Daniela di Panfilo

My journey as a Valencienne bride began long before I met my husband, I first walked into Valencienne on a spring day in May 2009 with a friend who was looking for a custom made bridal gown. This is where my relationship with Kim and the Valencienne team began. Over the course of the year I accompanied my friend to every single one of her fittings, I began to build a relationship with Kim, Sonia and the rest of the staff, and I was in awe of this shop on Eglinton and the beautiful creations that came out the door, mostly though I fell in love with the craftsmanship, quality, and magical experience of the custom gown process. After my friends wedding I became what you would call a Valencienne. “Cheerleader”, every friend I had get engaged, anyone I knew who was looking for the ultimate gown experience- I would recommend Valencinne, I knew that they would be taken care of, and this would be one of the best parts of their wedding journey. I didn’t know if I would ever have a Valencienne wedding gown, but I wanted anyone and everyone I knew to have the amazing experience that we had experienced at Valencienne!

Fast forward 5 years, on June 7, 2014 on a beautiful day in Music Park, my then boyfriend asked me to marry him- we called our parents, my grandmother, a few of our closest friends, and then that night hours after I had gotten engaged, I sent a message to my dear friend Kim, the words were simple and to the point, “Kim! I will be seeing you soon! After sending everyone to Valencienne over the years, it’s my turn for you to create something magical! Xoxox” It was with this message that my journey to creating the perfect dress began.

One of the reasons I was so excited to be a Valencienne bride was because I knew that I was totally comfortable with Kim and Sonia, that I could be open and honest with them, and that they wouldn’t try to force me into wearing something that I wasn’t comfortable wearing. The custom gown experience would allow me to have my bridal vision come to life, and not have to conform to the limited options out there for plus size brides. For as long as I can remember I have loved fashion, I have pined after the classic looks of Channel, Dior and Valentino, rejoiced in Pucci prints, and season after season fallen in love with Dolce and Gabannas patterns. I have had to put together my looks and accessorize well however because those designers simply don’t make clothing in my size. I love a challenge, and enjoy putting together trendy, fashionable outfits with the limited plus size options out there, but I was not willing to compromise on my wedding dress, and I knew that with my vision in Kim’s hands, I wouldn’t have to. Shopping, although one of my favourite passtimes has been a source of stress for me at times when it comes to clothing, and shopping for a wedding dress in a store with limited options for me to try on, and having a sales person tell me, “ you can lose weight before the wedding”, or “why don’t you like strapless, your arms are fine- but if you are uncomfortable we can make you a shrug or a jacket” wasn’t going to work for me. I didn’t want to wear a shrug, I didn’t want to have to walk down the aisle in something that looked hap hazzardly pieced together because the only options in the store were strapless or sleeveless (and I never wear anything sleeveless by choice). I did not want to gaze upon racks of dresses and watch the other girls try them on while a sales associate held up a dress in front of me because there was nothing that I could try on, not knowing how hurtful and traumatic they could make this experience, so I bypassed all of that and I went to Kim, and I knew as soon as I walked into the store with the beautiful marble table and I smelt that familiar scent from all those years ago that I was home, and at that moment 1104 Eglinton was the happiest place on earth for me.

I hugged my old friends Kim and Sonia, and introduced them to my mom, I was ready for this moment, I knew what I wanted and I couldn’t wait to see Kim’s hand magically sketch my vision across the paper. Kim looked at me and said, “We have a problem” my heart sank. What could be wrong? I had just gotten there, my wedding shoes in hand, a goofy smile on my face- I had been waiting for this exact moment for years! Kim explained that she was having a dental emergency- and that she was leaving me with Sarah and Sonia, she would be back as soon as possible, but if we didn’t get to see each other that day we would make another appointment. 3 hours later Kim returned from the dentist, and there she found us at the marble table chatting away. We showed Kim the sketch Sarah had made for me, and she sat tweaked it, I showed her my wedding shoes because I wanted to ensure that the fabric of my dress complimented my gold and rhinestone Louboutain Ballet flats, and then we caught up on life. That initial appointment lasted FIVE HOURS! I sat in the store surrounded by the most beautiful gowns and I left at 5pm with a piece of the lace I had selected for my gown, a picture of the sketch on my phone, and a smile on my face that lasted for days afterwards. I was going to have the gown of my dreams, the classic, elegant, timeless look that fashion icons from days past like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn would have had, and best of all it would have SLEEVES, and it would be beautiful!

My first fitting which is known as “the ugly fitting” was in November , I knew what to expect as I had been through this process with my friend before, my mom however had not and I think that when she saw me there standing in a muslin dress she was a bit disappointed, however with each month that passed with each appointment that I attended slowly but surely my dress began to transform before our eyes. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement each time I had a fitting to see where the progression was of the design. I would come into the shop, put on my dress, stand in the fitting room as my fairy Godmothers Kim and Sonia would go to work ensure that every piece of fabric sat perfectly on me, that every piece of lace was laid strategically to enhance a positive feature of my body. The dress whose sleeves were originally made of lace were lined for me when I felt that they were too sheer, the undergarments changed halfway through the dress process which proved to be a bit of a challenge but 100 times better then the original, and the added touches of sparkle, lace and satin covered buttons created the dream. Each time I stood and looked at myself in the mirror I felt more beautiful then I ever had before and I was overjoyed at the thought of the church doors opening and looking into the eyes of my love as I walked toward him in this dress.

I loved everything about my wedding dress, I loved that it was uniquely mine, I loved the feel of the fabric and how delicate the overall design was. The 8 inch lace scallop at the bottom was the most beautiful detail, and when Kim created a Cathedral length veil with that same scallop the dream was complete. I am convinced that never has there been a more beautiful veil created, and I am so happy to say that it has become something borrowed to two very special people in my life.

My wedding dress experience at Valencienne was like nothing else. There is a sense of magic in the walls of the shop, as soon as you walk in you can feel it, the scent transports you to a place of beauty, and regardless of whatever is happening outside the glass door for a few moments you can be surrounded by calm, serenity, and sheer bliss. Valencienne became a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle and stress of wedding planning. I was able to build a relationship with this dress that would escort me into this next chapter in my life, and Kim and Sonia and the rest of the team would be responsible for sewing together the pieces of fabric that represented so much more than a gorgeous dress, but a garment that truly represented who I was as a person. This dress made me feel beautiful, not once did I think that I had compromised the way I wanted to look and feel that day because of my size. I was not self conscious in this dress as I knew that they had found a way to highlight my best features and I knew that all of this could happen only because of the care and attention that they put into each gown. This was not something that was mass produced, these ladies knew me, they knew my body language and could read my face and they did everything to make sure that when something wasn’t exactly perfect that they rectified it because they care about each and every person who walks through the door. Not only was I blessed enough to have them design my wedding gown, but they also designed the dress I wore for my shower- a red dress with the most gorgeous floral trim; and they created my mom’s evening gown for our wedding reception, a navy ballgown with the most beautiful beaded top. Being able to share this experience with my mom as both of our dresses were created also added to the whole experience and I was so thankful because I knew she was in the best possible hands. Now, almost 2 years later I have gone back to Valencienne to create a dress for a few special occasions I have coming up this fall. The attention and care I am receiving is again outstanding, and although I will never need a Valencienne wedding gown again I am so happy to know that ladies I have grown to love and trust are still there for all the milestones in life I need a gorgeous dress for. At Valencienne every dress dream can become a reality through the work of Fairy Godmother Kim Ironmonger and her team, a bridal experience unlike any other and one that I will be forever grateful for.

PHOTOGRAPHY: 5iveFifteen Photography