DIY wedding dress part 2 – pattern and first toile

I have taken the two commercial patterns I bought and had a good, close look at them. Instead of cutting out the tissue paper pieces I’ve traced them off onto dot and cross paper so I can keep the originals intact for another time. Plus, that tissue is really irritating to work with! It’s virtually impossible to make alterations on because it’s so flimsy, so a bit more time spent here will pay dividends.



The plan for the skirt was to keep the volume exactly as the Vogue pattern, but switch the gathered side panels to pleats. I was thinking we should have two deep pleats facing away from centre at front and back, but when I folded these into the paper they just look too contrived and didn’t give the sort of fluffy, flowy look I know Paula likes.

Therefore I moved on to random pleats of mixed depths, all facing away from cf. There are probably a thousand more professional ways I could’ve achieved this! But I chose to prop the paper up with weights at the hem and smoosh the waist down accordingly. As long as the final waist seam measurement matched with the bodice I was pretty easy on the rules.


All hunky dory; until I got to the back and realised that the train was going to look a bit weird folding over itself in that way. You’d naturally want pleats to face away from centre back as well as centre front, but then do you just put up with a weird box pleat on each side?!

To get a better picture of the 3D effect here I pinned my paper pattern to a mannequin:


And at this point I just started to wish that I’d draped it from scratch and not buggered about with the paper pattern at all! Although this stand is not the same size as Paula, and is considerably taller, I could’ve made it work.

Never mind though, I’ve started so I’ll finish. But I’ll definitely keep the pleat size and position flexible so I can chop along the waist seam and move them around while she’s wearing the toile.

Before I cut the fabric out I moved the pleats one more time, reversing the direction of the pleat closest to centre back and then randomly switching some of the others. And I was happier with it then, it felt more organic and interesting, far better suited to the bride in question.


Bodice-wise it’s not been a walk in the park either! I used the size closest to Paula’s body measurements, but I know full well that the initial fit is not going to be good! I’m going to have to take a lot out of the length and I also feel that the shaping in the bodice pieces is too basic, probably leading to a clunky, sack-like fit which is not full enough over her boobs and too baggy below.

I used the Butterick pattern for this part, which has a strapless under bodice with two vertical seams over the bust, plus a long sleeved bodice to be made in lace which has two very large darts from bust to waist. When I laid these two sets of pieces together they seemed like two completely different fits though, with a lot of suppression over the bust on the lace layer. It doesn’t call for stretchy lace, but perhaps all lace has a certain amount of give because of its mesh base?

For our dress we want the mesh and the silk layers to be cut as one, so no contrasting sweetheart neckline underneath, just a well-fitting bodice with armholes and a round neck. So what I’ve done is to take the lace layer of the Butterick pattern (because this fits with the sleeve, which we definitely want to use) and start with that. When I fit it on Paula I’ll need to make the body shorter and probably open it up in some areas and pin away in others, but I think I’ll be able to see where we need to put the seams. It’s hard to know at this stage if I’ll need to make the bodice in 6 pieces, with side panels at front and back, or if only 2 would be ok.

Paula’s imagined from the start that it’d be nice to have a more sheer sleeve, with just a double layer mesh and no silk, so we bought a half metre of our chosen mesh and I’ve incorporated that into the toile to test it.


So now I have a full toile of the outer dress ready to fit! It has a double mesh sleeve on one side and calico on the other, so we can see if we prefer a sheer look or more of a unified, all-over effect. I haven’t put any under layer for the skirt, but I don’t have 6m of very stiff mesh to play with so I think I will make a rough petticoat. It would be good to get the skirt falling properly at this stage so that the pleats will be nice and accurate for our second (and hopefully final!) toile.


Next stage: get Paula over for a fitting, pin and chop this guy as needed, then take it apart and trace it out for the next pattern.

Hours worked so far: 10

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