14 July 1995

Sues bridal path to design success

While most people take a good book on holiday with which to while away idle moments – Sue Hutchings takes silk and thread and returns home with a pocketful of roses. Tessa Gates went to Worcs to

find out why

GREEN is the colour favoured by brides this year, according to bridalwear designer and maker Sue Hutchings, and while the colour is mostly used in the bridemaids dresses, one of "her" brides will pledge her troth in distinctive jade silk.

"It is for a school teacher and is medieval style and will be worn with a cloak," says Sue, who runs her business, The Country Workroom*, at Cropvale Farm, Cropthorne, Worcs. Her husband Roger farms in partnership with his father David, with dairying the main enterprise on the 97ha (240-acre) farm plus some beef and arable.

The jade dress is certainly different but that is what having a wedding dress made to order is all about. "Most brides just say I want an ivory frock of some sort and what can you do for me," explains Sue. "I have lots of pictures here to give people ideas and then I draw up some sketches and discuss materials over a cup of coffee. Theres no pressure here. I draw up the design and send it with a quote for cost to the bride-to-be and then she can contact me if she wants to go ahead."

Most brides do want to go ahead and Sue has a busy order book, including three weddings with six bridesmaids apiece so it comes as a surprise to learn that Sue couldnt sew a stitch 10 years ago when she married Roger.

"I trained as a nurse – in fact Roger was on my very first ward with a broken leg – and qualified as a staff nurse in 1985," explains Sue, adding that it is ironic that she should have developed an overwhelming urge to design and make wedding dresses as she could not sew or draw at school.

"I have always been interested in fashion and after I got married I had this ambition to make wedding dresses. Roger felt I should take my midwifery course so I was a long time thinking about going into business," explains Sue. The couple have two sons, Marcus (6) and Ben (5).

But she didnt just think. She took her City & Guilds in fashion at college and paid "an arm and a leg" for private tuition.

"I asked a designer in Moreton-in-Marsh to give me tuition but she said she didnt teach. I said but you must teach me, and she did." Learning one-to-one gave her a thorough training and three years ago she turned two upstairs rooms in the farmhouse into a work room and showroom.

Orders have come on the recommendation of her teacher and clients and as the result of attending a bridal fair where she exhibited the sample dresses shown on these pages.

"I like to work in silks and cotton, I dont feel synthetics work so well. I like elegant unfussy clothes," says Sue.

Quilting and hand-beading are things she particularly enjoys and uses these techniques to great effect in her designs.

She offers a complete service, supplying shoes and headresses where necessary and making going away outfits and clothes for mothers of the brides.

"Mothers are going for short shift dresses and longer jackets this year," claims Sue, who takes orders for just over one wedding a month, depending on the work involved.

Every afternoon her mother Mrs Viv Roberts comes to the farm to help her. "I call her my YTS girl," Sue jokes, and adds that she hopes Viv can work full time for her next year. Other plans for the future include converting outbuildings to a studio and running study days in couture sewing techniques.

She really enjoys her work and couldnt leave it behind even when the family went on holiday to France recently. "I made all the silk roses for the latest wedding head-dress while I was there, people thought I was mad," she says.

Fortunately Roger is supportive – "But it does mean he has to attend an awful lot of weddings," she says.

* (01386 860237).