When asked how she would describe what it is like to design a wedding dress, local designer Deirdre Ward simply says, “life-changing.”
To Ward, every dress she makes is an extremely satisfying experience. “To see how something as absolutely two dimensional as fabric can turn into the most incredible three-dimensional piece always amazes me,” she says.
Ward is not your typical wedding-dress designer. You will not find her designs in a store or online. Instead she provides a customized experience, designing one-of-a-kind dresses specifically tailored to the bride and her vision—giving brides the opportunity to literally create the dress of their dreams.
For some women, the thought of designing the dress can be overwhelming—it is hard to imagine where to begin. But Ward insists that the process is easier than one would think. “A lot of women already have an idea of the styles they like,” she says. “So usually it’s just about having a conversation over coffee to sort out the details, then I draw up a few sketches, and we go from there.”
Dallas Plensky, a former client of Ward’s, was very enthusiastic about her experience. “It isn’t a top-down process where you send in your information and hope it is going to work out. Instead, every detail is planned, poured over, and perfected. [Ward] is able to take the imagery and theme in your mind and design the most beautiful product. The results are breathtaking.”
Plensky was adamant that her dress be unique and make her feel like only herself on her wedding day. “A custom dress seemed like the only way to represent my personality and my vision for my big day,” she says. “As a bride, you spend so much time personalizing every last detail of your wedding, so I wanted to take the same approach with my dress.”
The Dallas dress was created for Plensky in 2015 and according to Ward is still, “winning the race for favourites.” From hand appliqued Chantilly lace over Dupioni silk with details of ostrich feather and Swarovski crystals, to linens dyed by hand to achieve the ideal shade of pink, Ward spared no detail when it came to creating the perfect dress.
Ward did not make a conscious decision to work in bridal, it was more the result of client demand. After graduating in 2000 from the fashion-design program at Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver, she worked as a design floor assistant for lingerie designer, Patricia Fieldwalker and then as the senior designer at Boardroom Clothing. In her free time Ward focused on creating custom projects, from special event pieces to movie costumes—whatever anyone wanted, she would make. It was after the fourth wedding dress request when Ward realized bridal was what people wanted from her and so she decided to make it her primary focus. It was not a hard decision for her. “After all,” she says, “what is more delectable for a designer to sink their teeth into than a wedding dress?”
When asked if she would ever consider launching a line of her own, Ward shrugs, “I imagine one day a small bridal line would be fun, but right now I just really love working one-on-one with clients. Each one is so different and interesting.” Also, with custom design Ward has the advantage of dealing with exact measurements and ignoring the “unreliable and skewed numbers” that come with general sizing—a point she stresses to brides. “You will never, I mean never, wear something more comfortable and better fitting than if you get it custom made,” she says. “The key to custom is that it fits you and only you, perfectly.”
With wedding season slowly approaching, Ward is busy preparing herself for what is in store. She has seven potential dresses lined up, so it is going to be a busy year. But she is excited. “I’m pretty jazzed about my next project,” she says smiling. “Though, sadly, I can’t say too much.” Since every dress she creates is a custom piece, Ward never shares details on a project until the moment the bride walks down the aisle. It is an important duty to be keeper of the dress and Ward takes her role very seriously.