Saturday, 31 December 2011

Looking back at 2011 ...

I said to myself at the beginning of 2011:  if I don't make a go of this by Christmas, I will go out and get a 'proper' job and give up this idea of being a designer running my own label. Things were getting tough and I hadn't really worked out what I was doing clearly, along with taking some business advice that meant changing the plan a quite dramatically.

This last year has been the one to define what we do (there's still quite a bit to go).
I'm just like most of my lovely customers when choosing a dress, I wanted to do everything, and design every dress imaginable, but after this year I am beginning to get a sense of myself and my brand to start working on fully next year. It's very exciting!
It's definitely been a roller coaster (I'm going to try and not be one of those people who talk in metaphors when it comes to business!) emotionally and accounts wise. There were scarily quiet times and then crazy busy times which I suppose are all part of running your own business. The skill is going to be in planning for this and making sure everything runs smoothly throughout each of these times.

There were a few tears, and many many smiles, my obsession with seams and old techniques really did pay off along with wanting to make each dress individually and with the best hand crafted techniques possible.

 Katie's dress has to be my dress of the year, it is the defining dress of my career so far and the dress that will always mark a point where I decided that using the best techniques will always be what my dresses are about, no cutting corners to cut prices. I was the dress that made me really beleive in what I was doing.

I launched my first bridal collection, was on the radio and opened a boutique on Asos. We made some fabulous prom dresses for gorgeous girls and made two ready to wear collections that I will find hard to say goodbye too. I even braved the camera and in doing so learnt much more about how I want the dresses to feel and fit.
The Astor Dress from 2011 Bridal.

We have had the most wonderful brides and customers this year, each has worked with me to produce individual dresses that I have been so happy with! 

We worked on dresses for women all around the world and here at home, for their weddings and events. We met the wonderful Millie Moon and made the pink elephant dress and even made a dress for the fabulous RocknRoll Bride.

The prom dress became perfected, we made some amazing on off dresses and I even taught you how to make your own underskirts on RocknRoll bride.

It's been a really wonderful year and I can't wait to start back on Monday working on the new bridal collection, on Valentines brides dresses and meeting lots of lovely ladies January. Plus I have my first workshop at Millie Moon on the 22nd January in Wells.

HUGE thank you's to Anna for putting up with me crazy ramblings and making th dresses so perfect, Mum for all of the support and super hand sewing skills, Dad for drilling holes in my studio and for all the wise calming words and of course to Wing for helping me with the blog design, being so, so patient, for making me always try and look harder and for being the best husband ever, ever, ever!  

AND of course to all you incredible customers with wonderful visions and all the lovely people we have met this year including the beautiful models, bloggers, photographers and amazing people out there who do amazing, excellent quality work! THANK YOU AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Providing I don't get hit by a bus, it's going to be a fantastic and very exciting new year ahead in 2012!

P.S. I have too many dresses to work on next year now so I can't go out and get a proper job, looks like designing and running my own label will have to be my job :) xxx

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sylvia in Green

Underneath the hand draped neckline is a corseted bodice for support and a little hugging

trimmed with a removable scarlett red velvet bow

the back has a draped sash from the shoulders embellished with vintage brooches

all ready and waiting in it's box to be worn

Our 'Sylvia was Swept Away' in our favourite emerald green silk. It looks like quite a showstopper and is guaranteed to compliment your curves perfectly with it's integrated, boned bodice and cinched waist. We love it and the red red velvet bow we made to trim it with, just like a present!
To order your dress in this colour or any colour, just add a note when ordering  x

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Happy Christmas everyone, hope you all have a fabulous day whatever you are doing and whatever you are wearing! Love from Alexandra and Anna xxx

Monday, 19 December 2011

We're in the Times!

Well, our tie dye dress is in a photograph in the Times Newspaper worn by our beautiful bride to be Caroline West and photographed by the amazingly talented Sassy from Assassynation. It's in the  Marriages and Engagements section, how brilliantly 'society'!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Friday Friends and News

Firstly a huge massive Friday group of friends all wearing dresses every day for Dressember and action for children.
One of the lovely ladies, Lisa turned my drawings from last year into these badges that are for sale on her website with £1 from every pack going to Action for Children. Or you can donate at the Dressembers just giving page. It's not too late to start wearing dresses either! 

We said goodbye to one of our wonderfully festive Mackintosh red tartan silk cocktail dresses this week, of course going all the way up to Scotland for a Hogmanay New Years Eve. It's certainly going to be the most fabulous dress of the night!

You can wear with a the skirt big .....

...Or a little smaller x
Here is my dressember dress of the day, the classic little black organic cotton dress complete with all 6 badges. I am really loving these at the moment and have decided they are the best most versatile dress in my wardrobe. Sparkles are coming tomorrow too!!!!

And finally we are very pleased to announce that we will be at the Bristol vintage wedding fair at the Zoo  in February. It will be the day before Anna's birthday so come and say 'Happy Birthday' we will be in an especially joyful mood to show and tell our dresses, even if you're not getting married!
Hope we don't bother the lions and hippos too much with our fun ans frolics at the fair?!

Have a great Friday night all xxx

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

New Customer Photo!

I love, love, love receiving customer photos in the post and seeing how gorgeous they look in our dresses!
This is the stunning Toni in her little black silk cocktail dress, the original Betty.
Obviously the bride looks wonderful but I am blown away by how chic and elegant Toni looks in the dress I made. The cut away shoulders look great, the nipped in waist and the casual (yes I'm cool and pretty) pockets balance it perfectly. Love this so much I need to make one for myself! Sorry, I'm quite excited as this is just how I like my dresses to look!
Huge thank you to Toni xxx

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Dress for RocknRoll Bride

Today the dress I made for Kat at RocknRoll Bride arrived and I discovered something amazing that was right in front of me!

Betty's Good Tee Dress in Orgain Fair Trade Cotton

 Being mainly an online business I find many ways to promote my work via twitter, facebook and my blog. I have found some really cool people out there with similar businesses, ideas and styles that are  great to talk to and network work with. I am also really lucky to have a few local people (which is rare out in the countryside) that I can chat with about my work and their work.
What I didn't think of was how twitter could let me give really great interactive customer service.
I do a huge amount of communicating via email but just imagine being there when you open the box and try your dress on!

So when your order something and post on twitter, not only do you tell everyone else but the business who you purchased from can also be involved with your reactions and response to the product.

OK I know what you're thinking, WOAH THERE MR SUIT this is a blog about Alexandra King's pretty dresses not how to exploit customers!
For teeny tiny businesses like mine, how a customer feels about a dress I have sewn by hand is really important to me, I want then to love it as much as I do and understand that what they are buying is really special.

Today for the first time I could follow my customer (Kat) as her dress arrived and she tried it on.
This is great for me because
a) it's as close as I can get to a fitting from a distance, I can guide the customer how to put on the dress and hear how it fits etc.
b) it's like someone standing in the door of a shop and shouting to everyone on the street how they feel about my dress.
This could obviously go the wrong way too, if the customer isn't happy and not everyone wants to share everything on twitter, but it sure ups the customer service. It's silly that I hadn't thought of this before!

So ladies, if you order a dress and you are on twitter I would love for you to tweet or message me when your dress arrives and when you have tried it on. It means I can be there to answer any questions straight away. Or give me an old fashioned phone call!  Follow me on twitter @makemeadress.

Today I learnt just how amazing hearing from customers in real time can be. (And I eventually photographed the ivory underskirt, so pretty!)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Debutant Debby on Horseback

This incredible photograph arrived in my inbox today and all I can say is WOW!!!! My tulle prom dress looks rather splendid up there modelled by the beautiful Bella and this has to be my favourite image of one of my dresses so far.
I really wish all of the dresses could be worn on horseback or in adventurous places, they are to be enjoyed and played in, not to be too precious about :) Go have fun in your gowns, please!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

New party dresses!

 We had a day of shooting the new party dresses in leopard, lace and a fabulous vintage red print yesterday. The super gorgeous Kimberly Louise Hill modelled for us and looked fabulous in each of our dresses, she also bought along an awesome shoe selection. 

I love the length of our longest lace cocktail dress, it reminds me of early Twenties full skirted evening dresses with the full bell skirt to the calf and the scalloped lace hem.
This is the new corded lace which is beautiful and a great weight similar to the old corded lace. Laid over the charcoal grey it looks stunning in the off, faded black tone. This will be in the boutique soon available made to order to your size.

Lovely fabulous leopard print. This is one of my little obsessions, along with crepe and lace that I keep searching for. The perfect leopard print, I found it in this bengaline fabric but now can't source any more which is always the case when I hoard fabrics for years.
This little leopard lady is a one off. The shoes were my wedding shoes in pony skin leopard!

Kim wore a vintage style Osprey silk cravat in her hair which gave some added colour pop to the little red border dress, she looks like a J H Lynch painting here, gorgeously kitsch and you can imagine her dancing in a jazz club in Harlem or in West Side Story. This fabric was an American Etsy find with a bold red and navy screen printed hem. Wish I had some more!

This one will be available made to order, a soft heavy lace draped over a ballet pink taffeta. The bodice as a 'sqeeze me tight fit' and sits just on the tips of the shoulder. Perfect with a sweep in red lipstick and killer Mary Janes.

'THE' black lace I have be coveting and the one I have been inundated with emails about. I had just enough of this lace to make two dresses and this is one of them which is a one of a kind and has a sheer lace Edwardian influenced panel in the centre.

These dresses will be coming up very soon to the boutique and a couple will also be available made to order. As always the vintage prints are one of a kind so keep your eyes peeled!

Model: Kimberley Lousie Hill
Hair and Make Up: Kimberley Louise Hill
Photography : Alexandra King and Anna Vickery

Shoes: Topshop and Models Own
Dresses: Alexandra King

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The end of vintage, really?

So I read the post on the vintage wedding style being over and the overdone vintage styling on the Huffington Post yesterday. You can read it here.
I partially agreed about the vintage thing and  partially thought it was a big old load of nonsense mainly about the return to formal wedding with rules.  I then really needed to ramble so bare with me here.

Thankfully with wedding bloggers like Rock n Roll bride the rules are breaking, you can get married for as little as £200 at the registry office and have a picnic after with two friends (you really can!) or you can go all out. There are no rules!

Here's my two cents worth  on 'vintage' style and weddings pressures...............

So what does 'vintage' actually mean?

in terms of clothing it covers anything over 20 years old. The dictionary defines it as 'representing the high quality of a past time' and I think it's time to be more specific and concentrate on this term quality. 

To me vintage has become an empty word that kind of means nothing and 'vintage style' is just anything that looks old ish but is new. So yes Harmony is very right it has been over-used and some people who jumped on the vintage bandwagon despise the idea of anything old! 

But, this love of historical fashions and things will never end, it's like saying antique collecting will end, museums will end, history lessons will end. We like to look back to the past, with clothing as in all design there are techniques that have changed with industry and it is important to learn from this.

Then you have the personal level, a 1930s wedding dress has a story, a romance and some of us actually get excited by that musty smell!  This silk satin dress hanging on my wall is an original 1940s evening gown, I found it in a skip. That doesn't bother me, it's beautiful.

the stunning Forties dress I found in the skip

On the opposite level there is some absolute rubbish masquerading as 'vintage' or vintage style. So yes it may be time to step away from that word, let the genuine dealers become more respected for their knowledge and carefully curated collections and let all the 'nonsense' disappear over time.

What do I know about vintage clothing? 
I know quite a lot really (not to blow my own trumpet here) . I'm very passionate about Vintage (representing the high quality of the past) clothing.
I have a BA Hons degree in fashion and textile design, a 2.1 and the majority of this was spend studying 'old' clothing.
It funded my way through Uni selling this 'old clothing' and I then ran my own vintage clothing business online.
I worked for the rag man in Bristol sourcing vintage clothing from a whole factory full of discarded textiles the charity shops couldn't sell. I got to the point when I could tell the age just by finger tip rummaging through bins of clothing.
I then worked in a consultancy role for one of the major Bristol Charities, advising for their online shop and on how to make the most from their 'old stuff'.
I did talks on Vintage clothing and eventually I saw it slowly run out. It was all hopefully in the right place, boutiques, peoples homes, being appreciated more.
I still collect and have study sessions at the fashion museum updating my knowledge and understanding.

Isn't what I do 'vintage style'? 

Well yes and I this article made me think a lot about what I do. I need to be more specific. My designs are inspired by dresses of the late 1940s to the early 1960s. It's the techniques and quality that mainly inspires me, the fact that during this era dresses were made with craftsmanship, couture wasn't loosing brands money and having a dressmaker was quite normal. Factory made clothing wasn't here yet so finishing was more hand made. I love this quality and want to bring this to my dresses.  I'm not just designing and making with the style because it's fashionable, it's what I love.

I'm guessing that these 'vintage' photographers, don't learn to use an Rolleiflex properly just because it's on trend, nor do they shoot beautiful, personal images, it happens to be their style.

the details and fabrics that are so important

How important is trend to a wedding? 

It's not or at least it shouldn't be to the bride and groom, it needs to personal to their style whatever it may be.

This sounds really, really silly but Sex and the City the movie did actually have quite an intelligent message when it came to weddings. It's easy for it to be all about the bride and the wedding styling instead of the couple. Big didn't turn up when it got out of control and the city hall wedding at the end was so romantic and most importantly meaningful to the couple. Still in a gorgeous dress too!

My friend just said to me 'do us modern girls really need weddings?'  I'll leave this one to you.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pretty Birdie Dress

Birdie Print fifties inspired party dress with the super cute multi-coloured birds popping out of the grey background.

I'm working on a few novelty print dresses at the moment with fabrics from my favourite and best local fabric supplier Millie Moon. Every time I visit the shop I fall in love with yet another print! Have a look at our pink elephant print here, i just love this design.

 The novelty print dress was a staple of the summer wardrobe and hostess warddrobe from the late forties through to the early sixties with the ready to wear label Horrockses at the forefront of these fashions. you can just imagine all those 1950s wives in the prints all together discussing suburban life Mad Men style!
I have my original 1950s Horrockses dress hung on my studio wall, it's made in a gorgeous cotton with green and pink roses in stripes and a fabulous full skirt. Horrockses employed artists Graham Sutherland, Eduardo Paolozzi and Pat Albeck to design their striking patterns which ranged from lobsters, florals, fruit and veg anything that could be turned into a pattern that would turn heads.
There is a brilliant book all about Horrockses fashions published by the V&A for further reading on the brand. 

It's Horrockses that has inspired my novelty print dresses, my fabrics picked from rummaging in vintage shops, charity shop curtains and the wonderful Michael Miller prints, the soft cotton makes them very easy to wear and feel amazing with the full swishing skirts around you.
I'm now searching for lobster print cotton to make a lobster dress paying homage to the great Schaiparelli and Horrockses.

I'd love to hear about your Horrockses or any vintage novelty print dresses. What's your favourite print and have you found anything really unusual? 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pink Elephant Dress at Millie Moon

 Millie Moon is this amazing fabric shop run by Rachel and Becki which has just opened in Wells. This is their second shop, the flagship is in Frome where they also have a sewing school  and a massive following. This may seem like a major suck up to this shop, but for me when something it really good I like to shout about it and it really is genuinely brilliant.

Each time I have visited the shop, not only does my mind turn to mush over all the gorgeous fabrics, trimmings, sewing treats galore but I'm always so happy to see it packed full of people wanting to sew. I'm always at the back of a big queue which in this case is wonderful.
They stock very carefully selected and beautifully presented fabrics by Amy Butler, Liberty, Michael Miller (my favourite at the moment) and many more along with quilting supplies, gifts for sewing enthusiasts, great quality trimmings and little exciting sewing bit and bobs. And it's all wonderful quality.
Here is their website so you can buy online and feed your addiction! 

This dress is one of the first dresses I have made from their fabric and it is a dream to sew, it has a slight stretch which is great when it comes to fit and a lovely medium weight which has just the right balance between drape and structure.
We chose a Pink Drunken Elephant print for the shop dress by Michael Miller, It reminds me a little of Dumbo and how can you resist pink elephants on the dark charcoal grey?

This design is another fifties inspired silhouette with a slight off the shoulder neckline, boned bodice and a fine pleated, very full skirt. Trimmed with satin piping and trim at the waist in olive green to match the juggling bottles.
This fabric has been very popular so we may be able to make just one more of this dress if anyone would like to order, it makes a fabulous party dress!

Even just looking on the website, I just can't help myself!!!  They have a blog too here with lost of sewing inspirations and ideas.  A huge thank you to Millie Moon just for being here in Somerset and inspiring designs. x

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Vinnie's Fifties Sari Wedding Dress

This is exactly what I like to see when receiving images from my brides! Twirling and smiling, just perfect!

Vinnie came to me earlier this year for her wedding gown and bought with her the most gorgeous wedding saris to have her dress made in. I had just got back from a trip to Singapore where I indulged in many stunning silk saris with the intention to make dresses from (they are still hoarded in my 'best' cupboard and will be coming out very soon!) and this was like a dream request come true.

Vinnie had a traditional Hindu wedding for the first part of her day in a bridal sari and then slipped on her version of our Christy dress for a gorgeous Mad Men Fifties style in the evening. Complete with antique gold Jimmy Choo's! 

She looks so stunning, Congratulations to Vinnie! 

Photos by Nic Serpell-Rand at free range weddings.