My wedding dress is by far the most complicated thing I’ve ever sewn. I don’t know how long it took, since I carried it around with me and basted while I was talking to people or watching tv or waiting for the bus. I’m not going to talk you through how to sew your own, because there’s just too much to it, but if you’re curious how it’s put together, these are the pieces of the pattern:
The lace at the back came from Lacis, a wonderful lace store and museum in Berkeley. I finished the rest of the dress before I put it in, and it’s not structurally important, just tacked into the back.
I had planned on putting in an invisible side zip, but I was afraid it would be too heavy and make the dress hang asymmetrically. I kept putting it off, knowing it wouldn’t look right, telling myself it would only take half an hour and I could do it whenever. The day morning of the wedding I realized I wasn’t finishing my dress because I knew the zip just wouldn’t look good, and had Rosalie and Prima sew me in. It was slower than putting in a zipper, since it was a weird angle to sew at, but I’m so happy with the way it ended up looking. Thank you Rosie and Prima!
I couldn’t get quite enough of the matte silk I used for most of the dress, so I used a shinier silk charmeuse for the under layer of the skirt and some of the lining. As so often happens when I run out of fabric, I love the way the two fabrics work together, and I’m glad I had to do things this way.
Both fabrics were very fragile and slippery – I couldn’t use pins, because they would leave permanent holes in the fabric, but it moved around too much to sew directly on the machine. I’m not a big fan of basting in general, since it is so very slow, but it’s absolutely necessary for this sort lightweight silk. And it was worth all the time it took to end up with this dress.
Isabel’s bridesmaid dress was a design we’d been talking about making for her for a while. The full skirt, low back, and high neckline are elements we both always love. In fact, you’ll see all of those same things in my dress, although the styles are completely different. The pattern pieces for this dress are:
Most of the measurements are very forgiving. As long as the waistband fits well, it will look fine. The dress closes with an invisible zip on the side.
The trickiest part of this dress was figuring out how to finish all the edges. The front is fully lined, which takes care of the edges, but for the back I wanted a very crisp edge, whereas a lining gives a softer edge. I finished the armholes and the bottom edge of the back by folding and sewing them down, but for the long straight sides of the back I used iron in seam tape. It makes for a slightly stiff edge that isn’t suited to most things, but was perfect for a place where I wanted to emphasize a straight line and make sure everything stayed put when she was dancing.
I don’t sew a lot of kids clothes, what with not having any kids, so I had a lot of fun making these flower girl dresses. They’re just so much simpler and smaller and faster to sew!
To make your own, simply trace out the shapes above, matching the measurements listed. To make the skirt even, hold one end of your measuring tape fixed, and swing the other end along the edge of the skirt like a giant protractor, marking as you go. Wash your fabric and cut out your pattern pieces.
First, sew the two front pieces together along the neckline and armholes, then do the same for each of the back pieces. Turn the back pieces inside out and line up each strap so that the back piece is around the front piece. Sew along the top of the strap and turn right side out. Do the same for the sides, sewing the outside to the outside and the lining to the lining.
Add pockets and sew together the skirt. Then sew the top of the dress to the waistband and the waistband to the skirt, beginning and ending at the zipper opening.
To add the ruffle, create a long 5″ wide strip of fabric by sewing together several strips the length of your fabric. The amount you need will vary a lot depending on how long the skirt is and how much you gather the ruffle, but it’s easy to add another strip of fabric if you start gathering the ruffle and realize it’s not going to be long enough. Fold the strip lengthwise to form a 2 1/2″ strip with the right sides facing out. Using a long straight stitch, sew along the rough edge of the strip in 1 yard increments. At the end of each yard, tie the two threads together at one end and pull gently on the other end of one thread to gather the strip into a ruffle. When your ruffle is long enough to go all the way around the edge of the skirt, pin the rough edge of the ruffle to the edge of the skirt, and sew along the gather line.
Finally, put in a zipper, being careful to line up the waistband. You have a twirly flower girl dress!
Do you see that cake? That is the best cake. Rosalie baked it (and many others like it) for my wedding. Because she is wonderful. And so is her cake.
But this isn’t a blog about cake, it’s a blog about sewing and dresses, and look, there’s also a dress in that photo! Rosalie and I designed it together, I made a pattern and cut out the pieces, and Rosalie sewed it together and printed the waistband. I love how she looks in it, and I love that we made it together.
The pieces of the pattern are above. This is a pretty straightforward dress (a good thing if your seamstress is also baking wedding cake for 100). The only tricky parts are planning out the bust darts and making the gathers.
Side darts pull in the dress bellow the bust and allow extra fabric vertically, which is helpful for larger bust sizes. For smaller sizes, the gathers add enough shaping (depending on how tightly you gather, the waistband can be up to two inches smaller than the bodice) and the rest can be pulled in at the side seams. Side darts are cut straight at the top, and curved at the bottom. Measure carefully along the curve to make sure it is the same length as the straight line, or ever so slightly shorter – since the curve is on the bias it will be easy to stretch it slightly to ease it in. Making the curve too short will lead to puckers along the dart, so keep it light (I usually do 1/2 an inch of easing in a 4 inch dart).
Gather the main fabric and the lining separately. To form the gathers, sew a long straight stitch down the center of the top. Tie the ends of the thread together at one end, then pull gently on one thread at the other end to form the gathers. Place a small scrap of fabric behind the gathers, and sew the bodice to this scrap, carefully following the gather line. This will stop your gathers from popping undone when you run around after the flower girls.