Posts Tagged: wedding

Reader Request: Wedding Dresses

Alex hit me up with this fabulous request:

A few days ago, I bought my wedding dress! Yay! And I had a particularly awesome experience. From paying attention to not only wedding blogs that I trust but also to you regarding clothes and bodies and how they can be best friends, I knew what I wanted, and I got it, because I knew what to look for and how to find it. Although I am now done with this fun and exciting experience, I’m still curious to see what – if anything – you have to say on the topic of wedding dresses. I know it’s a whole can of worms to open, and it’s very different from day-to-day clothing, but if you have insights, I’m sure they’re fascinating and could really help someone!

So, naturally, I wanna show you this:


I don’t have tons of photos that show my dress in full or in detail, but I love this photo a whole bunch, and it gives you the general idea.* Our wedding was at the end of August, but I still wanted my arms covered. And honestly? I just lucked out. I found this dress at a little local boutique that stocked three or four wedding-appropriate dresses at any given time. Bought it off the rack for $150. It was the only place I looked. The dress itself has a sheer overlay with applique flowers in the same sheer material across the bodice and down the skirt, and a solid tank dress underneath. It was perfect.

As for giving advice on wedding dress buying, I will do that. But before I dig into my own opinions, here’s the most important advice I can give: Get the dress you want and love and can afford. That is all. It may take some doing to find it – especially given that “afford” clause – but it will be worth it. Wedding dresses are among the most emotionally significant garments worn by humans, and no matter what I or your mom or your best friend may say, YOU should adore your dress. And feel luminous in it. So make that priority one.

Got it? OK then, here are my tips:

Strapless dresses are HARD

In addition to being a married person who once had a wedding, I used to assist Husband Mike in photographing weddings. So I’ve been to many, and been behind the scenes of nearly all of them. And the main dress-related wisdom I can impart is this: Strapless dresses can be gorgeous and elegant, but no matter how you’re shaped they will slide down on your figure and you will spend a lot of time yanking them back up again. If looking great in your photos is top priority, strapless can work. If you want to run around and dance and twirl your ring bearers and flower girls, you might want something with straps or sleeves instead.

Wedding dresses are pretty and tough to resist

Sounds obvious, right? But consider again that this is one of the most emotional garments you will ever own and wear. So when you’re confronted by a room full of utterly gorgeous gowns and flooded with the emotions surrounding your upcoming wedding, you may become overwhelmed. I have had several friends buy wedding dresses that they couldn’t really afford because they went, they saw The Pretty, and they just couldn’t resist. If money is no object, then look everywhere. If you’re on a budget, I would highly recommend staying away from the fancy bridal ateliers that you can’t afford. Because if you go in, you’ll see what’s there and you might end up charging a super spendy dress when something at a lower price point could’ve been just as lovely. Don’t let yourself be tempted and you’ll be less likely to overspend.

There are options beyond bridal shops

As I said, my dress was $150 at a local clothing boutique. I know lots of women who bought their dresses on Etsy and eBay for less than $50. The bridal industry is an “all that the traffic will bear” industry, and everything in it is expensive. But if a brand new dress isn’t a priority for you, explore some alternatives. You may decide to pay $10 for a thrifted dress and then contract with a seamstress to have it rebuilt and still pay less than you would for a new dress. And yours will still be custom and exactly what you want.

Think about your day

Weddings can be formal, raucous, both, and neither. If you have any idea what your wedding day will look like, try to take that into consideration when you’re looking at dresses. If the only dancing you’ll be doing will be with your parter and/or parents on a ballroom floor in a slow and stately manor, you’ll probably be just fine in something a little more structured and constricting. If you know there will be a 2-hour Hora after the the ceremony under the Chuppah – which can totally happen, as it did at one of my best friends’ weddings – you might want something a wee bit more flexible. When we think about wedding dresses, we think about looks and photos, which makes sense and may just trump overall comfort. But I know brides who have regretted their dress decisions during the later hours of their weddings when things have moved from smiles and clasped hands to yelling and the Chicken Dance.

Consider your culture

Most brides have at least one relative who will express OPINIONS about dresses and wedding day adornment. This person may be someone to whom it is very important that you wear the traditional saree or lehenga, that you wear the gown she wore or that your mother wore, that you wear a mantilla even if you don’t want to. I really do believe that you should get the dress you want and love and can afford, but I also know that culture and tradition figure strongly into many weddings and ignoring them completely can have consequences. We planned our wedding without making any compromises and although we met some resistance during the process, all was forgiven in the end. But I know plenty of couples who still get snarky comments about what they did or didn’t do at their ceremonies decades later. Your wedding is likely to be meaningful for your family members, and if wearing something that reflects your culture or heritage can be done in a way that works for you both, consider doing so.

And I’ll quite happily stop there. But not before reiterating that the absolute most important thing is that you love your dress. Feel free to ignore everything I just said if you love your dress and feel amazing in it. That’s what matters most.

Oh, one more quick note: There are hundreds of wedding blogs out there, thousands of wedding inspiration Pinterest boards, and books and TV shows and more and more. I never tuned in to any of it while planning my own wedding and don’t pay it much mind now. Many women find great ideas and inspiration in these resources, and gain energy and excitment from them. Others feel overwhelmed and pressured and miserable. Before you immerse yourself in the world of wedding media, consider how much exposure you want and how it may affect you. Just sayin’.

So! Marrieds: How did you find your dress? Was it spendy? A family heirloom? Engaged folks: What criteria are you using as you search? Does culture play in? Singletons: Do you dream of a specific dress or have a plan for finding one when the time comes? Anyone at all have advice for finding the perfect wedding dress?

*Our ceremony was parents, sibs, and grandparents only. We asked our parents and grandparents to each do a reading of their choice. Here, you see my dad reciting the lyrics to “Zip-a-dee-do-dah.” Because he’s a twerp like that.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Fascinating and Fashionable: Karin the Jewelry Designer

karin jacobson jewelry designer

Award-winning jewelry designer Karin Jacobson has been creating covetable cocktail rings and gorgeous gem-encrusted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings for over almost 15 years, and I’ve been an admirer of her work from the moment I clapped eyes upon it. Karin’s sleek, bold aesthetic hits me right where I live, and I’ve even had her redesign and re-set my engagement ring, as well as custom design my crown ring, both of which get daily wear.

Karin is as smart and kind as she is talented, and has worked her hiney off to create a successful business entirely on her own. Let’s hear from Karin!

* * * * *

How did you decide to become a jewelry designer?
My decision to become a jewelry designer was part choice and part luck. When I was in high school at the Perpich Center for Arts Education (Minnesota’s public, state-funded arts high school), I took a couple of jewelry classes and very much enjoyed them, but by no means knew “instantly” that I wanted to be a jewelry designer – I just knew that I loved art and design. The jewelry teacher my senior year was a visiting artist who had a studio in Minneapolis, and since we got along well, I wrote her a letter asking her if I could be her apprentice. I actually had no idea if this was how it was supposed to work or if she even wanted an apprentice, but she decided to take a chance with me and hired me to be her apprentice for the summer. It worked out so well that she said I could continue the next school year and in the end, I worked for her for about 6 years, attending college at the University of Minnesota in the meantime. (I graduated with a BA in History.)

Despite these 6 years, I still wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a jewelry designer – it was only after taking a break from working in the shop that I realized how much I missed it and that I wanted to keep doing it. My former boss had moved away to New York state, but a mutual friend of ours took over her old studio here and mentioned to me that if I wanted to pop by and use the studio now and then, I was welcome to do so. I was happy to have the opportunity and thought I’d work on a portfolio of pieces that I could use to apply for jobs with other designers.

In the meantime, I was still in touch with a former coworker at the jewelry design studio who had moved on to the Walker Art Center Shop. I wanted to get her opinion on the new work I was making. We met for lunch at the Walker and she liked the work so much that she said, “I think we should show the buyer – is that okay?” And of course it was okay! Much to my surprise, they picked up my collection and that was the start of it all. I had known that I eventually wanted to have my own design business, but hadn’t thought it would actually start then. I thought I’d be working for someone else for awhile longer first.

As I am collapsing those years into these paragraphs, it all sounds like it went smoothly and flawlessly, but of course, that was not the case. I still had to work as a waitress at first, and then after quitting waitressing, worked as a clerical temp here and there to make ends meet when months were slow. I also learned a lot of things the hard way, by trial and error, because I hadn’t spent more time in the industry working for other designers. But ultimately, it did finally turn into a bona fide full time job – and now it feels like a job and a half!!

What were some of the obstacles you faced when you struck out on your own? How long did it take for you to feel like launching your own line was the right choice?
I’d say the biggest obstacle was just plain not knowing what I was doing and feeling too intimidated to admit that to the people who might have been able to help me. I didn’t know all that many people in my industry and I was nervous to admit to most of them that I felt so clueless about industry-specific issues. (For example – what trade shows to do, how many, what to expect in terms of sales, how to work with galleries, etc.,) I did have one mentor who was very helpful and who I could ask these questions, but he was so successful and so far ahead of where I was that I kept trying to follow his lead without realizing that there were about 100 intermediate steps between where I was and where he was.

The thing is, I guess no one ever knows what they don’t know, and the only way to find out is to stick your neck out and fail a whole bunch of times. One thing that I have learned in the years since I started is that almost anyone who looks like they were a success overnight were probably doing what they were doing for about 10 years before anyone noticed, and that anyone at all who is successful most likely had a string of failures in their past that they were able to learn from. I think that it is a shame that in our culture where entrepreneurship and individual risk taking are so lauded, that we very rarely say out loud not only that it isn’t bad to fail, but that it is important to fail. Especially when starting a business, we should be looking at the things we do and the choices that we make and expecting 9 out of 10 of them not to work. We should expect it and therefore be able to plan for it. I think that the worst thing we can do to ourselves and others who are starting businesses are to create the expectation that every risky thing we try should work out, or that if we fail at any one thing, that we are “failures.” The people who ultimately succeed in business are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who learn from their failures and keep trying new things – they’re the ones who don’t feel like failures but are able to say, “Well, that didn’t work. Moving on. Next idea!”

As for how long it took for me to feel like launching my own line was a good idea … I don’t know! Was it a good idea? I have no idea what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t launched my own line, so maybe it would have been better or maybe worse. There are lots of right decisions and I do think that I made one because I’ve been happy doing it, even as it has been hard and sometimes very stressful. So maybe the answer is that it always felt like the right choice … and also sometimes, like other “right” choices might have been easier!

What are the forces that inspire or influence your work the most often?
As much as I enjoy looking at fashion and other jewelry, I kind of try to avoid it when designing a new collection. It is so easy to spin off on whatever trends are fashionable at the moment, even if you are trying hard not to, and I am trying to make work that isn’t stuck in a time period or a trend. When I am designing new work, I like to be inspired by things other than jewelry, so I often visit an art museum or the public library or even go to a movie. It depends on the basic idea that I have. But, for example, I saw a beautiful Chinese painting of a lotus flower and wanted to create a collection which had that feel. I ultimately ended up finding a book filled with vintage Chinese textile designs and lots of them featured variations of lotus flowers. After sketching and drawing the shapes over and over in my notebook, I came up with some pieces that are recognizable as lotus flowers (lots of people make this observation, so I feel I can safely say that they read as lotus flowers), but which don’t look like either the painting or any of the specific textiles. I just played with them and kept some of the basic shapes and they still have that Chinese style lotus flower feeling, while looking modern and also looking like Karin Jacobson designed jewelry.


You use traditional metals and gems when you design, but also utilize lab-grown gems and materials like recycled gold and palladium. Do you have a favorite medium, gem, or metal?
Favorite gems and metals. Ah! It is so hard to say – they are all so pretty! My favorites are always ones that are ethically sourced, so recycled metals and fair trade or synthetic gems. I currently am very into yellow gold – it is so warm! (And although I’ve been saying for awhile that it is making a comeback, I’m still not seeing lots of it around, which maybe makes it even more appealing to me.) And for stones…sapphires! The jeweler in me loves them because they are so durable that they can be used for anything and the artist in me loves them because they come in so many colors. People generally think of blue when they think of sapphires, but they come in pink, yellow, orange, green, white, purple, red … almost every color and tons of shades of blue. I made my own engagement ring and chose a “fancy color” (meaning pretty much anything but basic blue) sapphire, which is from a fair-trade mine in Malawi and set it in recycled 18 karat yellow gold. The color of the stone, depending on the light, ranges from blue-green to blue-grey and for that reason reminds me of the ocean every time I look at it. I just love it!

What is jewelry’s role in personal style?
The thing that I love about jewelry’s role in personal style is that I think people feel pretty free to try anything when it comes to accessories. I occasionally have clients who love or hate earrings that big or dangly or whatever, or people who think they look better in yellow or white metal, but it does seem like an area where people are comfortable experimenting. I can’t tell you how often people say, “I never thought I’d buy a ring in (whatever color) because I can’t wear that color, but now that I try it on, I just love it!” Personally, I look pretty terrible in bright kelly green and generally don’t wear it next to my face, but a ring, necklace or earrings that color work just fine. I also think that pretty much any body type works well with most styles of jewelry, so people really feel free to experiment. I love that anyone who comes into my studio can try on pretty much any style of jewelry and they look and feel great in it. And no one ever says, “Does this ring make me look fat?”

What advice would you offer to anyone interested in becoming a professional jewelry designer?
In addition to what I mentioned above about embracing failures and trying to learn from them, I would also recommend embracing other people’s failures and successes by talking to other people in the industry and trying to find out what has worked and hasn’t worked for them. And this is not so that you can follow in the footsteps of other businesses and copy their models, because this rarely works. It is to just get more ideas of the multitude of ways that things can be done. There is no one business model that works for everyone so you have to see what things work for you, integrate those things into your business, and discard the things that don’t work for you. (And sometimes, you can let yourself discard things that don’t work for you just because you don’t like doing them. This is okay!)

The other single best piece of advice that I was once given regarding the actual designing of jewelry is to make sure that your work looks like your work. Meaning that it is great to experiment and try different styles, but you still want someone looking at any single piece of jewelry to say, “Hey, that looks like Karin Jacobson Design jewelry.” (Or, obviously, whatever designer.) If you try to follow all of the trends and make whatever people are into at the moment, not only will you not cultivate your own “designer look,” you will also not be making anything interesting or memorable. I have tried (and hopefully to some degree am succeeding) to make a collection consisting of lines that are different from each other, but still look like my work. And I sometimes have clients tell me that a stranger saw their one-of-a-kind custom ring and asked if it is a “Karin Jacobson piece,” and I just love to hear that! Its the best compliment!!

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Reader Request: Wedding Wear

wedding wear

Kate K popped this into the Suggestion Box:

I am at that age where everyone I know is getting married and so thus, I go to about four or five (or six or seven!) weddings a year. I have no problem dressing myself in every other arena of my life but when it comes to weddings, I’m stumped. I have no idea what fabrics are appropriately dressy enough or if I need take time of the wedding into consideration, and I always look back on what I wore and wish I’d worn something else. I’d love some tips on wedding wear!

So most of my thoughts on wedding guest attire can be found here, in a post about dressing for emotionally significant events. I get a LOT of questions about what to wear as a wedding guest, and find it challenging to generalize. Weddings take place across seasons, at varying levels of dressiness, and across regions that may have culturally specific dressing expectations. And, of course, each individual wedding guest has a personal style, fit and figure flattery concerns, and a specific set of resources at her disposal. I don’t feel like I (or anyone) can create a single set of rules that will work for all guests at all weddings, so I’ve put off writing about this topic for ages. I’m happy to share my own guidelines, but here are some additional factors to consider and actions to take:

  • Ask someone close to the bridal party: Most invitations include some mention of dress code, but if the phrasing is vague, contact someone associated with the bridal party. Bridesmaid, brother of the groom, mother of the bride … anyone who might know a bit more about the decor, bridal party attire, and general feel of the event. If you’re going to do this, do it EARLY. The closer to the wedding date, the less likely you are to receive a helpful (or civil) reply. But reaching out months in advance should work.
  • Err on the dressy side: If you’re concerned about the opinions of others, my guess is that fewer folks will frown upon an overdressed guest than an underdressed one. (Unless it’s a Jimmy Buffet-themed, Hawaiian shirt extravaganza.) Floor-length gowns will be overkill in most situations, but classic dresses are nearly always appropriate.
  • Be aware of the timeline and activities: If you’re attending full Catholic mass, a pre-reception happy hour, dinner, and dancing you’re gonna need a comfortable outfit and forgiving shoes. (Or a change of shoes.) If it’s a beach ceremony, come prepared with sunscreen and removable footwear. Again, most wedding parties will want you to be prepared, so you’ll get this info well in advance and can plan accordingly.

Now, here are my reluctant generalizations:

When in doubt, wear jewel tones

Nearly everyone can find a jewel tone that flatters her skin and hair, and these rich-yet-subdued shades are ideal for broadcasting respect and sophistication.

Simple hair, makeup, and accessories

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to evening soirees or anything that specifies black tie. But for a typical day wedding, keeping your grooming and adornments clean and classic will help further the goal of broadcasting honor and respect for the bride, groom, and families.

Classic attire, elegant accessories

Don’t feel obliged to purchase a new dress or outfit for every wedding! A classic sheath, shift, or fit-and-flare dress in a solid color can create the perfect backdrop for a simple belt, eye-catching necklace, and chic pair of shoes. A silk blouse and clean-cut slacks paired with sleek heels or flats and a few sparkly jewels will create an elegant ensemble.

I generally point folks to the following three sources for wedding guest dresses:

  • J.Crew’s Wedding Section – meant for brides and bridesmaids, but the bridesmaid dresses are all so simple and chic they’ll work beautifully for wedding guest attire. And holiday parties, birthdays, and just about any dressier-than-officewear occasion.
  • – selection is a bit flashier, but also includes more floor-length and unusual options
  • Igigi – edressme has a few plus options, but J.Crew has none. Igigi is my favorite source for elegant plus-sized dresses and evening wear.
  • Talbots Aisle Style – separates and dresses for a variety of styles and body types

Again, all this goes right out the window for weddings in exotic locales, themed weddings, black-tie, super casual, and loads of other specific styles of events. Your true best bet is to head back to bullet point number one and talk to someone directly involved with planning the wedding to get a feel for what would work best for a guest. But, barring that, some of these ideas and guidelines may be helpful.

I’d love your input, of course! Do you have any personal guidelines for wedding guest attire? How do you decide what to wear? Any shops or sources to share?

Images courtesy J.Crew

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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