Karen Reilly

Karen Reilly has been designing bespoke wedding gowns for over 30 years. Her creative, stylish and contemporary wedding dresses are individually designed and made by hand to your requirements.

Using the best quality fabrics including luxury silks and handmade French lace bought from UK suppliers, each dress is unique to each bride, and always made to measure with exquisite attention to detail.

The design studio is located in the heart of Bristol on the beautiful 16th century Christmas Steps, which provides an ideal shop front to showcase the beautifully designed gowns.

Visitors are always welcome at the shop, which gives great insight into how an artist works with fine fabrics to produce beautiful bespoke dresses – a must visit for brides, future brides and anyone who appreciates this exquisite craft.

Your dress

When it comes to wedding dresses, it’s important it fits well, looks beautiful and importantly makes you feel beautiful. This is likely to be the most amount of money you spend on any item of clothing, so my ethos has always been that you deserve the best, and I excel at creating that for your wedding day.

All my patterns are self-drafted and working from classic shapes and styles which allows freedom for creativity. If you’ve always had the dream dress in your head but aren’t sure where to start, creating a dress from scratch can achieve that. 

When you come to my studio for the first consultation, I use the session to get to know you and to discuss your wishes. I sketch ideas for you to consider and show you silks, laces and other fabric choices to design your bespoke dress. I’ll work with you to choose the best styles, fabrics and finishes that will fit you and work for the theme of your wedding.

From there I start working on the toile, which is a mock-up of the final dress to make sure the design, style and fit are perfect. This process can take up to 6 – 8 fittings to adjust everything from length to sleeves and make tweaks and changes to the shape and fit. This is an opportunity to see what the final dress will look like and to ensure you are 100% happy with the final result.

Once the toile fits, I then move onto the dress itself. Ideally, we would have the final dress fitted, adjusted and finalised two weeks before your wedding day to ensure the perfect fit for the big day.

I also offer a Mother of the Bride, bridesmaid and flower girls service, handmaking the perfect outfits for your bridal party. 

Choosing small accents that complement the bridal gown, it’s a special way to celebrate the other important relationships being celebrated at your wedding.

Prices for my bespoke wedding dresses start at £1500 plus fabrics.

Testimonials

When I first sat down with Karen, I felt completely at ease and loved the notepad sketch Karen created from our conversation and the few ideas I had. The next time I sat down with Karen I was in a slightly different position as I was four months pregnant with twins! How could I ever have a wedding dress made for me with my expanding waistline and body shape - but Karen is such a professional that I needn’t have worried.

I have no idea how you did it Karen, given the changing parameters at each fitting, but you made me a beautiful wedding dress that I felt wonderful in! I loved the planning, spending time with you and I cannot recommend you enough to anyone wanting a bespoke wedding dress. Your adaptability, work ethic and ideas are incredible and you are so talented with a needle and thread, thank you.
Jane
Thank you so much for my stunning dress. The whole process of putting together the ideas for the dress and seeing it made bit by bit was a brilliant journey. Karen did the most fantastic job in advising me on what would actually (not every idea I had was realistic!) work for the design, while still helping to deliver the dress of my dreams. Karen’s dress making skills are second to none and I was so impressed by the beauty and quality of her work.

The end result was a dress completely unique to me, which fitted my petite height perfectly. I felt happy, confident, stylish and truly sensational in my dress and jacket all day. I wish I could wear them every day!
Helen
I was your stereotypical nightmare bride. I went to approximately a thousand wedding dress shops and tried on a million dresses but none of them were 'the one'. Then I met Karen. I think I had my 'the one' moment that first time I sat down with Karen and her sketch pad. Together we came up with a design, carefully chose fabrics and obsessed over colours (I didn't know there were so many shades of white).

After many revisions (that woman has the patience of a saint!) we finally created my dream dress. I felt amazing on my big day, everyone complimented me on the dress and it was amazing knowing that it was truly one of a kind. I can't recommend Karen highly enough. If I ever get married again..
Mrs G
Thank you so much for your expertise and hard work on my dress. I hadn’t been able to find exactly what I wanted in bridal shops and Karen was able to bring together all the things I had seen that I liked that were in my head into one design, and she took it in her stride when I made a significant change after the first fitting. Karen’s expertise, calmness and obvious care over your dress helps with any indecisiveness or nerves.
It was such a lovely treat going to Karen’s shop on Christmas Steps, and very special seeing the progress on each visit. I felt much more in touch with the process and will always be so happy that I had my dress made bespoke.

My dress is too beautiful to store away in a box and I have it still hung up so I can see it every day.
Jess
Just a little note to say THANKYOU so much for creating the most beautiful dress in the world! I can't tell you how happy I am with it. Your craftsmanship is outstanding and you have made the whole process a real pleasure. I shall be sad not to see you every couple of weeks.
Lucinda
I just wanted to drop a note to say a massive thank you for my wedding dress. It was absolutely perfect and I loved wearing it. I couldn’t have asked for a better dress and Pete would agree! Thank you for taking the time to make it so perfectly and it was so much fun seeing it all come together.
Mary-Anne
Thank you for creating my beautiful wedding dress! It’s been such an enjoyable experience you are very talented
Georgina
Thank you for being wonderful in making me feel wonderful for our big day!
It’s been lovely developing the dress with you over the last few months and I can’t wait to wear it in Italy next week.
Cary
Just a little something to say thank you for making this the most wonderful experience – it has just been amazing.
Thank you too for dealing with my very scary wobbly moment and also for all the stunningly beautiful paint work you did on my dress. I will never forget it.
Pip
Thank you so much for my wonderful wedding dress! I had such an amazing time while we were creating the first ideas, all the way to the final fitting. Thank you for making the process so easy. Richard (my husband!) loved the dress. I won’t miss looking for lace, but I will miss our fittings.
Avgousta
I honestly can’t thank you enough Karen!

Lots of little girls dream about their perfect wedding dress, and I feel incredibly lucky that you were able to create mine so spot on (in fact better!!). I wish you had been there on the day to see how many compliments you and the dress got, and it really did make me feel extra special on our special day, so thank you so so much!

I’ve loved the whole process too and know I will miss it a lot. Much love and many thanks again
Kate
Just a little note to say thank you so much for making my wedding dress! It’s absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t of asked for anymore.

The fact that you’re so easy to get on with has made the whole experience even more enjoyable!
Hannah
I absolutely adored my dress and had fun working with you to get it right (well you did the fantastic work and I just got to enjoy it]. I couldn’t of asked for anything more.
Pam
Thank you for making me the dress of my dreams! And for being such enjoyable company throughout. It’s been a pleasure
Claire
I don’t think I can express how much my dress means to me, not just the thing but the whole experience! I feel so lucky to have it and honoured that you made it for me. It’s the most beautiful outfit I have ever seen and it’s mine! It made my wedding feel extra special and I can never thank you enough.
Scarlet
Just a little note to say an enormous thank you so so much for creating the most beautiful dress in the world! I can’t tell you how happy I am with it, your craftsmanship is outstanding and you have made the whole process a real pleasure, I shall be sad not to see you every couple of weeks!
Lucinda

Meet Karen

I absolutely love making wedding dresses and since 1988 I have made over 600 – all of which I could tell you a story about.

From the first conversation with a new bride to be, to the sketches that capture the dream and the fabric samples adorned upon; I know are all integral to designing your wedding dress.

When I finished studying Fashion Design, I knew I wanted to make bespoke wedding dresses using my own designs.

 I opened the studio on the iconic Christmas Steps, which is known in the South West as the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter – my designer wedding gowns would be in good company surrounded by the best of Bristol’s creatives. The first dress left my studio with a delighted bride and there have been many more since.

All of my wedding dresses are self-crafted and handmade with your choice of materials with a particular focus on luxury silks and laces, sourced from UK suppliers. 

Alongside my wedding dress business, I have also been teaching at the famous Bristol Folk House for the last 10 years, passing on my skills to new sewers and supporting my pupils with projects, from aprons to luxury wool coats. This keeps my skills sharp and enables me to share my love of sewing and design as well as inspiring the new wave of sewers and wedding dress designers.

Moments

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