Monday, March 26, 2012

Debby's Wedding Dress

Our friends Debby and Dan got engaged three days before our wedding, and decided to hold the wedding in Las Vegas in May 2005, to coincide with the opening of Episode III. Debby asked me if I would make her dress, and I agreed.

Making this dress was definitely a labor of love for us both. We'd have marathon sessions where Debby would spend hours at my house working on her programs or bridesmaid gifts, and I would sew like mad and call her over for periodic fittings. It kept us both honest-- it's a lot harder to procrastinate when someone else is there with you!

In the end, I was really proud of how the dress turned out. I don't think I'll ever make another wedding dress, though; the stress of having to get everything exactly perfect was too intense. (All self-inflicted pressure, I should point out. Debby was fantastically low-maintenance and about as far from a Bridezilla as you can get.) But I was more of a perfectionist about her dress than I was about my own!
Debby and Dan's Wedding, May 2005


As it turned out, Debby's idea for a dress design was remarkably simliar to my original dress concept, except she wanted it to be scoop-necked and off-the-shoulder. That made things easier, because I'd already done a fair amount of pattern research for making the dress, and I knew the style would look good on her.

Bodice & Sleeves

I found the perfect pattern for the bodice in Butterick 4453. The only thing that needed altering was the sleeves; Debby wanted them to be one piece rather than two pieces with a seam at the elbow. During our fittings, I also found that I needed to add a small bust dart to keep the fit close at the top of the bodice. I tried redrafting the side front pieces, but at the time I lacked the pattern manipulation knowledge to do it properly, so darts were the best solution.

The bodice has five layers: an outer layer of 10mm silk chiffon from Dharma Trading, flatlined with an underlayer of 19.5mm silk charmeuse from Dharma; a second underlayer of white muslin; a foundation layer of coutil from with poly boning sewn in; and a lining layer of charmeuse. I incorporated poly boning into the bodice because the bride preferred to wear just a strapless bra, not a cinching undergarment. All of the fabric was washed beforehand; I'd learned my lesson after not washing the fabric for my wedding dress. The bodice closes up the back with a separating zipper, with a hook and eye at the very top. Below is a picture of all the boning that was sewing into the coutil layer:

I drafted the sleeves by taking the pattern piece for the top of the sleeve and adding a petal-shaped extension to the bottom, so the sleeve was tight to the elbow and then opened up. I played around a bit with the shape until I was satisfied, then made the sleeves out of 8mm chiffon from Dharma. I used the rolled-hem stitch on my serger to finish the sleeves.

One of my favorite parts of this dress is the trim on the bodice. Debby's aunt had given her the veil from her wedding many years ago, and Debby wanted to incorporate the daisy-chain veil trim-- her favorite flower-- into the dress. After removing the trim from the veil, I dyed the trim ivory to match the color of the natural silk we were using for the dress. I found this site to be immensely helpful in the dyeing process. Then Debby beaded the daisy centers with blue and white crystals, to match her headpiece. Finally, I handsewed the trim around the top and bottom of the bodice.


Debby knew she wanted a somewhat full skirt with a small train, but she wanted a nice clean line at the back waist, without a lot of gathering. So we settled on Butterick 4452 for the skirt pattern, which had two back pleats to add fullness to the skirt. I followed the pattern pretty much exactly.

The skirt is three layers total; one outer layer of 10mm chiffon and then two underlayers of 19.5mm charmeuse. The chiffon and the outer layer of charmeuse were cut with a train and the lining charmeuse layer has an even hem all around. The train was bustled for the reception using a hook-and-eye system; the hook was hidden near the skirt closure and the thread eye was along the center back seam. All three layers were hemmed with the rolled-hem stitch on my serger.

Underneath the skirt, Debby wore a petticoat from Nothing too full; just enough to give the skirt a nice shape.

Veil & Headpiece

Debby is really good at beading and wire work, so she decided to make her own headpiece. She wanted a simple headband with a soft veil attached that could be removed for the reception. So when she was beading the headband, she incorporated little wire loops every inch or so along the back of the headband. So, after I made the veil-- a piece of 8mm chiffon gathered to fit the length of the headband-- I sewed small hooks every inch along the veil. Then the veil was just hooked into the headband for the ceremony and removed for the reception.

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