Wedding dress part 5: it’s the final countdown

In 5 weeks time the actual wedding will be over, so this is the big push to make up the final dress! In an ideal world it’ll be ready for the final fitting by next weekend, leaving me a couple of weeks to hem it, add a hook-up train solution, and do any last minute alterations. And that’s not a completely unrealistic goal: as we stand right now the top mesh layer is sewn! And almost all the pieces are cut ready for the second layer. The petticoat is well into development too. So if I can plough on during the evenings of the coming week maybe I can avoid a last minute panic?!


I wanted to get the petticoat nailed first, but that didn’t go terribly well. I’d tried to do research on how to make an underskirt but I kept coming up with nothing. We’d bought 10m of very stiff mesh at the beginning of this project, so I persevered with that, making tiers with an enormous amount of volume in them, but it didn’t look right. It was more like a tutu for a small child than a couture undergarment.

At which point Lucy, in trying to help out and find some more information online, realised that there was an alluring array available on eBay for no more than twenty quid… So I downed tools and bought one.



And it’s not too bad! Much more volume than I was managing to create. But very, very light ivory, which I would’ve preferred to be more like a cream. Also, and fairly vitally, it’s quite short. Even with my fitted facing on the top, the length is still 13cm shorter than the dress itself will be.

I am going to have to build it up a bit bigger, so I will add a layer of my own tiered mesh; to create a kind of hybrid store bought / made to measure petticoat. So this extra layer can be a little longer, and maybe that will be enough! Maybe under the full dress it will all work. And if it doesn’t then I’ll need to make a panel of my own to go between the boned top panel and the top tier of the bought petticoat.

Petticoat will therefore stay flexible until I’ve got more of the dress done, and we’ll cross these bridges when we get to them. But I’m really glad I ditched the overlapping panel closure solution (on the left below) and changed to more panels and an open ended zipper. The new one is working out very nicely, so at least I feel that however we solve the mesh dilemma it will have a good, well-fitting anchor at the waist.



And on to the actual dress!

Cutting out the skirt panels from the narrow mesh threw up an immediate mishap: I’d miscalculated on the width of the biggest, centre back panel.


I’d been super careful, but there were a few things I’d overlooked (like the centre back edge not being along the grain line all the way to the top, and the fabric being shy of the 90cm). To fix this I had to take away almost 5cm of volume from this panel, which won’t matter in the slightest because the back is not short on volume. Not a disaster, just a momentary pain in the arse.

The zip has been  source of great concern for me. It’s a focal point in it’s own way, there’s nowhere to hide with it on a dress with this little adornment, and it could be the difference between the dress looking professional and shoddy. I’m therefore massively relieved to have gotten it in, to the outer layer at least.

Because the two layers are both visible and not just a simple outer and lining, I wasn’t sure what the right solution was. In the end I decided to make both layers up separately anyway, which means the zip construction can be super normal and much more likely to look good, but I do want the seam allowance of the waist seam on the mesh layer to be on the inside of the garment… and whether or not you can visualise what I mean by that! You can trust me that it’s kind of two contradictory things.


Even though I bought a concealed style of zipper I’ve sewn it in in the conventional way. There is an overlap on one side which covers the zip and I hand stitched that to the machine stitching line for the most subtle indention possible, rather than an obvious machined topstitch.




My plan is to make up the top and skirt parts of the bottom layer and then add them to the outer in a way that achieves the waist look I want. Then I will hand stitch the bottom layer to the zipper similarly to a lining, and hopefully that will go without a hitch!

The rest of the panels went to together easily. I’ve put tiny french seams on the bodice at the side and princess seams. The skirt seams are stitched twice and pressed to one side. So far I’m happy with this but I might still need to trim the seam allowance down if it looks too chunky against the silk under layer.

One more week then to make up the under layer, add sleeves to the mesh layer, and work on the petticoat. Seems manageable. And as much as I’m enjoying this I’m glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Total hours worked: 50


Embarking on making a wedding dress

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.

Exciting times!