a.ell atelier Custom Made Wedding Gowns
by Joan Conrow
Photos by Keri Cooper
Once you’ve said “yes” to the marriage proposal, designer Angelique Ell can help you say “yes” to the perfect wedding dress.
“I started doing these ‘say yes to the dress’ parties because there’s a ceremony involved with picking a dress,” Ell explains. “Brides want to get their girlfriends together to go on a shopping trip. I wanted to create a way they could do that right here.”
So she began hosting private bridal fairs after-hours at her downtown Kapa`a shop, a. ell atelier. As the bride’s trusted advisors sip champagne or wine and nibble chocolates, pupu or fruit, Ell conducts a brief consultation to get a sense of the bride’s style, then picks dresses for her to model for the group.
“Most of the time the entire wedding party agrees at once, with an ‘ahhhh’ as she walks out of the dressing room,” Ell says. “The brides get the support they want, and it takes a lot of the stress out.”
Recent bride Hollis Church initially wasn’t sure she wanted to be the center of attention, trying on dresses. “But I had so much fun because it was so intimate,” Church says. “I didn’t feel shy because everyone was making funny comments. It really helped me, too, because I’m indecisive about clothes and I really don’t know how I look. It was a fun little party and all my friends helped me pick out a gorgeous dress. I loved it, and thought it was such a brilliant idea.”
In living up to her shop name — atelier means a creative person’s workshop — Ell offers custom dresses, which require a few months’ lead time, as well as corsets and skirts that she designs. All of her creations are made from natural, skin-friendly fabrics, such as silk, bamboo and hemp.
“Everything is hand-made, hand-painted, hand-beaded, and we do the alterations here,” she says.
The shop also carries a couture line of hand-painted gowns made from a “lightweight mesh fabric with stretch so they fit an amazing range of people,” Ell says. “As the paint heats up, it molds to your body, so you don’t need a lot of special undergarments.”
“They are perfect for a beach-style or outdoor wedding,” she says, noting they can even be safely worn into the water. And since many of the couture dresses feature colorful flowers around the neckline, “the bouquet is already taken care of.”
Brides are often so thrilled with the fit and feel of a gown from a.ell that they come back in after the ceremony to have it shortened into a cocktail dress. ‘They love the idea they can wear it again,” Ell says.
Her corsets are very popular for the same reason. After pairing it with a poofy skirt for the wedding, “you can team it up with a pair of jeans or a skirt on your honeymoon,” she suggests.
Ell can outfit the entire wedding party, since she also carries slacks and high quality aloha shirts, as well as dresses suitable for bridesmaids and mothers of the bride. The twist-wrap dress has been especially well-received, she says, because you can “wear it like 50 different ways.” So each bridesmaid can wrap it in the style that best suits her figure, and continue to wear it long after the ceremony is pau.
Besides serving as a convenient way to get the bride and her entourage decked out in distinctive attire — including accessories and wedding party gifts — Ell sees her “say yes to the dress” parties as a kick off to the wedding festivities. “This is like a celebration,” she says. “It jazzes stuff up. For me, it’s all about creating the excitement.”
To experience that excitement, call 635-4964 or stop by the shop, which is located next to Pono Market and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Visit www.aelldesign.com.