Sheri Autry Couture

Our Bride: Yana Goncharenko Wedding Date: April 30, 2016 Maui, Hawaii

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Yana Goncharenko is a photo and runway fashion model – and a Sheri Autry Couture bride. 

 

About three months before her Maui wedding last April, Yana faced a big challenge. The designer she’d chosen to make her dress had a conflict and couldn’t manage the project. Yana had to come up with “Plan B,” and fast. On a fashion shoot, Yana mentioned her plight to the photographer’s assistant who readily recommended Sheri Autry Couture. Soon after, Yana and Sheri met to discuss her vision, and they got right to work.

 

“I knew right away that Sheri could create what I wanted, and at a very reasonable price. I found her open, positive, and flexible. On our short timeline, I needed that! Sheri didn’t try to push her ideas on to me. She really wanted to create the dress that I had in mind.” It helped that Sheri was willing to work with Yana at her Washington area home. “Sheri made it so convenient for me, which really lowered the stress level.” 

 

Being a fashion model, Yana was keenly aware of exactly what she wanted.

“For my on-the-beach wedding, I envisioned a simple, light, and elegant dress with an interesting, open back. I don’t like too much sparkle or fussy fabrics and big skirts, and I didn’t want the “pure white” of a traditional wedding gown.”

 

Sheri created a “base line model” dress to experiment with, and they worked the design details from there

Sheri crafted the final design with a soft ivory silk stretch charmeuse as a base, with long Chantilly lace sleeves and overlays and a flowing trumpet hemline. The two worked through four fittings, the last of which concluded just a few hours before Yana boarded her flight to Maui. 

 

“Yana was a dream to work with,” says Sheri. “She was very clear about what she wanted and was willing to listen to my ideas. We had a good time working together!”

 

Yana’s advice to brides considering creating a custom design: “You have to like and get along with your designer, know what you want, and be open to ideas. Above all, don’t stress about it! Keep your wedding experience positive and happy. I wanted the process to be fun and creative, and it was. And I love the result!” 

 

Yana occasionally dons her dress to re-live memories of her wedding day. “It’s a very special dress to me. If I’m lucky enough to have a daughter some day, I am saving it for her wedding. It’s such a timeless design.”

 

For a designer, there simply isn’t a higher compliment than that. Thank you, Yana!

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My Funny Valentine

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Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated romantically, and of course, it’s one of my favorite days! My “Ultimate Valentine” is my sweetie hubby of more than six years, and we love to romance and delight each other with special remembrances on this day.

But there’s another adorable spirit who has been close by my side for nearly a decade who must count as my “Funny Valentine” – my adorable and loyal Chorkie, Peanut.

Peanut and I have been inseparable since the day she came into my life, weighing a whopping 2 pounds. Now, she’s a 6-pound definition of BFF, canine style. And in keeping with the definition of couture, Peanut is a proud style maven, too! Her wardrobe is more expansive than mine, and her fans eagerly await her newest looks.

Peanut is an active participant in my studio, always curious about what’s on the drawing board, what fabrics are ready to cut, which designs are in progress on the machine, and inspecting finished dresses. She doesn’t miss anything!

Peanut has been beside me through thick and thin, when my dreams of having my own design business were just wisps of ideas and I wasn’t quite sure how to make it all happen. She is never judgmental or angry with me, even when I’m working 24/7 – she’s always right there with me.

 

So Peanut, here’s my heart for another wonderful year together! Thanks for being my Funny Valentine and always bringing a smile to my face. Who knows what we’ll create next?

And to all who appreciate uncommon fashion (just like Peanut!), I hope you make it a special day, full of beauty, joy, and whatever makes your heart sing. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Getting Noticed: Whimsical Wonderland on iSO:ALT Website!

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I work with an inspiring and hard working team to produce attention-getting styled shoots in distinctive locations like Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, Maryland.

Our shoots feature the crafts of skilled local wedding professionals – from photographers like Cesar Chavez to gourmet caterers like Catering by Uptown, event planners like Just Perfect by YC, hair and makeup by Ella Beauty, and floral designs from Maher’s Florist. Together, we produce stunning visuals to inspire those looking for uncommon fashion and experiences.

 

I’m happy to announce that iSO: ALT has published our “Whimsical Wonderland” shoot, photographed at Montpelier Mansion and featuring my designs! Take a look --

 

http://www.isoalt.com/2017/02/02/whimsical-wonderland-bridal-fashion-at-montpelier-mansion/

 

iSO:ALT proudly claims it is “in search of the alternative,” so it’s a perfect place for us to be. Thank you, iSO: ALT! What a wonderful showcase for all that talent!

Behind the Scenes: Making a Cinemagraph

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Photographer Cesar Chavez loves to push limits, experiment, and take risks. 

That’s exactly why I love working with him. If you’ve looked at the photos on my site (and I hope you have!), you’ve probably been impressed with Cesar’s approach to photographic storytelling. And have you noticed shots like this? It’s called a cinemagraph:

Cesar is taking it up a notch by producing cinemagraphs, still photographs which include a minor, repeated movement creating a visually engaging juxtaposition – a motionless still photograph except for one or two moving elements. Fun to see -- and very tricky to produce!

 

On a shoot last fall, Cesar was inspired by the setting to create a cinemagraph. So with his encouragement and direction, we all got involved in the art of cinemagraph production. It took creativity and ingenuity and willing hands to create the moving elements here – the model’s dress blowing and the falling rain outside. Everyone was eager to help – including models, hair and makeup artists, and me. We used trial and error to get just the right visuals that Cesar wanted, and not every attempt worked. Let’s just say there was a lot of laughter as we refined our techniques together!

 

While Megan took her posed position by the doorway, another model, Jasmine, manned the blow dryer, aiming it perfectly (after some practice) to create the effect of wind gently blowing the model’s dress. I had the challenge of being the “rain maker” for the shot. It took several tries for our collective efforts to meet Cesar’s direction (let’s just say he’s a perfectionist!)

 

Fortunately, we all work together a lot, and we are accustomed to making magic happen. Creating a cinemagraph is fun and challenging and allows our creative thinking to thrive. And that’s always a good thing!  

On The Runway

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The exciting whirlwind of designing, creating, and debuting my Fall/Winter Collection is over, and it feels like it happened in a flash!

There’s nothing like a hard, no fudge deadline to get the creative process in gear, and I worked through the summer to be ready, starting with 10 new dresses, and adding 3 more by the last show.

Debut season started the evening of October 1 at the International Couture Presentation (ICP) at the Solaire Grand Space in Silver Spring, a contemporary and striking venue perfect for the upscale fashion event. Hosted by SMTV and Club MOD, this sophisticated show featured designers from New York and Washington, DC, and I was thrilled to be invited.

The ICP is not the typical runway show, where models walk the runway and each dress is seen for about 40 seconds. This show takes an entirely different approach. A designer’s collection is presented, with models on pedestals, for 10-15 minutes. That way, attendees can spend as much time as they like perusing details and getting to see designs, up close and personal. It was a truly exciting way to show my new designs!

The ICP was the perfect preparation for two other more traditional runway shows this season. On October 26, my designs were featured at the Wedding Expo at the Villa, a beautiful venue in Beltsville, Maryland.

Photo Credit: Cesar Chavez Photography

Photo Credit: Cesar Chavez Photography

And on December, 11, I wrapped up the season in Annapolis, Maryland at the T Rose International Bridal Show, where I was the featured designer. More than 250 brides, prospective brides, bridal party members, mothers, aunts, and friends packed the display areas.

Photo Credit: Picture N Motion

Photo Credit: Picture N Motion

I’m often asked, as a “one woman band,” how I manage to not only create the designs but actually sew them myself. The answer (besides not sleeping very much!) is my intuitive approach to design. When I’m struck with an idea, I get right to work on creating the pattern and cutting the fabric– even if I don’t have full details like embellishments in mind.

So I end up with numerous neat “in process piles” of partially complete dresses throughout my studio. Then, when I’m struck by my creative muse, I simply add to what’s already there, and eventually, the finished design emerges. That’s exactly how those 13 new designs came into being, just in time for the runway!   

Right now, I’m taking a bit of a breather to recover. But as the calendar turns to 2017, you guessed it – it’s time to start working on the Spring/Summer Collection, as well as meeting with lots of new brides who got engaged this holiday season! And yes, a few intriguing designs are already starting to emerge. You know where I’ll be this winter!

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a bright, beautiful, joyful, and sparkling holiday season!

Crystal Artistry

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I’ve discovered that the creative muse can sometimes lead me in several directions before I finally get to the perfect incarnation of an idea. 

That’s to be expected, and I’ve learned not to be discouraged if I find new or better ideas than the one I started with – even if it means “undoing” a lot of painstaking work!

Recently on a treasure shopping trip to New York City, I was passionately inspired by an amazing large crystal appliqué. It took my breath away. I wanted it! I didn’t have a clear idea at that moment of exactly how I’d use it, but it was the kind of piece that is rare to find, and its “wow factor” was extraordinary. I was happy and excited to design the perfect dress to show off its beauty.

I went to work on an idea that I loved, sure it was perfect to show off the appliqué. I put a lot of time and effort in on the dress, but in the end, I was forced to admit to myself that. . . . .it just didn’t work the way I’d imagined. I took a quick minute to be disappointed, took a deep breath, and carefully removed it from the dress. In the process – and inspired once again by working with that beautiful piece -- my mind quickly developed a “new, improved” idea to show it off. 

Enthused by this new vision, I completely restyled the dress, added some lace, tulle, silk chiffon and sparkly vintage rhinestone trim around the neck. . .and voila! 

Photo Credit: Cesar Chavez Photography

I love how the contemporary lines of the dress contrast with the appliqué, the perfect mix of old and new to create an unexpected look that shows off this spectacular piece of beadwork. 

This experience reminded me that it’s always best to pay attention to my design intuition – and go along for the ride even when it feels like going backwards sometimes!

Fantasy in Bloom

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Occasionally, an idea for a dress will pop into my head fully formed.

It doesn’t happen often – usually I carefully ponder fabrics, styles, and embellishments for a while before a design sets in my imagination.

This one, “Fantasy in Bloom,” was completely inspired by a quick glimpse of fabric in a specialty store, boldly colorful and shiny and calling my name! I knew right away it was meant to be the strapless bodice of a whimsical dress, a celebration of form and color. By the time I left the shop with a yard in my bag, I was imagining it paired with an extravagant tulle skirt, festooned with blossoms.

I couldn’t wait to create it!  

The simple strapless bodice was easy enough to craft, and I added sparkly rhinestone trim to make it even more eye-catching. Perfect! Then came the task of measuring and sewing fifty yards (yes, a full bolt!) of delicate tulle to fashion the layered skirt. I wanted it full and fluffy, an ethereal, floating counterpoint to that sassy bodice. Once the skirt was constructed, I festooned the top layer and added fabric blooms that I had pulled apart, reconstructed, and enhanced with rhinestones and crystals. I placed them around the bottom third of the skirt, picking up on the colors of the bodice. So far, so good!

When it came to connecting the bodice to the skirt. . . .Well, things got a little tricky at the machine. I was buried under all that tulle and actually needed a little help from a “fabric wrangler” so I could see what I was doing and wouldn’t suffocate in a beautiful cloud! It was finished just in time for a hard deadline – a photo shoot the next day. I was thrilled with the result.

This dress makes my heart sing, and I had a hunch it would have that effect on the models, too. Sure enough, when model Ekatrina saw it, she claimed it as “hers,” and as you can see, she did it justice. She wore it with joy and ebullience, perfectly capturing my intention. “Fantasy in Bloom” is my happy dress!

Photo Credit: Cesar Chavez Photography

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then. . . .

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As a designer of “uncommon fashion for Brides, Lovers, and Special Occasions,” I suppose I should have considered what might come next – but I have to admit I wasn’t really thinking about maternity dresses!

 

That changed when my younger sister, Betsy, was close to giving birth to my nephew Boone and was preparing for her final, pre-baby maternity photo shoot. She approached me about designing a simple strapless dress (stretchy, of course!) in her favorite color, spring green.  Hmmm. . . . this presented a new challenge to me, and I welcomed it. Of course, I said yes. 

I designed this simple, comfortable and ultra-contemporary stretch lace maternity dress with a pleated mermaid-style bottom that perfectly complimented Betsy’s coloring and showcased the darling mom-to-be’s ample curvature. That was my nephew in there, so I was excited by the result and the beautiful photos.

I thought that might be the end of my maternity design career, but it wasn’t long before I received a request from my photographer, Cesar Chavez, about creating a dress for his wife’s maternity shoot. He wanted a light and airy lace dress for her that showed her beautiful belly and that would complement the “woodland” theme of the shoot.

I had a lot of fun creating an elegant and romantic soft dress that captures her sweet personality and excitement about becoming a mom.

Photo Credit (left): Cesar Chavez Photography

By now it’s clear to me that no matter what the “special occasion,” mothers-in-waiting” who value an untraditional approach to fashion want to express that personality. After all, they were once fashion-forward brides, too!

Flight of Fancy

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Inspired by Victoria’s Secret’s angel wings,

I knew that I had to create my own special version of wings, too. The idea is purely whimsical, of course, but whimsy is an important part of my creative vision and process. Besides being fun, allowing whimsy to have full expression often lifts me “out of the box,” with sometimes surprising results. I knew that the notion of wings belongs in the “special fantasy” category, and I had fun imagining how my version would look. I tucked the idea away on my inspirational “back burner.”

Then on a New York City shopping trip scouting for unique treasures, I found a piece of pale gold, beautifully beaded silk. And there before my eyes was the outline of my perfect wings emerging from the intricate design! I wanted my wings to make a statement – big, fun, and unique – and I saw all of that in the fabric. 

Photo Credit: Cesar Chavez Photography

But inspiration is far from a finished design, and I had my work cut out for me to transform that delicate fabric into functional and beautiful wings. The process revealed itself, step by step. The beaded silk pattern perfectly formed the inside of my 4-1/2 foot tall wings. From there, I added a thick interfacing and flexible, light-weight wiring to add the body and shape the wings required. Then I turned my attention to the outside. I needed feathers, lots and lots of feathers! I hand stitched more than 150 beautiful ostrich feathers onto each wing, essentially making them reversible. The final step was fashioning adjustable straps to make them easy and comfortable to wear.

Now my wings appear in wedding fashion photography spreads, and they are a favorite of photographers, stylists, and models. Who can resist being an angel with such beautiful wings? I keep them in a prominent place in my studio because they make me smile and remind me of just how much of my creative energy arrives unbidden and quite simply on a flight of fancy!