Debbie W.: One of a Kind

Debbie W.: One of a Kind

Mother of: Arielle
Wedding Venue: Chicago Hilton and Towers
Vibe: Black tie invited
Dress: Custom by MJ Ernst Couture

Back when Debbie was in bar and bat mitzvah planning mode for her five children, a friend slipped her the name of custom dressmaker MJ Ernst. Five mitzvahs and four weddings later, Debbie has avoided fitting room angst.

“Instead of dreading the mother of the bride dress search, it became another part of the wedding event for me,” Debbie says.

When they met, MJ Ernst had a storefront on Chicago's north shore suburb Winnetka. The couturier has since moved to Michigan, but returns regularly to work with longtime clients like Debbie. 

Of course, custom designing is a process. “I do a lot of investigative work myself,” Debbie says. “I look at many designers to get an idea of what is being shown these days. I look at red carpet photos from awards shows.” Before she meets with her dress maker, Debbie gathers dress photos, and even notes the top of one she likes; bottom of another in silhouettes she knows will flatter her shape. “We talk about ideas for the design, shop the fabric, then she does some simple drawings and starts the mock up,” Debbie says. “We can make changes along the way to best suit me.”

The bride, a Chicago dentist, started dating Josh, a neurosurgeon, early in the pandemic. Josh caught Covid from a patient, and gave it to Arielle. The new couple had to make a big decision. “They decided they would recover together,” Debbie says. “The scenario was going to be, make it or break it. Obviously, it was a perfect recovery for them both; Arielle and Josh are wonderful together.”

Their November, 2022 wedding was an elegant ballroom affair. Arielle didn’t care what color her mom wore, and she told the mother of the groom to choose whatever dress made her feel good. The mother of the groom selected a floor length copper gown; Debbie always feels best in black, but this time her gown was embellished with an intricate white embroidered pattern, with sheer long sleeves and a train. The effect was elegant, dramatic, and suited her perfectly.

“My dress design made me feel confident, and I knew that no one would come to the wedding in anything similar!”
| Photography by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography and Design
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