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The Making of a Wedding Dress pt. 1

Let me start this post with saying that I am not engaged – I just wanted to try making a very fancy dress that I might actually be able to wear someday. If I lived in the UK, I would have tackled an evening gown instead for the Dressmaker’s Ball, but since I don’t, I ended up with these lovelies on my cutting table. Meanwhile, the boyfriend has been helping me fit muslins, wondering if it’s okay for him to see me in my wedding dress before our wedding day (or engagement day)!

Again, I know this is not traditional, but I have tried to set myself up for success. The first step was just accepting that I skipped a crucial step in the wedding dress planning process, and that is trying on many different dresses in many different styles to figure out what suits me best. That meant I also need to acknowledge that one day when I’m actually engaged, I might try on dresses and fall in love with a different silhouette than the one I make now. I’m fine with that as regardless of whether this dress becomes the one or not, I would be learning and practicing some awesome skills that can be applied elsewhere.

The second step was to pick a pattern and style that matches my sewing level – advanced beginner. Luckily, I am a simple, relatively low fuss kind of girl, so I wasn’t looking for anything dramatic (ex. tulle underskirts, hoop skirts, hard core corsets) anyway. I ended up choosing to use the bodice of a popular pattern, M6838, mashed with the skirt of a personal favorite, B6052. Let’s be honest, sweetheart necklines are just universally flattering!

But to be on the safe side, I made 2 muslins. The first muslin is not pictured, but fit was great out of the envelope. The only changes made in the version below was to shorten the waist by one inch (I’m 5’1″) and take out half inch wedges from either side of the overlay neckline as a hollow bust and narrow shoulder adjustment.

Of course, after the muslins, I wanted to jump right into the real thing, but special projects call for special measures. I want my wedding dress to be structurally sound and pretty inside and out, so I enrolled in this amazing Craftsy class, Couture Dressmaking Techniques by Alison Smith. I’d be lying if I said I planned to watch every chapter, but I did start with the lessons on creating a muslin, choosing lining fabrics, and sewing darts.

Then it was time! This is the underside of the outer fabric – Ivory Shantung Satin underlined with cotton muslin. Alison covers the types of underlining to pair with your main fabric and the benefits of underlining. I had no idea how useful underlining is! It adds color and opacity to sheer fabrics, structure to lighter fabrics and can even help wrinkles. I might do this more often.

I hand basted the muslin to the satin in contrasting thread so it can be removed easily. Although I didn’t have to do it here, the class shows you use tailors tacks to mark the darts. To my surprise, hand basting is very relaxing and enjoyable.

Here’s the front. I had some reservations about sewing with satin, but with a few tips, it’s quite manageable, especially with this one from Cali Fabrics.

One thing I didn’t really try to solve for was the fraying since it didn’t fray much. I also read that serging tends to create bulk so I skipped it.

Next, I prepared the Ivory Rayon Challis lining. This challis is darker than the satin and slightly sheer with excellent drape. It came together quickly, including the boning, considering it was my first time inserting boning.

I used plastic boning that came with channels and followed this tutorial by Sewaholic to the tee. To sum it up, I soaked the plastic in boiling water for 10 minutes then flattened them out using the boyfriend’s heaviest boxed board game. I couldn’t get the pieces completely straightened out but I think that’s fine since it should follow the “curves” of my body anyway.

Finally, it was time to prep the overlay using this Ivory Two-Tone chiffon. It is almost the exact shade of the satin and has an interesting texture to it. If you look closely you can see lines running straight up and down the fabric. This might be the case for all chiffon, but this is my first time working with it, so I don’t really know.

Based on the texture, I had a feeling I wouldn’t need to cut the chiffon on a single layer to avoid shifting, and I was right. At this point, I was feeling pretty accomplished and ready to take a break before learning anymore new things, like hemming chiffon.

A lot of progress was made but I’m nowhere near completion so I positioned the fabric and lace appliqués for some instant gratification of what the bodice would look like.

I love it! The chiffon masks some of the puckers that are so obvious in satin and lightens the color of the satin so it matches the lace appliqués. (Side note, these appliqués are from Etsy store lacetime and it is awesome. It ships from China but arrived in two weeks as pictured.) I’m super excited and can’t wait to baste and check the fit soon.

Have you ever sewn a wedding dress or taken on a big sewing project? What tips would you give? I would love to know! Thanks for reading.

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