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.