Ms Lexy Leong wore a white wedding gown custom-made by bridal boutique Alerisa when she married her husband Muhd Shazwan in Oct 2018. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEXY LEONG 

SINGAPORE - There is still eight months to go before Ms Lexy Leong and her husband celebrate their first-year wedding anniversary, but she already has her outfit picked out for the occasion.

The 27-year-old, who manages a creative writing centre, plans to wear the white wedding dress that she walked down the aisle in - except it has been turned into a cocktail dress, minus the lacy frills and train, to make it more appropriate for date nights.

She had the outfit altered after her wedding day. Originally a full-length gown in a trumpet silhouette, it has been shortened and its sides taken in to become a knee-length pencil skirt. The excess material from the train was turned into a detachable straight-cut front flap to hide the original sweetheart neckline for a more modern look.

While rewearing a wedding dress is not a standard practice in Singapore, there is a small but growing group of brides like Ms Leong who are repurposing their wedding dresses to make it wearable for everyday occasions, bridal shop owners tell The Straits Times.

Ms Leong, who is married to 29-year-old Muhd Shazwan, an assistant front office manager at a hotel, did not know this was an option until her dressmaker told her.

Early last year, she approached bespoke bridal boutique Alerisa at Oxley Tower in Tanjong Pagar to custom-make a dress that would reflect both her and her husband's cultures.

When the shop's owner, Ms Sheryl Ong, 35, suggested designing a dress that can be repurposed into a semi-formal outfit after the big day, Ms Leong was sold on the idea.

"It's really meaningful to have a wedding dress, which represents so much to me, that I can wear again and again," she says.

She also had a tulle cheongsam "pullover" and a full-length glitter cape custom-made, to layer on top of the wedding gown to create different looks without having to go through multiple outfit changes like many brides do. She plans to keep these two pieces as they are.

She paid $2,500 for the three pieces, and another $300 to alter the gown.

The white wedding dress that Ms Leong walked down the aisle in has been turned into a cocktail dress, minus the lacy frills and train, to make it more appropriate for date nights. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

"The process of cutting and transforming my wedding dress into a new piece feels like the start of a new chapter in life for me," she says.

Although custom-making a wedding dress is common these days, only a handful of bridal boutiques here offer post-wedding repurposing services.

Ms Ong says she decided to offer the service as she feels wearing the dress just once is too wasteful. Half of her clients buy the dresses from her, while the rest rent.

To ensure that the pieces she makes can be easily converted, Ms Ong uses a low-shine crepe satin material that is suitable for a wedding dress but will not look out of place in a less elaborate setting.

She avoids tulle and chiffon - the more commonly used fabrics in wedding dresses - as they do not work as well in casual outfits.

Her trick when designing the dress is to work backwards, by suggesting that the bride think about how she wants the repurposed piece to look like. From there, Ms Ong will figure out how to make it into a wedding gown.

"When repurposing, I'm only doing minor alterations and not changing the silhouette, so it's important to think about the shape of the dress from the beginning," she says.

She has repurposed two gowns so far since she started her business in November 2017. Some brides-to-be have also expressed interest in converting their gowns.

Her prices for a bespoke gown, which takes four to six months to complete, start from $2,000. Repurposing can be done in a week for an additional $300 to $500.

Another bridal boutique, Caramel & Co at Oxley BizHub in Tai Seng, has been offering a complimentary repurposing service with every bespoke gown purchase since the business launched its bespoke bridal range in 2011.

But owner Mel Chen, 35, says she has so far repurposed only 30 to 40 gowns despite making close to 60 gowns each year.

This is partly because she does not impose a deadline for the bride to repurpose the dress. She had a customer who brought her gown to Ms Chen only five years later.

But, she adds, she has seen a growing interest and uptake in brides wanting to convert their dresses sooner rather than later, citing wedding inspiration boards on Pinterest as the main driving factor.

Besides simple alteration such as shortening and detaching into separates, Caramel & Co also offers redyeing. Blush and blue tones are the most popular.

"Brides these days are more practical, they don't want to just buy and keep the dress, which is not (milking value) out of the money spent," Ms Chen says.

A bespoke gown from Caramel & Co starts from $4,000, taking a minimum of six months to complete. Repurposing, including redyeing, takes one to two weeks.

Another way some bridal boutiques are ensuring their clients get more mileage out of their dress is by making two separate pieces - top and bottom - that can be worn together or on its own.

Ms Fatin Hazirah had a Victorian-inspired white kebaya custom-made for her engagement in November 2017. PHOTO: COURTESY OF FATIN HAZIRAH

Started in October 2017, Amerylis by Suha Haris is a home-based bridal business that has made a number of two-piece wedding outfits.

Owner Amerylis Suha, 25, takes around one to two orders a month and have made over 20 bespoke outfits. Of these, at least eight have been repurposed and restyled into more casual looks.

One of the brides who did so is civil servant Fatin Hazirah, 25, who had a Victorian-inspired white kebaya custom-made for her engagement in November 2017.

Her stretchy satin top has a slight turtleneck with a tulle gathering at the hem of the sleeves, complete with intricate beadwork that continues on the draped full-length skirt.

On her engagement day, she wore the $1,200 outfit with the top tucked in but has since worn the pieces separately.

Ms Fatin Hazirah, 25, in her repurposed kabaya-inspired engagement top. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

The fashionista, who says her personal style is "quite dressy", has worn the top five times and the skirt on twice the number of occasions - often pairing the pieces with a statement colour such as maroon.

"People are quite shocked when I tell them it's the same top I wore during my engagement because they don't recognise it at all," she says.

Other more adventurous brides are even ditching the traditional white dress to incorporate bolder colours into their outfits.

Ms Syazana Hishamuddin had a three-piece outfit made for her second-day wedding reception in October 2017. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SYAZANA HISHAMUDDIN

Magazine associate editor Syazana Hishamuddin, 24, picked out a sunshine yellow traditional Malay songket fabric and had a three-piece outfit made by Amerylis by Suha Haris that cost $1,400.

It was her full-day outfit for her second-day wedding reception in October 2017. Her favourite is the modern palazzo pants, which she has worn at least thrice for Hari Raya visiting. The other two pieces are a matching drape bustier and a navy blue tulle inner piece, which she wears to dressier events such as dinners and the theatre.

The modern palazzo pants have been worn at least thrice for Hari Raya visiting.  ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

A bespoke outfit from Amerylis by Suha Haris starts from $1,200 and takes three months to complete. Clients who provide their own material pay only for the design and tailoring, which starts from $800.

"I've always been very interested in sustainable fashion and to be able to pick apart a wedding outfit I made and dress it up differently is quite special to me," says Ms Suha.


This article was first published in The Straits Times.