The Wedding Dress + Wardrobe Primer
Here’s something you may not know about me: my mother is a costume designer. She has worked in TV and film for over 20 years (after switching careers in her 40’s – she was a lawyer!), and I actually used to go to set with her and help with all things wardrobe. Because of this, I got a first-hand education about how to source, handle and fit wardrobe – something that has definitely come in handy for Styled Shoots!
Here in this email I’ll be sharing all my best tips for how to handle and care for the exquisite wedding dresses and other wardrobe pieces for your own shoots!
First – a huge secret! See that dress above? So gorgeous, right? Well – in reality, it was four sizes too big for the model. Try as we might, sometimes the exact size for the dress or the model is not available. This is one of the perks of a shoot set – it’s not a real wedding, and you can take advantage of the fact that people cannot see every angle.
There are actually 4 clamps holding this dress in place on the model – but you’d never know it! Below I’ll teach you the exact clamps to use (and why), how to ensure you are not damaging the dress in the process, and how to direct your models to ensure they care for the dress as they wear it.
Here are the five things that every wedding pro should know about handling + fitting wardrobe:
My best tip for sourcing dresses for your shoot: go straight to the designer. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: you’re so much more likely to get a better, cleaner and more specific dress for your shoot by borrowing directly from a dress designer.
The same is true for suiting: by joining a affiliate program with rental suit providers like The Black Tux or Menguin, you’ll have access to borrow Men’s wardrobe for your shoots, with the added benefit of people actually being able to rent these exact looks.
Ensure you are getting measurements (and not sizes) from your models. We all know bridal sizing is all over the place. This is why is it so important to go by measurements, and not by sizes in most cases. Then you can give these to the designers or wardrobe providers and get the best fit for their product.
You should be getting these measurements (in inches) from your female models: bust, waist and hips. Additionally, you’ll want to get their bra cup size and shoe size.
For male models, you’ll need the following (in inches): neck, chest, (natural) waist, inseam. I do suggest asking male models what suit jacket size they usually wear, as this is typically more standard. Also: shoe size and possible hat size.
Clamping + Fitting
As mentioned, sometimes it’s just not possible to get the wardrobe in the exact size for the model, so we have to use clamps or creative fitting.
I suggest purchasing a good set of rubber-tipped clamps for this purpose. Like the ones in this LINK. You always want rubber tipped, as these are the least likely to rip, snag or tear fabric. You’ll want some large ones like these but also small ones.
You can see the clamp in this outtake from a past shoot below – the dress was delicate tulle, but by pinching the fabric upon itself and clamping in a vertical direction we pulled the fabric the least and had a low chance of damage.
I clamp in the back for most poses, and then to get those amazing back shots will clamp in the front, or sometimes if there is not a clear waistline I will just have the model hold the dress taught to fake the fit.
The model is your first line of defense against damage.
I always give my models direction for how I prefer they handle each dress. If it has a train, you must direct them to pick it up each time they walk to a new location. If you want them to pick up the front so they won’t trip – tell them. Almost no one will do it naturally. If you have clamped the dress or any other wardrobe (I’ve been know to clamp men’s pants), tell the model they must remove the clamp or better yet come to you to remove it before they sit down, as that will pull the fabric and possibly cause damage.
You should be following these basic rules of garment care for your shoot wardrobe:
– Always use hangers and garment bags. These are usually provided. I also bring a rolling rack to use for my shoots. These are an easy way to bring a professional atmosphere to your backstage area, and keep wardrobe neat and off the floor. Check this LINK to find the one I use.
– Check carefully before cutting loose threads. This may lead to a hole or larger structural problem with the garment. Tucking is almost always better than cutting.
– Steamers are better than irons – every time. In my last email there as a link to a good handheld one. Also that mini hair straightener from my styling kit is amazing for sashes and errant collars.