It’s not all about the dress!

October 2023

Now, I know what you must be thinking – this is an interesting statement to make given that I am a dress designer. Of course, gowns are everything to me, but as much as I think the dress is the most important part of a look, it is still only one part.

A dress is never worn on its own. Rather, it is styled in a certain manner and the way a dress is styled has a bearing on how beautiful it is. To me, a dress is only really beautiful when it fits well, when it suits the wearer perfectly and when it is styled appropriately.

Granted, I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. After all, the questions of “does this go with that?” and “does this suit me?” are questions we have been asking ourselves since we were old enough to realise that higgledy-piggledy adorning ourselves with every single shiny thing in our wardrobes all at once, was not a good look. And yes, here’s looking at every toddler you know!

Simply, I’m writing this article as a reminder to keep these questions, and a few others in mind, when starting to work with a designer. As there is often so much choice, the design process can initially be overwhelming for many clients. Part of my work as a designer is helping you sift through your thoughts and, in my experience, establishing the below early in the process helps in coming towards a gown you truly love.

1.  What is your style and the look are you after?

Firstly, it is important to think about your personal style and the kind of look you would like to achieve on this particular occasion. Are you hoping for a soft, classic or romantic look, or are you looking for something more glamorous, edgy or sophisticated?

Think about the colours you see yourself in as well as specific design features that you like. Consider also the shapes and styles you normally wear, for example, the types of skirts or the sleeve varieties that you like to wear.

The designer will help in establishing the above, but being clear on the kind of look you’re after as well as your personal style, assists the designer in sketching initial ideas for you.

2.  What is your heart set on?

Deciding between a few initial ideas is often where most clients get a little stuck. This is because there are many features that would look incredible on a gown, whether it is a certain neckline, beading, ruffle detail and the list goes on.

The trouble is we simply cannot place every decorative detail on a gown without having you look like our adorable aforementioned toddlers who couldn’t decide on a costume for a party and decided to wear a little bit of every one they have, and now no one has any clue who they are trying to be! Yes, this is my slightly roundabout way of simply saying that a gown needs to flow from a design perspective and this is often achieved in balancing all aspects, including both the details on the dress itself as well as the styling features beyond the dress too.

A good place to start is to ask yourself “what is the one thing I cannot go without?” and know why. For example, you may definitely want a slit in the skirt and that could be because your legs are your best feature and you would like them on show. Once you decide this, it becomes easier to sift through the draft sketches and various design features to settle on a final design.

Fabrics, make-up and heels
What will you wear with your dress? ©Theodora Kouts 2023.

3. How would you like to have your hair and make-up?

We can never underestimate the importance of hair and make-up and their impact on a look, and this is something to be considered early when deciding on a gown too. For example, if you are having a high neckline or shoulder detail, you may consider an up-style so to properly show off those features.

Similarly, your make-up look should also complement the colour and style of your dress – think about whether you will keep your make-up soft, or whether you will go with a bold lip or smoky eyes. And don’t forget your nail colour too.

It can be helpful to discuss these aspects with the designer as they often visualise how a dress may be worn when they are designing.

4. What kind of jewellery and accessories are you thinking of wearing?

Jewellery and hair accessories have the capacity to draw a lot of attention and so if anything has to be chosen correctly, these must be. If you are having a gown that is quite embellished, you may want consider wearing dainty jewellery. If your gown is a little more understated, you may wish to style it with statement earrings or a necklace to add a striking focal point.

Be discerning about your choices – you may like a set of earrings and a necklace but together with your gown, they may not work. It is a good idea to try on all jewellery and accessories at the final fitting, especially if you are having difficulty choosing between a few pieces.

5. What shoes do you have in mind and what kind of handbag would you like to carry?

Very often shoes aren’t considered early in the process, but it’s not always the case – there are times where I have bought a pair of shoes and then found an outfit to match. I think it’s important to find your shoes (or decide on the kind early on) not only from a styling perspective, but because they are needed to establish the correct hem length of your dress too.

I don’t necessarily think your shoes need to match your handbag in a linear way, such as in colour, just as long as they work well together. Both present another opportunity to create further interest as long as these aspects complement the look you’re after.

Generally, I think it’s a good idea to have answers (or at least clear direction) as to these questions when deciding on a final design with the designer. It’s easy to get caught up in the intricate aspects of the dress but it’s also important to remember that what is worn with the dress is just as important as the dress itself in creating a cohesive look.

And finally, if I leave you with anything, it is this: When it comes to selecting your dress and accessories, dress for YOU. From top to toe, make sure what you’re wearing represents you, because in my experience, that’s when you’ll look and feel your best.

Dora xx



Hi, welcome to THEODORA KOUTS® and thank you for taking the time to read my article. I am a fashion designer and dressmaker based in Sydney, Australia. I started my eponymous label in 2016 offering high-end, made-to-measure and custom-made evening gowns. With a sophisticated yet delicate aesthetic being the hallmark of my brand, my pieces reflect an unwavering love of structure, soft silhouettes and subtle detailing. 

Beyond being a designer, I have a background in corporate communications and I am a mum of two (endearingly energetic!) young children. When I am not working or running around with the kids, chances are you’ll find me at a concert or at the theatre, on the tennis court, with family and friends having a laugh, or sitting poolside on holiday! 

You can find out more about me and how I can help you at


Disclaimer: Please note this article is purely an opinion piece and is not intended to be taken as advice or otherwise relied upon. Use of this article including any text and images, is limited to non-commercial, personal use. It is not to be otherwise copied, amended, adapted, published, printed or otherwise reproduced, in part or in whole, without the prior permission of Theodora Kouts Pty Ltd.

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