Archive for the ‘Dress’ Category

Amy L Cattell of Amy's Elegance by Design

If the idea of ordering a custom dress brings to mind castles with red velvet wall hangings, your vision could use some modernization. Ann Arbor area dressmaker Amy L. Cattell will custom design a wedding gown for you and keep the cost within your budget. 

A custom dress will fit perfectly; think about how flattering that would be! A dressmaker, like Amy, can use matching material to make a wrap, ring bearer’s pillow, flower girl gowns, etc. Really, anything you can think of can be done. Amy can even take the material from a family gown and create a new design for you to wear. Working with a custom dressmaker is the perfect way to create a unified vision for your wedding party, if you are interested in doing so.

When Amy first meets with a bride, she likes to start with a picture of what the bride is interested in. She can take a designer dress and simplify it to fit in any bride’s budget. For example, one bride was interested in a Renaissance style gown. An authentic silk dress without zippers, it cost over $10,000 in stores. Amy was able to present a similar, simplified style for under $1,600.00. To work within a bride’s budget, Amy can consider using different fabrics and tweaking the style. A straight sheath gown would start at about $600.00. More elaborate beading could add about $2,000.00 to the cost.

Amy’s goal is “to make it their dream dress within their price.” She reminds brides that since the dress is custom made, it shouldn’t require fittings after it is made (which is often a considerable cost when you buy a dress in a store.) When she is designing the dress, she drapes muslin on the bride and creates the pattern. She pins seams and draws the neckline on. It is completely customized and fun. She loves the smile when the brides try on the final gown. 

Amy Cattell's pink wedding gownAmy Cattell's white wedding gownAmy Cattell's Daughter's White Wedding Gown

Amy also sews signature quilts which can be signed at the wedding and then hung on the wall or put on the bed. These tapestries add a personal touch not only to your wedding, but also your home. She is a versatile artist capable of creating new ideas. She made this beautiful pillow for my fiancé and I as a memory of our trip to Venice last summer:

Venezia Pillow


In high school, Amy made her own prom dress, which was when she started making dresses. She made her daughter’s prom dress and when her daughter got engaged, she challenged her mother by saying, “you’ve got to top the prom dresses, Mom!” Amy made her own suit when she got married and then her daughter’s wedding gown. 

Amy will also alter store bought dresses or suits for a reasonable price. When she meets with you, she is happy to work with your schedule and meet at your place or hers. For more info on her custom designs, check out her website.

If you are looking for a dress maker and you aren’t in the Ann Arbor area, Amy suggests finding someone who listens to what you are looking for in a dress. The person should be both creative and precise. She recommends asking for referrals, as you would for any business person.

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After spending two and a half hours in the bra store hush for my recent reading, I had to find out more about bra fittings, finding the right bra… and share it with you. (Or at least, half of you, my readers.) Lisa, the owner of hush, kindly shared some information with us. Once I finish this dreaded diet (more about that later), I’ll be back to the store for a proper fitting. I promise, Lisa!




So many women buy their bras in department stores or online. What is the advantage to having a custom fit?

The advantage of having a custom fit is in the knowledge of our staff.  Bras are like any other article of clothing in that a size 38C fits differently depending on the maker, the style, and the woman’s preferences.  At hush, we know our products and we listen to our clients wants & needs.  We are able to take a measurement or two and then return with the perfect fit – often on the very first try.


What is involved in a fitting?

Fittings are easy!  Our clients are in private dressing rooms.  We take two measurements with only a bra on.  We consult with each woman about what she is looking for in terms of coverage, color, special needs, etc.  We then go select bras for our client, bring them back, and get to trying them on….yes we help you get the girls into those cups


Women rave that a good fitting bra can make them feel thinner and change their entire look. How does this happen?

This magic happens in two ways.  First, by lifting your breasts off your ribcage and/or abdomen, your are physically shifting that “weight” from that area to where it belongs.  Secondly, by giving your breasts each their own space, your are turning what appears to be somewhat of an area of “mass” (confusion) into two distinct lovely places.


What should women expect to pay for a good bra?

A reliable, good quality bra runs from $50 to $70.


How long will a good bra last?

This depends on a couple of factors:  How often you wear the bra without washing it and how you wash it.  Say you wear the same bra 6 days a week, washing it on the 7th, I’d say 6 months to a year.  Whereas if you wash the bra everytime you wear it and wear it every other day, you will double its life expectancy.  Think of it like a rubberband. The longer you keep a rubber band stretched to its capacity, the more likely it is to loose its elasticity.  You need to give your support time to recover from holding your girls up all day;o) If you can afford three bras, and rotate them the life of each of them is a couple of years or more.  Caring for your undergarment – cold water, no bleach, hang dry is best.  Once you introduce bleach, you reduce the elasticity of the bra.  Same goes for the dryer.  Use a gentle detergent, like Forever New; and hook your bras so that they don’t catch on anything.  Of course, there is the old fashioned hand washing method; I just don’t know many women who have the time or energy.


How did you become involved in this industry?

Ahhhhh yes, the eternal question.  How does one with a Master’s Degree in Engineering move into bras?  Simple, I HATED bra shopping and the end results of ill fitting garments.  There just had to be a better way.  I dreamed up a place where I (and my equally frustrated girlfriends) would want to shop.  Then just like any geek, I went to work on researching and data crunching until I was sure I could help women feel comfortable (and perhaps happy) in their underwear.


What do you recommend to a bride for her wedding-bra?

I recommend you come see me ASAP.  Your most precious day should not be spent being concerned about your bra.  Your bra should be most-of-all comfortable.  If you are looking for a strapless bra, I suggest a torsolette or bustier.  These styles provide support from the hips or waistline up.  If properly fit, they shift very little and can be quite sexy for the end of the evening;)




As you enter Hush, you’ll immediately have a feeling of privacy and comfort as well as elegance and pleasantness.  This is a place that makes you smile on a rainy day, and where knowledgeable women consult with you to find the perfect fit. hush intimate apparel, owned and operated by Lisa Nelson, is focused on its specialty of meeting the undergarment needs of all women. The products currently within her quiet walls range from 30AA thru 48K and even some cups in 50 & 52. But what is most impressive is her desire to find the best fit possible for each of her customers, even if that means putting in an order or recommending a competitor for those last minute needs.  “My feeling is that I do the best I can to carry the products and ranges for my customers; but sometimes I just don’t have what a client needs. So in cases where she needs an undergarment sooner than I can accommodate, I suggest other places I know carry good products. I just hate that I wasn’t able to help because, as a woman, I know how aggravating it can be to go to 10 places to find the one item that works for you.” says Lisa. She is confident that her inventory will continue to evolve as she gets to know the women she serves.  So, just what does hush carry? There are bras: t-shirts, underwire, wireless, strapless, bustiers, backless, plunge lines. Then there are the panties to match every bra in a variety of styles (thongs, boy shorts, briefs and hipsters). hush carries excellent quality hosiery for every day (pantyhose, and shape-wear) and special occasions (thigh highs and stockings). The chemises and other sleepwear are elegant and the fabrics are impressive. It is obvious care was taken to choose items that ANY women would feel good in. What adds to the beautiful lingerie is the personal attention and professional fitting each client receives. The hush staff takes measurements to ensure that each garment fits properly then brings the garments to the customer.  You no longer need to wonder if the bra fits “right.”  This takes the frustration out of looking for what you think is your size and what might look good. And, to top it all off, hush also keeps track of customer sizes & preferences for the purpose of making phone calls to regular customers when new products arrive, and for gifts from loved ones.

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Thanks so much to Lisa Baker Nelson for hosting the Mother/Daughter night at Hush last night. She kindly invited me to read poems twice and I couldn’t have asked for more in an audience. It was a lot of fun!

As promised, here is the bra poem I wrote. It is dedicated to Lisa Baker Nelson of Hush. She has a framed copy of it in her store.



The nerve.
Why am I held here?
Solid, unmoving. (A little escaping on the side.)
What do I need?

Shh. Hush. Don’t tell my problems.
But, please, please help me.


© Chloé Yelena Miller 2009



My fiancé, who spent 2.5 hours straight in a bra store, took some pictures during the reading:

Hush ReadingHush Reading 2









He also kindly videotaped the bra and underwear poem. Check it out on Facebook.

Lisa and her staff offer private fittings. Everyone who came out of the dressing room was thrilled to discover how she looked after wearing a properly fitted bra. Be sure to check out her store. It is on Maine Street in Brighton, a cute town with many restaurants and stores.


Thanks to Leslie Hipp, Independent Consultant, Executive Area Manager Arbonne International, for her kind words after the reading:
I just loved your poems and your warm, fun spirit. Your presence made a big difference in the feel of the evening festitivies.

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Hush Intimate Apparel

Girls, and boys if you can stand it, I hope you’ll join me for two short readings at Hush Intimate Apparel in Brighton, MI.  


Lisa M. Nelson, the generous owner, will be hosting a Mother / Daughter Event in anticipation of Mother’s Day. On April 30th at 6:30 pm and again at 8 pm, I’ll give a ten minute reading of my own mother poems (all positive, of course) and read some famous poems, too. Any requests?


I’ll be available to discuss personalized wedding poems and other special occasion poems, too.


Raise your hand if you’ve always had a love hate (or hate hate) relationship with that pesky undergarment that can make (or break) an outfit?


That’s what I thought.


Hush is an amazing concept. It is a store dedicated to helping women find the right size bra. They offer cup sizes AA through K and band sizes 30 thru 52. That equals over 200 sizes available. Wow. Where were they my whole life? With special brands you won’t find at department stores, every woman will find her fit.


Where’s the dressing room? I’m ready.


See you there!


Hush Intimate Apparel

431 West Main Street

Brighton, MI 48116

Thursday, April 30

The Mother / Daughter Event wil run from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

I will be reading at 6:30 pm & 8:00 pm




PS: If you befriend me on Facebook, I guarantee that you’ll read some funny friend comments about this event… can you beat the ones that are already up there? Don’t be a boob, I’m sure you can. If we aren’t friends already, search for me on Facebook (Chloe Yelena Miller.)


RSVP on my Facebook event page.

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(Thanks to The Ann Arbor Chronicle for mentioning this blog post!)



I attended my first bridal show this weekend at V2V , a lovely boutique in Ann Arbor, MI.


I was smitten with V2V and their dresses when I saw a silk gown with a gathered front hanging in their window recently. Last week, I tried on a few dresses and spoke with Julia and Tracey. They told me about the “Bridal Event” this weekend. It sounded good, but I had no idea how much fun it would really be to attend.  


My friend Shasta kindly drove up from Indianapolis to help with wedding plans and we went together. Saturday, we had an appointment to try on dresses from the trunk sale. There were some beautiful Jenny Yoo and Siri that we loved. I haven’t decided on a dress yet, but I have a better sense of what I might like to buy.


Sunday was the Bridal Event. Shasta and I arrived at 2:30, a little before the second fashion show of the day. When we walked in, the woman gathering the tickets said that we had to try the meatballs right away. I wasn’t sure what she meant until we walked up the stairs and saw the vendors sharing samples of their foods. Who knew we should have come on an empty stomach?


We wandered around the tables of vendors. After tastes of almond cake, raspberry chocolate truffles, meatballs, apple cider and more, we felt like we were at an exclusive party dedicated to crafting original and sincere weddings.


Here were some highlights:


TeaHous is a Kerrytown-area store that specializes in tea and tea products. They had sample earl gray lollipops that would make wonderful favors.


Cakes by Rubina  offered a pure almond chocolate cake bite. It tasted like a true Italian dessert.


Decadent Delights  shared moist chocolate cake with us. They make custom cookies and can even make cookies that match your cake.


I had walked by Schakolad , the chocolate factory, a number of times in Ann Arbor and never stopped. That was clearly a mistake. I tasted a raspberry champagne truffle and wanted to create a distraction so Shasta could steal us the entire silver tray of chocolates.


When we found Zingerman’s, we found the meatballs. At this point I was too full to want to squeeze in extras, but it was delicious. Shasta enjoyed some of the apple cider.


The ultimate high point was the ten minute chair massage by Bellanina I was a new woman after that (why did I have to get up?)


The fashion show was great fun. The models walked down the runway in the dresses carrying lovely bouquets of flowers. Here are some pictures from the show:



V2V white dress

V2V group

V2V Show 3 I highly recommend attending future shows there. The cost was $8.00 in advance, $10 at the door. This was exactly the place to be for a bride who is looking to create an authentic wedding day without the excess of impersonal, commercial vendors.  


Thanks to V2V and Shasta for a wonderful weekend. I’m brimming with good ideas and cake.

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My fiancé recently went to a tux shop to inquire about the options. The salesperson asked what color his bride’s dress would be, “white or off white.” Being the perfect man for me, he laughed.


As we know, there are countless wedding dress styles, colors and details that can be chosen or added to make it your own. Our dance teacher last night said that she was dancing professionally when she was engaged and her dressmaker was her costumer. After the wedding, the costumer was able to turn the dress into a dance costume by removing the train and some of the details. Great idea! She said that for the wedding she wore a long scarf behind her, which sounds very stylish.


Shasta Grant Huntington married recently in a dress that had blush colored smooth material under the beading.  The overlay was off-white.  She chose pale gold shoes that were Marc by Marc Jacobs; not your traditional wedding shoes! She has worn them so many times since the wedding that they are wearing out.


Here are some pictures:

Shasta's dress 

















Shasta's dress and shoes













Kimberly Bertsch, an American who recently married an Italian in Italy, had her dress designed by an Italian dressmaker who, unfortunately, recently closed her store. The dress was modified from a designer dress by Fabio Gritti (www.fabiogritti.it). In the end, the dress was reasonably priced and fit her perfectly.


Here is a picture from her wedding:


Kim and her groom

Robin Sinins had a fall wedding and was married in a gorgeous white dress. She chose black bridesmaid dresses that could easily be worn again.


Here is a picture. Do you recognize our poet? I loved those flowers – they really stood out against the dresses.

Robin and her wedding party




You choose your perfect wedding day outfit. There are dressmakers throughout the country who can design dresses based on pictures or ideas that you sketch out for them. You don’t have to buy “wedding shoes,” but rather choose a great pair that are comfortable (you will probably be standing all day) and you can wear again. Why not make your dress something you can wear again, too?



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I distinctly remember being a teenager and watching one of the 90210 characters go to prom in a “Mermaid dress.” (Was it Donna?) She could barely move and missed out on most of the fun, excluding the fun she created by trying to walk.


I want to find the perfect wedding dress: it shouldn’t cost a fortune, it should be comfortable and I should be able to walk.


I forgot an important detail regarding the bathroom.


My friend Grace recently wrote:


My dress was ivory, and much to my mother’s dismay, very plain (i.e. no beading or sparkly stuff).  But for the reception I wore a traditional Korean dress, which had a big red skirt.  When I was dress shopping, to be honest, my main concern was whether or not I would be able to go to the bathroom w/out assistance!


At a friend’s wedding, I accidentally walked into the bathroom as she was trying to use the toilet, and I was freaked out to see the maid of honor and a bridesmaid having to hold up her dress so that she could do her thing.   So that dictated the whole “can I go to the bathroom alone in it?” rule for me and my dress. 😉


Good point!


I will add going to the bathroom to the list of necessities on that important day.


This weekend my fiancé and I saw the Broadway show Avenue Q in Detroit. In one scene, a bride emerges with the largest, gauziest wedding dress you’ve ever seen. Suddenly, she is illuminated: there are lights under her dress! Would it be appropriate to add a detail like to that to the dress? That might determine the theme of the wedding.



While you are trying on dresses, see if you can bend down (what if you drop something?), sit down (you want to eat at your wedding, right?) and breath (that’s key.) You don’t need to be able to do yoga in your dress, but you should be comfortable.  


Readers: let me know if I’m forgetting anything!


Grace in her traditional Korean dress

Grace in her traditional Korean dress

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I received some email responses to my post “To wear white or not?” My favorite was from Courtney, a fellow Smithie alum.


She found a gorgeous *pink* dress at Filene’s Basement. Filene’s holds an annual wedding dress sale at select stores (twice in Boston.) Here’s the link: http://www.filenesbasement.com/bridal.jsp


A number of people have suggested it to me, but I was hesitant to try it because of this line on their website, “News reports so often compare it to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain that the event is now officially called the ‘Running of the Brides.’” (Yikes.)


Courtney said that she went around noon after things were calmer and the dresses were back on the racks. Sounds like good advice!


Here is the lovely bride and her dress:





As you know, I haven’t gotten my dress yet. I hope you’ll share your dress shopping knowledge with the readers. Where did you get your dress?


I’ll post your dress or wedding day pictures – email them to me here: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

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To wear white or not?

I’m not sure that I want to wear white on my wedding day.


My mother got married in an orange velure dress with a matching hat. My father wore a yellow tie. My great aunt, who recently turned 100, showed me a swath of fabric from her mother’s wedding dress which was dark brown with green floral stitching.


Their friend Susan Topper took this picture:


My parents' wedding.
The Orange Dress




Wearing white is a rather recent wedding development. It became a western tradition after 1840 when Queen Victoria wore a white dress at her wedding (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_dress.)


Perhaps my family’s tradition isn’t to wear white.


I don’t want to make a mistake, however, so I spent a day in New York City trying on fancy white bridal gowns with my mother. We took down dresses bigger and heavier than we were and I was zipped into them in the tiny dressing rooms. Then, I stood on a stand in front of a mirror and was tugged on by salespeople. The dresses, which never were the right size, had to be pulled tightly in order for me to see how they could possible fit after being properly tailored. I asked to see a tiara and veil, in order to complete the picture.


I half expected to cry when I saw myself dressed like that in the mirror. (I think I’ve seen too many Lifetime movies.) I mostly felt short of breath and uncomfortable.


We thought we’d be able to take pictures, but it turns out that is against the rules. We did sneak some pictures in the dressing room, but the awkward angles made sure they didn’t come out just right. One saleswoman saw the flash under the door and reprimanded us. (Buying a dress is serious business. She didn’t like how we giggled in response. We left promptly.)


My mother and I had a wonderful day that day. If I were moved to buy a more traditional dress, I would have bought it at the Bridal Garden (http://www.bridalgarden.org/.) It is a non-profit boutique that donates money to NYC schoolchildren. The dresses are designer and on sale.


In the end, I am now in the process of looking at local dress shops and seeing what beautiful dress I can find.


And to be traditional, I’ll probably wear orange.



Everyone told me to try on dresses that I might not have expected to like. I think this is generally a good rule. Try different styles and see how you feel in the dress. You’ll pick the right dress because it will feel right. Ask a lot of questions – it seems that every dress can be reshaped however you like.


This, however, is an expensive endeavor. I went to a wedding this weekend and the bride looked beautiful in a JCrew dress. Many mainstream stores now have wedding lines. If you buy a wedding dress (or another dress to wear at your wedding) off the rack, you can save a lot of money.


Remember, even if something isn’t labeled “wedding,” you can still wear it at your wedding. Unless you tell the guests with pride, who is going to know?



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