Peter and Sarah Bedingfield Shutt married on the 31st of August in Puglia, Italy. The vibe was cinematic Italian romance and warm and abundant hospitality. It was all about maximising the stunning palette of the landscape and venue, and personalising every element possible, to make sure guests felt cared for at every turn.
My journey to finding my dream dress probably started long before I was ever engaged! Having worked in the bridal industry, by the time it was my turn to be the bride I had tried on, designed and helped so many brides choose their gowns. Because of this, I had a really strong sense of what I wanted, and what would suit me- but it also meant I had already seen many dresses, and I had a sense that I should use what I had learned to create something different for myself. I was definitely open-minded to the possibility of finding it off the rack, (as I did for our UK church ceremony, in Jenny Packham) or being wrong about what I thought would suit, so I did try on different styles of dresses before I knew for sure that couture would be my path.
I have always dreamed of a sculptural, classically glamorous gown with something unexpected, unique: to mark it as just mine. For my shape and height, I suspected that an off the shoulder, hourglass silhouette would be the most flattering, and I knew I wanted to inject a real sense of occasion and also find ways to incorporate tributes to my father, who had recently passed away.
My father’s family have a long association with the sea and he was in the Navy- all of my most cherished memories with him involve sailing. I had a painting he did as a child of his grandfather’s favourite ship embroidered into a sea of stars on my veil, with mine and Peter’s initials on the sails. The draping of the silk of my gown, and the way the train was constructed to ‘ripple’ along the ground were inspired by the curves of a wave, and the use of stars (hand drawn, and transformed into embroidery by Leah da Gloria’s incredible team) both on my veil and gown were references to celestial navigation.
By incorporating all of these references into my gown, it made me feel that in some way, he was there to walk me down the aisle. That storytelling is the real magic of couture.
That and a properly fitted corset. That’s the other magic of couture.
It’s so hard to choose a gown, but my professional experience meant that I knew at least what to expect and what not to expect from the process. That would probably be my only caveat to suggesting a custom/ couture path to a bride; if it’s your first ever experience with design or dressmaking, and you don’t have a guide, then make sure that you feel very comfortable with your couturier and listen to them. It could very easily become overwhelming otherwise, as there is a lot of choice. Start with a list of your must-haves and must-nots, a good pinterest board, and make sure your chosen design house works with the aesthetic you’re interested in.
Leah da Gloria was endlessly patient, and has a truly extraordinary ability to listen and transform even abstract ideas into reality. We have known each other and collaborated for over a decade, so that was of course a completely different experience to working with a stranger! I had a wonderful, fun, creative experience with her.
I accept that it is probably a bit mad to travel back and forth to Sydney from London for fittings and design meetings. It’s my home town, so I was able to double up the trips with a lot of other things and seeing family, which certainly contributed to the magic of the whole experience. Being able to see the gown come to life, from sketch, to toile, to shell, and beading placement… it was honestly one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.
In the end, Leah used over 20 metres of heavy silk twill and her studio spent hundreds of hours- over 50 hours embroidering the veil alone. She flew the gown with her to Italy and helped me in to it on the day. I feel incredibly lucky to have worn something made with so much love by a friend.
THE STYLE SUPPORT:
I absolutely checked in with friends for opinions, but probably more so for my other wedding looks than the main dress! All of my bridesmaids, sister and mother were on different continents to me, so I never had the experience of having everyone together looking at gowns. My bridesmaids are all incredibly stylish women and mothers working in fashion and art and I valued their love, time and opinions on all fronts.
THE EVENING LOOK:
I did, to a floor length, shift cut, fully beaded gown, earrings from The Collectibles that spelled out LOVE, and diamond and pearl cuffs. It was summer in Puglia and our dancefloor was under the stars in an olive grove- I wanted the freedom to dance! My train was way too long for a bustle option!
My earrings were sculptural baroque pearls to echo the form of the gown. I love the organic, fluid nature of their shape. Quite a few friends and clients have used them as their ‘something borrowed’ since, which is so special. I wore no bracelet or necklace, only my engagement ring. My veil was as long as practicality would allow, (possibly longer, on reflection) and my gown had an oversized detachable bow on the back.
My shoes were bonkers; Dolce and Gabbana in powder blue velvet with lucky charms and an incredibly ornate gold block heel. They were art! Having said that- I absolutely would not have worn them if they were not comfortable. No bride should be thinking about her feet.
THE SECOND DAY OUTFIT:
My rehearsal dress was also a custom piece by Leah da Gloria. We had a full day of (optional, it’s their holiday too) activities for our guests in the beautiful city of Lecce, with drinks in a little cocktail bar tucked away in a little church square- so I wanted my dress to feel special, but also low key and suited to the venue. It was white, with panels of beautiful lace.
Our third day was a relaxed recovery after the 6am finish. We booked out beds at a beach club in Otranto, so I wore a Peter Pilotto puff-sleeved short dress in white with a colourful print. I paired that with multicoloured sandals, pink statement earrings and a faithful Valentino bag I already owned.
ADVICE FOR BRIDES:
Start with an open mind, don’t try on loads at once, and don’t take in too many opinions. It’s good to have room to surprise yourself, and sometimes that might mean that what you really connect with isn’t what your mother/ sister/ in-law pictured. Sometimes it is exactly and you’re all aligned! But it’s nice to have a bit of an idea for yourself before you open up the floor. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and true to yourself.
This is my favourite photo from the wedding- I feel like I can still hear the band when I see it. We were walking from our ceremony to drinks, surrounded by our loved ones, and just completely elated. I love how the vibrance, love, and fun of that exact moment have been so perfectly frozen in time.
This is hard! One of the things I love about silk is how differently it shoots as the light changes. This one would probably be my favourite of the dress on its own; it’s one of the only ones I have where you can actually see the whole gown, just as it is. No bouquet, nothing in the way- just a very happy bride and a gown that took a few short decades to dream up.
List of suppliers:
Rehearsal Dress: Leah Da Gloria
Florist: Rollo Fiori @rollofiori
Makeup: Sarah Bedingfield Shutt
Hair: Caroline Roberston
Related Article: The Dress With Monica Marriott-Mills