Many women, without a doubt, have walked into a store, tried on clothes, and left without buying much, if anything.
At Christine Anne COUTURE, however, customers can not only get custom-made bridal gowns or First Communion dresses, but they can also purchase custom-made clothing.
"It's because they don't feel they can find what fits them at a regular store," said owner Christine Hirsch. She has customers who come to her to design and create their regular day wear, like shirts, shirts and pants. "They're willing to spend the extra money instead of spending money on clothes that don't fit."
Just about everything at Christine Anne COUTURE is handmade, including the jewelry, evening bags, scarves and veils. The shoes are hand-painted by a high school student.
"Ninety percent of the shop is handmade by me or someone else," said Hirsch.
She opened the downtown Libertyville shop almost 10 years ago. A lot of her business comes from word-of-mouth, like a bride recommending the shop to her friends who are getting married.
Hirsch, who created her first wedding dress 25 years ago, makes custom gowns at her shop. Dresses on display in the store are there for brides to get ideas, though some of the gowns are available for purchase.
The number of gowns she makes varies each year; she made 11 one year.
"The recession, I don't think, hit the bridal industry as quickly," said Hirsch. The last two years, however, she's done more alterations than custom gowns. And many of the gowns she has made over the past two years have been more simplified.
"Every year, it's different. I just have to go with the changes," she said.
She loves creating the custom pieces.
"For me, I love doing the one-of-a-kind," said Hirsch. "It's always a challenge."
Something Unique for a First Communion
For First Communion, Hirsch has a line of about 20 dresses, and she's always adding more. She aims to make sure she doesn't sell the same dress to other girls in the same Communion class, "and (customers) seem to love it."
Other Custom Pieces
Aside from bridal gowns and her Communion dress line, Hirsch has made some other custom creations at customers' requests. She used a woman's grandmother's wedding gown to make the bodice of the woman's own bridal gown.
Recently, Hirsch made a christening gown from a client's wedding dress.
"There's always something more to it that personalizes it," said Hirsch. When she's making those special-request pieces, Hirsch is careful to save as much of the original piece-like the wedding dress that became a christening gown-so it can be used in the future.
"I don't just chop it all up," she said.
Ultimately, her goal is to ensure all of her customers leave happy.
"I want people to leave happy with how the fitting went," said Hirsch. "Even if it's an alteration, my name is out there."
"She's the hidden gem," Nancy Kenston, who makes much of the jewelry sold at Christine Anne COUTURE, said of Hirsch.