Harleysville Bridal celebrates 25th anniversary
After seven years in New York City and two years in Paris, Colleen GilliesPeterson found herself back in Mainland, Pa. Her father had just purchased a building on Main Street in Harleysville and didn’t have a use for it ,so he offered it to Colleen saying, “Now you can set up your bridal shop.”
That’s how Harleysville Bridal was born.
This year, it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
When Gillies-Peterson was 17 years ROG, VKH GHVLJnHG GUHVVHV IRU KHU fiUVW client’s wedding. She designed and made everything, including the bridal gown and the dresses for the mother of the bride, mother-in-law and all the bridesmaids.
Gillies-Peterson graduated from Lansdale Catholic in 1973 then headed to Virginia Commonwealth University WR VWuGy finH DUWV DnG IDVKLRn GHVLJn.
Then, she moved to New York City and studied at Traphagen School of Fashion.
“FRU RuU fiUVW DVVLJnPHnW wH KDG WR design dresses out of [bed] sheets,” Gillies-Peterson said. This came easy for Gillies-Peterson, whose mother always PDGH GUHVVHV DnG RuWfiWV IRU KHU IRuU daughters and two sons.
“She always let us help design our dresses and she would sew them,” Gillies-Peterson said. At age 11, Gillies-Peterson began designing and sewing her own clothing.
While attending school in New York City, she lived and worked at the Salvation Army women’s residence as the door lady in the mornings and evenings.
$IWHU finLVKLnJ VFKRRO, GLOOLHV-3Hterson lived in New York for another four years, working at Springs Industries, a company that makes towels and sheets for designers. During that time she met Princess Grace Kelly numerous times because the company produced Kelly’s sheets and towels.
A dream come true, Gillies-Peterson was able to transfer to Spring Industries’ French Division, living and working in Paris for two years.
“YRu’UH LnfluHnFHG Ey HYHUyWKLnJ over there,” Gillies-Peterson said. “They wore nothing that matched but somehow it all worked — like the teenagers in America today.”
Then, Gillies-Peterson opened Harleysville Bridal in 1987 and her sister. Maureen Gillies-Carbonneau, who is three years younger and studied at Barbizon School of Fashion Merchandising, joined the business two years later.
“We never planned to work together, it just sort of worked out,” GilliesCarbonneau said.
Today, Harleysville Bridal sells Anjolique Bridal Collection, Mikaella, Maggie Sottero, AnaisS on weddings, Blue by Enzoani and Nicole Miller Bridals.
All dresses are customizable with EHOWV, EURDFKHV, flRwHUV DnG EHDGLnJ, which the seamstress team at Harleysville Bridal can add. The store also sells headpieces and veils, jewelry, shoes, handbags and underdressings.
Gillies-Peterson also still designs individual dresses for brides who want their own unique look.
“It’s a fun and rewarding business, HVSHFLDOOy wKHn yRu finG WKDW JLUO D dress and it just transforms her,” Gillies-Carbonneau said.
Maureen Gillies-Carbonneau is co-owner of the Harleysville Bridal and Tuxedo Shop on Main Street with her sister, Colleen Gillies-Peterson.
Kate Serravalle, bridal consultant, sifts through wedding dresses at Harleysville Bridal.
The wedding dress in the doorway draws many customers inside the shop on Main Street.