Jonathan Joseph Peters, of Project Runway fame, is venturing into the local bridal world and taking it by storm.
Finding “the one” is never easy…especially when we’re talking wedding dresses. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that tracking down the perfect gown is as equally difficult and frustrating as attaining true love. It may be love at first sight on Pinterest, but then in person you quickly realize that the real thing doesn’t live up to its profile pic or that the description lied about the comfort factor. Or maybe, what you always thought was your “type” isn’t actually the right fit for you at all. Your friends and family say that you’re just picky, but the truth is you don’t want to settle for something ‘good’ when you know that your soulmate could still be out there.
Yet, there’s one thing wedding gowns have over potential life partners: You can actually design one entirely from scratch. Does one dress you like have a flattering neckline while another has the exact right amount of lace and beading? Then get the best of both worlds.
Jonathan Joseph Peters, a former contestant on Project Runway and the owner of nude in the Providence Arcade, likes to call this “Frankensteining” your perfect dress together. When working with a new bride, Jonathan says, “I usually do a series of sketches, three to five depending on how focused her vision for the dress already is, but I will tell her, ‘Don’t be afraid to Frankenstein it. Don’t be afraid to say I like this, this and this, but I also like that, that and that. I’ll make it happen.”
While Jonathan, who designed his first wedding dress for his sister-in-law when he was nineteen, won’t officially be debuting his full bridal / special occasions line until later this year, he has already received a number of custom bridal requests. So many, in fact, that he’s noticed three different trends: “The first is the highly differentiated dress, which can include color, print, unique fabrication or even pieces of the Mother of the Bride’s (MOB) wedding dress,” he says. “The second would be the exceptionally restrained dress. Doing ‘simple’ isn’t so simple; it is hard for a bride to find something classic and streamlined without having to shop very high end.” And finally, “Comfort comes into play. Many dresses off the rack can be heavy, thickly embellished, and the bride often feels as if the dress is wearing them. I have the ability to control everything from subtle color, to silhouette, and fabrication…and in a variety of price points.”
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to hear about such an exceptional experience, and something else entirely to experience it. Fortunately, Jonathan invited Engaged to a fitting with one of his first bridal customers, Suzanne, for a taste of what you could be in for.
Even if you’ve never met before, Jonathan is the type of guy who will greet you like an old friend, complete with big smiles and bigger hugs. He’s also the type of guy that you will want to be friends with immediately upon introduction. After meeting everyone in the room and settling into one of his fashion-forward shop’s cozy couches, I notice that he’s already chattering away about shoes and flowers with the bride, Suzanne, who’s brimming with barely contained excitement at the thought of her upcoming nuptials in June. Suzanne’s sister, Nicole, and their mother, Barbara, are also in attendance, not only for support, but because they are getting their dresses for the wedding from JJP as well. Barbara is already in front of the mirror wearing a very plain dress and getting her measurements.
“This fabric is called Muslin,” Jonathan explains. “What we do, so you don’t waste any actual fabric on a new pattern, is we fit the dress in muslin stage – kind of like a mock dress. We can draw directly on the fabric so we know where to make changes, get that fit right and then use it to alter the pattern that you’re going to use for the final dress.”
Suzanne’s last fitting was in the muslin stage. Today, she will see her dress in the real fabric.
“So we will go through the details and fine tune them,” Jonathan says. “I’ll be showing her the difference between when there’s one flat layer of lace over an area of the dress, as opposed to a built up / layered area of the dress. She’ll get to make the final decisions on everything and control every little aspect.”
Which is exactly what Suzanne wanted. She never thought of her wedding (an intimate backyard affair in Barrington) as traditional, so why would her dress be any different?
“I just couldn’t see myself unzipping piles of massive plastic bags to find my dress at David’s Bridal,” Suzanne quips. “That just wasn’t me, it’s not the feel.”
So how did she end up working with Jonathan to create her dream dress?
“Jonathan and I actually met at Styleweek. I loved his work and ended up going to him for a bunch of special occasion stuff,” Suzanne recalls. “It was a no-brainer. It’s been awesome because we’ve been on the same page since day one. It all came together so quickly.”
Barbara emerges from the dressing room, back in her normal clothes, and looks at her daughter, “Your dress is beautiful.”
Suzanne, wide eyed, “You saw it?”
Barbara nods and Suzanne laughs nervously.
By now, everyone is anxious to see the dress. Suzanne covers her eyes as Jonathan walks to the back of the store to retrieve the rolling mannequin.
When he tells her to open her eyes, Suzanne’s reaction is priceless.
Everyone is crying and Suzanne is too busy clapping her hands and squealing in delight to hear Jonathan say that the dress isn’t quite finished yet.
“It’s so pretty!”
Jonathan smiles, “I did good?”
“Yea,” she laughs while wiping away tears.
But there’s still a few things to go over and Jonathan explains, “Before you get into it, I want you to know that I left this blank on purpose, it doesn’t have the very last under layer. I think I wanna do one flat layer of lace on these side areas so you’ll see a little skin through there. We had talked about building up the lace, something a little more three dimensional around the bust line and around the hips.”
He points out how one side of the dress has one flat layer of lace while the other side is more built up so Suzanne can clearly see her options.
“I will tell you, after snapping some photos, the built up side photographs better. It gives you more shadows, and these loose bits will flutter in the wind.” He then gestures to the skirt, “And this is what I meant about the lace trailing down so you don’t have a hard line from where the lace ends and the netting begins. I also pinned on these extra flounces of netting, so if you don’t like all this texture, we can easily remove it.”
But Suzanne has no qualms, “I love it.”
Then the big moment comes: time to try on the dress! As she changes, her mother and sister predict Suzanne’s fiance’s reaction, guessing he might cry.
But then Suzanne comes out and they are the ones with teary eyes.
Everyone is stunned, including Suzanne. Jonathan, meanwhile, has questions. They go back and forth on what Suzanne prefers.
Is it hard to walk in? Nope. Do you want to shorten it in the front and not the back? Yes, let’s take it up a little in the front, but the back puddle is good. What about the lace? I actually like the jaggedness of it. So, no need to trim these edges? Maybe just around the chest, I like the cleaner look up here. How about layers, flat or built up? I’ll echo whichever side you like better. I like the three-dimensionality of the built up side, it makes it more interesting. And the organic blending of the lace into the netting at the bottom? Perfect.
Jonathan ensures that Suzanne has a say in each and every detail. But, of course, his fashion expertise is much appreciated, especially when he starts offering a few pointers for the day of: “What’s nice with this dress, with this shape, is when you pose, keep one knee kinda over the other so that you can really accentuate your shape.”
As Suzanne practices her stance, a tall brunette walks in.
“Oh great, Alexa’s here, we can talk headpieces!”
Alexa Cach, owner of the local jewelry and accessory boutique, House of Cach, recently launched a new bridal selection and site, and she and Jonathan are also old friends from Styleweek. When Suzanne mentioned that she was thinking of wearing a veil and headpiece, Jonathan knew Alexa was perfect for the job. Once greetings are finished, they get down to business.
“So, do we do the veil in the blush or do we find this netting in the champagne?” Jonathan holds a blush veil up to Suzanne’s head.
“Oh my God, it’s so great, don’t you think? Who else has a pink veil!?”
Next, they go over lengths, ultimately deciding that a bit of puddle is good, but to stay away from anything that could be considered cathedral worthy. Jonathan then explains his vision of Suzanne wearing a hair ornament from which the veil can be easily attached and removed. They look over some of what Alexa has to offer.
“Jonathan and I were talking and we thought that flowers would be really nice,” Alexa says. “We could take fresh flowers, hand paint them and treat them so they’re actually extremely durable. It can be any shade and we can even incorporate some of the lace to pick up the details of your dress.”
Suzanne is in complete agreement and settles on an orchid for her flower. She explains to Alexa that her wedding will feature more vintage silver accents, so the piece shouldn’t be anything too shiny. Alexa takes note and then gives the bride-to-be a few tips on how to plan her hair around the headpiece when she goes for her hair trial. She also offers, “We can make it smaller, and add some components mimicking the shape of the flower to make it more three dimensional.”
Suzanne is thrilled, and the two make plans for her to stop by the House of Cach showroom so they can discuss the design more.
And with that, there isn’t much more to discuss.
“Any last thoughts on the gown?” Jonathan asks.
Suzanne grins, “I love it. I don’t want to take it off. I’m happy.”
Suzanne and Ellery were married this past June (2016) in Barrington, RI. Here is her final look:
For more pics of Suzanne’s wedding, check out Jonathan Joseph Peter’s Instagram.
More about Jonathan’s new bridal line, coming this fall:
I am so looking forward to creating and introducing everyone to my new designs! I have created a line that focuses on fashion forward designs that are timeless, differentiated, versatile, smart and ready to wear. I do believe that words like “romantic” and “traditional” have many more, different meanings than they used to. Now, with so much available online and the availability to see high end fashion everywhere, consumers are much more interested in being sleek, sophisticated and high-end. This line will give them that! — JJP