If you have ever attended a Columbia City Ballet performance, you are already acquainted with Alexis Doktor’s work. As costume designer for the capital city’s premiere ballet company, she is responsible for every seam and sequin that jetes across the Koger Center stage.
Doktor is a woman of many talents with an innate eye for style and a skill set that also includes event planning and theatrical wardrobe and bridal design. She selected four of her favorite customized bridal gowns for this feature. Each dress she chose uniquely represents the woman wearing it.
A native of New York City who has called Columbia, South Carolina, home for a month of Sundays, Doktor wants people to think about wedding dress shopping in a modern way. “Gone are the days of in-store wedding gown shopping only,” she says. “You don’t have to have the ‘aha’ moment on a pedestal in a boutique. It can happen after the transformation process, after all the details have been customized.”
She honors the spirit of each woman in the shape of the garments and the small details. These are gowns for uncommon brides: women who embrace individuality, accept complexity and take risks!
I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.”
― Elizabeth Taylor
When it comes to important events, I always think of Alexis first.
The degree presentation at College of Charleston is surrounded by pomp and prestige. [Traditionally, women wear white dresses and the men wear white dinner jackets to the Spring commencement ceremony.] My father and older sisters all have C of C undergrad degrees and have taken that walk across the Cistern.
To add gravity to the situation, as the last daughter, my parents were guests of the President and walked with him to the Cistern in the opening processional.
I reached out to Alexis with a few ideas for my commencement gown from Pinterest (that she taught me how to use), but concurrently trusted her knowledge of what would work.
She made me feel like I designed my perfect dress – the length, the box pleats, the neckline – were exactly what I wanted.
She even picked the perfect fabric to hold shape, and not overheat, on the stage. And . . . the pockets!!!
I was able to bring my phone with me and capture the moment from my perspective. I have pictures of my parents in the audience because of the pockets she added to my skirt.
It was the best.
Any woman who has had a dress struggle knows how hard it is to feel beautiful and comfortable for a formal occasion.
Alexis did that for me with this dress.
It’s why I want her to do ALL of my important dresses, and why I’m forever thankful to her for giving this moment to me.
“When it came time to manifest a cocktail graduation dress into a wedding gown, I realized this was the perfect opportunity to make multiple pieces.” says Doktor. “Bridal fashions have become so broad lately. People can personalize them in so many ways. It has even become quite commonplace to not wear a gown at all! I knew Misha’s dress transformation had to be classic and chic, but have a bit more presence. Instead of a typical veil we decided to get the drama of a long train with a cape. That piece, and the top skirt are removable, therefore allowing the bride to have up to four different looks throughout the evening. What an amazing way to personalize your wedding attire, without having to change your entire outfit!”
I was never the girl next door.” Betty Page
I knew from the first time I thought about it that I wanted to be married in a unique gown.
I wanted to wear my mother’s wedding dress but found, upon pulling it out of storage, that it was far too yellowed and time-damaged to wear intact. I decided that, if I couldn’t wear the original, I would at least incorporate parts of my mother’s dress in my own.
I’ve never been much of a traditionalist when it comes to these things (I ended up having a surprise wedding ceremony at my childhood home) but sentimental, yes. I wanted my wedding dress to feel like me and not like a page out of a catalogue.
I pulled a no-no and ordered a basic gown online, knowing changes would have to be made.
The dress was simple: lacy with a low-cut back and buttons up the spine. Alexis altered the dress immensely.
She made changes to the cut to flatter my figure, added a blue sash, and embellished the hem of the dress with details cut from the embroidery in my mother’s dress. Other pieces of my mom’s dress adorned hair and the Groomsmen’s boutonnières, with lavender from the herb garden.
I never had to say “yes” to the dress because Alexis said “yes” to me.
Why it’s simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
(modeled by Ashley)
I didn’t set out to have a custom dress, but the more I shopped (12 boutiques and 6 cities!) the more disappointed I became.
I couldn’t find what I envisioned and kept going back to one of the first dresses I put on. I loved the way it fit, but it was missing some of the key components I wanted. I wanted lace, something with a little champagne color, something with an antique flair. I even bought a dress that had all of these elements and it was SO wrong. I kept comparing it to “the dress.”
I knew there was only one person eclectic, artistic, and eccentric enough to truly help me on this journey. Alexis traveled out of town with me to a massive fabric warehouse and helped me pick out the items to customize my dress.
Alexis talked me through how various things would look in the end result, offered suggestions, and was really wonderfully honest.
As we explored, it became obvious that we were also going to customize my veil, which I previously planned on just buying. To get the color I wanted, I dyed the lace in a pot of tea.
Alexis stitched it piece-by-piece onto the dress. The look became more and more beautiful leading up to the week of the wedding. Alexis worked tirelessly, with lots of coffee, through many nights.
I was blown away by the gorgeous creation we had come up with together. To top it all off, she custom-made all twelve of my bridesmaids dresses, too! She truly worked WITH me and I will forever be grateful for her time, talent, input, and creativity. Alexis loves what she does and has passion for her art. From ballet to bridal, she’s just a beautiful creator.
The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. -Audrey Hepburn
When I started shopping for a wedding gown, I didn’t want a wedding gown. I thought, “I am in my mid-40’s and about to start a second marriage.” Pretty wedding gowns are for pretty young brides. I needed a simple but elegant dress for a mature woman.
I took Alexis shopping with me and tried on a few of those dresses. For various reasons, they looked awful.
It wasn’t long before Alexis was explaining to me (in that assertive but loving way that Alexis explains things) that a bride should be wearing a bridal gown. She convinced me to try on a few different shapes just to see how they looked.
One gown was a designer’s discontinued sample that I, otherwise, would never have been able to afford. It was three sizes too big, the shape was wrong, and it didn’t have the corset-back I knew I wanted. But, Alexis saw what was really there almost immediately.
As I stood there grumbling about my size, shape, height, coloring, and age . . . about to turn back toward the dressing room in frustration, she swooped in. “Just wait a minute Kathy,” she said (again in that assertive, loving Alexis way.) “I can fix this.”
After a few minutes of tugging, pinching, folding, and using all the clips in the shop…she stepped back.
I turned toward the mirror and couldn’t believe it. It was a completely different gown.
“Are you sure you can do this?” I asked her. And (in that assertive, loving Alexis way) she informed me that she certainly could.
After practically deconstructing the whole thing and putting it back together again in a different size and shape, and adding my corseted back, Alexis delivered a work of art.
It fit like a glove and my husband is convinced that it is the most beautiful wedding gown on the planet.
It was the perfect gown for the perfect wedding and my husband and I will treasure her gift forever.
Designer: Alexis Doktor
Stylist: Ashley Gunter
Photographer: Karla Turner
Discover more about Alexis at her website.