As little girls, when we imagine our weddings, it usually begins with the dress. In some ways, the wedding dress is the wedding. It is usually the first big wedding planning decision, the first major purchase, one of the most magical parts of weddingness, and one of the most angst ridden. There are always too many options, with too few of them really fitting the bill. Hours and hours are spent trying to find that one, prefect dress. If only there was a bridal boutique that could read our minds and produce the exact dress of our dreams…Wait…there is. Chicago’s Avail & Co, a leading custom bridal design shop.
Rachel Alvia, Avail & Co’s creator and lead designer took her first custom dress order in high school, when a friend asked her to design their Homecoming gown. From that first Homecoming dress, she started making custom prom dresses and, later, decided she enjoyed making wedding dresses the most. After graduating from the Illinois Institute of Art, Alvia began working as a product designer, but her passion for dress making never waned. In 2005, her and her husband officially registered the business and opened a small shop in their home. They quickly outgrew their home, though, and relocated to a shop in Rockford, Il, and in August 2012, to their current location in the Chicago suburb of Evanston.
Every Avail & Co dress starts with a beautiful custom sketch. And, while Alvia is very attuned to the current trends, she finds most of her inspiration from the brides themselves. “I ask my brides to think back to dresses they’ve worn and thought they looked really good in and to as many dresses are possible. The great thing about custom is that you can break down a few favorite dresses into pieces,” said Alvia. If you like the waistline from one dress but loath the neckline on another, you dont have to choose. Avail & Co’s dresses are made uniquely for each individual bride.
Avail & Co has designed everything from edgy, colored gowns and bridesmaid jumpsuits to pretty pearl embroidered dresses. They’ve even worked with many clients that Alvia has never met before. “It’s really interesting to work with online clients, when the first time you get to see the dress on them is on their wedding day. If I do my job right, each ride’s taste and personality come through each dress,” said Alvia.
I know what you’re probably thinking. How can you possibly have a custom wedding dress, without blowing through half of your wedding budget? Well, Avail & Co’s dresses are a affordable as they are beautiful. The dresses, which take anywhere from three to six months to complete, cost an average of $1,000-$3,000, including any needed alterations. Walking around her shop a few months ago made me want to start planning my vow renewal. So many beautiful dresses!!
But, what if you already have a dress for your wedding? Well, you can still make your off the rack dress feel personalized with Alvia’s simple tips:
- Add some additional beading to the bodice
- Make a custom veil that steals the show
- Add some color to your dress with dyed crinoline or tulle petticoat
- Go pseudo-custom with a convertible lace or tulle overskirt, that you can remove for the reception
- Buy a heavily beaded bridal belt or sash to warp around your waist
– happy dress shopping, Native and Posh