She Said Yes to Making Her Own Dress

For one bride, finding the perfect dress meant making her own.

By Ettie Berneking | Photos by JHunter Photography, courtesy Casey Stengel

Dec 2014

Instead of sorting through racks of dresses, bride-to-be Casey Stengel turned to Stephanie Weiss, owner of Ella Weiss Wedding Design, and the bridal boutique’s seamstress Saundra Dent.

Stengel wasn’t looking to find the latest trend in wedding gowns or the perfect strapless ball gowns. Instead, she wanted to create a dress from scratch. It sounds daunting, but it’s not at all uncommon. “It’s actually pretty common,” Weiss says. “We’ll have brides come in who want us to incorporate pieces of their mom’s or grandmother’s dress. We’ve even had brides who really loved an expensive designer dress, and Dent was able to make a much less expensive version.”

The idea to create her own wedding dress came to Stengel when her mom brought out Stengel’s grandmother’s wedding dress that she wore back in 1954. Stengel was sold. “I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do,” Stengel says, thinking back to when she first laid eyes on that beloved lace gown. “I never even tried on another dress.”

So with binders full of gowns Stengel liked ripped out from magazines, she sat down with Weiss and Dent to come up with a dress design. “When brides want to make their dress from scratch or make serious alterations, we sit down and talk about what is possible and what’s not possible,” Weiss says. After going over sleeve length, train options and neck lines, Stengel, Weiss and Dent had a plan. 

Bits of lace would be cut from Stengel’s grandmother’s gown to create a vintage-inspired wedding dress Stengel would love. “I wanted it to be timeless,” Stengel says. But even more, Stengel wanted the dress to bring in the memory of her beloved grandmother. “Not everyone has family jewels to pass down,” she says. “What I truly wanted to do was create something that can become a family treasure and serve as a symbol of what matters most in life: family.”

As bits of lace and tulle were cut from her grandmother’s dress and added to her own, Stengel watched the dress of her dreams come to life. The final result was perfect. “There were tears and more tears,” Stengel says laughing as she thinks back on her wedding day. “My mom and aunts kept saying, ‘Oh your grandmother would be so happy.’”

Now when she looks back at her wedding photos, the memory of Stengel’s grandmother will be stitched into each photo. “It’s about making those traditions and memories last,” Stengel says. “That dress is stitched with more memories and prayers and love, and hopefully I can keep that going.”

Dreaming In Design: Stengel worked with Stephanie Weiss and Saundra Dent at Ella Weiss Wedding Design to create the dress of her dreams. The team designed sketches of the dress to see how Stengel’s grandmother’s wedding dress would be incorporated (top left). Stengel’s grandmother wore her wedding gown in 1954 (top right). The gown was made with lots of lace (bottom left) that Stengel had incorporated into the skirt of and sleeves of her own wedding gown. The final product was a gown with plenty of vintage inspiration (bottom right).

Looking to alter or make your own wedding gown? These 417-land bridal boutiques are here to help.

Ella Weiss Wedding Design
400 E. Walnut St., Ste. 120, Springfield; 417-865-0700,

Normans Bridal
317 South Ave., Springfield, 417-866-9800; 116 W. Commercial St., Lebanon, 417-532-2291;