Just like possibly every other bride, my wedding dress was one of the things I started to think about way before I even got engaged.
My Pinterest board was filled with different designs that I liked, and when that collection grew big, the design that I was attracted to became more obvious—a minimal design that’s comfortable for me to wear and for others to be around with. It was an advantage to our budget because dainty elaborate designs cost a lot more. I wanted to stick below P20k, or better if below P15k, and was even okay with just getting a gown off-the-rack if necessary because I’m not too picky to begin with.
Once I had the design in mind, I compiled the exact pegs I wanted into one image and used it as a reference to send to different shops for price quotations, to make the comparison apples to apples.
I started to canvas online as it was the easiest to do, and the rates ranged between P18.5k to P40k, with some promotional prices offered by some shops as well.
It was really easy to choose wrong if you’re not careful with screening and being particular with the minute details that can make or break a transaction. I was very particular with how they interacted with me because that says a lot about the relationship they build with their clients.
And because I live near Divisoria, it would absolutely make no sense if I didn’t go there to canvas as well. Dane and I took advantage of that trip by canvassing for his suit as well.
Canvassing offline helps you better gauge how shops treat potential clients because you can see their facial expressions and body language. Dane and I did our rounds first in Dragon 8 Mall as soon as the malls were open. Some stores were a lot more accommodating, while some were a bit more dismissive, especially when they find out that our wedding was still 7 months away when we made our visit. I do understand why they were a bit more disregarding knowing our wedding was far, but it also made it easy to narrow down our choices because we didn’t want to deal with people who would make the whole experience extremely and solely transactional. I remember one of the tinderas in one of the shops there was about to give us a business card, but the owner said from afar, “wag mo na bigyan, picturan nalang nila ung sign natin.” which loosely translates to “don’t give them our business card, just tell them to take a photo of our store signage.” For me, it was a very bad way to do business, and I would know because I used to own a tailoring shop a few years back. That was simply not how you encourage clients to choose you.
Walking around, we came across a store named Riad at Pasilio 2L-8. That’s because they had a display of an exquisite gown I really really felt attracted to despite it not being simple at all. Dane was agreeing with me the whole time.
One of the staff, Grace, saw my admiration and proceeded to accommodate us. After hearing the price, it was way above my budget, which I expected. Grace even asked if I wanted to try the wedding dress on display. She says, so I can just know how it feels, even if I don’t end up getting it.
I wanted to!! But one thing I learned from watching many many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress is to NOT try on a wedding dress that’s out of your budget. I didn’t want to fall in love with it and end up upset because I can’t buy it. Or worse—loving it too much, getting it, and going way above my intended budget just to appease myself.
I decided to ask for a quote for my pegs instead to redirect my attention to my main purpose of being there. Grace led us to Riad, the designer and shop owner where we got my design quoted for P18k if I booked on that day.
Riad was accommodating and friendly. And he speaks with confidence that comes from experience and the skills he knows he has.
Compared to other stores in Divisoria, he was the only owner we were able to talk to directly. All the other shops were manned by hired staff. It was easy to get comfortable because the person I was talking to was the exact person in charge of operating the business.
I wanted to make sure of my decision. I didn’t want to book him impulsively because he was the best choice at the time. So we went home empty-handed and reevaluated all options. We were able to gather prices from as low as P3.5k to P25k during that offline run to Divisoria.
After weighing down options and taking some time to objectively decide, I decided to go for Riad, despite his price not being the lowest. Comparing his works to the rest of the stores, we were definitely more sold on his craftsmanship based on his displays, and his choice of fabric and embellishment were better compared to all the other stores where some looked a bit tacky.
So I scheduled an appointment by messaging their facebook page, only to learn that he (or his staff) is more responsive on his personal account.
During our appointment mid-May, I was ready to book him for my wedding dress creation when he asked what price he gave, to which I responded with P18k. I forgot that it was a promotional offer, so when I came back, the new quote was P25k. I was caught off-guard because I didn’t want to spend over P20k for something I’d wear for just a day. After 10 minutes of dilly-dallying over the P5k over the budget, I still wanted to push through. It’s the wrong way to approach budgeting I know, so I compromised and I told myself I’d have to find an additional side project to make up for the extra P5k above the budget. Which I did.
Then and there, he drew my dress design on a sheet of paper and gave suggestions on how it can be executed, finalizing the details I wanted, such as letting me choose the fabric and the mandatory pockets that are really important to me. He also took my measurements and got my down payment, and scheduled me for my the pattern fitting one month after.
The pattern fitting was meant to finalize the pattern of the dress as well as measurements before cutting the actual fabric. This was in 2nd week of June, about 3 weeks after the time I had my measurements taken.
My only concern during this time was how thin the fabric was, and they had no better space to do the first fitting aside from the aisle in the mall. I can only imagine how another person would be uncomfortable with the experience. Personally, though, I didn’t mind as much.
Riad directly marked the pattern on this fabric while I was wearing it—such as the neckline, the see-through side panels I wanted, and how I wanted the backless design to look and how low I wanted it to be. This was also the time for me to say if I was okay or not with what he was marking and to remind him of the pockets I was very particular about.
It was a very involving process, giving me more confidence in the final output.
Afterward, I paid half of my remaining balance and he scheduled me for the first fitting in October—four months after this pattern fitting.
By mid-September, I messaged him on his personal account again to ask for the schedule of my second fitting. He (or his staff) told me that he’ll get back to me by October on the final date, which makes it easy to assume that they probably haven’t started yet.
By the end of September, I messaged him again to ask if we can have the second fitting of the wedding dress by October 8th. This was the date that Dane’s groomsmen and my Man of Honor, Armen, will have their measurements taken in another store in the same building. It made sense to have my fitting at the same time so I won’t have to make another separate trip. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to accommodate my request, but that was very understandable.
By Oct 12th, Riad (or his staff) sent me a message and told me that my gown was ready. I decided to go on the 15th and was very excited.
We went to Riad’s again in Divisoria early in the morning at 9am, as soon as the store opened. There were 2 people carrying the gown, and one of them helped me get dressed because the dress was delicate. The straps of the gown weren’t in place yet as they wanted to measure that while I was wearing the dress to make it fit my body as exactly as possible.
Before trying on the dress, I was looking forward to getting my bridal crying moment like the ones shown in Say Yes to the Dress episodes. Lol.
To be completely honest, I was a bit underwhelmed with the craftsmanship during this stage, especially with the very noticeable crease marks around the chest area where it looks concave (see first pic above). On closer inspection, the sewing doesn’t seem to be pulido. The boning in front of the dress to make the design look structured and tailor-fitted is also very evident that I can’t take my eyes off it the whole time. The pockets were also missing during this stage, as well as the skirt design at the back where the fabric cascades down. The cut panels on the side of my torso were also too narrow that it felt like it was only added for the sake of. Truth be told, I started to worry. I’m not really picky, but P25k is a big amount, and it is on the pricier end for a dress as minimal as mine.
During this time, Riad assured me that he will address my concerns, such as taking apart the lining and the actual material of the top to adjust the fabric and remove the crease marks. He also offered to add laces to the top part to make the dress a bit more appealing. I wasn’t sure that was the direction I wanted to go since it’s off-brand from my very simple personality. But at the back of my head, it was definitely worth considering if the imperfections that I noticed during this second fitting weren’t addressed to my expectations.
The second fitting was scheduled a week after the first which was on Oct 22. During this time, the goal was to address the fitting concerns I had mentioned. I sent a message the day before to say that I will drop by 9am the next day.
Unfortunately, when I arrived, my dress wasn’t ready yet and won’t be until 12nn according to them. I did say that I left a message the day before about the time I will drop by, but it wasn’t like I can do anything if my dress isn’t completed yet. I wasn’t able to wait since I had plans after my supposed fitting, so I had to postpone it to Oct 30. Riad did apologize for the confusion.
Come Oct 30, the long list of concerns I had during the first fitting was addressed to my relief.
During the same fitting session, I also decided on the final length of the dress as I did find the train (and honestly the dress itself) too voluminous. It is dramatic, but for someone as simple as I am, I want comfort for both me and those surrounding me. I also opted for the no-petticoat version as it felt more relaxed. Even the back design on the skirt that cascades down was discussed, and we decided to let go of that design.
This was the time I also pointed out how the seams of the cut panels on my side torso were poking out and look kinda sloppy when viewed in front (not so obvious in the photos above since it’s a full-body pic). Riad took a look and agreed and immediately thought of a way to address it for the next round of fitting.
What did confuse me a little bit was how the straps weren’t added yet to this version. But thinking about it now while writing, it may be because they made adjustments to the bodice to fix the creases so they had to make sure it was exact to my measurements (which is the whole point of getting bespoke clothing) after they took the top part apart.
What I appreciate the most though is Riad apologizing again for the miscommunication during my last visit when my dress wasn’t finished yet during my visit. It was unnecessary, but definitely appreciated, as it shows that he remembered that it happened and that it shouldn’t have.
Third and final fitting
The dress for the third fitting was finished around the middle of November, but I was only able to drop by on November 21st. This fitting was meant to be the “final” version once my minor concerns from the previous fitting were addressed. The straps were finally the same material as the dress but aren’t attached yet. Their goal was to only sew it in after I fit it to make sure it was exact to my measurements and that it won’t fall down.
And yes, I have pockets.
My concerns during the previous fittings were all addressed and it looks very elegant as the material looks great and the craftmanship is also spectacular.
What I admire is his confidence in addressing the concerns I had. There was much gusto about his confidence that spoke about his skills in the craft. All of his staff are also very independent and hospitable, so all my visits were met with good customer service regardless of the time when they were all supposedly tired for the day.
Included as freebies in my purchase were also accessories for a Catholic wedding: primary and secondary veil, arras (coins), coin and ring pillows, as well as a bridal robe made of satin.
What I appreciate the most is that Riad is non-defensive and respectful of my feedback in every fitting. AND addresses all of my comments by the next time I visit.
Despite my gown being minimal, it ended up looking very elegant. Thanks to my wedding dress designer, Riad!!
Here are photos from the wedding care of Carlo Acetre Photography.