Dana’s Wedding Dress

Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box

First of all, obviously it is no surprise to you that I have been MIA here. A lot has happened in my life since my last post. I had a baby in April 2020, and shortly after that, my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer (if you pray, please say a prayer for him). Spending time with family has been my main priority over the last year. I have sewn a few things for my son but chose to spend the time I would have spent typing a post hanging out with family and soaking up every second with them.

Even though 2020 was a very grim year, one of the highlights was discovering I would have the opportunity to make part of a friend’s most supreme garment she would ever wear: her wedding dress. My friend Dana contacted me last year seeking some advice about her wedding in May. She had purchased an organza skirt with a train for her wedding day from BHLDN. They sell separates you can mix and match on your wedding day! Instead of buying a top from the same place she had her heart set on something else. She showed me an inspiration picture that was boat neckline, had princess seams that started from the armholes and had a very low “V” back. Her ideas really spoke to me and I was practically jumping up and down in excitement. Her dress would be classic, elegant and so very “Dana”. The original plan was to make the bodice, attach it to the skirt (which had a zipper closure at the center back), and add a couple hooks and eyes at the center back of the bodice to close it up the rest of the way. Seems simple right?

Everything had to be done over text or mail since she lived in another state. She even took her own measurements after watching a YouTube video! I helped her order some swatches from Mood and she decided on a lovely whisper white silk taffeta for the bodice and a matching silk crepe de chine for the lining. I interlined the entire bodice with white cotton flannel, which is a very common interlining used in the bridal industry. The cotton flannel gives the taffeta some body so it looks and feels even more luxurious, and surprisingly it doesn’t add too much heat since the silk is so breathable. I used Butterick 5982 as a starting point for the bodice and redrafted the back piece to have an ever-so-slightly rounded V back. I love that the bodice has diagonal bust darts too. I used a hip curve ruler to redraw the back. That ruler is essential for anyone who likes to make changes to their patterns! I cut out a 10 at the bust and tapered to a 12 at the waist. I should have sized down since I am well aware Butterick runs big, but I had no idea Dana was going to be such a rockstar at measuring herself! It is difficult to see in the picture below, but the bodice is too big. I later took it in at the side seams.

making the wedding dress

The photos above were from her first fitting. I think we only had two fittings, one a few months before the wedding, and the second one was the day before her wedding so there was no time for a muslin! The first fitting we focused on the bodice’s fit and I marked the waistline on the bodice with pins so I would know where to attach it to the skirt. I later thread-traced the area that was pinned. When sewing with silk taffeta, you have to be mindfull of where you are pinning as the pins will leave marks on the fabric. You can buy silk pins that are supposedly finer and don’t leave marks, or you can just be sure to pin or baste on (or slightly within) the seamline. Also, if you have to let out a seam, the holes from the needle will also make permanent marks that will not come out.

The bodice was serged at the hem and then I stitched in the ditch along the skirt’s existing waistband to secure the bodice to the skirt. Of course, I hand basted before using the machine to be sure the center fronts of both pieces aligned. After the bodice was attached, I hand stitched the bodice lining down at the waist.

The original plan changed right after I finished attaching the bodice to the skirt. The back neckline ended 3 or 4 inches above her waist instead of the one or two inches that was planned (I had to use a much smaller seam allowance a the waist than originally planned because Dana is a little long-waisted). Closing up the back of the dress with two hooks and eyes would look fine, but 4 inches of hooks would mean quite a lot of potentially visible hardware. Not to mention it could be uncomfortable. So, I made the decision to rip nearly everything apart and put in a new zipper that would be sewn to the bodice and skirt. Here is a picture of the dress before I took the back apart. If you are wondering about the buttons, they are for the bustle.

making a wedding dress

I took out the finished center back area of the bodice, and I removed the zipper from the skirt. I purchased a heavy duty invisible zipper that would handle the stress of the many layers of fabric at the waist. I marked the waistline on the zipper while it was sewn shut so I could make sure it was lined up evenly, and I hand basted the invisible zipper in place before I sewed it in by machine. I have started doing this every time I sew in a zipper and it eliminates so much heartache and saves me time. Also, with invisible zippers I ensure the top of the zipper lines up on both sides every time!

The final finishing touch on this dress was the addition of a new label. I removed the previous clothing label in the purchased skirt and replaced it with a monogramed blue grosgrain ribbon with Dana’s new initials and her wedding date. The ribbon also served as her “something blue”.

monogram label wedding dress

I also made her veil. I can’t believe the markup of veils in stores. The cost of materials for a veil is about 15-20 U.S. dollars, yet a bridal shop will charge hundreds of dollars for the same style. Also, it was really easy to make, and it only took about 20 minutes of my time to make a chapel-length, unadorned veil out of 108″ wide ivory tulle from Fabric.com. Dana decided she wanted her veil to be the same length as her train, so while she was wearing her dress, I measured from the place on her head where the comb would be worn to the back center hem of her train to get the correct length.

Dana was such a stunning bride! When I saw her walk down the isle, I was so humbled and thankful that someone would trust me to carry-out their wedding dress dreams. This was surely a sewing project I will always remember. Cheers to Dana and Nick!

Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box
Dana wedding dress
Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box
Dana wedding dress
Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box
dana wedding dress
Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box
danas wedding dress
Photo by Chelsea Paige Photography / Little White Box

Brocade Dress

I wore this dress to a wedding in Philadelphia back in May. My husband’s cousin got married, and I needed a dress that looked formal yet allowed me to dance the night away at the reception. I purchased this beautiful blue and gold brocade from Mood and made Vogue 9252, a high-low dress with a lined bodice and in-seam pockets.

Vogue 9252 dress
Vogue 9252 dress front

The brocade is just stunning in person. There is a slight 3D crinkle texture that is visible in a few of the photos I am posting. It also has a very soft, flowing drape, so I interlined both the bodice and skirt with silk organza to give the dress more structure and volume. The wrong side of the brocade is just as beautiful as the face, so a matching blue silk organza seemed like the perfect choice for interlining because it allows some of the wrong side of the fabric to be visible at the hemline. The bodice is lined with silk crepe de chine, and now, I want all my clothes to be lined with silk because it feels so good. If you haven’t tried sewing anything with silk lining, try it. A bodice like this doesn’t take much fabric to line either. However, the silk crepe de chine does creep if you try to cut it with scissors, so I use my rotary cutter instead to keep the fabric on grain while I am cutting it.

Both the organza and crepe de chine were also purchased from Mood in the color mazarine blue. The seam allowances in the skirt are finished with hong kong seams using pre-made, gold lamé bias tape. The hem is also bound with the same gold bias tape too. Half-inch wide navy horsehair was used in the hemline to provide more volume at the hem.

Vogue 9252 dress inside
The finished vertical seams of the interlined skirt before it is attached to the bodice. The pocket bag is inserted and the edges are serged.

While I already knew brocade frays like mad, I was very surprised how badly the bias tape frayed. If I could get it in place on the first try there was minimal fraying, but the lame did not tolerate seam ripping well. While I would have loved all the seams to be perfect, but there are a few wavy seams that I chose to leave in place instead of risking overworking the fabric.

Vogue 9252 uses cup sizes in addition to regular sizes to get a better fit. I used the size 10 with the B cup pattern pieces based off my overbust measurement. For reference, I have an overbust of 30.5 inches and a bust of 32.5 inches. Zero alterations were made to the pattern. In actuality, and based off my underbust measurement, I am a 30D which actually has the same volume of a 34B according to sister sizing. So maybe the cup sizes for the pattern are based off a 34 band size? Bra sizes are confusing.

Vogue 9252 dress side and pockets
Vogue 9252 dress back
Vogue 9252 dress back

I was in a bit of a hurry to finish the dress in time, and I didn’t notice the back waist seams don’t align at the zipper until I was getting ready at the hotel. I felt like an idiot even though I know no one else cares about that (or even notices). My husband however, noticed because I have taught him so much about clothing over the past few years. At least the mistake was on my back so I didn’t have to look at it while I was wearing it. And, most importantly, I can fix it before I wear the dress again.

Vogue 9252 dress hong kong seams

I threw in this silly picture just because I have to show off all my hard work I put into the inside of the dress.

The horsehair trim is encased within the hem and is not visible. After the raw edges of the hem were bound with bias tape, I stitched in the ditch of the binding to secure the horsehair braid to the lower edge of the wrong side of the hem. The hem was turned up, pressed into place, and hand stitched using a slipstitch catching only the organza interlining.

Vogue 9252 dress with hong kong seams

Special occasion garments are my favorite things to sew. It is such a treat to get to work with fine fabrics. Would you agree? Have you done any special occasion sewing lately?