Designer Margaret Coyne in her beautiful wedding dress fitting room in Dowra courthouse
The stories from Dowra Courthouse are legendary, the impressive building in the middle of the village has stood witness to some of the biggest changes in Irish history.
Built in 1932, it was used as a Garda Station and Courthouse after the partition of the country to serve along the border.
But its courtroom days are long gone and since 2014 it has served as a creative space and tourist point, a setting for exhibitions, workshops, meeting, classes and launch pad for creative businesses.
And now Margaret Coyne is putting Dowra and the old courthouse on the map as a centre for wedding dress couture.
Margaret who is originally from Kildare, studied fashion design and worked in the industry in Dublin before meeting her husband and moving to Dowra.
When she moved to Dowra she said, “I had no other option but to start my own business.”
She had always wanted to design wedding dresses and in 2021 she rented the creative space in Dowra Courthouse. But all her big plans were put on hold due to Covid. Some of her clients have had their weddings cancelled four times due to Covid restrictions.
Now Margaret is delighted to have weddings back and beautiful brides at her door. She creates “couture” wedding dresses, which means they are designed specifically for the client based on her body shape, design, theme materials and budget.
She also creates stunning Mother of the Bride outfits and headpieces.
Margaret cutting material in her studio - Margaret was a finalist in 2022 Wedding Online Awards
Guiding us through the process, Margaret explains at the first meeting with the bride they discuss the look she wants, the theme of the wedding, the fit, the style, the material and most importantly the budget.
The bride is carefully fitted and for the next appointment a cotton toil is created to fit the measurements, the bride gets a better idea of the style and Margaret can tweak the design before she starts using the expensive material for the finished product.
Margaret explains that the bride needs to attend around 4-5 fittings and at least fours months is needed to bring the dress from design concept to finished product - which is much shorter than most bridal boutiques offer for dress turn arounds.
“The finished product is a unique, custom made wedding dress,” Margaret reveals, adding “no one will have same dress, the same embellishments, it is a one off.”
Margaret is a one woman show and she said it is a lot of work, but she only takes on as many clients as she can possibly work and this gives the client “my full attention.”
Her clients come from all different backgrounds, many come with an idea of what they want, while most come with an idea of what they don’t want!
Margaret acknowledges that while some girls dream of trying on wedding dresses, others find it overwhelming. “Many women just don't know where to start,” she says adding that most of us are not used to wearing ballgowns or slinky figure hugging gowns.
While Dowra might not be the most obvious choice for couture fashion, Margaret is attracting customers from all over the country. She currently has brides travelling from Cork and Wicklow.
“I’m not looking for customers off the street,” Margaret comments. She loves the building which also supports Jim Fee Ceramics and Sopa hand made soaps. She paid tribute to the centre coordinator Patricia O'Rourke who she said is so helpful everyday.
Margaret hopes her business can be part of the revival of Dowra Village.
You can get more information on www.Margaretcoynecouture.ie, Facebook and Instagram.
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