Sewing My Own Wedding Dress

This project took up about 4 months of my sewing time, with only one interstitial project–my February Tiramisu. Boy was I ready to be done when it was finally done!

I started by watching Susan Kalje’s Couture Dress course on Craftsy, and though I didn’t use the included pattern or finish all the steps, I really got a lot out of her tracing, thread-tracing and muslining process. In the end, I had to modify some of the design features of the pattern I chose, not only to get the fit I wanted, but also because the pattern didn’t achieve what I’d been attracted to in the envelope pictures.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Long ago I promised process posts. I didn’t manage that, and I don’t mind too much. But I can at least describe the whole thing a bit.

First, the pattern: Butterick 5750. B5750 It’s supposed to be made in a light crepe, but I think it would probably work best in a really, really light chiffon. I worked on the fit and design in three steps, first fitting the muslin to myself, then transferring those adjustments to practice fabrics and sewing up the dress in a poly crepe, then adjusting the design features on the poly crepe, then making up the dress in the beautiful silk crepe and crepe-backed satin that I chose for the final dress.

The muslin: The first muslin was terrible, as you see here. I made about 3 bodice muslins before moving on to the skirt and then on to the practice dress.

IMG_2104.JPG IMG_2109 IMG_2111

After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!
After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!
Draping came out more like poofing!
Draping came out more like poofing!

The practice dress: When I first got the bodice sewn up I discovered that the soft draping and folds didn’t function at all as I’d expected, at least not in the poly crepe.

So after some thinking, I went with a hybrid approach, using the lining pattern piece for the left bodice, and working out my own pattern of pleats and drapes for the right bodice, based on slashing and spreading the right bodice lining piece.

Ironing a lot of silk!
Ironing a lot of silk!

The silk: I made some mistakes with the silk, but not too bad considering the stress levels and how over my head I was in some respects. I also purchased and viewed the Craftsy course on Sewing With Silks, but didn’t find it too enlightening. I didn’t have a proper cutting table, so I had to let some of the quarter-circle skirt pieces hang over the edge of the table, which distorted them some.

Apparently we're not supposed to use rotary cutters?
Apparently we’re not supposed to use rotary cutters?

I also didn’t experiment with sandwiching the silk in tissue paper or anything like that. And I used a rotary cutter, which may be a no-no, but anyhow, it all worked out. Once the dress was together I let the bias skirt hang on the dressmaker’s dummy for a couple of days, evened up the hem, and all was well.

One quarter of the skirt
One quarter of the skirt

The design features I added were:

  1. I made the right bodice piece in a blue crepe-backed satin
  2. I made 1/8 of the skirt in the same blue
  3. When the straps wanted to slide of my shoulders a bit, I added lingerie keepers, which worked a treat
  4. and when all was said and done (and my draping still didn’t behave quite as I liked), I made a 4-inch wide sash of the blue silk as well.

All in all, this was an arduous project but one I am so very glad I did it. Shortly before finally biting the bullet and buying very expensive fabrics, I went out looking for a dress I could imagine wearing for my wedding. It wasn’t out there.

Getting there!
Getting there!

So I made the dress I was dreaming of, and it turned out better than I may have deserved it to, considering how above my skill level the project was.

Techniques learned:

  • Wax-paper tracing
  • Thread-tracing seam lines
  • Adjusting a muslin
  • Creating my own pleats in a pattern piece (only half-successfully, but what the heck?)
  • Proper catch-stitching for the rolled hem
  • Thread-crocheted lingerie keepers.
Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor
Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor


Well, that took a while!

So, it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. I LOVE reading blogs and pay attention to all your crafty and personal ups and downs, but posting just didn’t happen in 2013.

What did happen was a LOT:

1. I sewed my own wedding dress! This took AGES and I was so excited to sew something new when it was done, but there’s not been that much time for sewing since.

We had SO much fun at our wedding!
We had SO much fun at our wedding!

2. Honeymoon–I took a lot of me-mades on our 3 week trip to Berlin and Paris, and really enjoyed sporting my own styles all over Europe.

3. Moving, and moving again–We returned to SF in June and within a couple of weeks it was clear to us that we had to move. Preferably to a better neighborhood and a bigger apartment. After much looking and obsessing and a couple of false starts (one of which included PACKING for a week, then not signing the lease), we found a great place in a classy 1930 building in a whole new town. We’re in Redwood City now, about 27 miles South, with 4 full-grown redwoods right outside our front door, a bike-commute for my husband, and about 8% of the homeless person sightings we had in our old neighborhood.

I also gained space for a dedicated sewing corner! It’s small, but it does the trick. I’ll take you all on a tour soon.

4. But again?? Yes, we moved to the building we loved, and discovered on the day we moved in that the lady upstairs from us was (tragically) terminally ill. And the next morning we confirmed that she had an oxygen pump running 24/7. Over the next few weeks we confirmed that she had a usual 4AM wakeup (for meds) and often dropped the tv remote sometime thereafter when she fell back to sleep. It was an awful situation, as the constant hum had us on edge at all times and there was not way (even with earplugs and a white noise machine) to avoid being awakened in the night several times per week. That situation did (sadly) resolve in about two months, but by then we’d also started to have issues with our downstairs neighbor’s TV volume coming right through our floor.

So when the upstairs place was made ready, we sucked it up and decided to take on a little more rent and a LOT more exercise, and moved everything we owned up one floor. Miraculously, it only took about a week. We’re pretty well settled here now, and I’ve gotten to start sewing again. I did make two quick and easy garments in the first apartment here, but then it was already time to pack it up again. I’m really looking forward to executing on the long list of projects for which I already have patterns and fabric.

5. Oh yes, and between those two moves, I went to Shanghai for a week for work, and took 4 days on the way back to explore Kyoto with my Papa and stepmom. I had zero time for shopping or even a trip to the tailor, but I’m hoping to go again for work within the next year, and remedy that. Hopefully my husband will be able to come with me next time too, and we can tack on some time for Beijing.

6. We hosted my Mom and stepdad in our new place for Christmas this year too. They didn’t stay with us, but we spent most of 3 days with them right at the start of our much-needed winter time off, which was a little hard. Just now, two days before returning to work, am I starting to feel recovered enough to have creative energy again. But hey! It’s Christmas, and the day after is also my birthday, and I turned 40! We had to celebrate. J

So, those are the main highlights of my year. I did NOT get much sewing done, but that which I did was really great. More on that soon.