Finding a bridal gown can be a daunting task: What color? What style? Lace or no lace? Long sleeve or short? On top of the details, you have to think of your timeline and where to shop. If you have a specific vision for your dream gown, consider a local dressmaker who can work one-on-one with you to make sure every stitch is perfect.
Morgana Allen, founder and owner of Hovey Couture aims to cater to each bride and her vision to make sure it’s the star of the show. After studying fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design, Allen went on to work as a stylist and buyer but realized she wasn’t satisfied with the direction of her career. While testing new avenues, a mechanic friend requested she make her wedding dress just two months prior to the big day. It had to be custom made because of its unique, bright and fun features: black lace with pink accents to match the bride’s hair.
Miraculously, Allen delivered and successfully designed her first bridal creation. “I fell in love with the process,” she says. Soon enough, she had another friend ask for a custom design and “it made itself.”
Allen, who doesn’t come from a bridal design background has learned along the way. She began designing in 2016 and with seed money, she was able to start her business and find a studio. She went to bridal expos to expand her network and prove herself to the industry. That journey was cut short, however, when the pandemic hit and weddings were put on hold. Thankfully, with her background, she quickly pivoted to being the costume shop manager at Brown University. Coming out of the pandemic, she believed there was no way to stay afloat as a dress designer and it would be a long process to get back to where she wanted to be.
Hovey Couture came to be over time. Allen’s ancestors used to build ships, making things by hand, which inspired the name of her business.
The design process is lengthy and intricate. Depending on how elaborate the design is, the process from start to finish can take between eight months to a year. Rush orders can be done in six months, but it can be tough. Allen starts with meeting the client and asks for Pinterest or mood boards. “It’s easier to describe a vision with images than words,” she says. “It’s easier for them to express what they want.” She will then create a few fashion illustration options and once a design is selected, she moves onto the fabric. She mainly sources from Europe which can take a while to ship. Once the material is confirmed, she starts the fitting process knowing how to work with the fabric; if it’s silk, they can work with how it will drape or see where some fabrics may be able to stretch when sitting. With the bride’s measurements, Allen gets to work.
“I love the organic process of draping [the fabric] on a dress form [mannequin],” she says. It goes back to the old ways of sewing and seeing the pieces come together.
On average, she’ll schedule three fittings to make sure it’s just right, five fittings for more complicated designs. Once agreed upon the dress fitting and everything is finalized, she’ll go ahead and make the final piece.
The most personal touch is day-of service where Allen brings the dress to the venue and dresses the bride to see everything fall into place. A bonus for Allen: She gets to travel to wherever the ceremony is held, which, last fall, was the Adirondacks.
Allen doesn’t have generic patterns or styles for the bride’s selection and lets the bride communicate her vision. “Every body and person is different, I don’t like to steer them in a direction,” Allen says. “Everything is custom, it’s what you really want.” It varies from client to client, from a ’70s Italian shift dress to a full-on corseted goth gown. There is one thing she makes sure is consistent: hidden pockets in every dress.
She makes note when she attends weddings of what the bride may be lacking, where are the snags, when she feels uncomfortable and takes that intel and incorporates that into her designs. Besides bringing a vision to life from scratch, Allen specializes in repurposing a mother or grandmother’s dress in a modern way by deconstructing them entirely to offer more options while keeping the meaning and heritage alive.
The goth dress was her most challenging design yet. The skirt had nearly fifteen layers and the bride wanted a silhouette of branches peeking out from the bottom of the skirt. Allen used black velvet and with the help of a wood burner, she created a rough organic edge, all of it hand stitched. Another design had a cathedral style bustle and train stretching to fifteen feet long in a bright red color.
With typical bridal boutiques and stores, Allen found that brides will buy a dress they don’t wholly love. Maybe it’s the cut or how the color is just slightly off from the perfect champagne tone, but brides often look at their options and feel pressure to say yes to something they don’t really love, she says, and if they don’t see anything that fits their style, they start over from scratch at a new shop.
Allen’s designs begin at $5,000 and depends on the fabrics. The design fee is for a custom pattern for all brides. Fabric samples aren’t cheap, either, and travel fees are also considered.
Allen continues to learn in her craft. She applied to the Design X RI Catalyst program and applied for a grant which she received. She’ll attend workshops, seminars and meeting with business mentors to help her grow.
In addition to the flowy gowns, Allen is launching a bridal separates line. “A combination of organic romantic nature,” she says. “Where flowy meets crisp tailoring.” Size inclusivity plays a large role in Hovey Couture, especially the separates line. “Brides feeling like they’re shut out from the size line,” Allen says. “You never see older, plus-size brides. At the end of the day, I want everyone to feel comfortable physically and mentally. On your wedding day, if you’re trying to be someone else, you’re not comfortable.”
Hovey Couture is located in the Nicholson Fine Art Studios in Providence.
350 Kinsley Ave. Bldg. 38, Providence, hoveycouture.com