Here comes the bride - and her dress designer

CANDID CLOSET

May 12, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Staff Writer

Jill Andrews Bell may design wedding gowns, but she's the antithesis of a bride.

In her Canton studio, she's more likely to wear black Converse sneakers and a skirt made of upholstery fabric than satin pumps or a silk sheath. "People look at me and they don't believe I make wedding dresses," says Ms. Bell, 26, who has worked in New York and London.

But in the heart of the marrying season, she's more concerned about her creations than their creator. Some days, she's lucky to have time to throw on a T-shirt and shorts. "Working around white fabric," she says, "I can't even wear makeup."

You spend a lot of time helping brides find their style. What's yours?

I like classic, simple things with a little kick to them. Living in New York for six years scared me into wearing black. I'll cross the biker chick look with the debutante. That's the schism in my personality.

What did your wedding dress look like?

It was black-watch plaid silk with a square neck and a white skirt. It had two long trains that were about 12 feet long. For our first anniversary, I decided to wear it to Haussner's with a motorcycle jacket and big boots.

What was the stressful part of dressing for your wedding?

Making my own dress. I finished it the night before the rehearsal dinner. Fitting myself was hard.

L How has designing wedding dresses influenced your own style?

When you're a dressmaker, it's hard to find time to sew for yourself. But I recently hand-sewed 40 yards of applique on a wedding dress. I decided that if I can do that for somebody else, I can set higher standards for myself.

Do you wear white?

Infrequently. I'm blond and fair, so I feel like a ghost in white. I actually have a plaid fetish. It's my Catholic school upbringing. You either come out loving or hating those uniforms. I loved them.

Do you feel more pressure to look good in your profession?

Yes. When I first meet a client, I'll wear a nice '30s-style jacket with wide-legged crepe pants and mules. I try to look pulled together. When I'm working on fittings, I usually wear leggings and a sweater or denim shirt. Then when I'm really in the trenches with a dress, I'll put on a T-shirt and shorts. People get to see more of me -- and my life -- as I make their dress.

What tricks have you learned about dressing well from being in the business?

Buy basics. I found these nice silk sweaters from Express and bought them in black, green and plum. Look for quality. And don't be afraid to pay for something if it's well-made.

Where do you buy your clothes?

The Gap, Express, Banana Republic and C-Mart.

If you could choose anyone, what woman would you most like to dress for her wedding?

Botticelli's Venus. She was always my beauty ideal. I'd probably put her in an updated version of a slip dress.

How will you celebrate once the wedding dress rush ends?

I always treat myself to something when a big job is over. I want to make myself a long black silk dress with big triangle insets.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

JTC

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