Should I buy a dress or have one made?

January 2023

This is a question that we often ask ourselves when we have a special event coming up and we are looking for a dress that is just as special. As an evening gown designer and dressmaker, my preference is often to have one made… and here’s why!

I should start by saying that there are of course many beautiful ready-to-wear gowns available from many high-end designer brands who create incredible pieces every season, and I always suggest to my potential clients that they take a look around to see if they can find a perfect dress, before considering have one made. Finding a ready-made gown could save you time, and potentially some money too.

There are however also a few reasons to consider having a dress made, either as a made-to-measure gown or a custom-made couture gown. For me, made-to-measure denotes having a gown made from the designer’s existing collections, or a slight variation thereof, made for you. A couture gown on the other hand, is a custom-made creation outside of the designer’s existing collections, designed and made specifically with you in mind.

There are several reasons to choose either of these and for me those reasons fall into three categories – Comfort, Choice and Care.


I always say that no matter how objectively beautiful a gown is, it loses some of its charm if the fit is all wrong. A made-to-measure or custom gown is made to fit your individual measurements and, to me, that is the main difference and benefit of having a gown made. Done right, the gown is made in the correct proportions to comfortably fit and flatter, your figure.

Ready-to-wear gowns on the other hand, while often just as beautiful and a similar price-tag, are often made to varying industry sizes which may not fit your figure precisely and may potentially require alteration – which depending on the style and the level of adjustment required, could be quite expensive.

It’s also worth noting here that in getting the fit right, quite a bit of attention is paid to the inner construction of the gown when a gown is made for you. One of the reasons that custom creations look particularly beautiful on the outside is because attention is paid to the inside.

Beyond the lining, custom gowns often contain elements such as petticoats or tulle layers for fullness, crinoline to shape the hem, boning and other stabilising materials that provide structure, strength and help achieve the silhouette that best suits your body. Very often these small, discreet details, make all the difference in how the gown looks, fits and moves.

A made-to-measure or custom gown is made to fit your individual measurements and, to me, that is the main difference and benefit of having a gown made.

– Dora Kouts


With the custom couture process, as the client, you are able to have input into the design with the guidance of the designer. Further, every aspect of the design is tested through the fitting process, allowing for small adjustments along the way.

Even in the made-to-measure process there is often scope for slight design variation to suit your silhouette, as long as the integrity of the designer’s existing design is maintained. This means there is more design freedom when it comes to having a gown made, including in the fabric choice and colour.

Custom couture pieces are also very frequently characterised by decorative details such as beading, appliqué and fabric manipulations, which can take many hours to apply. Thought is also given to hand-sewn details such as thread loops and fabric covered buttons, which altogether finish the gown nicely, and this is where the value also lies.


Made-to-measure and custom couture gowns are also only created once an order is placed, and in that small way are also a considerate choice. Both are examples of slow fashion, an environmentally-conscious alternative to fast fashion and mass production. Finally, having a dress made can also support local small business and the Australian fashion industry – which designer’s like myself are grateful for.

Of course, in the couture space there are many designers with different offerings and so the three factors mentioned above, while true for me, may not relate to all designers; and so it goes, that if you do decide to have a dress made, it’s important to choose a designer whose style and approach to design you like because inevitably the designer will create a gown for you that they also love, and in that way, also aligns with their brand aesthetic.

For me, that aesthetic centres around creating simple, feminine pieces with an artistic undertone – subtle detailing – that makes the piece special in an understated way. I love being able to create a little piece of art that my clients can wear and call theirs.

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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