Illusion back crepe wedding gown with sleeves by indie bridal designer Edith Elan of Charleston SC
Behind the Seams

Making the Leyla Wedding Dress

October 27, 2017
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How we designed a unique illusion-back crepe wedding gown.

Illusion back crepe wedding gown with sleeves by indie bridal designer Edith Elan of Charleston SC
This post was updated as of April 25, 2022.

Some styles come together perfectly. In those instances, everything turns out 100% exactly as envisioned. However, Leyla is not one of those styles. ​Leyla is a unique crepe wedding gown with a wonderful mix of elements to set her apart. She is a lovely blend of 1940’s glamour and modern-day minimalism. And, we wouldn’t want her any other way.

Leyla wedding dress with a keyhole neckline detail by Edith Elan.
Image Credit: Photography by Lauryn (Chicago, IL)

The Start of the Design Process

Sketching was a lot of hmming, hawing, and agonizing over every silly seam. And asking a lot of internal questions, but the biggest was: “How can this dress be interesting and unique, yet at the same time, understated and easy-going?”

The first sketch was great! It was a simple and clean style from the front, but with a “wow factor” in the back. (Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of “ooh’s and ahh’s” over Tamarisk and her low back with crystal buttons. So, we wanted to create another style with a statement back.) Like Tamarisk, Leyla’s back was originally designed to be completely open with crystal buttons down the center back. Unlike Tamarisk, however, Leyla would have sleeves and different trim accents. Leyla’s gathered sleeves and beaded shoulder details in the original sketch gave her a 1940’s Hollywood starlet vibe.

When it was time to review sketches, Leyla (or letter J at the time) was a frontrunner and made it through the first round of cuts. However, after that, changes to the design were made to find the right balance of modern and vintage. (It was leaning too vintage.) For version two, the sleeves stayed and a keyhole was added to the center front in hopes that it would bring the design into the 21st century.

​Comparatively speaking, it was a sexier design! The high collar balanced out the now low front and low back. To make it even sweeter, a bow accented the collar. Plus, it also helped tone down the Mandarin collar shape (think Grace Kelly’s wedding dress). Version two is what would move onto the muslin phase of the design process.

From Sketch to First Muslin

Sometimes designs don’t translate well to fabric. Most of the time they do. However, not this time! During the fitting, version two was opening in the back… it was flailing open in the front… it was too long in the bodice… and, it was awful. A picture of this gown at this stage does exist, buuuut the front is a touch NSFW.

We cried. We laughed. We cried from laughing so hard. We went back to the drawing board again. So at this point, the only thing we knew we wanted to keep was… was the sleeves? And the fabric. It was going to be a crepe wedding gown.

Looking at the rest of the 2018 collection lineup, we tried to bring in other elements. (We tried using the same beautiful hand-embroidered trim on the back of the gown that was to be Iset.) But in the end, we went back to the beading at the shoulders for that little something extra.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try and Try Again

With the next redesign and muslin, we opened the center back. To keep the dress from flailing open, we added illusion tulle. The design started moving in the right direction. We were getting closer!

It was good. But ​still not 100%. The front seams and sleeves didn’t feel right. The dress needed something more than the “run of the mill” princess seams. To solve the sleeve issue, we made another muslin with the new illusion back, the new keyhole front, and several sleeve options.

As it turns out, we hated all the sleeves. Of course! So after much discussion, we decided to go with a flat-capped, longer sleeve.

Sewing the Production Sample​

At this point, it was time to make the dress in silk crepe. Surprisingly, after what had been an arduous design process, sewing the sample was a dream! Leyla went together without a hitch. The sheer back was looking sexy yet secure, and that made us very happy. The placement of the beaded trim took the longest to figure out, but it got done. It cascaded over the shoulders and framed the illusion keyhole back.

Although we were happy with the outcome, the hanger appeal wasn’t there. It looked like a sad nightgown that was frumpy and not alluring at all. But there wasn’t anything else we could do. Leyla was officially done and the photoshoot was coming up fast.

​Fast forward to our collection photoshoot and our beautiful model puts the dress on. The dress came alive! It had curves! It was sexy! It was sweet! It was actually more than we could have hoped for!

Original sketch of the Leyla crepe wedding gown by indie bridal designer Edith Elan of Charleston SC
The Original Sketch
Leyla crepe wedding gown design sketches by indie bridal designer Edith Elan
Sketch Versions 2 and 3
Muslin fitting of the Leyla wedding dress with a keyhole back.
Muslin fitting of version two with the open back
Second muslin fitting of the Leyla illusion back wedding dress
The second muslin with the new illusion back
Four sleeve options for the Leyla crepe wedding gown during the design process
Sleeve options
Options for the Leyla style by indie bridal designer Edith Elan
Additional sketches to finalize neckline details
Placing the beaded lace trim around the illusion back keyhole on the Leyla wedding dress style
Finalizing the trim placement

Interested in Leyla?

While Leyla is no longer a part of our stock bridal collections, she is still available as a custom-designed commission. To schedule an appointment with our designer, Lourdes, for a custom crepe wedding gown like Leyla, please click here.

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