Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dress Designer Spotlight: Liz Fields

Many brides dream of having a custom wedding gown made especially for their big day.  But custom wedding gowns used to be the purview of wealthy brides willing to spend a fortune.  Wedding gown designer Liz Fields puts unique, customized dresses in the reach of the masses.

Relatively new on the scene, Fields is now offering her third collection of wedding dresses in her Spring 2011 line. "It's not a cookie cutter dress," said Dawn Wolsfelt, whose bridal shop, Wolsfelt's Victorian Bridals in Aurora, Illinois, carries Liz Fields' designs. "They're traditional with a little flair."

Fields is no stranger to the wedding industry.  Her father created a database system for the special occasion industry used by such famed designers as Lefkov and Watters.  "He was always in those offices, and I was always coming and hanging out with the designers." Fields told me.

But in college she was set to take a different path, studying premed at George Washington University.  Everything changed in her junior year of college when she was offered the opportunity to work on the film, The Nomad.  After spending six months in Kazakhstan working on the film, Fields re-evaluated her career path. "Do I want to head into the office every day or do I want to travel and meet new people constantly and delve into my creativity?" Fields said. "That was a turning point."

Once back home, Fields left George Washington University and headed to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where she studied to become a costume designer.  After school, she worked at a bridesmaids company with her dad before launching her own line of wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses in 2009.

"Bridal is the next best thing to costume design," Fields said.  "You don't have to be limited to realistic outfits that people wear to work.  You can play with so many more fabrics and details."

When looking for inspiration, Fields hits the books.  Rather than drawing just from fashion magazines, she looks through history books, art books, and paintings. 

"I'm a little bit of an old soul," Fields said. "I like the elegance and charm of vintage."

What really sets Fields' dresses apart is the ease of which they can be customized for individual brides. Fields offers sleeve packages, for example, where a strapless gown can be modified to have cap sleeves or a jacket.

"Today's bride always wants to switch it up," Wolsfelt said. "[Fields] will do custom changes."

Fields saw the need for custom offerings and wanted to accommodate it.  "We really can do a lot of these things without making it a huge production," Fields said.  The result is that the brides "feel like they are getting a one of a kind dress."  Thirty to Forty percent of her orders take advantage of the custom options.

One could say that Fields just has a different way of doing things.  She works on a lower markup, so her prices are affordable, yet she offers things that are normally only found in high-end couture gowns.  Her gowns include an inner elastic corset, which Fields says used to only be found in Amsale and Christos gowns.  She doesn't charge extra for plus sized bridesmaid dresses, understanding that a girl would feel uncomfortable getting charged more for a bigger size.  Her overall sizing is closer to streetwear.  She has maternity styling, petite lengths, and extra length available.  Customers can play around with colors on her web site to see in advance what a dress would look like in a different color. And if you e-mail her or post on her facebook page, you are likely to get a response from Fields herself!

"I love how brides react when they actually get a response back," Fields said.

Fields simply doesn't play it safe.  Her designs include dresses with prints, pleats, and detachable skirts.  "Every season I'm trying to offer something new -- a new print or a new fabric texture," Fields said.  

Her unique style and methods landed her a spot in NOLCHA fashion week in 2010.  Fields was the first and only bridal designer in the NOLCHA runway show.

While the runway shows are an "extremely amazing experience," Fields said her first proud moment was seeing her first bride wearing her designs and getting to attend the wedding.

"Seeing it on the models doesn't come close to seeing it on an actual bride," she said.

The best news for brides on the hunt for a unique gown is that a Liz Fields dress does not cost a fortune.  Wedding gowns cost between $650 and $1200, and bridesmaid dresses run $150 to $200.

To view the Spring 2011 collection, go to  To contact the designer, visit her facebook page at

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