Long before my daughter announced her engagement last year, she already hinted to me that when she got married, she wanted me to sew her wedding gown. So when the date was set, I started reading everything I could about bridal wear sewing. The most useful source of information was Pattern Review. There I found a pinned topic on Couture Quality Bustier which contained a comprehensive tutorial on how to sew a strapless bodice with boning, padding and inner closure. The Bridal and Formalwear Sewing Forum was also filled with information shared by fellow sewists. That was how I found out about the book Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje which became my sewing bible during the wedding gown construction.
About the pattern
The wedding gown silhouette my daughter wanted was an off-shoulder with almost sweetheart neckline, close-fitting all throughout then flaring out into a mermaid style at the bottom. She wanted it fully covered in lace. She did not care for a train. With that said, here are the two patterns I used as baseline for the wedding gown.
The bodice style of this pattern was perfect for what my daughter had in mind. How ironic that the pattern was designed by Bellville Sassoon, the same designer who created Vogue 2929 which I used for my daughter's prom gown, the same gown that gave me so much grief that I ended up searching for online help and discovering Pattern Review. The experience also led me to create this blog and write my first post in 2011 which you can read here.
The skirt part of this pattern fit the bill as far as silhouette was concerned.
Long Distance Fitting
Did I mention my daughter lives in the East Coast and I'm in the Midwest? Well, that made me a little nervous. But my daughter never expressed any doubt so that kept me going.
When she visited in the summer, I took her measurements and made her dress form body double using the Bootstrap sewing pattern which I blogged about here. The dress form provided a baseline for the initial muslin fitting. Subsequent fittings were done via Skype. I would mail her the muslin and she would try it on and then I would instruct her where to pin. We went through this process several times throughout the year. There was one time when the USPS lost my package containing the muslin which has already undergone several modifications! Thank goodness it was recovered.
It was almost three months before the wedding date when we finalized fitting and I was ready to cut into the real fabrics. The reason it took so long was I had to finish her engagement dress first which you read about here.
The Vogue pattern called for three layers for the bodice: a main outer fabric that was interfaced, a middle layer made of woven interfacing to support the boning and an inner lining layer. I added one more lightweight middle layer that had additional boning and bra cup. And I also used a lace overlay. So to summarize:
From innermost to outermost:
1) Lining--charmeuse in classic white purchased from Emma One Sock
2) Layer with bra cup and princess seam boning--China silk (I added this layer. It was not included in the pattern).
3) Layer with boning as drafted in the pattern--Pro Woven Superior Sew In Lightly Soft, a woven interfacing that had the drape and weight similar to broadcloth, purchased from Fashion Sewing Supply.
4) Main Fabric--Noble Duchess Satin in white purchased from a local fabric store (Anatol's) and fused with Pro Sheer Elegance Light fusible interfacing, also from Fashion Sewing Supply.
5) Alencon lace--reembroidered lace in white, purchased also from Anatol's.
For the skirt, I skipped layer 2 and 3. For the lower part of the skirt, I added tulle netting for a little more volume.
*1/4"Rigilene polyester boning and casing--from BiasBespoke.com
* 3/8" cotton twill tape for easing in neckline--from BiasBespoke.com
* foam bra cups
*18" long YKK #5 concealed heavy duty zipper from Zipperstop
*Silk thread for basting
* Japanese steel size 9 sewing needles for hand sewing--from Etsy
* Japanese glass head silk pins
*Petersham grosgain ribbon for waist stay
*Narrow ribbon for hanging loops
*Embroidery thread for the special label
I don’t intend to post a step by step photo tutorial of the wedding gown construction. I just want to highlight some details that could also prove helpful to anyone sewing something similar, not necessarily the same pattern. With that said, be ready for lots of photos!
|View of the bodice from the outside after being machine stitched.|
|The middle layer which I added (not part of the pattern) had a pair of boning and foam bra cups sewn to the front princess seams.|
~The wedding gown had a wide V-neckline that extended to become the off shoulder sleeves.~
|To stabilize the V point before clipping, I sewed a square piece of silk organza on the wrong side and used small stitches to staystitch one inch from the center point.|
The succeeding photos show the process of “easing in” the front neckline to a strip of twill tape to address the problem of front neckline gaping.
|The twill tape was cut shorter (by around 5/8") than the neckline.|
|Lots of pins were used to secure the tape to the neckline.|
|It was then hand basted in place.|
A view of the neckline after the seam was turned in.
~When I cut the lace pieces, I left a very wide seam allowance. My plan was to use invisible seams by overlapping the lace seam allowances, handstitching the top layer in place and trimming any bulk underneath.~
|Here is a nice view of the Alencon lace. The corded edges made it easy to trim without causing them to unravel.|
|Here is another example. The one on the left had invisible seams already sewn. The one on the right shows the layers pinned.|
|I used the border of the lace fabric and appliqued it to the skirt bottom.|
|When it came to the neckline and armholes, I just turned in the lace edges and sewed in place. These were later covered by the innermost layer, the lining.|
|In addition to the lace edges, this photo also shows the inside of the partially assembled gown. The seam allowances were all sewn open using catchstitches.|
|A view of the hemline.|
|I added tulle netting to the bottom part of the skirt for a little more volume.|
|A beaded embroidered lace trim that matched the Alencon lace was sewn to the perimeter of the neckline.|
For added insurance, I added a waist stay. It was tacked to the middle layer seams underneath the lining. A small gap was left in the lining seam at the back to allow the ends of the waist stay to come through.
|I used a Petersham grosgain ribbon and added hook and eye for closure.|
|I also added a pair of ribbon loops for hanging.|
|As a special touch of something blue, I embroidered the couple's initials and their wedding date on a piece of satin and sewed it to the lining of the back bodice.|
~The pattern called for button closure on the outside and zipper on the middle layer. My daughter did not want buttons so I just used a heavy duty invisible zipper.~
|View of the zipper after it was machine sewn. The lining was then hand sewn. To prevent the embroidery from getting caught I pickstitched it along the edges.|
|Additional views of the zipper closure.|
It All Came Together
~And here are sneak peeks of the finished gown.~
|Daughter trying out the finished gown for the first time, a few days before the wedding. I was really amazed at how perfectly it fitted her. No last minute alterations were needed.|
In her introduction to her book "Bridal Couture," Susan Khalje said,
"...couture translates into careful, logical, well-thought-out applications of solid technique. Whether in the House of Chanel or in one's own workroom, the components are the same: Fabrication, Design, Fit & Proportion, Engineering & Inner Structure and Workmanship."
She said it is the dressmaker's challenge to weave the elements together to create an other-worldly garment. I never dreamt I would one day be weaving these elements together to create something special for my daughter!
Photos of the wedding gown in action and more can be found in Handmade Wedding Part 2.