Hi! I'm Sarah Kolis, a custom couture wedding dress designer based in Michigan but serving the whole midwest. I love creating custom gowns and alterations for clients and I have a special love for vintage fashion. Thanks for stopping by!
In case you are new here, I am Sarah Kolis! Owner and designer of my custom couture bridal gown and alterations business, based in Novi, Michigan.
In the bridal season of 2022, almost ALL of my close friends got married! It was a busy season filled with bridal showers, traveling, rehearsal dinners, and weddings to attend! 9 to be exact! This was on top of the many bridal clients I had the joy of working with this past season, it was a busy but incredibly fun year!
So of these 9 weddings, I of course needed something to wear to all these events and I ended up making myself a total of 12 dresses in the 2022 season! I have an incredible husband, but he is not an ‘instagram husband’ and claims he never wants to be! Therefore, I rarely have a good photo of me wearing one of these beautiful gowns I am so proud of. And that got me thinking…so I sent a quick message to Penny Ralene Photography that was greeted back with an excited “Yes!”
The plan was to meet at Dayspace Studio in Royal Oak on Friday, January 13th, 2023 for a fashion/branding shoot. Why this date? Well, my little sister Angela happened to take this random date as a vacation day at work so we decided that she would be a great addition and help to the day.
Prep work for me included deciding which gowns to bring, getting that hair highlighted, the tanner on (Spray Chic in Wixom!), and loading up the car. I tried to keep it as low-stress as possible.
The day started early with Kelsey from Roman Beauty doing my makeup to ensure it looked absolutely perfect under those studio lights. She was phenomenal at her craft, very professional, and I greatly enjoyed our time together!
While that was happening, Penny showed up on time and even early to get herself all set up and ready to go with all the proper lighting and all. She shot some initial images and even spun her own little flair to the set-up!
I hopped into my first outfit and we started with some light brand photography:
Next, I asked Penny to take some photos with my Babylock Aria. If you haven’t already, check out my feature article with the Babylock brand, here!
Now, this is a 50 lb machine, so it certainly is not easy to stand there and hold for a cute photo! However, I certainly love these ones as it showcases what I do best! The sewing!!
First fashion dress up was this brocade dress that I wore in October to my in-laws’ rehearsal dinner. I designed this one based off the fabric from Haberman’s in Clawson and knowing it was a fancy dinner at The Highlands in Detroit. It is a beautiful upscale restaurant located on the 71st floor of the Ren Cen overlooking the beautiful city below. This dress has a poof sleeve, gathered skirt, and pockets!!
I must make a note here that my services for hire include designing and creating custom couture bridal gowns, as well as bridal alterations to store-bought gowns. I no longer design non-wedding dresses (like these shown here) for hire. Interested in my services? Visit the homepage of this website!
Next up: a dress I wore to a fancy wedding in Los Angeles in May. This one was worn to the wedding of one of my husband’s great friends whom we call Mike Mike, and his now-wife Crystal. The busy print of this dress quite camouflages some of the gather detail down the center of the dress. My husband lovingly calls this one my Rainbow Fish dress. It was a beautiful wedding with lots of friend and family!!
This next one was a crowd pleaser! It was worn to my best friend Mikaela’s rehearsal dinner at The Whitney in November. The restaurant there is a historic Detroit business that was beautifully decorated for the holidays. I choose a plunging neckline as by this late time in the season, I was running out of neckline ideas and hadn’t yet done this one for the year. I balanced it with a high back and long pencil skirt. This fabric is a luxurious 100% silk taffeta. Notice how the pencil skirt wrinkles! It is unlike the super-hip-hugging-and-stretchy alternatives you see in stores. Due to the taffeta’s structured nature, I had to leave the wiggle room in the hip area so I could sit and walk (this is a concept learned from my modern day bridal gown applications!) I truly do find this fabric nature quite beautiful and will absolutely alter my designs to accommodate for it! Also, can we take a moment for that sleeve?!
Welcome to my most liked Instagram photo post ever:
So the thing about Penny is that she is a WIZARD with the posing. She did one of two things, either just started snapping my natural movements, or adjusted me slightly to for example, show off the purse, or the gathers in the skirt, or angle me in a unique way. What I also loved: she always made sure to take note of where my fingers were laying, so they turned out to look natural in photos (even if it did not feel natural in the moment!).
Next up: this black sequin beauty that I wore to a wedding in Washinton DC, a wedding for my husband’s friend Mike and his now-wife Martine. You might be wondering how we picked the order in which we went through these gowns. Well, check out the shoes. I am a girl of many dresses in my closet, but it might shock you to know I actually own quite few shoes. I tend to re-wear very often! I think this might mostly be because I am quite picky with my accessories so when I find something I like, I repeat a lot!
So this fabric is a sequined black mesh, in which I overlayed on a plain black fabric to hide the mesh aspect. Big long slit up the back so I could walk!
Shoe swap! This beautiful lavender gown was worn to my friend Bailey Durham’s wedding in May in South Haven, Michigan. I loved this spring look with a scooped strapless top, grosgrain ribbon waistband, and beautiful embroidered mesh fabric from Haberman Fabrics!
…and this is end the result when Penny says to work it like Marilyn:
To say we had fun together is a true understatment!
Ok so this one is older. From January 2018. It is a tight ponte knit, worn to the big Auto Show Charity Pre-view night in which all attendees show up in the Saturday night night best. I enjoyed a slit with a mid-height neckline.
Wore this one to a networking event of industry professionals in the fall of 2021. Features a purple piping from my scrap fabric stash:
Love this one, wore this just 3 days ago! Aside from my wedding dress, it is the first time I had a gown photographed BEFORE I wore it! I typically am finishing the dress the night before I wear it, and in this case I had it all done a whole 2 weeks early! Just so I could get Penny to get some pretty shots of it! I particularly love this one for the design lines in the front bodice. I love those angled gathers at the bustline. Fabric from Haberman’s in Clawson! 100% silk shantung. This shantung was particularly papery but I loved that, can’t quite put my finger on why but it was fun to wear.
Alright so this next one was a linen beauty worn to a female entrepreneur’s networking event in Greenville, South Carolina in April 2022. So I was bouncing off that southern style and opted for a beautiful yellow floral with side slit and thick waistband. It was worn to a cocktail party!
Continuing on with the tall block white heels that I have worn manyyyyy times in my life, we have the blue floral gown I wore to my friend Katie’s bridal shower. This one was at Genetti’s in Northville and it was both adorable and delicious. I was stopped by a store owner across the street as I was walking out asking where I got my dress, and she said she had a feeling it was custom made. Great compliment! Funny aspect of this one is that I ‘finished’ the gown at 11:43am the morning that the bridal shower started at noon, good thing I lived close! What I mean when I by ‘finished’ is that I safety pinned the hem due to the extensive time crunch! Honestly the safety pins are still in there, oh well! My rule when I make gowns of my own for myself is that I cannot start on the project until I finish all the client gowns I have to work on that week, which often results in very short timelines, if at all. This dress features a low back, side slits, and side zipper (that I do sooo rarely!). Fabric from Haberman’s!
This one I made in 2017 and never wore it until August 2022! It sat in the closet crying for 5 years! So in 2017, I made it to wear fro my then-fiancé and I’s engagement photos. Then when it was complete, I decided it was not great for this particular event as I could not lift my arms up very high. I spent so much time on it though hand-crocheting that beautiful trimmed edge! I ended up wearing this to 2 bridal showers in August 2022 (2 in one day!). Penny got out her specialty camera lens to zoom in that close!
This one is one of my all-time favorites! Worn to a classy Dearborn Inn rehearsal dinner in July 2022, this one was made of two different 100% silk taffetas. It has pockets, a unique front keyhole, and adorable pink buttons. Again, Penny coming in with those great pose ideas! I felt so ‘me’ in this!
This one is the oldest of the bunch! 2017 Auto Show Charity Preview night again. This was created while I was still roughing it in my little sewing room in my parents’ basement! I loved this one at the time, and still do!! Did those sequins rub on my underarms all night so much so that my skin became very sore and rashed? Fashion is always worth it! (for me!)
Continuing on with the rose gold shoes, we have this little charmeuse number worn to my in-law’s wedding! It was my brother-in-law Ryan and his now-wife Megan on October 29, 2022. So the fabric is a 100% silk charmeuse satin, underlined in silk satin organza, and lined in silk as well! This was a pricy one, $600 wholesale eek! It also had a slight train that I bustled late in the night. The style is unique with the horizontal center bodice darts. Features pockets and a horsehair hem.
This one is a 2019 style that I wore to a fall wedding in Washington DC. This was to my husband’s friend Sami and Meghan’s wedding. It features 100% silk satin. I had to be careful with this one as it wrinkles easily when you sit!
To the Petit Fleur Events Holiday Party, I wore this little jumpsuit in honor of the season’s festive colors. By Corrina herself, I was named “Miss Christmas” for the night. This one was particular fun as I really dove deep into getting advice from my Instagram followers while I was making it, so it was really fun to allow other’s to design it with me! Please notice and honor the matching plaids… thank you!
All the fashion dresses are done! Now, moving on, we got a quick headshot for sister Angela, because why not! And Penny did a fabulous job of course.
Then I had this idea for some veil shots but of me wearing casual clothes. This one was inspired by the movie, Father of the Bride, that I love so much.
Some miscellaneous branding…
A few others…
Until finally, a shot with me and Penny herself!! The lady behind the lens everybody! (Audience cheers!)
To Penny: THANK YOU for putting your all into this shoot! You brought the energy, fun, and enthusiasm to this shoot that helped make it so successful! Can you be my Instagram husband please?!!
Engaged ladies: please make sure to check out Penny’s work and consider booking her for your big special day! You may view her website here or her Instagram here!
Thanks for reading,
Photographer: Penny Ralene Photography
Makeup: Kelsey with Roman Beauty, view her website here
Gowns: Sarah Kolis! You already know me!
Assistant: Angela Kolis
I can’t wait to hear all about your love story and the vision you have for your big day.
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Sarah Kolis is a couture gown designer based in Detroit who serves the whole Midwest area and beyond.
Wow! Just wow! So fun to see all these creation.