Making My Wedding Dress!

One of my dreams has always been to learn to sew properly. I took GCSE in Textiles at school and have been to a few classes in the past, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own patterns from scratch, copy vintage items I can’t find/afford and master the more couture techniques. I promised myself years ago that if I ever got married I wouldn’t spend thousands of pounds on a dress someone else has made; I would rather spend the money learning to make my own. As stressful as it was, I enjoyed the process so much and don’t regret a minute of it!

 

We didn’t give ourselves long to plan the wedding since we were engaged in September and opted for a bluebell woodland wedding in early May. To begin with I booked myself on a course in Pattern Cutting at Sew In Brighton. That would take me through November and December. I knew I wouldn’t start making the dress until January, so in the meantime I collected loads of images of dresses I liked and started sourcing samples of fabrics.

 

I happened to have an entire roll of ivory silk left over from when I used to make Dupenny cushions, so I thought I would put it to good use! But one thing I was absolutely sure of was that I didn’t want a “traditional” white wedding dress. I wanted something a little bold and different. The wedding décor colour scheme was going to be rainbow, and after a lot of umm-ing and ahh-ing it suddenly dawned on me that it would be great if my dress were monochrome, just like my signature Dupenny colours! So I started looking for high quality black velvet and some sort of polka dot overlay to create some contrast and texture.

 

If I had purchased a dress I probably would have chosen something from Whirling Turban. When I had a look at their site I was particularly drawn to the gorgeous dress, below.

 

Whirling Turban

I really wanted the dress to be extravagant for the ceremony, but also practical for the woods. I also really loved the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina, with the idea being that I could detach the overskirt after the ceremony.

Sabrina

January came around soon enough so I thought I’d start by experimenting with these ideas and progress from there. I came up with some design variations to start turning into a dress pattern.

Designs for Wedding Dress

Dress Designs

So off I went to more stitch classes with Kat at Sew In Brighton. I had already made a toile of my body block pattern, so we used some shoben tape to mark out the shape of the dress pattern pieces.

Shoben Tape Toile

Toile Making

Next I had to turn this into an actual pattern so I could make a mock-up toile using calico…

Bodice Pattern Making

Pattern Layout

Pattern Cutting

Pattern Pieces

The next stage consisted of trying on the calico toile to check the fit was perfect. I realise now I didn’t take many pictures of this part of the process because I was starting to stress about the time as the wedding was drawing scarily close! I’m talking a matter of 3 weeks at this point! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to experiment with any other ideas so had no choice but to go ahead with this dress design.

I quickly made a 2nd mock-up toile using some scraps of the ivory silk I had, to see how it would look in the real fabric. I also made my brain explode with the maths of trying to figure out how big to make the dress skirt and overskirt!!!

Maths

Skirt Pattern

I’m pretty sure this was the exact point when I burst into tears and told poor Kat that I might go and buy a dress instead! I had tried on some dresses with my best friend and my mum previously, to get some ideas. My mum fell in love with one of the dresses and really wanted to buy it for me. I can’t tell you how hard it was to stay strong and say no! I (and my amazing tutors) had put in so much effort up until now and wasn’t going to give up that easily, even if it meant paying one of my tutors to finish it last minute!

So I powered on through the tears, because sometimes that’s all one can do. Once I started finally sewing the actual dress together I felt a lot better…

Trying on Dress

Checking the Fit

By the time I was adding the lining and finishing touches to the main dress I was really breaking out a sweat and watching the clock tick!

Boning Channels

Velvet Straps

Lining the Dress

Gathering

Ok, so I ran out of time! I had to ask one of my tutors to finish off the big overskirt for me. The wedding was only 1 week away and it just wasn’t worth the stress of trying to finish it myself when we had tones of last minute wedding plans still to finalise. To give you a better idea, we were doing everything ourselves for 140 guests – set-up, décor, catering, music – EVERYTHING! No staff whatsoever. That’s how crazy I am.

I managed to finish the main dress apart from the hundreds of buttons down the back. 3 days before the wedding I decided to pass this task onto someone else, too. What sort of bride has time to sew on a million buttons 3 days before her wedding? Certainly not this one! I didn’t feel like I’d let myself down as I had already achieved so much and I knew I could have finished it myself if only I had given myself more time.

The day before the wedding I found out we were 4 buttons short! Thanks to my mum’s friend saving the day, we were still adding buttons in the car on the way to the venue!

Do you want to see the finished dress? Without further ado, please welcome the blushing bride…

Bride Arriving

Walking Down the Aisle

Bride and Groom

Exchanging Rings

I'll be honest; it was torture trying on the beautiful dresses in the shops. Believe me when I say the temptation to buy one and be done with it was STRONG! I’m the first to admit that my wedding dress was by no means perfect and I’m sure we could have bought something amazing. And I know my mum wasn’t thrilled with what I chose to make (I can tell when she doesn’t approve), but you know what? I don’t care! If I’m honest, this wasn’t my “dream dress” either.

If I had given myself (a lot) more time I would have made something completely different and more elegant/timeless. But to me this was my “dream dress” in another sense. It wasn’t just my wedding dress. This taught me skills I’ve wanted learn for a very long time. I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it and every time I think of my wedding dress I remember the hours of blood, sweat and tears that went into making it! You really can’t put a price on making a dream a reality.

Bluebell Wedding Couple


True Love

Jarvis accidentally trod on my dress in this one…

Silly Couple

But it’s all just rock ‘n’ roll, I guess!

First Dance

For anyone wishing to make their own wedding dress like I did, here’s a word of advice… TIME IS YOUR WORST ENEMY! Don’t underestimate how long it will take, especially if you’re learning as you go along, like I did. Everything takes 10 times longer than it “should”. And I mean everything!

I’m so grateful to Kat at Sew In Brighton for teaching me the skills I always wanted to know. She was so professional, motivational and patient with me and I consider her a dear friend as well as a tutor, having shared this entire process with her. I also have to thank Mel, Ricky and Jo for their help and expertise. Each tutor contributed different techniques and skills and I feel lucky to have learnt from the best. Mel deserves a special mention for coming to the rescue and finishing the overskirt for me – what a lifesaver she was! I honestly couldn’t have asked for better tutors. If anyone is looking for classes in the Sussex area, you know where to go.

And a HUGE thank you to my bestie Jessica Milberg Photography for capturing the day perfectly, she is literally Wonder Woman. And of course to all those who came and mucked in and our guests for making our day so special x

 

 

Toodles Poodles

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