It’s no secret that we love Claire Pettibone. First of all, this woman is talented. Her dresses – ethereal, whimsical and ultra-feminine – are the ultimate take on romantic bridal fashion with just a hint of fairy tale aesthetic. But second, Claire is a sweetheart. Utterly kind-hearted, soft-spoken and a genuine creative, she’s an inspiration as a woman, a designer and an industry icon. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a few moments with her at a Denver trunk show at Little White Dress Bridal Shop just a couple of weeks ago and – dare we say it? – the conversation left us with an even bigger crush. A sneak peek into the work, life and gowns of the oh-so talented designer is below. Don’t mind us. We’ll just be over here making her a Valentine’s Day card with a few extra X’s and O’s.
What was the first piece of clothing you ever designed?
I used to make dresses and things for myself when I was a little girl. It was probably a summer dress.
How did you get into the bridal fashion industry?
My husband and I started our business twenty years ago. I designed a line of lingerie, very feminine in style and sensibility. But I actually had a friend who got married and I designed her wedding gown, so that’s what kind of started the very first thoughts of doing bridal gowns. I always loved weddings and the thought of that ultimate romantic dress. I’m very blessed to be doing what I love to do and that brides love it too.
What three things are always in your purse?
A good lip balm. But other than that I travel really light – I just have the basics.
What is your approach to designing? Do you carry a sketch book with you for inspiration?
I don’t sketch all the time. I kind of let the ideas germinate in my mind and I think about the collection for months and work on those ideas and gathering up thoughts. Then when I’m ready to design I sit down and those ideas all come out. I like to really think it out first. I do love a pencil and paper though and I still do draw and do all my design work the old-fashioned way.
What inspires you to create?
It’s everything, it’s life. There’s always a story to tell and a different way of saying what we have to say. I kind of give myself a parameter or a story so that it focuses my direction rather than just being all over the place. I’m generally inspired a lot by art and a lot by nature and other times, history, that type of thing. Then I’ll usually then focus in on one particular artist’s work or sometimes just a mood or feeling I want to express.
Each season is different and I tend to look at what my last season was and then the next one is totally different. It’s still with my aesthetic so there is continuity, but if I do something really light and romantic then I want to do something more mysterious and dramatic.. I don’t find that there’s ever any lack of inspiration – it’s everywhere.
What is the one thing every bride needs to have with her on her wedding day?
The one thing she needs to have is an amazing groom. That’s really, ultimately what it’s all about. All the beauty and planning and all that prettiness is what I love, it’s what my world is consumed with. But at the same time it’s that genuine occasion that’s happening. Sometimes in the planning of a wedding the groom is kind of the afterthought, but that’s actually why we’re all here. Without him, who cares?
What do you want a woman to feel when she’s wearing one of your gowns down the aisle?
I want her to feel beautiful confident, like her best self ever. Like a dream, but a genuine dream. A dream that really speaks to her unique self.
What advice do you have for brides-to-be that are dress hunting?
Keep breathing. There can be so much pressure, but try to enjoy it, try to have fun with it. Try not to involve too many people. I see it happen a lot and I see the reason why it happens. People want to be involved and you want them to be a part of it and that’s all lovely but it can be very overwhelming when too many people want to share their opinions. I think it’s a big decision and it can be overwhelming, so if you can stay centered in yourself it’s helpful. Really think about what it is that you want to say on that day. We all have different sides to our personalities, we all have different moods, so what is it that you want to project.
What trends can we expect to see upcoming in bridal fashion?
I think that sleeves have been coming along, and I think that lace and details are very much in fashion. I’ve never been one to really follow trends, and especially with bridal I don’t really believe in them. It’s your wedding day, it’s a once in a lifetime thing first of all. We’re all products of the time that we’re living in and so by nature of living in this time you ill in some ways be on trend because that’s what’s in our world right now.
At the same time I feel a wedding should be timeless, I feel like you should be able to look back and maybe not know exactly when it was that you got married. I think that going with things that you just personally really love and that mean something to you is the most important thing. If that happens to be on trend fine, but I certainly wouldn’t choose a dress because it’s trendy. This is not the time to do that. This is your wedding , you can be trendy the rest of your life. If you are a really trendy girl then you’re going to choose a dress that has a sensibility but I think that when you’re choosing a dress it should really be beyond trends. It should really feel like it’s meant for you.