Ask the Expert: Designer Claire Pettibone

by Michelle Taute

Brides who aspire to a vintage, romantic, and individual style have always loved Claire Pettibone dresses. But the designer’s name recognition received a big boost when Priscilla Chan wore a Pettibone dress in a surprise wedding to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The whole thing was a surprise to Pettibone, who learned about Chan’s dress along with the rest of the world. This very public brush with celebrity led to quotes from the designer in People Magazine and Life and Style, as well as an appearance on Good Morning America. During an appearance at Bridal and Formal over the summer, Pettibone gave us some insider advice about shopping for your dream dress.

CW: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

CP: The brand new collection is inspired by Windsor Rose China. That was a little bit inspired by my grandmother, literally, my grandmother’s china. I incorporated some of the gold detailing and some hand-painted floral elements.

Throughout the collections, I have this continuing thread of vintage inspiration, but it still has some modern feeling to it. When I say vintage, I usually mean really vintage. Sometimes people say the 1950s or ’60s is vintage but those aren’t my decades. I love the turn of the centuries from the 1800s through the early 1900s. There’s just such richness in the past that I like to draw into now. I like to mix it up so that it’s not a costume. I strive to have a timeless feeling, so you wouldn’t necessarily know when the wedding took place.

CW: Is there something you wish brides would be more open to?

CP: There are brides out there that just want a very traditional gown. I feel like it’s a little lackluster. Sometimes it feels like, “Wow, you’re such a beautiful girl. It could have been a little more special.” I think it’s really memorable and fun for your guests if they see your personalities being reflected in the wedding.

CW: What do you tell brides who are just starting to look for a dress?

CP: You’ve got to be a little open-minded. There’s the girl who comes in and knows exactly what she wants and tries it on and yes, that’s it. Or you can get a girl who comes in and ends up trying on something that she never in a million years thought that she was going to love and ends up loving it. Trust the sales associates. They really do know what’s out there. This is what they do on a day-to-day basis versus this being your once-in-a-lifetime thing.

CW: What should brides know about alterations?

CP: A lot of times girls seem to have this fantasy that the dress is going to come in and fit perfectly from the moment they try it on. Sometimes we get these panicked phone calls: “The dress is three sizes too big.” And then we will go to do the fitting and it’s just half an inch on each side. Fittings should be expected. You will need alterations because women’s bodies are all so different. It’s all in the final fitting where it really does come together, and it will fit perfectly.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Cincinnati Wedding magazine.

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