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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography

This is a long overdue post – heck, I’ve been married for exactly two months!  I made my wedding dress from scratch and lived to tell the tale.  Get ready, this is a long post of everything I went through in the last year of making my dress with a lot of photos.

First, I’ll get this right out of the way: making my wedding dress was 100% the right decision for me.  I never was one of those little girls that “dreamed” about what kind of wedding I’d have one day, I honestly wanted to get married at City Hall and save the cash for a house.  However, I always knew that I’d make my wedding dress – sure, the thought was daunting at first, especially with everything that comes with planning a wedding, but I felt that to not make my wedding dress would be to ignore who I am as a person – I’m a creator.

My Parent's Wedding
 

On top of that, I also liked the idea of starting a tradition out of making my wedding dress; my mom made hers when she married my dad in Tucson, AZ in 1972.  I’d like to think that if I have a daughter, she’d make her wedding dress as well.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
THE DETAILS

Fabric (all bought in The Garment District in NYC):
Monique Lhuillier French Alencon Lace – Sposabella Lace
Reem Acra Silk – Mood Fabrics
Silk Georgette – Metro Textiles (thank you, Kashi!)
Rayon Lining – Metro Textiles

Belt
Silk Ribbon – M&J Trimming
Silk Flower – M&S Schmalberg, made from my leftover Reem Acra silk fabric

Other Odds and Ends
Faux Bridal Buttons – Joyce Trimming
Zipper – Pacific Trimming
English Netting (for veil) – Vogue Fabrics
Silk thread used for all handwork, cotton/poly thread use for construction

Dress Pattern
Marfy S568

 

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography

BLOG POSTS

In the past year, I posted several updates on my progress as I went through trial and error figuring out how exactly I was going to make a wedding dress from a pattern that was one size only, had no instructions except for some vague and roughly translated notes here and there on the pattern pieces, and working with fabric I never used before (all of the above I don’t recommend for the faint of heart thinking about making their wedding dress!).  I also made some YouTube videos to show the dress in more detail and talk through my thought-process.

Are Wedding Dress Patterns Turning Off Brides?
Starting My Dress
Fitting the Bodice
Getting the Fit Right (Video Post)
Cutting Out My Dress Fabric (Video Post)
Attaching the Skirts (Video Post)

THE DRESS

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

The dress is a flowy dress with a flared skirt that sits at the waist with a sweetheart neckline and kimono capped sleeves.  The lace bodice is underlined with silk – I opted to underline each piece individually and then construct the bodice instead of sewing the lace together with appliqué seams for a seamless look, sew the underlining pieces together, and then joining the two layers to make the bodice.  There are three layers for the skirt – the silk underskirt, and then two rounded overskirts of silk georgette that open at the side and are gathered with small pleats.  The entire dress is lined in a coordinating rayon lining.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

I wanted to add some kind of visual interest to the back of my dress, so I sewed tiny faux bridal buttons down one side of the zipper seam (they have a fabric shank, not a real shank, which allows the button to be sewn closer to the garment).

You can also see a bit of an opening in my overskirts in the above photo.  Because of the flowy nature of the shape of the skirts and the fabric, I didn’t want the overskirts to be anchored down as part of the zippered center back seam so they could move freely and naturally.  I used a tutorial at Grainline Studio to make the layers free hanging; they didn’t turn out as well as I hoped since you can see the openings in the back, but I think it resulted in a better look than having a zipper go through my silk georgette.  I also used a small clear snap to close up the opening a little more between the two sides of the skirts.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

The belt was a tricky element for me to figure out since I wasn’t sure how I wanted to decorate it.  I knew it needed a motif or something at the side where the skirts gather at the side opening, but I couldn’t find anything that I liked or would compliment the design of the lace.  After stumbling upon this belt at BHLDN, I knew it was the look I wanted to have for my dress…but when I saw the price at $500, I burst out laughing.  No way!!

M&S Schmalberg (also known as Custom Fabric Flowers) came to the rescue.  I called them up to find out how to place a custom order, sent over the photo of the belt I was trying to recreate at a smaller scale, and they said they were very familiar with the original belt – hello, awesome!  I had just enough leftover silk from my dress (about a yard) to send to their facility in NYC, and within a week they sent back the finished floral arrangement.  I secured the blooms and leaves to the silk ribbon with a few small stitches and presto – a custom, coordinating bridal belt at a fraction of the cost of the inspiration belt.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

The belt secures in the back with two ivory hooks and eyes instead of tying in a bow like some bridal belts.  The hooks got stuck on the lace throughout the evening, which was a little annoying at times.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

Oh, the hems!  How I agonized over the best way to sew the hems so the dress wouldn’t look “homemade.”

First, I had to figure out the correct amount to turn the hem up on the silk layer.  I jacked up my dress form to the height I would be wearing my heels (originally I was going to wear flats but they looked plain awful with my dress!) and turned up the hem slightly at the center front and tapered the hem as I got to the sides of the skirt.  I actually goofed this up the first time I turned up the hem and had a nasty crease in the front from pressing the hem in place; I spent a lot of time steaming out that crease with a hand steamer.

The first attempt at hand sewing the silk hem also failed – for one, I used regular poly thread to sew the hem, which made the tiny hem stitches in the fabric very visible since the weight of the thread was heavier than the weight of the fabric. So, I ripped it all out and used silk thread instead, as I should have from the beginning.  The hem was also pretty flimsy and needed a little extra “oomph” so the skirt would hold its shape and flow nicely.  The solution to that was to cut long 1/2″ strips of lightweight sew-in interfacing, stitch together the strips into a loop the same measurement as the circumference of the silk skinny layer, and encase the interfacing loop in the fabric of the hem as I hand-stitched the hem in place.  Problem solved!

For the silk georgette layers, I originally thought I was going to sew the hems by hand.  Hah!  Those skirts were a mile long and I would have pulled my hair out stitching all of those tiny stitches and the time it would take to do so.  Plus, when I tried a test swatch of sewing a hem by hand, it looked wonky and not as crisp as I wanted since the fabric isn’t very stable.  After lots of research online, watching Youtube videos, and asking Jen at Grainline Studio for some advice (thank you so much, Jen!), I figured out a way to hem my dress on my machine using my regular ol’ presser foot, no fancy rolled hem foot or spray stabilizer required.  You can see in the above photo that the hems turned out nicely!  There was a wavy effect of the rounded edge after I sewed the hems due to the bias nature of those parts of the skirts, but I kind of liked how it turned out.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
It’s pretty easy to see here how the skirts flowed open as I walked, which I absolutely loved.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
To bustle the skirts, I treated each layer separately instead of bustling them all together.  Because the fabric of this dress didn’t have the body of a heavy silk and the shape of the skirt was very fluid instead of full, the best type of bustle to use was a single-point bustle (believe me, I played around with all sorts of different types and numbers of points and they just didn’t work).  For the silk underskirt, the heaviest of the layers (by comparison), I used a thread chain loop and a leftover faux button for my bustle point, and for the silk georgette layers I used a white hook and eye on each layer.  I initially was concerned that the hook and eye would be visible to everyone when my dress wasn’t bustled since there was no way to hide it in a pattern on my skirt, but it’s really true what you read in all of those wedding dress articles – no one will notice!  Even when I stood back and looked at my dress on my dress form at home, I didn’t see the hook and eye unless I was really searching for it.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
 

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
Dancing in this dress, especially doing a conga line, was a little tricky!  I ended up hiking up my skirts as necessary and boogied on down all night for every.  Single.  Song.  No joke.

And yes, as soon as dinner was over I kicked off my heels and donned a pair of flip flops.  Comfort over fashion, my friends.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
Not wedding dress related, but I made matching clutches for my bridesmaids so they could carry their essentials with them, and I even had enough lace leftover to make a clutch for myself.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
I also mentioned earlier in this post that I made my veil.  If making your own wedding dress is too daunting of a task, I recommend all brides try to make their veils, even if you don’t feel comfortable with your own level of sewing.  It’s stupid easy!  I used English netting for a more fluid-looking veil a la Catherine Middleton, since the one I made out of bridal illusion felt too goofy to me, and attached it to a plastic comb that stayed in my hair the entire time.  Make sure to check out the Modern-Inspired Veils class on Craftsy if you’re thinking about making your own, it was really helpful.

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography
It’s so weird to be finished with something that’s consumed our lives over the last 16 months.  We have our free time back to ease into our hobbies again, cook dinners together on a regular basis, and just enjoy spending time with each other without discussing wedding decorations and and every bit of minutia that comes with planning a wedding.  I’m even starting business school this fall to work towards getting my MBA.

Well, that was a pretty exhaustive post!  Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, making my wedding dress was the absolute right decision for me on my wedding day, and there’s not a single thing I would have done differently.  It definitely was a journey that challenged me mentally at times, as well as my technical skills, but after making my own freaking wedding dress, I feel like I can tackle any sewing project that comes my way now.

 

 

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Photo Credit: Maria Burton Photography

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Underlining in progress...a little more finicky than I thought it would be. Gotta stay-stitch silk! #sewing #weddingdress
Tomorrow is five months until the wedding, and I can confidently say that I am making progress on sewing my wedding dress.  Finally, right?  I’ve only been talking about making this dress for, oh, I don’t know, the last eight months or so.  HAH!

A good chunk of my Christmas vacation was spent carefully cutting out single layers of silk, silk georgette, and lace on top of my parent’s ping-pong table, which was the perfect surface for spreading out all of this fabric and just wide enough for my fabric to fit.  I realized after I started cutting out the silk that there was no way possible that I could have cut this out on the floor at home and have everything nice and smooth.  I even had an earlier crazy idea to go into the office on a weekend and use the long conference tables pushed together in a meeting room to cut out all of my fabric, but the tables wouldn’t have been wide enough and I would have run out of time.

I’m happy to say, after many hours of careful pattern placement and cutting with my Gingher shears, I have all parts of my wedding dress cut out and ready to sew.  I even went ahead and underlined and assembled the bodice while on vacation – that lace gave me a bit of a panic attack when I started to underline it with the silk because it ended up growing slightly, but after some careful pinning and stitching, everything went together just fine.

Here’s a little video of how my dress is coming together – I also talk about how exactly I cut out my silk and silk georgette, the problem I ran into with my lace, and some thoughts on the oh-so-coveted book Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje:

 

Click here to download my Wedding Dress Sewing Resource Guide
 

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I got the base of the dress to fit - 181 days to go #weddingdress #sewing #diyeverything
Hooray for productive weekends!  I got so much done – unpacking from a trip, laundry, groceries, cleaning…oh yeah, and getting my wedding dress pattern to fit.  OH YEAH.

That’s right my fellow readers, I am now ready to cut out my wedding dress from the lovely silk, lace, and silk georgette I bought in September.  Good thing too, because tomorrow marks 180 until I need to wear this dress for the big day.

I thought it would be fun as I go through the creation process to share some videos of the different stages I’m working on – I think it’s a lot easier to show the whole dress and details through video since I can’t capture everything in a photo, like how the fabric drapes and behaves.  Here’s my second entry in my “Wedding Dress Diary” (the first one was a Periscope, which you can view here).


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