A Custom Gown versus Off the Rack


After your engagement, typically one of the first steps you will take is "the search for the dress". It's such an exciting process! But it can also be a time fraught with stress and confusion. The choices can eem endless - styles, colors, price points, designer labels and whether to go off the rack or go the custom gown route.

Brides to be that may have never before had experience with a "custom anything" are now left wondering: "Should I be considering a custom wedding gown?" This blog will help to de-mystify, clarify and compare what differentiates the off the rack dress option from going custom. With five key points being addressed - design, fit quality, personal touch/ service and cost/benefit 

Lets get started

Design - let the best dress win    


The off the rack option is quite simple in this regard. What you see is what you get. The style and detailing will be exactly as per the sample. You will be able to choose from the colors, fabrications and dress options stocked by that particular boutique. You will provide a budget range, and the sales consultant will bring out dresses according to your wishes and what they believe will suit. With this option you should be prepared to be at the whim of opinion - those of the sales consultant that day and those of friends and relatives that may be along during the decision-making process. When choosing an off the rack gown you will want to feel confident in the end that the dress you have selected is really the best option and that it truly does flatter your body.

Going the route of the having custom gown created is a beautifully collaborative process. You will be able to provide input to your designer with regards to your ideas about styling, color and fabrics. Initially you will receive feedback, based on the designer’s extensive experience, as to best silhouette for your body type. As the design process begins to take shape unlimited creativity and imagination will come together on paper to create that unique dress design that will be uniquely ‘yours’. A true one of a kind. Individuality is the key with custom.  Your once in a lifetime dress will become a personal expression of you. During the dressmaking process you will also be able to add those special touches such as  initials or  a special quotation embroidered into your gown, beading with seashells if yours is a beach wedding or the integration of at that vintage lace from your grandmother’s wedding gown.

Please refer to the Valencienne craftsmanship page


Fit - silhouette and comfort are what count 



A bespoke custom garment is made to your exacting body measurements and proportions. Made to fit like a glove, accentuating your best assets, while minimizing others. You wear the dress, it does not 

wear you. Fit is so incredibly important when it comes to achieving a beautiful silhouette. With custom, the dress design and pattern architecture are crafted to exacting precision. Major alterations are rare, if never required, as the dress has been constructed step by step over a timeline of processes to ensure your gown ’s final fit will be impeccable. 

 An off the rack gown may work well for some. However, for petite girls and those that may be larger plus size, for example, they may be limited as far as styles go. Dresses from off the rack boutiques are also ordered in to accommodate one’s largest measurement. If your sizing is not of typical proportion expect major alterations to be required. Not only does this add significantly to the bottom-line cost (see cost /benefit below) but the dress proportions can be completely thrown off as well.

Most important, we believe, is how you will want to feel in your dress. A custom gown ensures both comfort and ease of movement. One wants to be at their most confident on their wedding day.  Having to struggle with and adjust an ill-fitting gown will be certainly unpleasant at best and at worst may be, unfortunately, what you remember most of your wedding day.  

See Valencienne’s Real Bride section to view our exquisite’s brides on their special day


 Quality - are you paying a lot for that ‘label’



 Wedding dress prices do cover a vast range. And we appreciate that there must be accommodation to levels of budget. However, when is one compares apples to apples the quality of a bespoke custom gown will always be far superior to a mass-produced garment. With off the rack, much of the what you are paying for is that ‘designer name’ or the name of the broadly recognized store. 

By contrast, your custom gown will be created step by step, selecting from the finest fabrications and laces available, through expert precision tailoring to achieve the perfect fit and delicate draping, - by hand crafted intricacy of  the beadwork and embroideries.  . A team of highly skilled artisans and craftspeople proudly attach their name to your gown. It becomes a ‘forever’ heirloom, a piece of art to be preserved and cherished.


 Process/Personal Touch - an experience or a purchase, you decide. 


When choosing to have your gown custom made, the experience will come to be as memorable as your dress. It’s a once in a lifetime event! In most instances you will be interacting with your designer who is not looking to hard sell, but who will be gathering information from you about the wedding as a whole, how the dress, hair, makeup and accessories will all come into play. There will be consistency with the process as you become a part of the bespoke boutique’s ‘family’. Weight loss can also be part of the bride to be’s plan. With the custom option the necessary adjustments will be made to fittings and production schedules to accommodate weight loss goals (without any extra alteration costs!). 

An off the rack gown will need to be ordered many months in advance. Shorter timelines cannot be managed. In a commercial bridal salon salespeople work on commission, with quota to achieve. This can result in a more pressured experience. As well, you may be dealing with the same people each time you attend the location, or you may not. Should you encounter any problems with the gown or with the alterations you may face challenges in resolving such. Your dress is a purchase, with stricter rules and ‘additional charges’ attached’. With custom, the boutique’s reputation is established and is at stake with every bride and every gown. Service is of utmost importance. 

 We welcome you to go to our Valencienne testimonial pages to see what our brides have to say. 


Cost /Benefit - buyer beware, know what you are getting and paying for. 


With a custom gown, once your design has been drawn, finalized,  fabrics and embellishments selected, your gown will be priced. Your written order will be completed, and your deposit taken. This price will not change. It is all inclusive from first fitting to final alterations. No hidden costs, additions or fees.

With an off the rack gown, a bride may feel this option to be more cost effective. If the budget is in the $ 500-$1500 range this is likely the best way to go. For gowns in the higher price ranges one needs to be aware and consider that alterations will come out to be approximately 20% of the gown price. To alter a gown hem alone can cost a minimum $200.00.

We hope this answers some questions and helps with your decision making. Ultimately, each bride should choose the option with which they are most comfortable. If there is anything we were amiss to addressing for you please do not hesitate to email us your questions(s) or do give us a call. We are always here to help. 


 Thanks for dropping by, 

Kim - Design Guru at Valencienne