Literally every single person I know who has made a wedding dress for a friend rolls their eyes and says never again when asked about it… But I am super psyched!
My friend and ex-colleague Paula is getting married in September and cannot find her dream dress. She wants a long sleeved, round necked dress with a sleek skirt, full at the hem but smooth from the waist. She’s collected a few catwalk images but everything she sees in real life, from full-on bridal made-to-measure to RTW occasion wear, isn’t cutting the mustard. So she’s asked me if I might be able to make her one, and completely unbeknownst to her it’s something I’ve always wanted to try my hand at.
When I started my fashion degree, bridalwear was totally where my heart lay. It’s a rare corner of the fashion industry where handmade dresses are still a reality and where one creative individual can take a design all the way through from concept to finished garment. Had I been less of a girl I’d probably have focused on tailoring, but I just can’t resist a giant meringue skirt.
Anyhow, I did some work experience in boutiques and I took some evening classes in specialist patten cutting, but my resolve crumbled under the scrutiny of my uni tutors. There was little to no respect for the area on my course, the tutors held the catwalk and the cutting edge designers in high regard and saw bridal as the antithesis of cool, edgy design. If I were to do it all again now I think I’d have the gumption to take that challenge and run with it, to find a contemporary niche where couture bridalwear could be exciting, and in actual fact there is clearly a gap in the market where brides like Paula are finding the traditional boutiques falling short of the alternative looks on the catwalks.
So she brought her catwalk images to me:
And the there was clearly continuity between them! She knows what she wants and now I do too. The only slight catch being that these girls are willowy 6′-ers, built with all the sex appeal of an ironing board. Paula is, in the best possible way, the polar opposite of that; barely clearing 5’1″ with a rack that’d put the cast of Baywatch to shame.
(Side note – thank god she doesn’t want a strapless dress! I absolutely hate that!! Women who haven’t worn a strapless bra since they were 13 and barely needing an B cup, suddenly deciding at 33 that they want to spend the most highly-photographed night of their entire lives hoicking up a cheap, ill-fitting bustier. Don’t do it to yourselves! You know what they say about packing for vacation? – if you wouldn’t wear it at home, don’t take it on holiday. Same goes for weddings. If your tits don’t defy gravity 364 days of the year, they still won’t on your wedding day. Unless you can afford the personal attentions of Rigby or Peller don’t even think about it.)
I decided I’d use a commercial pattern as a base. Maybe that’s a little shameful coming from a professional pattern cutter, but the rigmarole of starting from scratch without even having a block or the right size mannequin to drape on just wouldn’t be worth it. The choice was really disappointing! Each of the major companies does a few, but none had all the features we were looking for. I printed out several of the pattern envelope images and sketched some designs over the top, sadly they don’t photograph too well but here’s a few to give you the gist:
Paula and I met for lunch and looked them over. It seemed to be going in the right direction so I bought these two patterns:
The Butterick pattern includes cup sizes, so I think it could be a good base for the bodice, but we’ll want to merge the strapless under layer with the long sleeved top. The Vogue option seems to have a much nicer skirt, but I’ll need to remove pleats from the side.
I’ve redrawn our main design ideas and started a little pin board, where I can keep all our images and developments. I still need to print and add the original inspiration images, but here it is so far:
(My attempts at half decent photography are falling even more short here – to get a tolerable shot I had to put the cork board into the light tent thing and I haven’t got the software to erase that from the corners, so please avert your eyes.)
Next step is to go fabric shopping, just to pick up some swatches and settle on a look and fabric type. This will heavily inform what our final design looks like and how I’ll adapt the pattern, then I can get started on the first toile.