Making the Dress
We’ve finally made it here. Months of planning, hundred’s of dollars in fabric waiting, and far too many times of waking up in the middle of the night thinking about sewing, it’s time to cut into the fabric!
If you haven’t read the previous parts leading up to this, check out the dress planning and muslin-making posts.
The silver lining of the furloughs during the pandemic were that it gave me a large swath of uninterrupted time to devote to this dress. I was able to crank up some music, close off the basement to the curious kitties, and dive into the project.
Since it is such a large, complicated project, I stayed organized with a list that I called, “Operation Lissa Gets Married!” In general I’m a person that functions best with lists, but this sheet of paper was my lifeline. I recorded any alterations I’d need to make, prioritized my work, and it allowed me to keep myself on track without feeling overwhelmed.
Tackling the Fabric Prep
The first step was to cut out the silk. Silk charmeuse and crepe de chine are both incredible supple, unstable fabrics that shift easily. Cutting them on the bias further destabilizes the fabric. Because of this, all the pieces were cut out individually and the seam allowances marked with tailor’s tacks. I laid out every cutting mat in my possession on our basement floor, and slowly marked the seam allowances of each piece, and then cut them out with a rotary cutter. This prevented shifting, and kept the grain accurately on the bias.
The lace was up next. Similarly to the silk, I marked all seam allowances with tailor’s tacks. I didn’t cut the lace on the actual cutting line, giving me more room for adjustments later on. Additionally, to ensure that the pattern lined up symmetrically, I marked one piece with the seam allowance and used that piece as the basis for it’s opposite.
I tackled the back first. I wanted to have the small scallops running down her back. In order to solve the overly-high neck problem of my previous muslins, I moved the the entire front bodice down 1 in. To compensate for this change, I extended the back straps by 1 in.
The bodice was cut based on where I wanted the center of the motif, and I’m really lucky that the larger dots in the lace didn’t find themselves with unfortunate placement! The sewing gods shone their light on me for this make!
The pattern of the sleeves runs opposite the rest of the dress to allow the smaller, delicate motif to fall at the wrists. This ended up working beautifully, as one of the rounded scallops framed the top of the shoulder seam perfectly. This accident ended up being one of my favorite parts of the dress.
I saved the trickiest part for last, the lace skirt. I wrestled with how to construct this for months before I decided to drape it, and allow the lace pattern to tell me what to do. The draping was done after the silk skirt had been constructed. The center front was lined up, and I draped the rest of the skirt to line up with the hemline of the silk. The back seam was then marked with basting stitches, and shaped so that the last foot or so of back seam would be vertical to allow the scallops to line up evenly at the hem. This ended up working better than I could’ve imagined!
Sewing it All Together
From here on out, it’s all a cakewalk, right?! Each individual part was first basted together, then machine sewn. Additionally, all lace pieces were marked, then basted together first to maintain symmetry on each side of the gown.
I was in familiar territory for sewing the bias cut skirt together. I used the smallest Microtex needle I could find, and stretched the fabric while sewing to allow for movement.
I finished the wrists of the sleeves by giving the button loops a silk facing, similar to a shirt placket. One side had elastic button loops sewn into the seam of the facing, and the other had the corresponding pearl buttons attached. I did the same thing for the back closure; purchased a strip of elastic button loops which were attached to one side and stitched pearl buttons to the other.
The silk was hemmed with a narrow hem, using a Ban-roll to ensure fast, easy, painless hemming. A tutorial of this was posted to my stories.
A waist stay was added between the two layers of silk. The waist stay exited the silk lining through bound button holes, and attached with a heavy duty hook and eye to keep the weight off of her shoulders.
And of course, being a pandemic wedding of less than 12 people, the bride and groom needed “formalwear” masks. I made one for Jimmy out of leftover black rayon challis, lined with Lissa’s silk charmeuse. And Lissa received a beautiful lace and silk mask, made to match her dress.
The wedding day finally arrived! The dress fit Lissa beautifully, all the stray threads had been trimmed, and the shoes matched perfectly. She looked stunning.
I had managed to make the most beautiful wedding dress both Lissa and I could’ve possibly imagined. It’s certainly not without it’s faults. I can look back at the photos of her wedding day and pick apart things that I wish I could change. But ultimately, I am beyond proud of what was made. And it beautifully translated Lissa’s personal style into a once-in-a-lifetime gown.
I feel honored to have been so involved in such a large piece of their tiny, pandemic wedding. Not only did I help Lissa get into her wedding dress on her wedding day, after feeding her charcuterie and cracking open a beer for her, but I made that dress that she said “I do,” in. After so many other pieces of the wedding had to be changed, I was beyond happy to still provide her with her dream wedding dress.
Congratulations to Lissa and Jimmy. I love you both dearly, and I can’t wait to see what other creative adventures we embark on in the future.