Gypsy Wedding Dress Designers: The Woman Behind Gypsy Wedding Gowns
If you ask me, the true star of the UK documentary Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is Thelma Madine, the woman behind the series' big wedding dresses- complete with humongous skirts, long trains, Swarovski crystal-encrusted bodices, and glowing fairy lights.
Most all wedding dress designers are fascinating people, tasked with the inspiring job of making women's lifelong dreams come true and creating bridal apparel that may range from subdued to fantastical, but designers of Gypsy wedding dresses certainly take the cake, as the bridal wear they design for their clients blasts beyond the realm of surreal right into a parallel reality of fluffy Disney princess acid trips.
Where did Thelma Madine come from? How did she get started designing Travellers' wedding dresses? And who else is involved with this interesting subculture of dressmaking? We'll take a peek into the world of Gypsy wedding dress designers below.
Thelma Madine - Humble Beginnings
Traveller wedding dressmaker Thelma Madine got started in the dressmaking business by creating christening dresses for young girls. She went into dressmaking after going through a bad divorce and realizing that she had to support her three kids on her own. She was actually jailed for a year for continuing to claim benefits after she began making a profit from her dressmaking business, but found that her experience made her stronger - and also gave her a greater respect for the Traveler community.
"I'm not proud of what I did but I learned when I was inside not to judge," said Madine, in an interview with The Daily Mirror. "That is why I'm supportive of the travellers. They get knocked from pillar to post. Yes, there are a few bad ones... but most of them are decent people."
Madine's Foray into the World of Traveller Wedding Dresses
Thelma Madine began working more and more with Travellers when she got a flood of inquiries about three Gone With the Wind-style dresses she designed and displayed in her stall. At first, the dresses were for children, but eventually, clients requested wedding dresses as well, not to mention coordinated apparel for large bridesmaid parties.
Most of the styles Madine developed (20-foot trains, fairy lights embedded into skirts, Swarovki crystals) were at the request of clients, hence Madine's work is more a manifestation of subcultural trends than couture-style trend setting. This client-request-driven system of dressmaking is more reminiscent of eighteenth century fashion culture than that of modern times.
The coverage Madine is getting through the UK Channel 4 documentary series has been a boon for business. After Big Fat Gypsy Weddings made its debut in February 2010, Madine saw a huge increase in orders, and even started getting requests from overseas.
An Interview with Thelma Madine
Where is Thelma Madine Now?
Thelma Madine continues to own Nico's Dressmakers, which is based in Liverpool. The shop has been around for quite a few years and is known for amazing feats of design (for example, the world's biggest wedding dress, which Thelma Madine designed for 16-year-old Carly O'Brien in 2006).
The shop's address is:
136 London Rd.
Liverpool L3 2926.
If you have visited the shop, let me know! I would love to know what you think of it.
Thelma Madine's most recent widely-covered stunt was to create an impressive pink and red wedding dress using actual human hair. The dress weighs around 95 kilograms and contains over 250 meters of hair! The dress made its debut at the Alternative Miss Liverpool pageant (how appropriate), and absolutely blew the crowd away.
If you'd like to get updates from the wedding dress diva herself, you can follow Thelma on Twitter @ThelmaMadine.
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Who Else Designs Gypsy Wedding Dresses?
There has been some speculation, online, as to how many other people are out there designing these out-of-this-world wedding dresses. Though we know that Thelma Madine works with a team of eight other professionals, including 29-year-old Leanne Phillips, there is not much additional information on this particular niche of wedding dress designers.
This comes as no surprise, seeing as the Traveller community, though impressive, is not exactly huge in proportion, and can therefore only support so many dress designers. That said, it would be safe to assume that there are other local dress designers that specialize in this style of dress, and may focus their marketing efforts on the insular Traveller community rather than blasting their work to the world at large.
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