The Wedding Dress

July 17, 2016

When Ian and I decided to tie the knot, there was no big wedding planning excitement. But I immediately knew I wanted to sew my wedding dress. It didn’t seem like too big of a task, as I had made my prom dress. Nonetheless, I was more experienced, more knowledgeable and hence more nervous.

Weeks and weeks of compiling wedding dress inspiration and one day full of trying on gowns that were nothing like I wanted, I decided to dive into a tester. I knew I wanted a fit and flare gown, with a fitted bodice and waist that flared around my thighs. I made a muslin of a strapless, princess seamed gown that I had pieced together from a million patterns (sorry I don’t have their names/numbers!). The pictures are pretty awful, but so is the dress. It reminds me of an old 90’s dress.

This was about when my obsession with 1930’s fashion ramped up. Bias cut gowns, silky luxury, I wanted it all for my wedding. And there was nothing of the sort on the rack at bridal shops. Everything was Grecian, ballgowns, or lace mermaid gowns. Then, I came across a stunning silk $3000 embroidered bias gown at a wedding shop. Off the rack it fit like a glove, and I wanted to try and make my own spin on it. I immediately asked the saleswoman what the fabrics were that they used, and set off with a goal in mind.

I knew that sewing on the bias was a tricky challenge, but after reading basically every guide on the internet, I dove into a test. I found Seamwork’s guide to be quite helpful and felt that I could handle it. I pieced together the top of Vogue V1428 and the skirt of Butterick B5710. I found a slinky cheap polyester with about the same weight as silk to give the fit a test. A quick chop and test, and I was sold. I knew this was my dress.

I sourced my silk from Mood, and used silk charmeuse for the lining and silk crepe de chine for the outer shell. To ensure success with the bias, I cut all the bias pieces at my mother’s house, using her gigantic dining room table, a rotary cutter, and pattern weights to make sure that I wouldn’t be moving any fabric while cutting the pieces. I also used tailor’s tacks to mark the seam allowances, and cut with a brand new rotary cutter. When it came to the sewing, I basted together all my seams before machine stitching. For the seaming, I stretched my fabric while stitching. There is much debate on the internet whether or not to stretch, to sew with tissue paper, or to not wiggle it at all. I found that the seams worked best with stretching, but if you’re sewing bias test it out on your fabric first to feel what works best for you.

One of the scariest challenges of sewing this dress was attaching the skirt to the bodice. I had weird diagonal ripples along the abdomen of my muslin, and was scared that it would happen again. To prevent this, I draped both pieces on my mannequin and hand basted it prior to machine stitching. Time constraining and a bit challenging, but it is a wedding dress after all!

I installed the zipper by draping the zipper into the garment, then hand basting again. Despite this, I still had puckers at the bottom of the gown and the zipper was basically sticking out horizontally. My fabric was too fragile to rip it out, so I improvised. Upon my mother’s wonderful suggestion, I made a bustle across my bum to completely cover the bottom of the zipper. It happened to be some people’s favorite feature of the dress!

To hem the dress, I tried the Ban-roll method and was immediately sold. It worked beautifully! I was sending pictures of my teeny tiny beautiful hem to everyone when I had completed it. I also understitched the bodice and criss crossed my straps on the mannequin.

One of my goals when starting this gown was to have an overlaying bodice of lace that would mimmick the dress I had tried on. However, I didn’t start this until a week before the wedding and had underestimated the difficulty of getting a lace bodice to fit well. After many attempted drapings and frantic trips to numerous fabric stores, I gave up on it. I had a beautiful, scalloped lace that I had picked up for a steep discount and took my soon-to-be husband’s advice to follow my gut. I scrapped the bodice idea, and made a cape.

Now, a cape was never in the plan. I just knew I needed something to cover my shoulders, and when else could I pull of a lace cape?! I drafted a quick cape with a radius of 19 inches, graded up the front of the cape by 2 inches, attached a white lace trim around the edge of the cape, and slapped a hook and eye in there to close it. Done! Not quite.

I was worried that it wasn’t quite enough. Between a simple silk gown and a lace cape, something didn’t say wedding. I talked to my husband and he had an idea. We couldn’t let the beautiful scallop go to waste. I carefully cut the scallop from the pattern and hand stitched it along the waistband of my gown. You can’t see it very well in the actual wedding photos, but it was one of my favorite parts of the wedding gown. Not only because it worked so well, but because it only happened because my husband suggested it.

This has been my proudest sewing accomplishment thus far. I am not only overjoyed with the product, but the process was so enjoyable due to all the family support and help I had in making it. If you’re considering sewing your own wedding gown, give it a try with some cheap fabrics. Use all the resources available, and be flexible. Not everything will turn out how you envision it, but that’s because it’s made from your imperfect hands. And that makes it so much more personal.

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