10 Minutes With: Claire Pettibone

Fashion Designer

A Claire Pettibone gown is unmistakable. She is unique in the wedding world with her use of super-fragile laces, cotton muslin fabric and exquisite appliques and embroideries.

Claire’s gowns may look like they are from another place and time, but they always end up feeling surprisingly modern. Her skilled eye and creative vision manage to mesh the most delicate of dresses with lingerie-like detailing and otherworldly romance. Read on as we quiz the lady Pettibone about fashion, brides and style secrets.

How did you end up in your profession?
I developed a love of fashion from a very young age, and studied art and graphic design in college before going on to a degree in Fashion Design. My boyfriend (and now husband of 17 years) Guy Toley, is the one who really inspired me to design my own collection. He had a business background and we started the company together the same year we were married.

When my husband and I began our business, I had no idea I would end up designing bridal gowns. I always had a very feminine style, and lingerie seemed like a natural starting point. But now when I look back at drawings that I did at the age of 4, they were all of brides! I begged my mom to make me a wedding gown and veil when I was 5, which I would wear for hours playing dress-up. I was so enraptured by the idea of the bride (and especially the dress), that of course being a bridal gown designer is what I was meant to do!

What is the best part of your job?
The bridal collection is, for me as a designer, the ultimate creative expression. I work with the world’s finest laces, embroideries and fabrics to create that ‘once in a lifetime’ gown. I find it such a fulfilling, exciting process--and then you add the bonus of the appreciation and joy that my work brings to my clients and it doesn’t get any better.

What is your favorite trend right now?
I love the look of illusion backs…manages to be sexy and demure simultaneously!

Who, what and where inspires you?
My fabulous clients, antique textiles and my fantasy life in the South of France.

What do you love about brides?
I love that each wedding is unique, and every bride looks amazing when she finds ‘the one.’ It is literally the most important gown in a woman’s life, and I love the opportunity to create magic.

What is the one thing every bride needs?
A one-of-a-kind groom who is madly in love with her.

Can you give us a Bridal Do?
Be true to who you are and enjoy the process.

And a Bridal Don’t?
Don’t lose sight of what the day is about. Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, don’t stress. Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be the most memorable, wonderful moments if you stay in the moment of what ‘is,’ and not what is ‘supposed to be.’

What’s next for you?
Finishing the collection in the whirlwind two weeks before show day, and then it’s on to the next one. Between my lingerie and bridal divisions, there is never a dull moment!

Finally, tell us a style secret that can make a wedding look magic. (We promise we won’t tell.)
Incorporate some homemade touches, whether you do them yourself or enlist the help of crafty or talented family and guests. Things made with love add another dimension that you will miss if the wedding is over-produced. Some of the most beautiful weddings are quite simple, but tell a story that perfectly captures the spirit of the couple.

Thank you Claire.

--Juli Alvarez

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