Part 1, The Wedding Dress!
So, the reason my blog posts have been so non-existent since August is because I was beavering away making a wedding dress! In secret! I took so many photos along the way and I really wanted to share it with people, as it was a huge learning curve for me but I don’t have many sewing buddies I could geek out with over it.
I knew exactly where to begin when it came to the style of wedding dress I wanted to make. I have sewn several patterns before for a similar design and I knew this was something I could cope with. In that respect I did minimum research, other than looking at other dresses in this style to check out the length, the fullness of the skirt and how low the neckline came.
I completed a pattern cutting course about 10 years ago, but I’ve only drafted a couple of dresses completely from scratch since. Using my original bodice block, I made a rough pattern for the bodice. I don’t feel I have changed shape at all since the first block was drafted, but I discovered needed to make a few major alterations, which was suprising as it fitted quite well at the time.
After all the alterations were marked, I drew the outline of where I wanted the neck to be onto the block and then transferred all that to the pattern.
The photo above is the first “main fabric” I purchased. It looked great on the roll, but when I got it home I had doubts about it looking cheap, and too see-through.
I had real trouble getting fabric as I’m so indecisive. I was originally looking for a really lovely silk, but I found that most fabric shops in Bristol don’t stock it, and I was too impatient to travel as I wanted to get started right away. The best I could find was Fabrics Plus in Downend, which has a selection of books with samples of silk in, but they are only around an inch square, and without seeing how the fabric draped I wasn’t keen to order anything from them. So I settled on cotton, as I’ve worked with it a lot before and I have no clue about silk.
The dress itself is a very simple design, which I ended up making several times. I sewed a toile in calico first, though in fairness the fabric I had was much thicker than the fabric I wanted to use for the final dress, so it wasn’t a great representation. It helped to give a general idea of fit and to get the waist measurement right on the circle skirt. This app tutorial was useful for calculating the measurements.
Above Left -The first toile, in calico too thick to tell me a lot, and the second version, right,
which was going to be the final dress, but didn’t feel very special.
Once I was happy with the fitting I pieced together the dress in my chosen fabric, only to find that once it was all sewn together, I had totally gone off the fabric, it looked like a flimsy white summer dress rather than a wedding dress, and was slightly see-through.
I realised then there would need to be a lot more construction involved than I initially thought. I was always going to bone the lining of the bodice, but when I looked at wedding dresses on pinterest for help I saw there was a lot more structure to them.
I’d love to do a tutorial on what I did here, but it was all quite new to me and wouldn’t be fair on the many bloggers who’s posts I used to help me along the way. Three tutorials I kept coming back to (I made my boned bodice twice) were Sewing a Boned Bodice, Sewing a Butted (or Abutted) Seam, and the Making Bust Padding tutorial all from A Sewaholic. The tutorial about the seams and the padding were particularly useful to someone who has never made any kind of corset before. The first bodice I finished was in calico and was so chuffed with it - the stitching was neat and it fitted so well. I’m kind of rubbish with toiles and I like to just get stuck in, and this was going so well I decided it wasn’t necessary to remake it in nicer fabric, as the calico was stiff enough to help with the structure. But the colour was too dark and was clearly visible through the dress fabric, so I ended up making the corset again in a white linen I had in my stash.
The bra cups were fun to make, and made a massive difference! I have always thought this style of dress completely flattens me, and despite buying myself a nice fancy bra I felt I still needed some help in this department. Originally I padded out the entire front, but this just gave me extra structure that I didn’t need and made me look a size bigger than I am, so I cut the bottom section off and just padded the cups.
I tacked the boned corset into the dress and instantly felt better about the construction, but I still wasn’t happy with the main fabric. It just looked a bit cheap and didn’t feel special.
I decided to take a look at quilting cottons, as often there is a nice sheen to them and they have a good weight. There seems to be a bit of conflict here as to whether they are good for dressmaking or not, but I’ve always found I like the prints and the stiffness has never put me off. After more searching I found the fabric to make the final dress in Country Threads in Bath, which I love because it’s paisley!
I went for rouleau loops to fasten the back of dress, for the simple reason I didn’t want to ruin all my efforts by putting in a zip. I’ve never made these before and was quite keen to add yet another new technique to my belt, so I took to Pinterest looking for more information. The process is all very simple, basically you’re just sewing a very thin seam and turning it in on itself. It took me a few attempts using different methods, and in the end I settled with the loop-turner technique, using a needle from my knitting machine. Then I chopped them all up and painstakingly tacked them all to a sheet of paper ready for sewing on to the dress.
At some point during all of this I also made a lining and attached it, and then finally added a waist-stay at the end.
Stay tuned for the next post, when I’ll talk about the petticoat!