The saying "less is more" is well known, but less well utilised among many current high end eveningwear designers. However, there is one bright new Kiwi talent. Judy Gao from her label "Judy Gao Couture" creates not only striking, sophisticated and dynamic designs but also works in a beautiful femininity to her creations, giving them movement and fluidity.
For this incredible feature Judy created a custom gown for me, and we chose the "Alina Ball Gown" in a deep royal purple as our favourite. There are many reasons why I love this particular design, especially because it was a dream to photograph. Take a look at Judy's website to view her various collections and get inspired to dress like royalty...
Judy is not only incredible talented but wonderfully friendly and easy to chat to abut the entire process. You can book in to have your own custom gown made, or hire one for your next special occasion with Judy Gao Couture here, and follow her on Facebook + Instagram.
My vision for this editorial set was based largely around the idea of royalty, and the Grecian Gods as opposed to European royalty which is usually my focus. I love how the movement and flow of this Judy Gao gown reminded me of a queen, in a ballroom or court. So I wanted to find a space and accessories that evoked this feeling and I am very pleased with the results! I believe the 'princess' aesthetic has been a little overused, and a return to the simple and elegant is a welcome turn. The feeling of a warm afternoon in the height of summer was the perfect addition to the setup so we worked mostly amongst the ivy, cobblestones and the earthy tones of the balcony and pillars at my favourite space, the Hamilton Gardens.
This satin 'Alina Ball Gown' features a cowl neck and cross straps on the back, with a gathered skirt that flows out to the floor, and a high slit on the right thigh, perfect if your legs are one of your best features and versatile across most body types as you can adjust the height of the straps and where the bodice sits. The only advice I will give, is to get Judy to show you how to strap up the back, and make sure the straps sit correctly as it can be tricky if you pop it on by yourself. If you can get someone to help you into it that's always a plus too!
Undergarments are a big consideration if you're a larger bust size particularly, so I very rarely wear dresses with tiny straps as I like to know I am secure. However because of the crossing over of straps at the back with this gown, it adds security to the design and I felt very comfortable in it. I wore an adhesive plunge bra with this gown, but personally I think it would be better next time to go without. Especially in summer with the heat I found the adhesive bra to be not as effective, somewhat annoying and actually unnecessary. Next time I will opt for adhesive covers, or go completely without!
Colour is such an important part of beautiful styling, and purple is one of my favourite shades I don't wear enough. It is an interesting statistic that we apparently wear only 20% of our wardrobe, 80% of the time! I have found this to be true personally, and I find by actively thinking about and planning what I will wear in advance I can keep an eye out for certain designs or colours before I go shopping... So of course I love that Judy designs her gowns in a variety of colours, with some deeper and others light pastel shades there is an incredible variety she has available. Many people incorrectly assume that satin is a material to avoid, as it's seen to be clingy and unflattering. This is true when it's paired with an unflattering design. Fitting styles are not necessarily unflattering either, as it's about accentuating the parts of your figure that you want to highlight, while drawing attention away from other areas. I love my body, but everyone has parts of themselves they're less fond of, and I think that's okay as long you are proud of your body too.
The location I chose was the incredible Hamilton Gardens. There are various different gardens within the one premises, and the spot we focused on was the Italian Garden. Complete with a balcony overlooking the view it was an incredible sight with the trees and backdrop lit up by the evening light of the golden hour. This is my favourite time to photograph when the light is soft. They close in summer at 8pm, which is before sunset so we after arriving at 7.30pm, we had only 30 minutes to get it all done! Admittedly there was a very friendly security guard who let us stay a little longer, and there was no one around, perfection.
For accessories think dramatic and excessive! I wanted to echo the cross over in the straps of my heels, these are shoes I've kept in my closest for a number of years now so aren't available anywhere that I've seen but I still love them! The necklace belonged to my Grandmother, and was given to her as a gift from my Grandfather when she turned 21 which I think is so sweet. The earrings are also vintage and belonged to her. I think a few well chosen and matched pieces always work the best, and if you're unsure about a combination it's better to go without.
My hair proved to be the biggest challenge. Something to consider for evenings or when you are dressing for a special occasion. Often I see at weddings the brides opting for beautiful long locks. Although this looks incredibly stunning when first set, after a few hours of dancing, chatting, and moving around it doesn't sit as well unless you have your hair stylist on hand. The same is true for glamourous special occasions. The drive to the Hamilton Gardens from Auckland is nearly two hours, so I needed a hairstyle that was beautiful but one I could trust! My suggestion for these types of scenarios is find a 'messy' updo that will wear well over time. I did this set nearly three hours before we shot and it lasted immaculately. I used two sets of hair extensions to create two braids with my hair, one either side and crossed them over at the top to add volume. After much pinning, I curled the one section left out much more tightly than I usually would, so that it would drop to the perfect weight once we began to photograph. I popped in a set of artificial purple irises with bobby-pins, and the look was complete! I am popping a lot more on Instagram and Facebook stories now, so next time watch along as I get ready for the next shoot!
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Photographer. Creator. Dreamer ♥