Sewing a Wedding Dress: Countdown 6.5 Months

Sew I Have an Idea for a Wedding Dress:  What’s Next

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and Megan and I had an idea, a pattern in hand and only a few days together.  My goal for this visit was too have the first muslin completed so that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I could complete the second muslin of the dress top.  After all, once the top is finished, it’s all downhill.  Simplicity 3784 was a good starting point for the desired princess style strapless top.

Muslin #1 - Bride's Dress

The first muslin was too large and the mid section of the front was about 1/3 wider than what we were aiming for.  After 5 or 6 fittings we finally got it to fit well enough so that I could make the second muslin.  The plan was to make the second muslin before seeing her at Christmas.  One problem for making the first muslin was that in all of Philadelphia, a city of millions, we couldn’t find the correct bustier, so this fit was really a crap shoot.

Now for my excuse about the photo.  At the time, I was only dreaming about this blog so it never occurred to me that I should take a photo of Megan in the muslin.  The truth be told, most of the photos in this blog won’t include a future bride or bridesmaid or model.

How to Sew a Bridesmaid Dress: Long Distance

In addition to a wedding dress in the making, there are 3 bridesmaid and 2 flower girl dresses.  The good news is that I have the fabric and a dress to copy for each of the bridesmaids and a fairly easy pattern for the flower girls.  The bad news is that none of the future garment owners live anywhere near me.  Here’s the plan:

Each bridesmaid is wearing a street length dress in the style of her choice — icy baby blue Thai silk taffeta which is absolutely lovely.  Several months ago the fabric was received from Thailand.  Since this is a long distance experiment of sorts, we asked the bridesmaids for a favorite dress, thinking that it would be easiest to come close to the fit by taking the pattern from ready to wear.  The other reason for this approach was that if the bridesmaids like the dress style, possibly they’ll have a desire to wear the dress sometime in the future (isn’t that what we always hear – it will be a bridesmaid dress they can wear again).  Final adjustments will need to be done locally which doesn’t seem like such a stretch as that’s how a bridal shop works.  Great that it’s winter because I’ve hung on to these “favorite”summer dresses for several months now.

Black JCrew Dress

Bridesmaid #1 is named as such because I’m working on her dress first.  The style she chose is a black J. Crew halter style dress with diagonal darts emerging from the front center seam.

Dress top - hard to see the fashionable darts

Following the instructions from a Threads Magazine from several years ago, it was fairly easy to create a pattern placing tissue paper over the flattened dress, placing stick pins into the seam lines, connecting the dots and adding seam allowances.  Tissue paper was fine for this job as it is a one time use pattern. Because of the darts at the center line, it was difficult to trace the top.  For now there’s simply extra fabric which will be cut away after the darts are sewn.

Traced pattern

Then came the first lesson learned, or at a least a huge waste of time.  I constructed a muslin out of linen from my stash without thinking about the fact that linen stretches.  Maybe this was a blend because it really stretched.  When the muslin was sewn together, the top of the dress was at least 1-1/2 inches wider than the size 2 dress.  I guess that means my attempt at a size 2 was about a size 6.  Despite the sizing issue, the pattern did work and the bias cut on the skirt looked great. Fueled by frustration with a hint of bravery (which sometimes gets me into trouble) I decided to jump right in and cut into the silk.

Wedding Dresses #1 and #5

A labor of love….

Of the maybe 100’s or 1000’s of pieces of clothing I’ve sewed in my life, there is nothing I’ve enjoyed as much as creating and constructing a wedding dress.  It’s an unparalleled amount of work for a dress which is only worn for hours but remembered for years.   On my own wedding dress, I probably spent 100’s of hours beading and hand sewing.  So why do I like this form of sewing so much?  There is no logical answer.  It can’t be the sense of competence because if you sew only one dress every ten years or so, you can hardly be considered “accomplished”.

Circa 1970 – Dress #1.

This dress was for my sister-in-law, who is still one of my dearest friends.  A little short on cash, she was planning to wear a lovely borrowed dress.  Did I simply want to make a dress, or was I altruistic and truly cared that she have a dress of her own?  I talked her into going to a Swiss lace shop where we purchased fabric and Shiffili lace for about $50. For the bride’s birthday that year, I surprised her with a headpiece and veil for which the internal framework was costructed with covered pipecleaners and the outside was made of lace scraps.  She was so thrilled.  Surrounded by bridesmaids and flowergirls adorned in lavender and purple, she looked lovely.  Not to slight her husband, Ed, he looked great too.

It’s so long ago that I can’t recall if I made some or all of the bridesmaid dresses.  Now, nearly 40 years later, the small Instamatic photos have faded so it’s tough to see any of the dresses but I’ll keep looking for a better photo.  Oh my, these photos scream of 1970.


Sheila - 1970

Why is the bride hidden?

Adorable sisters of the bride (Susan, Eileen) and that's me with big hair

2010 – Dress #5. We’ll get to some of the other dresses at a later time, but it’s time to begin telling you about Megan’s dress.  She will be married in June and we live a thousand miles from each other.  As of now, I think we’ll see each other twice before the wedding.  Now that’s downright frightening but I wouldn’t want her to know that I’m not sure how I’ll get the dress to the point of a perfect fit.  (Just kidding, Megan).

  • Step 1: Last winter in my excitement about her engagement and the opportunity to buy yet more fabric while on  a day trip to New York’s fabric district, I found some bridal fabric Megan loved.  It’s been tucked away since that time awaiting the perfect dress.

Skirt fabric - ruched taffeta

  • At Thanksgiving Megan visited and we went to several bridal salons to try on a few styles.  The bridal salons generously offered us the opportunity to photograph Megan in the dresses.  With her amazing creativity, Megan created a model from the photos – a satin top, rhinestone appliques, a sash and a skirt that looks nothing like the fabric we’re using.

A sweetheart top and silk sash

With the above style elements, this photo is where we are starting – follow for the coming months and we’ll all see how this turns out.

Model - this is the look we're aiming for

Sewing for the girls…..

This holiday season was a sewing delight.  In addition to the usual holiday outfits for Mira and Caitlin, lots of winter leggings, muffs (or hand slippers as Mira called them) and a few miscellaneous pieces of clothing were lovingly sewed for the girls in my life.

Caitlin in her new swirly dress

Proud Mira sewed her stuffed dog

In addition there were the pettiskirts for my grandneices.  With lots of fluff and in bright colors There was a lot of swirling when they opened their gifts.

And for the big girls – for my MIL there were several knit tops in her favorite style, a felted wool jersey top for Angela (oldest daughter) and for both daughters, cashmere scarfs which were felted and re-fashioned from my favorite thrift shop. What fun it was.  Most delightful of all was seeing Mira hand-sew a stuffed dog which she received for a gift.  The photo is priceless.

Muffs (aka hand slippers)

Megan in her cashmere scarf

Angela in her cashmere scarf

Now it’s time to start sewing for Megan’s June wedding.