"
Peng and her team Googled bridal dresses that could be reversed and came up empty. The trickiest part, for them, was figuring out how to conceal the zipper on both sides of the dress. "We couldn't find reversible zippers for gowns, only for sleeping bags," she says. "So we ended up adding a double reversible zipper to one side of her dress, so when she flipped the dress for the reception, the [zipper still stayed in place and was hidden]."
Needless to say, the bride was overjoyed. And Peng had the proof of concept for a new line of reversible wedding dresses. There are currently seven styles available, ranging from strapless ball gowns to slips with plunging backs. For fabric, Peng reveals she uses mostly a breathable silk blend—sourced locally in New Zealand—so brides can wear the dress all day and not have to worry about it creasing with movement. Any lace incorporated is from France.
In addition, the designer and her team engineered their own under-layer for the reversible dresses, to avoid showing off any dirty spots when the dress is flipped. "You have to tuck the [clean] piece underneath and tie it up. Then, when you flip the gown the other way, you can release that clean layer and tuck up the dirty piece." Genius.
Peng's two-in-one, plain-to-lace creations quickly appeared in the press. Bridal stores, especially in New York, wanted to see her designs and everyone was "mind blown" when the models showcased the reversible gowns, which start at $4,500. "We were like 'wow, how has no one done this before?' It's not rocket science, but we'll take it," she says.
Despite the high praise, Peng says some brides are still warming up to the idea of reversible wedding gowns. "I think once brides hear about it, they are open to the idea. But, reversible gowns are not for every bride because everyone wants their own, different dress." Though she won't reveal the exact number of orders, Peng gave a rough estimate, sharing that all of her stockists carry the reversible line, whether it was one or five silhouettes. "If we have 80 custom brides coming to us, we'll have about 20 that choose a reversible gown," she says. The designer hopes as more people hear about the two-in-one ensembles, the more it'll become a trend that sticks.
Once the bride selects one of the styles from one of Peng's stockists, stores (locations in Los Angeles and Auckland), or trunk shows, the custom dress will take four to six months to create. For those who don't live in an area where Peng's designs are available to shop, you can hop on a Skype call with the designer to chat through details for your custom dress.
Looking to the future, Peng has plans to open more flagship stores, particularly in New York City, and to continue pushing the envelope on bridal designs, especially for her customers. "Our plan is global domination," she says.
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