Buckinghamshire bespoke wedding dress designer, Lesley Cutler, celebrates 25 years in business and looks back at a quarter of a century of making brides’ dreams come true
This month, Buckinghamshire-based Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear celebrates its ‘silver business anniversary’ after designing and hand making garments for brides-to-be for a quarter of a century.
Lesley began her design career creating custom garments for royalty and is proud to now own the longest-trading bridal wear business in Milton Keynes.
Where it all began
In 1994 Lesley took on a freelance contract with Elizabeth Emanuel – the British fashion designer who is best known for designing the wedding dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. This was the best sort of training ground as Lesley was making elaborate dresses for the rich and famous. Often they were very theatrical pieces in a range of different looks and styles all based on historical costumes and complete with corsets, crinolines, bust pads and hundreds of metres of silk fabrics, laces and ribbons. They were sold from the Berkertex flagship store on Bond Street in Central London.
Another designer Lesley worked with early on in her career was Jenny Packham, making evening dresses in slinky silks and short knee-length dresses with fitted bra style bodices. The polar opposite to the work with Elizabeth Emanuel which added to Lesley’s skill set and gave her the experience and confidence to create garments in her own name.
Lesley branched out on her own…
The first Lesley Cutler wedding gown was a silk satin gold coloured dress with beautiful ivory and gold brocade panel at the centre front and ivory chiffon medieval styled sleeves. It then cascaded down into a long train. It was a dramatic and elaborate gown. A real show stopper and Lesley was thrilled to put her name to this – her very first striking dress.
As Lesley’s business grew, so did her family
Lesley’s business started from an upstairs bedroom and as it grew, so did her family. In 1997 Lesley had a studio built adjacent to her house with a separate entrance which was decorated and designed to replicate the excitement of visiting a wedding dress shop. This was (and still is!) a superb professional environment and gives Lesley the opportunity to design and make garments for brides, bridesmaids, Mother of Brides and Grooms as well as second-time and older brides.
Lesley’s favourite dresses and memories from over the years
During Lesley’s time in business she’s learnt so much and had the pleasure of designing and hand making hundreds of dresses. There are now over 1,000 garments with the Lesley Cutler label inside across the world. Lesley has got so many incredible memories from over the past 25 years, here are a few highlights:
• It’s not just traditional wedding dresses Lesley’s designed, far from it! She’s designed and made unusual and quirky wedding dresses – one example was a gold skirt, an ivory embroidered bodice and a purple coat. She’s also worked with brides to create purple and red wedding dresses. Lesley’s mission is to make brides’ dreams come true, whatever their wish.
For the wife of a member of the House of Lords Lesley made a High Sheriff suit from an exclusive English hand woven brocade silk.
As well as an 18th century costume inspired by a painting by Gainsborough of Countess Howe, Lesley also handmade a Mother of the Bride dress and coat for this customer. Lesley has also had the pleasure of making another High Sheriff suit for the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire 2016. What a privilege!
One of the greatest changes over the last 25 years has been the move from silk fibres to the use of man made fibres in mass produced dresses. Lesley is proud to continue making dresses from silk and my customers appreciate being able to select from the vast array of fabrics that are available.
Lesley has handmade a christening gown for the daughter of an Olympic rower.
Made a Mother of the Groom outfit for a customer attending a wedding at the prestigious Claridges.
In 2000, Lesley was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary and featured in a fly-on-the-wall film called ‘A Wedding In The Family’. The bride’s whole dress-making process was filmed from the initial consultation through to the wedding day and Lesley even went to the wedding. The bride wore a sleeveless A-line silk ivory gown with sweetheart neckline. A very memorable moment!
Lesley comments on her incredible career and this important milestone: “Wow, 25 years, where has it gone! Back in 1994 I’m not sure that I would ever have thought that Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear would be where it is now. I am so incredibly proud of the journey that we’ve been on and that now, I’m in a position to look back over 25 years of designing and making stunning dresses for women on the happiest day of their lives.
I’m so proud of my business that I’ve built from the ground-up and feel honoured to have worked with so many brides to create their dream dress for their special day. I wish to say a huge thank you to everyone I’ve ever worked with over the past 25 years – brides-to-be, mothers of the bride, mothers of the groom and wedding guests – it’s been a privilege. More than ever I’m excited about what the future of Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear will hold.”