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Our New Year Resolutions

Yay to the New Year!

Happy New Year from our small but mighty team here at ARA! If you’re not already familiar with who we are, then this is the perfect time to get to know the husband-and-wife duo behind this wedding dress brand that is determined to disrupt this industry.

My name is Penny and along with my husband Matt, we started ARA Experience nearly 2 years ago (March 2020) and have achieved so many wonderful milestones that we are so proud of since. It all began, like many wedding vendors you’ll meet, with our own wedding.

The Journey Here

Purchasing a wedding dress was what I thought to be the highlight of the entire wedding planning journey. I have always been in love with couture, being a fashion designer myself, and wanted to stand out in a couture wedding gown. Even though I had the skills and knowledge to create my own wedding dress, the idea of staying up until 4am the night (happens to the best of sewers) before my wedding to finish my wedding dress just didn’t sound too appealing. 

I started my journey by visiting bridal store after bridal store and to my disappointment, there was not one dress that I was satisfied with. Being a dressmaker myself, common thoughts that went through my head were how expensive the dress was for being mass-produced; I also wished I could mix and match different elements from various dresses to create a unique dress for myself!

This all led me to make my decision to go custom. I thought, “if wedding dresses are going to cost this much then I may as well spend the money on a designer couture gown that is exactly what I want”.

Ahem. This was when reality hit REALLY hard. I was quickly told that the price tag of a couture gown is going to cost at least $15,000 and I (*cough*Matt) decided it was not worth it for one day. Thankfully, I was able to find a designer that was a little over my budget but I was more than happy to pay for the experience. Once the deposit was made, the process began but as you all would have guessed – I was left with a dress that looked great as a sketch but it wasn’t made to fit my bust and didn’t suit my body shape. 

Above are images that detailed my custom made journey. It begins with a custom sketch that shows what I should expect. The next photos shows my final fitting, I liked the way I looked but I didn’t love it, something wasn’t right.

When the dress arrived to me 6 weeks later, it was 8cm too big in the waist and hips and I had to get it altered. We unfortunately had to remove a lot of the lace detailing at the back and insert a lace up back instead. This meant the dress needed to be tight all around and due to the bra cups being too small, it pulled me in all the wrong places. You can see my bust is spilling out and armpit fold are showing in a lot of these images.

I’m so very happy with the work that Joe from Belle Photo did for our wedding day. He was calm, invisible and fun to be around with the entire day. Due to the how I looked in my dress, however, I still to this day can’t look at my wedding photos where it is just of Matt and me – yes, the photos that I was planning on hanging on our bedroom wall! My custom made journey is truly an experience that I never want another bride to go through.

You can probably understand why I was so eager to disrupt this broken industry. Here are some very specific areas of this industry that we were keen to fix:

For many brides, buying a dress that is mass-produced and ‘off-the-rack’ is the most affordable. Most of these gowns are made offshore in standard sizing and there is little to no possibility to have anything altered until you’ve paid for the dress in full. The result is this:

  1. Brides trying on a sample size and being shocked by how different their actual ordered size looks on them. Here’s something that most people who work in the fashion industry would know that you wouldn’t: Cup size, body length and skirt length almost always changes when ordering a size up or down. You upper body may have looked amazing in the size 10 but ordering a size 12 to match your hip measurements results in a dress that now fits your bottom half but is unfortunately too long and too big for your upper half. This also leads to unexpected alterations costs. 
  2. Brides having to settle for a dress that fits their budget or having to settle for a dress that ticks most of their boxes but never all.
  3. Brides having to pay extra to get certain elements added to their dress, sometimes up to $500 to add a simple sleeve on.

Secondly, although the custom made process (which is the one I went through) has proven to be great for so many, it wasn’t great for me and I found out very quickly by talking to past brides that what happened to me has happened to a lot of others. The main problem being that you’re not able to see the final product until the very end, when it is too late to back out or start over. It can especially be a stressful process for brides who are visual thinkers.

After months of market research, bringing on beta brides and successfully creating beautiful wedding dresses for them for an affordable price, ARA Experience has grown into much more than just bridalwear brand. We offer our brides the freedom have the dress of their dreams at a price that is no more than what you would have paid for your off-the-rack wedding dress.

We give our brides the much-deserved option to alter and change their wedding dress to their desired silhouette during their calico fitting and the placement of their lace/beadwork during their second fitting with us.

Finally, it is time to celebrate with your best and closest during your final fitting where we will have your wedding dress on display before doing a big reveal of yourself in your dress. It is truly an unforgettable experience; the amount of passion and satisfaction we get when we see our brides in their dresses is unexplainable. It gives us so much pleasure to say that we have built ARA Experience to be a business that stands by our brides, not one ARA bride has had the experience that I did and it is our mission to ensure that they never will.

From left to right, top to bottom:

SuJean captured by Davish Photo; Roslyn and Foster captured by Will&Co; Kira captured by Acacia Chenda; Jess and Evan captured by Dan Evans; Jade and Jake captured by Dylan Lee Photography; Dianne captured by Jaz Anderson; Chelsea and Peter captured by Nathan Story; Bel and Nick captured by Mike Hemus; Adele captured by Tim Day Photography.

You would also be happy to know that for our first year anniversary, I decided to surprise Matt with a surprise photoshoot with myself in a wedding dress that I now had the confidence to make for myself. And yes, I stayed up until 3am the night before to finish this dress. Thank you Alexis from Goldlight Photography for the amazing new wedding shots. Alexis captured beautiful images that we will be able to admire forever.

We hope you enjoy this very first blog entry. We will be aiming to post 2-5 blog posts every month, so check back regularly to see what we’re up to! Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter using the form below to our newsletter below to ensure you never miss out!

Much love,

Penny xx