My Wedding Dress!

Commission, Construction, Textile work

Yes, that’s right, I decided to make my own wedding dress – how could I not?! I would have felt cheated if I had not had even a small hand in my special dress. And I would really like to share the process with you!

When I was in school still, and finding my way towards costumes and historical dress, my Granny gave me her wedding dress to study and then to keep! I have kept it tucked away in my cupboard in my mum’s house and as soon as I told mum that I was engaged she whisked me upstairs demanding I try Granny’s dress on!

 

It still fitted after all this time and it is lovely to think that I am a similar size to my Granny when she got married!

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My beautiful Granny with her dad on her special day in 1945.

I knew I wanted to use her gorgeous dress, but thought it might be nice to upcycle it into something that is possibly more me. This was my first idea, of simply changing the bodice and adding an underlay as the skirt is a little on the short side.

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However, after visiting a few bridal shops and trying lots of dresses on I started having new ideas, which actually just complicated the matter as now I am stuck between wanting to feel like a princess in a new one and desperately wanting to capture history!

 

I really liked the idea of having a top made of the lace from Granny’s dress over a plain bodice and with a flowing skirt, and a colourful sash to nip me in at the waist.

This was the idea I was ready to roll with until we went to India on a family holiday and we got Alex a tailored indian jacket made out there – mum said Alex was going to look so good, all we needed to worry abut now was making sure I looked just as good, and she suggested that we order an extra meter of his chosen fabric so I can make my bodice out of it – what a shock he’ll get when I walk down the aisle matching him!

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Not the best photo, but an open jacket with a fantastic granddad collar – he loves it! I could really imagine me in a bodice made of it, so started designing the dress around it…

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I may need to get some more lace to give the skirt more volume but it depends on what I do underneath – as a compromise I might purchase a bridal skirt from a separates collection, there are some really interesting ones out there and then I would get that gorgeous feel of beautiful fabric without the stress of having to sew it myself – especially if I am going to cover it with lace, it might be nice to have a given shape to work from.

I decided to start with the bodice – I had an old pattern that I actually used in my GCSEs!

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I made it up and altered it to fit my design – felt like I was at uni again…

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I am really pleased with the shape and now I can start thinking about boning and fastenings…

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I was thinking about making an inner corset so that the top fabric does not need to be stretched out of shape and to give me more support throughout the day. I purchased some bra fastenings off eBay and created a little panel that could be sewn into the back side seams and pulled tight to give a corset effect.

Another reason for doing that was so I could have a button fastening for the top fabric, I’ve always loved those dresses with buttons all the way down the back but I don’t really have the time to that, so four or five buttons will have to suffice!

Starting to make the bodice out of the real fabric now!!

Once I had started on the bodice I got a sense of what sort of skirt I wanted…

So this is the final stage in the development of my wedding dress design ideas…I doodled on top of the image so I could get a sense of how it might look – I found this skirt online after a lot of hunting and researching – not too big and poofy but elegant and enough to make me feel like a princess! Ordered, slight delay on the despatch time, so I went back to the bodice.

Having left myself time to think and chatting to family members I decided to not add sleeves to the bodice. Since the back was quite low, I was concerned about how the sleeves would work and if they would stay up, etc.

So instead, I separated the bodice from the skirt on Granny’s wedding dress, cut down that the centre of the bodice and had a play with how it might sit as a bolero jacket…

I added two more darts at the back of the jacket to reduce some of the excess. Also two rows of top stitching around the new hem and cut the excess away. The effect is very feminine and romantic – perfect for getting married in and then slipping off for the reception!

Moving back to the bodice, I hand stitched the support panel to the completed bodice in for now, in case it needed moving back or forward a bit.

Once the bodice was together and I was satisfied with how it looked, I started adding boning to the seams – very simply by ironing the seams flat and sewing them down in the middle of the overlock stitch, creating channels which I pushed the plastic boning into. I only added them to the right hand ones as I didn’t want the bodice to be too stiff, but still to hold its shape.

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And I am so thrilled with the outcome! Cannot wait to try it on when the skirt comes!

Next for the facing – I actually ran out of the top fabric, I used the off cuts to make pocket squares for the groomsmen! (see blog link!) So decided to choose a very simple, soft white cotton to face the bodice with.

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I machined it to the front of the bodice and then flipped in to the inside, cut the edges and pressed the fold flat so no white would show on the front.

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I was going to top stitch the facing down, but I didn’t want to ruin the effect of the facing, so I herringboned the edge of the facing to the calico, so hopefully it will not slip and be seen from the outside of the bodice.

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I finalised where the support panels needed to be and machined them to the bodice.

Now the majority of the bodice is finished I could have fun with the detail of adding buttons and elasticated hoops to finish off the bodice!!

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BACK TO THE SKIRT:

I am very lucky to have my head bridesmaid who actually works at a bridal shop! She very kindly helped me to take up the skirt so that the skirt worked with my chosen shoes…

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Once I had done this, I started playing around with how I could apply my Granny’s lace to the skirt. I love the simple look of the bodice and skirt here but…its my wedding day and I want to look spectacular!

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I really like the idea of having a long jacket and although it looks beautiful like this, it is not really me…

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Now this really IS me! I love ruffled skirts!

I popped the skirt on my mannequin and played around with how I wanted the lace to work, but it actually looked a bit too much so decided instead to apply some of Grandma Rosemary’s lace to the skirt to tie the rest of my wedding outfit with my headpiece.

I hand stitched this gorgeous belt I made out of the lace, once I had worked out the arrangement of the lace I machined it on to a piece of silk with some iron on interfacing to give the belt structure…

I then cut away the excess silk, leaving a belt of lace!

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This I hand stitched over the waistband with some fastening to complete the effect – this will hopefully give the look that the bodice and the skirt being one rather than separates.

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I also added the rest of Grandma Rosemary’s lace to the bottom of the skirt train…

 

To link in with my head piece, I applied beads to the lace flowers to add a little glitz to my dress!

With Granny’s wedding dress I went back to mum’s idea of creating a long jacket out of the gorgeous lace – now I have another layer and have included something so meaningful in my wedding outfit.

BRIDESMAIDS –

For my lovely three bridesmaids, I was able to find three dresses from Two Birds company in the sale at one of the bridal shops I visited – they were perfect, different shades of blue and ones which they could design their preferred bodice style!

I let them choose their shoes as they needed to be comfortable on the day but I was able to purchase some beautiful faux fur shrugs for them from dazzlingladieswear on Etsy – they were perfect as a cover up on the evening. I also got a navy version for myself which really worked with the blue in the indian fabric!

Following my bridesmaids instructions carefully, I began taking up the layers of this gorgeous skirt. It is quite hard to tell from the photos but I took the inner most lining up to around my knees to get it out of the way entirely and then turned the netting over slightly to make them rest on the ground.

I had to unpick the lovely hem on the top fabric, iron the new hemline and reinstall the horsehair in that fold. I tacked the horsehair to the inside of the new hem for ease when stitching the lining down.

  • Since writing the above I have changed my mind about my shoes…I know, typical bride. And since my lovely bridesmaid is back at her home in Huddersfield and I feel too awkward to ask her to come down just to help me with the hem! So I contacted a few people to see if they might be able to help, Cynthia from Oui Madame in Cookham turned out to be the one! She was unbelievably helpful and knowledgable – totally over qualified to just fix my hem! She was able to give me suggestions on design and also assist with taking the excess of the train up for dancing later on!

It was a mammoth task and I’m not sure if I would ever feel comfortable making someone else’s wedding dress but I loved every minute of making mine. I loved the personal touches and historical lace I was able to incorporate.

Alex had no idea that I would be in the same fabric as him, in fact he knew next to nothing about what I was wearing – he said, the engagement was his little secret that he had to keep, so this was like my version. And what a surprise!

It was the perfect day, and I feel truly blessed to have been able to celebrate with all my loved ones – here are some of the official photographs, I’ll add more when I get them!

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Images with thanks to David Scammell!

 

The Groom and Groomsmen

Construction

Alex always knew he wanted to wear something extravagant for his wedding – when you wear suits to work everyday they can lose their appeal. So we did some research and he really liked the idea of having an Indian sherwani – very different and colourful!

When we went to India on a family holiday/ pilgrimage we were able to find an amazing fabric and tailoring shop in Varanasi…

They were very friendly and helpful as we talked them through what Alex had in mind – they brought out reams and reams of fabrics for us to choose from and then measured the groom up!

And that was that – they posted the sherwani to us – it took around 15days in total – amazing!

We managed to find a waistcoat and trouser combination from Marks and Spencers that really worked with the blue of the fabric – now all he needs are some fab shoes and a white shirt with a Granddad collar to match the jacket.

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In our wedding plans there have been a lot of musing about that the men should wear – it’s hard when the groom will be dressed so amazingly in a handmade Indian wedding jacket! You don’t want the groomsmen to look underdressed and nor do you want them to up stage the groom! AND you want them to match the rest of the bridal party! It is equally hard when they do not really mind and are waiting to be told by YOU!

Anyway – we decided to ask them all to get themselves a grey suit (something they would wear again!) and we will accessorise them to match…at first we toyed with the idea of putting them in matching waistcoats, which would have looked lovely but then I went suit browsing with my twin brother and he was trying on tweed jackets with fleck of yellow – lovely, but not with the above waistcoat!

So, back to the drawing board, and we thought, it will look amazing if they all choose different suits, shades of grey, contrasting weights, because they will all look fantastic! And if we got them matching ties, pockets squares and button holes they will look amazing – and what better fabric for the pockets squares than our beautiful one from India?!

I cut out and overlocked 10 squares of the brocade and linings for each.

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Then I stitched the two right sides together, leaving a little gap at the end for turning the right way round, and clipped the corners.

Turned them the right way round…

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Ironed them within an inch of their lives and slip stitched the end closed. I love how different each one is, with the linings, but also that the top fabric has slightly different colours and patterned on!

Love them! (I think I’ll take one tie shopping with me so I can try and match the deep blue running through all of them. Then all the men really will match! Phew!) I actually ended up buying a bundle of vintage ties off of eBay for my men’s jackets in oo arh! and found that some really matched the colour themes – so kept them back to add to the mens gift bags.

I found some great folding tutorials online and printed them out to add to the gift packages as well!

I think you’ll agree they look amazing!

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We actually had a hand in making some unique cufflinks for the groomsmen with Rosalyn Prest at Rosalyn’s Emporium – see my blog post about our experience and how we did it!

Finally, I found a lovely lady online, Sarah Burns, who prints some truly beautiful cards to give to all our families on the actual day to complete their gift bundle!

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The only other thing I needed to do for my groom was to upcycled a double cuffed shirt for him – it was impossible to find one with a Granddad collar to go with his suit neckline so I decided to make one!

We bought a crisp new one from a shop he loves and I simply took the collar out…

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And stitched it back up again…

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He is so happy with it – and now his outfit is complete!

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And here is my gorgeous groom – looking stunningly colourful and happy! (I’ll add more photos when they come through from David Scammell.)

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Wedding Headpiece

Construction

Along with my wedding dress I decided to make something to go in my hair – since I have quite short hair, and normally I never do anything with it, I thought it would be really lovely to have some lace, flowers and feathers in my hair!

Not knowing exactly where to start I did my typical Google and YouTube searches and decided to start with a headband that I found on Ebay…

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I added cotton wool to the ends because they were metal balls, that dug into my head…I thought, I’ll never last a whole day with these things hurting me! A simple solution but it seems to be working! I might cover them with plates tape nearer the time if the white stands out too much against my skin and hair.

I then purchased a Sinamay millinery base and secured it to an oval of felt with a glue gun, giving me a place to work around and from with the decoration.

I played around with adding the lace from Alex’s Grandma over the Sinamay and loved the effect!

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If I could starch spray the lace that flops over the edges it would help create height and cover the places I weave flowers and feathers into.

I started experimenting with adding pheasant feather to the band…

Even though I love the idea, I think it might end up being too much…so headpiece take two!

I bought another hair band (a covered one, so hopefully it will be comfier than the metal one) and started playing with making the lace 3D out of the sample from Alex’s Grandma…

I started with small, well placed stitches to create texture and structure…

I then glued and stitched these arrangements to the headband. I also slipped some fine wire underneath some of the lace which fell off the band to give it some structure and shape. I then embellished the head piece with small beads…

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And there you have it, after two attempts, I have a very ‘me’ head piece to wear at my wedding – not too showy, not too big, but pretty and upcycled!

I went to Maria Christina salon in Chippenham to have a trial of my wedding hair which ended up being more styled than I had anticipated but it really worked – she came up with the idea as she said the silhouette of my dress was very close to that of the 50’s! We booked her in to come and fix my hair and the headpiece the morning of the wedding and since she was coming anyway I thought it would be nice for the bridesmaids to have their hair done too – so they feel extra special! I purchased some beautiful hair clips from Bride Boutique for my three bridesmaids.

Excuse the weird selfie…was trying not to move while Maria did her thing!

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I love the vintage curls, and look what they turned into!

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Maria understood exactly what I wanted and made me feel like a princess on my wedding day!

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Official photographs by David Scammell.