The Ultimate Dress: My Own Wedding Gown!

It all began when my sweetheart popped the question back in early December 2018. I knew then, and even before then, that I wanted to design and sew my own wedding dress. I love weddings and all of the lovely elements of a wedding: the flowers, the music, the gathering of family and friends to celebrate love, and of course, the dress!

The wedding gown carries that special purpose for a bride. It should highlight her personality, her uniqueness, her beauty and make her feel like the star of the day.

Once the word was out, my close girlfriends could not wait to go wedding dress shopping with me. I made appointments to try on gowns at a couple of local bridal salons and invited my girl gang along for the occasion, with one condition: I was just looking for inspiration and was absolutely NOT buying a dress! I was determined to make my dress no matter what!

I tried on some gorgeous gowns, all while trying to sneak a look at the construction and sewing methods of my favorites. I found that my favorite look was a sleeveless, low V-neckline gown with a fitted trumpet skirt, all in lace. Nothing poofy, simple and clean, maybe a vintage vibe to it. Something achievable to create and practical to wear.

One dress that I really liked (and tried on several times) was this gown from Willoby named “Corella”:

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I tried this gown on at The English Department, surrounded by my wonderful friends, who captured this image of me in this swoon-worthy gown:

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I knew that I could recreate this look with the right fabric, lining and pattern as it is a relatively simple design with not a lot of complicated seams or construction details.

So, I got to work right away with finding a pattern to start with and most importantly, the perfect fabric to work with.

I found some commercial patterns to start with, knowing that I’d have to  make several changes and adjustments to it for fit and to achieve the look I was going for. I started with this dress pattern from Simplicity, which also happened to be designed by Leanne Marshall, a young woman from the Portland, Oregon area who won Project Runway Season 5. How cool is that!

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I really liked the low V-neckline, front and back, of the bodice of this dress as you can see in the line drawings of this pattern:

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I wasn’t as keen on the skirt of this pattern as I wanted something simple and straightforward, which probably could have achieved by eliminating the seams and flounces of the skirt, but I didn’t want to do that much work, so I kept looking. I found this Simplicity pattern in their Prom line of patterns and thought it would be a perfect base for the skirt:

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View A was perfect with the train for my gown

After purchasing the patterns (on sale for $1.99 each, thank you very much Joann Fabrics!), I made an appointment with one of the best ladies in Portland who could help me with the fit and construction, Marla Kazell. 

I have taken many sewing lessons with Marla and her equally-awesome sewing teacher/partner Elizabeth Miles at Mill End Store in Beaverton during their Open Sewing lessons. I knew that Marla had the skills, experience and sewing knowledge to help me make the best gown possible. Paying her was the best money spent as I learned SO much about fitting and construction that I will use for many projects in the future for years to come.

Marla and I got to work doing a tissue fitting of the patterns, a couple of muslin fittings, and fabric cutting and construction consultations until I was 100% comfortable and confident with moving forward with the sewing.

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snapping a selfie at Marla’s studio

After shopping around the Portland area fabric stores, I just couldn’t find the perfect fabric that wasn’t stupid expensive or enough yardage for the dress (I needed about 8 yards), so I decided that I needed to visit the next closest place for great fabric options-Los Angeles!

With my pattern, sketches in my Fashionary notebook,

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and an empty carry-on suitcase, I took the day and flew to LA (only about a 2 hour flight from PDX) and hit  Mood Fabrics. Good idea!

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I spend the better part of the day at Mood, with my pattern and sketches handy, finding a friendly and patient store worker to help me with my hunt. The young lady who helped me (her name escapes me) was so sweet, patient and happy to help me. She pulled out heavy bolts of fabric, shlepped it around the store, and helped me to decide on the best choice. She even helped me pick the lining material, notions and fabric for my veil that I was also planning to make.  Thank you Mood!

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Not cheap, or lightweight, but the perfect fabric for a wedding gown and SO worth the trip!

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Can’t forget the netting for the veil!

I got to work planning out the layout for the lace as the pattern repeated in a certain way and had the edge that I wanted to keep for the train:

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Once I cut the pattern pieces, I pinned them like they were to be sewn and draped it on my dress form. I was immediately in love and felt a rush of excitement!

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Gasp!

The fittings with Marla continued, each time getting closer and closer to the Big Day and the Big Reveal (I was hiding all of this the entire time from my future husband’s curious eyes!)!

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Fast forward, it was only a few days until the wedding day! Luckily, my crafty sister Donna was here several days leading up to the wedding and helped me to do some final fitting and offered to help make my veil. She was a wonderful help in making it all happen, even though she didn’t know how to use my sewing machine (at least not well), she could cut out the net of the veil and hand sew. Thanks to YouTube, we found some tutorials on making a veil that were fast and easy. She watched, cut, hand sewed, and I machine sewed the fine soutache trim around the edge of the veil. Easy peasy!

My other sister Lisa arrived a couple of days before the wedding and helped me decide on the drape of the bustle along with my cousin Heather. I couldn’t have done it without them!

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The wedding day came up so fast! I was ready though, ready to wear the gown that took me months to plan and create, all with great joy, pride and love for my future husband.

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Here I pose with my sister Donna and my cousin Heather. Don’t they look marvelous too!

Here comes the bride!

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The veil!

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My Ladies in Waiting bustling the back of my train

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Newlyweds!

Happily ever after!

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aaaand, scene….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lady in Red

My latest creation is my favorite creation so far! It all began with falling in love with the fabric while walking through Joann Fabrics:

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Embroidered Floral Mesh from Joann Fabrics

I just HAD to have some of this fabric to make into a great dress as it reminded me of the couture embroidered designs of current collections as Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta or Dolce & Gabana:

Or dresses from the past such as these from Christian Dior:

Vintage CD dresses on exhibit

I saw these dresses (and many more) at the Dior exhibit in Paris in 2017-breathtaking!

Of course, the Joann fabric is nowhere NEAR the detailed hand embroidered and embellished fabrics from these designers, but it has the look of the fabric in essence.

I started to imagine what I was going to create from this fabric with this classic pattern from Vogue choosing view C, the strapless dress with a full midi-length skirt:

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From there, I cut out the bodice pattern pieces and giant skirt pieces from the embroidered fabric, the red underlining and another layer of lining in black Bemberg rayon, all purchased from Joann Fabrics.

Constructing the dress was really not all that difficult. The only part that I took extra time and attention to do was to cut out and around some of the floral motifs of the bodice in order to later overlay the motif back over the seam once the seam was sewn. I only did this for a couple of spots on the front of the bodice as I felt that it would look much better on the finished dress instead of just cutting through a large flower. I realize that this may sound confusing, but if you saw the dress up close, you’d see what I mean.

In this photo, you can somewhat see how the flower motifs get cut off and trapped into the seam, so I did my best to cut around the large ones on the center front panel of the bodice and leave them “free” as I sewed the seam, then sewed them back down and over the seam with tiny hand stiches later:

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The strapless bodice under construction

Boning came next. I followed the pattern instructions and sewed boning only into the side seams of the bodice. I thought this might not be enough support for the dress and skirt, but I just stuck to it knowing that I also planned to add a waist stay inside the dress to help hold it up and in place.

My fiancé Tom was sweet enough to help me do the final fittings of the dress and help me hem it too. He says he loves to help, I think it makes him feel like he is part of the creative process. How cute is that?!

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Tom helps fit the back of my dress before putting in the zipper 🙂

Gidget wants to participate too by sitting on my dress right before I sit on the couch to do some hand sewing. Also quite cute:

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What? Nothing to see here…Ignore the dead squirrel toy in the background

The inside of this dress came out pretty nicely too, with the smooth and shiny black lining, it slipped on with ease!

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The waist stay made from a strip of grosgrain ribbon and hook & eye was the perfect support for this dress

I was so excited about my latest creation that I just had to get some photos of it as soon as it was complete so that I could share it with the world! (Or at least, my little world!)

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My new dress is complete!

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She’s so twirl-worthy!

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I got a little dizzy twirling so much!

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This fabric!

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I feel like a princess in this dress!

Now, I’m off to tidy up my sewing room and get started on the next project. Ciao for now!

Something Blue

I recently got engaged to the love of my life and am on top of the world! We plan to get married soon, possibly as soon as this summer, and I have been delighted to begin thinking of what wedding dress (or dresses!) I would like to design and sew for the occasion. One part of wedding sewing, at least for me, includes lingerie and all the pretties the go along with bridal attire. and honeymoon festivities!

What better to get the sewing mojo going than an unfinished sewing project, 50% complete, that will be easy to finish and spark the beginning of more intimate and special things to make for the wedding. Especially now since one of my new year’s resolutions is to finish what I started, and to write more blog posts too!

I ordered this sewing pattern nearly a year ago from the shop All The Precious Things on Etsy:

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The only alteration I made to the pattern before cutting it out of the silk was to add 2″ to the length of the front and back pieces as I felt it was a wee bit too short and may show off a little more than I desired.

So, I began sewing this lovely little cobalt blue silk negligee once again, taking the time to pin the sections together and carefully apply the lace to the cups and hems of the silk pieces of the slip:

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The pieces came together fairly fast and easy, with only a front, back, cups and straps to make, plus adding the lace trim.

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After a couple of French seams for the sides, a more difficult seam for attaching the cups to the front, and some careful machine and hand sewing on the slippy bias-cut silk, the slip was complete.

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Stay tuned for more pretties! Happy New Year!

 

The Bomb-er

 

I’ve always wanted to own a bomber jacket. There is something cool and so easy about them, for all sexes and ages. I suppose that are a combination of an aviator jacket and a varsity jacket, and are seen everywhere in fashion nowadays.

The opportunity and time to make one for myself when we decided against dressing up and going out for Halloween this year as we had made previous plans for a double date with another couple the one good night for going out on the town. That disappointed me a bit as I was looking forward to making us costumes and going to a party or event, however, left me with some time (and fabric money) to make something else instead. So I chose a bomber jacket!

I picked up this sewing pattern a couple of months ago and started finding information online about the pattern and who had sewn it:

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I learned that many sewists had really enjoyed making this pattern and it had rave reviews on PatternReview.com.

Some had even taken gone one step further and made the jacket reversible! I thought, if they could do that, why couldn’t I? So I went for it and made it happen!

I gathered up what materials I wanted to make the jacket out of, including the cotton camouflage print fabric and the flannel-backed satin for the two sides of the fabric and lining, the 2-way metal zipper (I ended up using a different zipper than the one shown in the photo below), and the gold metallic thread of which I planned to quilt the satin lining:

I got to work cutting out the two sides as I knew the quilting would be the most time-consuming and wanted to get to it as soon as possible. I spent a good amount of time making chalk lines of the quilting pattern I wanted on the jacket front and back pieces of the satin side before sewing it to the batting and creating the quilting pattern:

front quilting lines

The quilting was somewhat of a slow and careful sewing process. My sewing machine didn’t get along so well with the metallic thread (yes, I used the right kind of needle and tension on my machine!) and caused some technical difficulties, but with some patience and rethreading the machine many times, we eventually got through it together.

I decided to leave the sleeves of the satin sides smooth and un-quilted to avoid any “you look so, um, puffy today” comments when wearing the jacket with the satin side out. I think that was a great decision plus a huge time saver.

Sewing the rest of the jacket was pretty much a breeze, including the two-piece raglan sleeves, the pockets and even the ribbed knit collar, waistband and cuffs:

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the front pieces sewn to the back

 

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The sleeves sewn to the front and back

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I basted the zipper in by hand before machine sewing it in for the most control of this “touchy” bit of the process:

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Then, sewn by machine:

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Before long, I was on the home stretch doing my final top stitching using my edge stitching foot (one of my favorite machine feet!) on the front opening edge of the jacket and she was about done!

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I was thinking that I would like to add some cool embroidered patches to my bomber jacket, but didn’t come across any ones I liked in time, so I figured I could always add some and sew them on by hand if I come across any  the I like in the future. Meanwhile, I LOVE my new bomber jacket and am so excited to wear it, and inside out!

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THE BOMB!

 

PS and disclaimer: this post has no affiliation with the crazy-ass bomber who was just arrested for mailing bombs to prominent Trump critics! Just say’n…

Watercolors in Silk

I just love a great watercolor painting, how the colors softly flow into each other, creating emotion with how they blend together to evoke a mood.

Speaking of Mood, the renown fabric store in New York, Los Angeles, and online at MoodFabrics.com, the store where the Project Runway design contestants run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find fabric, trim, notions and inspiration (and hopefully a lucky Swatch sighting), all within a ridiculous 30 minutes, is running a series of contests using their fabrics. I thought how fun it would be, and also a challenge for me, to order some silk and whip up something for their MoodMadeSilk18 contest by the deadline of today, April 30th, 2018.

I went ahead and ordered 2 yards of this gorgeous watercolor floral silk chiffon and was even happier when it arrived!

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Isn’t it SO pretty?!

I gave it a gentle wash and laid it flat to dry, then got to smoothing it all out perfectly on grain and ready to be cut:

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I thought this would be a perfect fabric for this pattern view A from McCall’s that I had recently acquired from their new Spring ’18 collection:

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Pinterest is one of my favorite resources to find inspiration and ideas for sewing (also for cooking, art and other ideas). I found a couple of flouncy cold shoulder tops and pinned them for inspiration and thought, “I could make something like that, easy!”

floral cold shoulder long sleeve top                                             coral flounce cold shoulder top

So, I proceeded to do just that!

By taking measurements of the flat pattern and comparing them to my own body measurements, I knew that the torso would need to be lengthened in order to not feel too short on me when done, so I altered the pattern and added one inch to the front and back pieces using the “slash and spread” method (sorry, that sounds kinda dirty) before cutting the top out of fabric:

With the top only being a few pattern pieces, it went together fairly quickly, not including the pain-in-the-assery of working with silk chiffon, of course. For one thing, I had to carefully mark the wrong sides of the fabric as I went along so that I didn’t sew them incorrectly:

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Plus, make French seams on most seams since the fabric is so sheer and frays like a beeotch:

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sewing seam part #2 of a French seam

I decided that the fabric of the top was SO sheer that I would feel indecent prancing around in this with all of my “stuff” showing underneath, so I ran out and bought enough additional silk chiffon in a deep navy to layer under the print to create some opacity:

The top took me a little over a week to completely cut out and sew in my free time, so that was not too bad. I love the flounce and halter neck, and the fabric most of all on this top.

As for pattern changes, I left off the elastic at the waist, and didn’t add the zipper as the pattern suggests as I think that would be too much weight for this super delicate and sheer material. I also skipped the facing and sewed the lining in it’s place for a much better finish to the edge and to combat some of the sheerness.

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Detail of the French seam made on the flounce piece

I am not 100% sold on this pattern as I feel the fit is a tad “off” and the cold shoulder is really, really cold showing so much skin. It is way too big in the underarm as it turns out and shows off a good deal of side boob here. Making a dart here to take up some space is not going to work on the finished top (note to self: make more pattern alterations in this area, and maybe try a muslin too, before cutting into spendy materials like this, silly girl Steph!) so for now, I think I’ll make up a coordinating bra or a panel on the side to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions…

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Don’t look now, but your side boob is showing…

I finished the top just in time to throw it on, slap on some makeup, do something to tame (or tease?) my crazy hair, and have my sweet and patient man snap some photos of me to post on my Instagram with the hashtag #MoodMadeSilk18 to enter the contest by the deadline. I would love to win the $100 gift card to Mood as the winning prize, but there are some other amazing garments that sewists have made with silk from Mood for this contest, so I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t win. Just making stuff and challenging myself is fun for me!

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THANK YOU MOOD!!! Say “hi” to Swatch for me!

Flounces in Floral

I usually don’t identify myself as being overly girly or feminine, but I’m finding myself drawn to flounces, ruffles, florals and other “girly” details in fashion lately. So, I figured, why not succumb to my femininity and make myself something floral, flouncy and flirty! (Yes, I am a total dork if you were wondering.)

Last summer, I came across this floral stretch denim fabric at Joann’s and really liked it, so I purchased a couple of yards of it, with the intention of making a little dress out of it:

Floral Stretch Denim

We were planning a trip to Las Vegas in August 2017 and I thought this would be a great opportunity to sew a little strappy fitted dress for the trip, but then the trip was cancelled so this particular dress project was also cancelled, at least for the time being.

Fast forward to early Spring 2018. McCall’s Pattern Company released some really great patterns and for a couple of dollars, I picked up this one, and a few others, during one of Joann Fabrics pattern sales:

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I’m not all that crazy about the ginormous sleeves on view B and C on this pattern, but I really like the little jacket shape and flounces of view A:

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I thought I could make up a cute little spring jacket like this one I spotted on Pinterest:

Flounce Sleeve Jacket

This pattern, although trendy, could easily be made up in solid colors, prints, or with more of a classic look by just leaving off the flounces that are constructed separately and sewn to the outside along a marked stitching line.

One thing that I thought could improve the quality of the jacket in terms of construction and wear was a facing. Without a facing on the inside of this jacket, the lining would come all the way to the edges of the jacket and possibly show or peek out from the inside of the jacket. Upon doing some research of other sewists that have made this jacket, some of them had added a facing and were much happier with the result. So, I decided to take the time to do the same to mine.

I pulled up my online Craftsy sewing class Mastering Construction: Linings and Facings with instructor Sara Alm for a refresher on how to make facings and got to work adjusting my pattern.

Commercial break: I absolutely LOVE Craftsy and have learned so much from these great online classes! The classes offered are an invaluable tools for learning for creative-minded people.

I traced a 3″ facing from the jacket front and back pattern pieces, then also traced the lining (minus the facing area) from the same pattern pieces to create facings and a new lining pattern (adding seam allowances to each):

 

I then decided to add a little fun pop of color to this jacket that is ultimately just shades of grey and chalk white. I used packaged piping in bright fuchsia pink to sew between the lining and the facing. I see this type of detail in some ready-to-wear garments and knew it would be a relatively easy detail to add to the interior (I also learned how to do this by watching another one of my favorite Craftsy classes, Sew Like a Designer: Fashion Details):

 

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Oh, and I also decided that I would like to have a pocket in this jacket, so I just traced off a rectangle (using a notebook that was handy and my clear grid ruler) and cut out two of these from the lining material, sewed them together leaving an opening to turn, turned it inside out, gave it a good press, then top stitched it to one of the front sides of the lining. I thought of doing a nice welt pocket here, but wasn’t in the mood to take the time to do that. Maybe next time!

It was exciting to see my jacket was really starting to come together! I love how the entire jacket is lined, including the underside of the sleeve and peplum flounces. Here is one sleeve getting pressed on my handy sleeve board after the flounce was gathered slightly and sewed to the outside of the sleeve:

 

The final touch of slip stitching by hand the sleeve lining to the sleeve at the hem:

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All in all, this jacket was a fairly easy sewing project and only took a few evenings after work and Saturday morning to complete. I am so happy with it and glad that I chose to make this up, especially in a floral print.

I got a kick out of showing off the lining, piping and little pocket that I added to the construction of this little gem:

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And, of course, my Love, Stephanie label too:

Label in Floral Flounce Jacket

I enjoyed wearing this out to a local fashion event, along with a silk camisole and black wide leg trousers, also items that I have sewn. I even received a couple of compliments on my jacket! Good times!

 

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Happy Spring!

Romance In Color

Chartreuse Silk Wedding GownAhh, sweet, sweet love!

I was SO honored and excited to have been asked by a friendly acquaintance of mine to custom make his fiance’s wedding gown. We are friends on Facebook and had seen and admired some of the garments that I sew and post on my Love, Stephanie page.

I gleefully met up with the bride-to-be Terri and we started to plan the project right away as we only had three months until the wedding.

She wanted a vintage style look, and had an original idea of 1935’s-era inspired separates of a gown, an over-blouse and a long-line jacket all in silk. It was a beautiful and wonderful look that she showed me, an actual Vogue Pattern that I happened to also have in my pattern library-how about that!

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After mulling over this idea for a few days, we decided that this pattern would be a lot of pieces for me to make, take up quite a lot of fabric, and that we really didn’t have enough time to make it all work.

Idea # 2 was the perfect vision! It combined a vintage look, simplicity, and I knew it was absolutely do-able in the time that we had. I just love this look!

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Plus, when she said she wanted a solid color, I rejoiced because those chevron stripes meeting perfectly down the center front of this dress in insanely slippery silk charmeuse-yikes!!!

I got started researching a decent sewing pattern to base her dress off of in order to make the whole process a little easier and not have to make a pattern from scratch. I found this Simplicity pattern which is a vintage one, but from 1972:

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The dress had the V-Neckline with the center front seam and angled seams under the bust and a floor length semi-flared skirt. I would lower the neckline, turn the bust darts into gathers, and make a new sleeve to resemble design lines of the inspiration gown as closely as I could.

She wanted the dress to be in a beautiful color, one that was vibrant, memorable and looked great on her warm brown skin tone. She ordered this gorgeous and lustrous silk charmeuse in a color called Citronelle from NY Designer Fabrics:

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Of course, I took a few minutes to sketch out the vision of the dress, adding to it over the time and finishing it off with the look that she executed for her wedding day:

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Meanwhile, I got started modifying the pattern and creating a muslin. I chose to make the first muslin out if an inexpensive polyester satin to mimic the silk, but I really should have made the first mock-up out of actual muslin and saved the satin for mockup # 2, but oh well, they both served their purposes:

Fitting #1: we worked out a good deal of fitting and design adjustments to the gown.

I added to the sides where she need more room, lowered the neckline, and checked to see if she liked the sleeve.

Then back to flat pattern adjustments and cutting muslin #2:

She was actively loosing weight, so now the dress was TOO big! But, that’s just fine, better to have more to work with than a too-tight fit. We wanted drop the under-bust seam a little more and obviously take in more fabric in the back.  Overall, the 2nd fitting went really well, I knew what I needed to do next and it was looking good and she was starting to really get excited about her gown!

We had two more fittings before the final delivery. The next was in the dress sewn up most of the way in the actual silk fabric with the changes from the last fitting, but before the zipper was put in, before the hem was cut and sewn, and with generous seam allowances on the sides and back just in case we needed more room. The last fitting, the dress was done, but she wanted to take in the sides a tad more, and there were a few seam tweakings to perfect the dress.

I added finishing touches to the dress using a beige silk lining for the bodice and sleeves:

As an added little luxe touch, I sewed in satin ribbon hanging loops at the top of the sleeves so that the dress did not just slip off the hanger when stored:

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A little satin ribbon sewn into the seam makes a great hanging loop that just falls into the dress invisibly when worn.

I made a tiny narrow hem to finish off the dress:

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Making the narrow hem, almost done!

Here is the dress, all complete, steamed and ready to roll, hanging in my sewing room (not the best hanger-appeal on this dress: it really needs a body and boobs to fill it out to perfection in my opinion):

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The wedding day was upon us! I was nervous about the dress and hoped and prayed that she was happy and loved her gown. It turned out to be really lovely and it looked so beautiful on her! The silk was just SO lustrous and flowed beautifully as she walked and danced with her new husband.

Success!!

I had the idea to make him a little matching pocket square out of scraps of her dress fabric which she was delighted to give to him during the ceremony. So cute!

I am so in love with their love and simply honored to have such a big part of their wedding ceremony. Thank you Terri and David! Congratulations!!!!

Kiss

Kiss your beautiful bride!