This is Chapter 3 of an ongoing series following the journey of a couple throwing an intimate, DIY wedding in Washington, DC. Check out Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2 here, and Chapter 3 here.

So, we started with general but now we get to start talking about the specifics.  The exciting stuff.  The one thing that sets the tone for the entire wedding.


As we all know, I was on a strict budget and with that, it only takes one thing to be a HUGE budget buster!  I have seen dresses price from $50-$50000.  WOW.  I came to the conclusion that unless it is a very tiny fashion designer brand, all dresses are made in China (or Taiwan etc).  So why pay the price for the boutique (that usually didn’t have my type of style or my size anyway)?  So here were the determining factors for my dress…

  1. style of wedding (outdoors, afternoon, informal, small scale, second wedding) this lead me towards a more fun and nontraditional dress
  2. our personality (flirty, fun, nonconformists, unique) this also lead me towards a more fun and nontraditional dress
  3. body type (petite but wide – calls for a dress that gives me a waist and draws your eye up)

I saw a trend towards shorter dresses and loved the idea.  The ones that define the waist most were the 50’s style, so I knew I wanted cinching or a cummerbund to give the illusion of a “belt” and I also thought it sort of hearkened back to the Japanese large obi sash (which would be appropriate for the cherry blossom theme).

So I started my search for poofy tea length dresses.  I wanted it to be a bit more delicate and free-flowing then a heavy satin so I decided I wanted a lacy element.  I found many interesting web pages like Dolly Couture and Whirling Turban who specialize in dresses like this, but I always wanted to customize it.. you know, make it my own and with American designers, this got expensive.  They were going to have to custom make my gown anyway.

That is when I found out that you can order online from China.  There are many forums about Milly Bridal and it just looked like a complicated process with inconsistent results.  So I decided to look for smaller Chinese dress makers.  Light In The Box seemed like a good option.  I ordered my first dress from  Bust! they made it HUGE.  It could have been my measuring of course, but there was no way I could wear it.  I learned some things about dealing with china dress makers on that experience…

  1. Be VERY specific with what you want.  Tell them EACH color (thread/beads/sequins/number of buttons/where the seams/materials go, etc). Basically tell them how you would shop for materials and how you would put together the dress.
  2. Use visual aids. Take pictures that you like, mark them up, circle elements, get detail close up pictures of what you want.  Shops like Davids or Alfred Angelo allow you to take pictures of their dresses.
  3. Bug the heck out of them. Ask for progress pictures, ask what they are working on, ask when they will be done, etc.

If you go into it expecting to do all of this, you will probably be happy.  It is easier for them if you pick a dress from the standards that they make and you “alter” it rather then sending them a design from scratch.  If you send them a dead custom, there is a higher chance of them messing it up.

I ended up with a style of dress based on a Provonias rip-off dress that I then shortened the hem on and turned the sash into a pink cummerbund that was wider than the original.  I will post pictures of the actual dress when I can, but for now here are some of the mock-up:

I think it turned out great, especially for the original $150 price TAG!!!!!!  (There was an additional $150 for alterations). Also, the shoes are pink high heel saddle shoes from hongkonghappy on eBay:

As for the groom, he got his tan suit and shoes at Macy’s with a pink Walmart shirt and paisley tie from Tiebar. We also went to a local western store for a dark brown vest.  He looks great in everything!


  1. I absolutely LOVE the pink saddle shoes! My cousin is having her sweet 16 party in November and everything is 50’s inspired! I would love to find those shoes for her!!!

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