Bridal couture in West Stoke

Charlote Harding meets a wedding dress designer doing things a bit differently.

Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 9:43 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:47 pm
Liliah Picture: Magic Owen - Photographer
Liliah Picture: Magic Owen - Photographer

Forget what you think you know about wedding dresses as Ruth Milliam Bridal Couture is ripping up the rule book.

“I wanted to offer something different and a bit more fashion forward,” the designer explains.

“When you look at the dresses we do you can see it is a wedding dress but it isn’t what you would usually expect, which our brides love.”

Inside the studio

At the studio in West Stoke, Chichester the rails are filled with silk organza, pearls, hand pressed silk flowers, lace, tulle, sparkly beading and ostrich feathers - it is a wonder for the eyes.

“We do a bespoke service,” reveals Ruth.

“We book the bride-to-be in for two hours and I meet them and they try a range of dresses and I work with them to see what they want.

“They can have the skirt from one dress and the beading from another with a different top, I just want them to feel comfortable so I make sure they have the time they need to decide what they want.”

Listening to what brides want has seen Ruth create dresses that have detachable skirts, so a full length can be made into a shorter version perfect for dancing the night away.

“There is also the option to have a detachable train,” she says.

“Depending on the venue if you have a long aisle you want that impact of a long train but might not necessarily want it in the evening.

“In the past we have gone quite long with our trains so when they come here we show them how long it can be and then fold it under to show it shorter.

“For me I think the perfect length for a train is about 65 inches.”

Dresses start at £2,000 but Ruth says that when she works on a bespoke dress she talks to the bride about what their budget is so Ruth knows what she is working with.

The couture dresses have featured in New York bridal shows where she shows off her latest collection and meets buyers from around the world.

“My initial plan for the collections is to do 10 dresses but it often ends up being around 15,” explains Ruth.

“I do a range of different styles in the same fabric but the beading is something that will run through all the dresses.

“We make all the skirts and tops separately then match them up.

“I don’t do sketches I start with the fabric and design as I go.

“It means the designs evolve, I have an idea of how I want it to look but it doesn’t always end up the same.”

Ruth was classically trained in Fashion Design (BA), and after graduating worked for several designers around the world including Reem Alasadi for four years.

“Designers work in different ways and different things will jump at them,” she says.

“For some it is the pattern or sketch but for me it is the textiles.

“It’s just the way I have always done it.”

Everything is designed and made in Sussex and finished by hand.

“If we were to consolidate the days one of our dresses could take about four days,” reveals Ruth.

“But then one of the more detailed beaded ones can take about two and half months.

“I like a nine month lead time as we have to do the fittings and I see other brides.

“We have had brides from York, London, America and Southampton come to us who all want something a bit different.”

The business moved into its current building in June 2016 and the business was started at Ruth’s home after she had twin boys.

“It was launched properly by the end of 2015 I got to the point and I couldn’t work from home anymore,” she recalls.

“I had fabric everywhere draped over things so I decided I needed a new space and found this place.”

Not following trends Ruth has found that many brides love the nude corset which shows off the detail of the dress but adds that it can be changed to white if people want.

“The samples have low necklines but that is because it photographs well,” explains Ruth.

“I have pinned low backs when people try on dresses as some are unsure if it will work, but we can do anything they want.”

This year Ruth and her team are expanding their lines with occasion wear as she says the current wedding dresses look like they could have just come straight off the red carpet.

“We can dye the wedding dresses to any colour and we have had brides ask afterwards if we can dye them,” she says.

“The occasion wear will be available from the website and will initially come in black but who knows what we will do in the future.”

For fashion forward brides or those that need that ‘wow’ dress Ruth Milliam Bridal Couture is an Aladdin’s cave of delights.

To view Ruth’s other collections online, visit

This feature first appeared in February’s etc Magazine wedding special pick yours up today.