10/10/10 – we had the date picked, the venue, the menu and the guest list organised. Now for the simple matter of the perfect wedding dress. But after looking at dresses on enough racks to make me consider postponing the entire shebang, I needed a one-of-a-kind wow. But who to call? How would I find a good designer/dressmaker? Are there people who can take what’s in your head and make it a reality??
Without Kate Middleton’s budget, I still wanted something unique and had a vivid picture in my mind. Alas it was not a picture I had seen in any wedding magazine, it just resided in my head. I needed a genius to interpret a Cruella De Vil type of Dalmatian fur cloak. But without killing any puppies.
Then out of the blue and quite serendipitously, while browsing Vogue pattern books and fingering faux fur at Centre Point Fabrics in Newmarket, in popped couture designer Rosemary Smith.
The vivacious 60-something had her long blonde hair tied up in a loose bun and shock of red swiped through the front. Dressed in a big baggy jersey and leggings, and sporting a laugh that could stop traffic, I discovered she is the unlikely designer to the rich and famous and can boast Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Lady Clare McKinnon as clients.
Revealing that I was on the hunt for the perfect designer, we nipped upstairs to her studio where outfits at various stages of completion hung on a huge rack that took up one wall, and current projects were pinned on mannequins, hidden from prying eyes by sheets. Photos pinned to her notice board show the breadth of her work, but when she whipped out a piece of butcher’s paper and quickly sketched me with dramatic collar bones and a perfect 1960s silhouette with a nipped-in waist, I loved her immediately.
I started talking collars (I’m all about a little piece of fabulous on the neckline) and soon we’d moved from puppy fur to organza. Oooh, I said, with eager eyes, now we’re talking. What about the dress, she asked. I hadn’t really thought about it. I did like Julia Roberts 2001 Oscar dress with the Y shaped neck. She continued to draw. I also like cowl necks, I added, requiring an entirely new sketch. Oh and I’ve seen some really cute oyster coloured sequin fabric downstairs…
Down we went to have a look and a feel. She loved the fabric as much as I did and another new drawing was required. This time a cocktail-length dress with fluted hem and criss-cross straps emerged from the butchers paper. But my piece de resistance – the fabulous organza coat with flowing train and poofy collar – made it spectacular.
In just five fittings of half an hour each, she had made my two stunning pieces.
“It’s all in the engineering,” she explained at one early morning fitting before work, her voice muffled by the pins in her mouth. A dart here, a tuck there, lift the waist. She makes it look easy, but then when you know what you’re doing, anything looks easy.
She puts in around 60 hours a week these days. “I have the most wonderful life,” she enthuses. One week she might be making a bright pink and purple medieval wedding dress and the next a christening gown or a pair of golf shorts.
Rosemary’s mantra is “it must be better than you dreamed of”. That’s a high bar to set, but given that she’s on the guest list of most of her brides and even travels abroad to attend her clients’ big day to style them before their journey up the aisle, it’s clearly a bar she manages to leap over time and time again.