Having zero experience and moderate confidence, I believed I could sew my own wedding gown and I did.
A year ago, I had only sewn quilts and unfinished or misshapen garments. Knowing this, my then-boyfriend-now-husband still assumed I could make him a Western shirt. I like him, so I tried.
After completing the first Western shirt, I was utterly impressed by own achievement. So much so, I figured I could probably make more garments. Even a wedding dress. I was relieved by the thought.
I was already sick from looking at wedding dresses online, never finding the right one, and being totally put off by the price or quality of each one. I figured it was time to commit to making my own, cobbling together the best parts of the dresses I’d seen, and inventing something unique just for me.
I knew that this project was out of my experience level, so I approached it very gradually.
My hemline was inspired by this Embellished High-Low Gown by Oscar de la Renta:
Oscar de la Renta can do no wrong.
The tone of our wedding was inspired by the prom scene in Back to the Future and I wanted something that fit our evening but also met my criteria:
- Suitable for dancing all night
- Something I wouldn’t trip over
- A neckline I wouldn’t fall out of
- Not white
- Sweetheart neckline
- Tea length hemline
- Could still be identified as a wedding dress
I feel very happy that I have achieved most of my goals.
The bodice has boning in its underlining, for structure and support. This was a challenge for me. I spent a lot of time agonizing over how to properly insert boning. I read a ton of books about corsets and undergarment construction but never really found the “how to” guide I wanted, which would use exhaustive details and pictures to describe the process of creating a beautiful boning channel. You would be surprised how many books have words in them, guys. What I needed was photojournalism.
In the end, I realized that what’s in this dress isn’t visible — it’s not a sexy corset or anything like that, it’s just a support structure — so I cut corners. Considering I would only wear the dress once, it didn’t matter much to me if the boning was slightly distorted by the end of the night.
Therefore, I used Dritz Featherlight Twill Boning — a kind of plastic boning with a stiff cotton channel — and I didn’t bother ordering the spiral steel boning that more professional corset makers and sewers seem to use.
The invisible zipper in the back gave me some anxiety. When I started the project, I still had my old Kenmore Mini Ultra and I couldn’t figure out if there was a zipper foot available for that machine. While waiting for zippers to make sense and accessories to appear from thin air, I sewed more, grew more confident, and decided to buy a nicer machine with many presser foot options to avoid the headache of inserting a zip without the right supplies.
Buying my Janome Sewist 500 was definitely the right choice. I’ve never been happier sewing than I have been the past few months with a decent machine. To call the purchase life-changing is probably an understatement.
I don’t mind saying that I did an incredible job inserting my first invisible zipper. I also found an innovative way of attaching the full zip down the bodice and into the skirt of the dress, hiding it in the folds of the pleated skirt. Bringing that concept together felt amazing.
The skirt had extra fabric in back, along the zipper, and the zipper extends about half-way down my rear. This allowed me to get into the dress more easily because with the flap and zipper open, I had a lot more room in the waist and bodice. Of course, that flap of fabric needed to be attached back to the skirt once I was zipped in, which I achieved through four “hidden snaps” in the bustle area.
The additional fabric also meant more fullness in the “train,” which is what I wanted. I really agonized over how to do this, but once I just bared down and pushed forward the answers luckily fell into place.
I’m so grateful that I spent time during this project to take breaks and work on other things. It improved my skill level tremendously and helped me build confidence for eventually returning to this project that was, at first, out of my ability and, at every moment, very important to me.
I did agonize and think on every little bit of this garment before making my decisions final in the cloth. I hope the end result is something, though, that looks effortless!
I tried to build volume within the dress by lining the top pink and under magenta color with organza, but wasn’t convinced it did enough to achieve the full look I wanted in the skirt, so a few days before the wedding I bought a petticoat for more volume.
There is horsehair in both layers of the dress hem. It was a real process involving a lot of hand-sewing and I didn’t document the process but it was pre-tty cool, guys. Pre-tty cool.
I covered a headband with my dress material so that explains the matching. My dad asked for a tie made of my dress material too, a few weeks out from our wedding day, but I was unable to deliver on the request.
I actually sewed all of the gold table covers (20) in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I might go over this process in another post. It’s not mind-blowing, just interesting. Anyway, that project took up a lot of time at the last minute and I’m still sad I never got to make my dad’s tie.
Not that he “needed” it. He changed into jeans as soon as he could after the ceremony. Classic Dad.
It’s good that I finished my dress early so I could accept a few additional projects like my headband and tablecloths that came up near the wedding date.
BUT ALSO. Having our outfits ready a month ahead allowed us to get this photo stand made, which our guests clearly enjoyed at the party. Much love to Jacie of Moss Love Terrariums for taking the photograph of us that we used in the stand!
Well, I had a lot of fun making this dress. I somehow paced the work just fine. I didn’t get too stressed or screw up anything or have to buy my gown. I did spill a lot of champagne on it that night, but I’m sure that’s just the hallmark of a good time.
Someday I would like to make another fancy dress. And I should. Because I still have 7 yards of this fabric.