Interview Wedding

Interview with Elizabeth Dye

Today’s interview is with Elizabeth Dye, a designer who makes absolutely breathtaking gowns and clothes, and sells her own line as well as others in her boutique in Portland, Oregon, The English Dept.

I am thrilled to have Elizabeth as our interview subject today because she is a designer and creator of what so many of us enjoy – beautiful clothes. I asked her all the questions I’d want to know from somebody of her talent, and loved her responses. Of course, I’ve included her beautiful designs and dresses throughout. Enjoy!

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Elizabeth Dye. I am a wedding gown designer located in Portland, Oregon. I have my own boutique, The English Dept., where I sell my own dresses as well as a curated selection from other independent dress and accessory designers.

I think your job is amazing! What has been the most surprisingly awesome and difficult thing about it?

Working for myself gives me a lot of freedom, but it’s freedom to work! I never stop—there’s always more to do. It feels very fulfilling, but I occasionally have fantasies of a “regular job” where there are things like weekends. Then I remember that I make pretty dresses for a living and I snap out of it. I wish weddings weren’t the only occasion where most women let themselves indulge a fantasy of how they’d like to dress. I’d love to design everyday clothing with that same kind of magic, personal connection.

I know that you were a former law student. What prompted you to make such a big career switch?

In law school I realized that I really have to be making things—creative work is essential to who I am. It’s like breathing! I’m thankful to the law school experience for bringing that into focus.

Who are some of your favorite designers that you carry? How about some that you wish the shop carried?

Right now I love Ivy & Aster, a new line based out of Atlanta, GA. I’m excited to see more indie bridal designers coming on the scene and am always on the hunt for fresh designs that are in a boutique price point. I love couture bridal—Oscar de la Renta, Lela Rose, Vera—but my mission is to bring the design-within-reach concept to the bridal industry.

Left: Elizabeth Dye, 2010. Right: BHDLN, 2011

I know recently you had a little issue with BHDLN being “inspired” by one of your designs. I know that you haven’t been the only one who has encountered this. What are your thoughts on this type of behavior in the industry and how prevalent do you think it is?

Copying is everywhere, but it’s best not to get too worked up about it—just keep moving and creating. What I dislike about companies like BHLDN is that pirating the work of small designers (who are truly defenseless to protect their work) is their whole M.O. They could easily hire the talent they steal from—investing in design over time instead of knocking off or chasing trends is, to me, a more interesting and meaningful way to do business.

Who is the girl you design for? What is she like, and what does she value in her wedding dresses?

My girl has a playful sense of style and wants a lovely dress for her wedding but doesn’t necessarily think of herself as a princess bride. I like to think she has a good head on her shoulders but still wants to dance the night away.

Elizabeth featured in Brides magazine – her Giselle dress

Which is a designer that has a totally different aesthetic than you, but that you still admire?

Alexander McQueen. He is missed. He was a totally fearless artist and an inspiration to all of us.

A shot of Elizabeth’s studio, photo courtesy of Kate Maxwell

Luxury is a fast growing industry and has undergone massive expansion and price hikes in the last few years. What are your thoughts, as a designer, on the future of luxury and some of the prices that luxury houses are charging?

I just visited the Balenciaga exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and it reminded me that there is always an audience for luxury, and there should be. The luxury arena allows extremely gifted designers and craftspeople to work at the top of their game. Status handbags, that sort of stuff, kind of bores me. That’s not really luxury—it’s just markup and branding. I would love to see a return to beauty, which speaks for itself and is always worth the sticker price. That’s when fashion becomes art.

Elizabeth’s Storyville Suite dress – it transforms from a long gown….to….

….a short party dress! 

What are some of the key components that a reader should look for when shopping for a quality garment?

High quality natural materials, sure stitching, thoughtful details. Don’t be afraid to turn it inside out or ask where it’s made!

Finally, please share some parting words of advice!

Working in the bridal industry, I have learned how accustomed we’ve all become to wearing clothes that don’t fit! A dress, in particular, really needs to fit. It’s always worth paying more for fit—besides being more flattering to the body, good fit communicates confidence and good taste. If you just love a garment but it hangs on you, invest in having it tailored. You will wear it forever.

I loved this interview! Thank you so much Elizabeth for sharing your wealth of wisdom and beautiful designs with us all. I also included my favorite photo of Elizabeth for you all below – I am sure that we will be seeing her lovely creations more and more for years to come.

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  • K
    July 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Her comment about women settling for less-than-perfect fit is spot-on. I'm guilty of it myself. In this era of mass-produced clothing, I think we've all become accustomed to standardized clothing that may be just a tad (or a lot) off in terms of fit, but when the perfect piece does come along, it's absolutely mind-blowing how transformed you look when the piece just drapes perfectly on every inch of your body. It's just too bad I can't afford to get all my clothing tailored. That, and I'm still on the hunt for the best tailor in my area … Excellent tailors are such a needle in a haystack to find.

  • Julia
    July 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I appreciate the part she said about(Fashion) "which speaks for itself and is always worth the sticker price. That’s when fashion becomes art".

  • Sabrina T.
    July 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    great interview..love this romantic mood:)
    kiss

    Patchwork à Porter

  • B. in the Know
    July 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    These are beautiful – I am with you on the rose dust being my favorite! So beautiful – would love to wear that on my special day.
    Much love,
    B

  • Tangled In Texas
    July 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    So beautiful! Great interview!

  • Annette
    July 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Such beautiful photos! Loving all the lace and tulle, the two easiest ways into my heart. And that transformable gown to party dress? Dead. So awesome.

    Loved this interview and all the insightful things Elizabeth had to say.

  • Tara @ Haute Lunch
    July 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    What a fabulous interview, Katherine! I will have to keep Elizabeth in mind when it comes time for me to go dress shopping! Love all the dresses!

  • MissA*
    July 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Rose/Dust dress is my favourite too 🙂

  • Nelah
    July 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Her dresses are soooooo romantic and dreamy. I love her short party dress, very playful but sweet. I would wear it to someone's wedding during spring or summer.

  • vanda
    July 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Great dresses!!!!! My wedding dress was made by my mother!!!!!

  • Kim
    July 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for this interview! As a bride-to-be looking for the perfect dress, I really enjoyed this and will now be checking out her gowns! She has beautiful dresses.

  • Lily
    July 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    What pretty dresses !!

    xxLily
    goldandgray.com

  • Alysson
    July 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Gosh!!! she is adorable. I love her dresses…so feminine chic and pretty! Thanks for sharing. Also love the neon tights! XO

    http://simplicityisultimatesophistication.wordpress.com/

  • Michelle
    July 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I bought the first wedding dress I tried on – I tried a few others on afterwards but quickly returned and bought my beloved Jackie.

    Elizabeth is incredibly talented and so darn cute! That last photo of her is fantastic and I really (really REALLY) love the coloured legs paired w the beautiful white and ivory gowns.

  • Melissa
    July 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    WOW! What an interesting, positive, and inspiring person! Great choice to interview, she's great!

    xxMelissa

  • christine brightside
    July 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    her dresses are just adorable! Beautiful!

  • Sarah
    July 14, 2011 at 1:29 am

    this was a great interview – I always love reading these! her designs are stunning and what a positive perspective she has on things… so refreshing 🙂

    -Sarah
    http://pencilskirtsandlattes.blogspot.com/

  • Stitched Tegan
    July 14, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Heyy, I recently started a fashion forum "StyleThis!" a place where beauty/fashion gurus can get together and chat about what they have in common and also start discussions. I hope you'll stop by sometime to check it out and hopefully join!

    http://stylethis.forumotion.com/

    Be sure to spread the word to your friends.

    Thanks so much 🙂

  • Mrs. Hot Cocoa
    July 14, 2011 at 3:09 am

    I love love love Elizabeth's work. Especially when paired with Twigs and Honey accessories . . . so whimsical and romantic!

  • JustPatience
    July 14, 2011 at 4:00 am

    She does have beautiful pieces. I love the blue bolero the most, so cute.

    P/S Thx for visiting my blog http://www.justpatience.com. Am following now on twitter 🙂

  • projectroe
    July 14, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Great interview, and beautiful pieces! I may have to visit The English Dept when my time comes 😉

    This was such a great interview as I've always been intrigued by bridal fashion. Absolutely love her designs and her outlook on fashion, quality, and creativity! 😀

  • Cindy
    July 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

    The Storyville Suite dress is amazing! I wonder how it works. Love her designs and I'll definitely have a shop beyond Vera Wang when the time comes…

    xx Cindy

  • Anna
    July 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Oh wow, how beautiful are these dresses! Love the pink one in the middle with the navy brocade.

    Anna xx
    http://www.southmoltonststyle.com

  • Make Mommy Chic
    July 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Hi, yet another great interview- the best part is how the designer realized her dream while in law school and went to pursue it. I love hearing those stories 🙂 It's always great to see people with such passion doing what they love. Thanks so much for the post.
    And P.S: Thanks for the comment on my blog but just to clarfiy I am 35, not 40 (yet, thank god I have a few years to go). I got a good laugh out of your comment 🙂

  • Adventures in Dressmaking
    July 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    So great! I love her stuff. Portland, OR is my hometown and I am always so excited when our artists get such national recognition as she has.

  • Alexandra
    July 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    omgosh so many pretty dresses!!!

    http://shoppingwhenishouldbestudying.blogspot.com/

  • The Blonde @ Stylish3
    July 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Gorgeous – she is really talented! I love the lace.

  • Amy-Jo Tatum/Bride Chic
    July 25, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Thank you for talking about companies that could afford to invest in indie talent but choose to pirate them instead. Like stealing candy from a baby. I'm glad someone is raising this issue.

  • Cheryl Designs
    September 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Hi K 🙂 I am a seamstress/dressmaker/tailor,etc. You might try Googling or Local Searching for 'alterationist/dressmaker/seamstress/tailor to find someone in your area. We are getting RARE, but we DO exist 🙂 Referrals are GREAT. Try the local bridal shop or fabric store. Ask EVERYONE you know if they have someone who alters clothing for them. GOOD LUCK 🙂