Monday, 13 July 2015

The making of My Wedding dress

I was going through some of my photos that I backed up from my tablet before going overseas on our honeymoon, and I came across quite a few from when I was sewing my wedding dress. So I thought I might share the process of making it with you guys as suitable celebration of my 1st wedding anniversary (which was 2 days ago, I'm running a bit late....)

Look how Poofy my skirt is!!!
My Husband is a very romantic sort, so he said he didn't want to see the dress before seeing me walk down the aisle in it. So I decided to sew the dress at my grandparent's house. My Grandma was a tailoress many years ago, and they only live about 10kms away from me, so it was a great idea, and my grandparents loved seeing the dress come together. While I was not worried about managing the construction of this dress, I was very worried about marking the fabric at any point during the process. So my grandma got a large white sheet out of her linen cupboard to cover the table with whenever I would come over to work on it (which was usually a few days a week) And when it got to the point of being on my mannequin, we used the sheet to wrap around the mannequin, which I would then leave in a safe corner of the spare bedroom.

Before getting to the point where I could start any construction, I (insanely) decided to painstakingly hand bead pieces of lace appliqué, which I bought cheap from Ebay and you can still get them here. I bought 2 lots of 10 pairs, which was way more than I needed, but a few had some tiny black marks and some were a little rough. I'm guessing they are factory seconds, but I just picked out the good ones and still had way more than I needed for only $40. I used a mixture of white and clear seed beads (Lincraft), white faux pearl beads and clear swarovski crystal beads (both Spotlight), which I sewed all over my lace pieces using invisible thread. I also had to use an incredibly fine needle to get through both the small seed beads as well as the tightly embroidered lace. The amount of time I stuck the needle into my finger with the BLUNT end of the needle was a bit ridiculous, it was that fine of a needle. Any time my fingers got wet and pruney, you could see all the pin holes all over the skin of my finger tips. 

Un-Beaded lace pieces pinned to a mannequin, to give me a rough
idea of  how many I'd need. I ended up using a very different layout

My first hand beaded lace piece!
When I was finally able to start construction on the dress (or more specifically, the muslin), I started by using some rougher quality tulle from my stash for the bodice overlay and some horrid print furnishing fabric for the strapless corset part of the bodice. For the pattern I borrowed the pattern pieces from the bodice of Butterick B5605, as the seam-lines would work for the corset part of the bodice when the pieces were cut down, and when used for the tulle and lace overlay, it wouldn't require separate sleeve pieces to be inserted, as I only wanted little cap sleeves, and wanted to minimise how many seams I would need to sew in the tulle.
I originally used the size 18, but after making the tulle overlay muslin, decided to go a size smaller, as the tulle has a bit of stretch to it, and I wanted it well fitted. I also cut the front into a slight V neck, with the plan to trim the final version into a V neck that  met the top of the corset bodice.
The first muslin of the corset bodice  was tweaked in a few places, particularly the top section of the seams along the bust, where I had to take it in a bit to get it to fit well.

1st muslin
Tulle overlay muslin
I then made a wearable muslin of the bodice, using some light purple satin from my stash. I lined it and put in boning, just like I would be for my wedding dress bodice. Then, just because I could, I gave it a full length circle skirt, put a zip in the back (instead of buttons like on the wedding dress) and wore it for my hens night! (and again for my anniversary party 2 nights ago)

Hen's night, chocolate covered strawberries and cocktails
Singing Karaoke
By now I was pretty confident with my pattern, but nevertheless I was still nervous to begin cutting into my good satin. Luckily, when my dad and I went shopping for my wedding dress fabric, we made sure we had extra, just in case I stuffed up (I didn't, and now I have plenty leftover to use for other projects, like christening dresses, in the future) But I got over my hesitation, and got everything cut out. I sewed together all of the pieces for both the lining and the outer layer (the lining pieces also had interfacing ironed on to them)

The Pattern cut out, partially sewn
both layers sewn up

Then all the seams were pressed open and clipped where necessary. 

Boning channels made from single fold bias tape were then sewn along each seam on the lining, and Plastic boning was cut and trimmed to fit each channel.

Outside layer and lining layer with boning channels

Close up of Boning channels

Lining pinned to my mannequin
The outer bodice layer and the bodice lining were then sewn right sides together along the top edge, which I then clipped at the curves, turned right sides out and pressed. The bottom and back edges were left raw at this point

Bodice pinned to the mannequin
When Shopping for the fabric with my Dad, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of tulle for a lovely poofy skirt. We got a lovely fine bridal tulle (the ladies at The Fabric Shop in Robina were lovely and colour matched all the satins and tulle to my lace) I thought 20m would be a good amount to get, but I think there only ended up being 19m, so that is what we got. The tulle was a very wide width, and because I was only making a tea length dress (and I'm short) I managed to cut the width into 4 pieces that were each 28 inches wide and 19m long. I gathered 2 of these lengths up, separately, to the waist measurement of the bodice, and pinned both layers to the mannequin with the corset bodice, and it looked like this.

At this point, I decided to only use 2 layers of tulle on the dress, and to use the rest of it to create a super full tiered petticoat, which I just sewed at home, as I figured it wouldn't matter if my Husband saw it. He still stayed out of the room whenever I was working on it anyway.

Using a slightly lighter satin with better drape than the stuff I used for the bodice, I cut out a 3/4 circle skirt for the underskirt of the dress, the side seams were sewn together, then I pinned it to my mannequin, with the 2 layers of tulle and corset bodice, to let the bias hang. To give my grandparents an idea of the look I was going for, I draped a few pieces of lace over the bodice (I didn't want to put pin marks in it) tied a red velvet ribbon around the waist and sat my sparkly shoes underneath.

The final version of the tulle bodice overlay was then sewn together, and my hand beaded pieces of lace appliqué were carefully hand stitched on. Some pieces had to be cut into smaller pieces to fill gaps/not overlap but as I had reinforced my stitches between each leaf/petal on the lace, I wasn't worried about any of the beads falling off. I then basted the tulle and lace overlay to the corset part of the bodice along the waistline and back edges. It was then I tackled the pearl buttons and button loops on the back of the bodice. I used 18 off white pearl buttons (I bought 25, just in case) and for the loops, I used a store bought thin satiny rope. In hindsight, I now wish I than made fabric rouleau loops instead of using this pre-made stuff, as it was a bit too slippery, and a couple of the buttons came undone during the evening. If I had made the loops a tiny bit tighter, that may have helped as well. From doing a bit of research, I decided the best way to do the button loops was to sew them to a piece of cotton tape, then sew that tape into the back edge of the bodice, so I wouldn't be fighting with the bulk of the garment, whilst also trying to measure and make sure the button loops were all even. The other back edge was then folded in and top stitched closed, then the pearl buttons were then hand sewed about 10mm in from the edge, through the plastic boning.

The 3 layers (2 tulle and 1 satin) of the skirt were then sewn together, then the bodice and skirt were sewn together. I went to put a zip in the back of the skirt, only to realise I had forgotten to bring one with me. and my grandma didn't have one in her stash either. However, in my wedding dress supplies, I did have the bodice of my mother's wedding dress (that's all that's left after she made a christening dress from it for me and my brothers) including the back zip. so I thought it would be a good re-use of the zip (even if it was a bit long for a skirt zip) and sewed it in. Each layer of tulle was sewn separately at the back seam, leaving a gap at the top for the zip. With the dress on my mannequin I trimmed the parts of the underskirt that had stretched on the bias and now stuck out underneath the tulle, as well as any wonky bits of tulle, then took the whole thing off and hemmed the underskirt.

Now that the dress was essentially done (apart from the ribbon at the waist, which I still hadn't decided if I wanted or not) I tried it on.

Uh Oh!

The tulle overlay of the bodice was too long! Causing it to droop and excess to fold over itself at the waist. This was pretty much my pivotal moment in my sewing career when I realised that I would need to cut about 1 inch off the bottom of bodice pieces for nearly every pattern to get it to fit me right. 

Luckily, I didn't have to completely unpick the dress to fix the issue. My Grandma and I decided the best way to fix it, would be to carefully unpick the lace appliqué pieces from the shoulder seams, and take in the bodice length from there. Once the shoulder seams were taken in, the lace was trimmed to fit and re-sewn down. Then everything fit perfectly!

The few days leading up to the wedding were quite hectic, baking and decorating the cake, cleaning all the jars for the lolly buffet, taste testing the lollies for the lolly buffet, organising all the decorations for the venue (lots and lots of fairy lights, centrepieces, doily bunting, photobooth backdrop and supplies, etc)  So I didn't actually get around to hand sewing the red velvet ribbon to the waistline of my dress until the night before. But I did get it done in time, so that's all that matters, right?

Working on the cake in my pajamas the day before the wedding

Getting the candy buffet ready
Along with the dress, I also made a few other things as well. I'm not sure how I managed to fit it all in whilst sewing my dress, but I did!

In my opinion, a wedding dress is not complete without a matching veil. However, I felt the style of my dress did not lend itself to some huge tulle veil, and I wanted my hair in Marilyn Curls, so I didn't want anything that would take too much away from the hair style. So I made myself a little white birdcage veil, attached to a clear hair comb, decorated with a piece of my hand beaded lace. To finish it off, I attached a single lace flower (about 3-4cm big) that was from my Grandma's wedding dress, that I had dyed bright red, smack bang in the middle. The lace flower from my grandma's dress is one of many (about 20 if I remember correctly) that adorn the neckline of her dress. She told me she ended up using more than she originally planned, because when she was making her dress, she didn't see a small flaw in the fabric until she was finished, and it was on the front of the bodice, so she used them to cover it up. A few of these flowers have since been removed, for use in my mother's wedding and my Aunt's wedding. Looking back at photos, I don't know where my mother or Aunt used theirs (I should ask) so I really love the fact that mine was used really visibly on the top of my head.

I've drawn up a simple diagram in paint to explain how the veil part was shaped:

My veil
I also Sewed Capelets for my 2 bridesmaids and a full skirted jacket for myself. I used the free 1940's style mini Cape Pattern from Sew Vera Venus, I just doubled the length. I made them from White costume fur (about $15p/m from Spotlight) and lined them with white polar fleece, to try to keep them as warm as possible. To keep them closed, I used white ribbon for a button loop, and a large red with white polka dot button.

The Bridesmaids
My Jacket was made with Gertie's full skirted Jacket pattern, Butterick B5824. I used the size 18 and about 5m of costume fur from spotlight. In hindsight, I kinda wish I had used better quality faux fur, as this cheap stuff has now started to look a little rough and matted in spots, and was the tiniest bit sheer (which wouldn't have been such a big problem, had I not used a print for the lining) But it was $75 just for all the cheap fur I needed, so I just wasn't able to afford better quality fur at the time. Just for funsies, I lined it with a light blue satin, with a red cherry print, which I also used for the side seam pockets. Rather than attempt putting buttonholes in faux fur, a friend of mine suggested attaching buttonloops to the edge of the front. So I added 2 button loops, and 4 white buttons (2 functional and 2 not) It was toasty warm, which I was thankful for, given that our wedding was in the middle of Winter. My Bridesmaids were probably cursing me for making them wear  knee length dresses, with only stockings and capelets for warmth (Sorry) but they survived in the end, especially when we got to the reception venue with its lovely warm open fire.
Butterick b5824

As mentioned previously, I also made a tiered petticoat, that was super full at the bottom tier to balance out the bulk at the waist created by the 2 gathered layers. I won't go into construction details, as there are many tutorials out there explaining how to make tiered petticoats. Suffice to say I used a LOT of thread to gather up that much tulle.

It's a bit less poofy now, I've worn it a lot
since the wedding
But it is still pretty full!

If you've read the whole post to here, I hope you enjoyed it! If anyone is hoping to make a similar dress and you want anymore information on the construction that I didn't cover here, I would love to here from you!



  1. Very cool! I'm up cycling a used wedding dress for my wedding and even that seems daunting lol, I give you a lot of credit for taking on this project. It looked fantastic on you.

    1. I'm sure yours will look fantastic too! Just don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. I had people saying I couldn't/shouldn't make my own dress/cake/photobooth/candy buffet/etc which can really bring you down if that is what you want to do, and everything was worth the effort in the end :)

  2. Your dress is so lovely! I know what you mean about being terrified to mark it--I was fanatical about my fabric and so scared I was going to ruin the dress. I was actually most worried about bleeding all over it since I poked my fingers about a million times doing all my hand sewing!

    1. Yep, exactly. In fact I think I did end up using some lace that had a tiny spot of blood on it (So now I can say my blood, sweat and tears went into that dress) I pricked myself often while hand beading the lace, so if I did, I would always put my work down for a while, so I was certain I wouldn't get any blood on my work

  3. I think this post was really fascinating to read ~ all the hours of work you put into your dress, and wow! It so paid off! What a stunning frock, and it must be so awesome to know that you MADE your OWN wedding dress! :D ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Thank you so much! I was a bit worried it was a bit rambling and long winded, but I couldn't find much detail when I tried researching before making my dress, so I wanted to include as much detail for others as possible.

  4. Hello! What an amazing dress, congratulations. You've obviously put so much effort in, and it has really come off. Also thanks for the link on your blog. Debs x

    1. Oh my gosh! Thank you! I absolutely loved your wedding dress that you made as well! I try to have a bunch of links to similarish blogs, as I like finding new blogs to read that way, so I reckon my readers do too :)