The Wedding Dress, pt. 2: Construction and Details

As promised, I’m writing about the construction of my wedding dress and showing you some details of it. Unfortunately, you won’t get to see the final product until after the wedding in July.

I’m very excited about the wedding and have started counting down on facebook and sending people messages. By the time the day is here, I may have some annoyed friends/family, but I can’t keep the excitement down.

Wedding planning has been a breeze and my fiance has been amazing. I’m so happy I get to marry my best friend. ❤

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On to the dress!

Construction of the dress took about 5 weeks and had a few setbacks. I did make other things during this time, though, and took breaks when I reached a setback. I took Tanya’s advice to heart and took it slow with the construction. I probably cut and sewed it in about 20-24 hours in total. I’m going to go over a few things I did for the construction, the setbacks, and show you detail shots throughout.

Cutting out the dress

When cutting this out, I had no problem with the bodice pieces. The size of the skirt pieces was larger than my cutting table, though, and I had some unfortunate slipping during that which didn’t get noticed until later. I’ll get to that later in the setbacks. Silk definitely needs a flat surface for the entire pattern piece. I ended up fixing the problem, but if I ever do something this elaborate again I am going to cut on the floor. Not ideal, but silk is a slippery ***.

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Hand basting the lace overlay

Hand basting the lace on to the silk was a lengthy process and a little frustrating because of the slipperiness of both materials and the lace’s ability to snag and pull if you looked at it wrong. I did this on four bodice panels and the cap sleeves. It made sewing those pattern pieces a lot easier, though, as the lace didn’t shift in the process.

Testing before sewing

I did a lot of testing before I sewed it on my actual dress pieces. The testing included:

Stitch length and tension:

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In choosing the stitch length and tension, I was looking for something that didn’t pull on the silk and was flat and tidy.

Button holes:

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In choosing the button holes, I was looking in particular for a hole that laid flat once it was cut open and had a shape I preferred. I also wanted a stitch length that would work to prevent unraveling of the silk fibers when buttoning up the dress.

Seam finishing:

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I always had it in my head to finish with hug snug, but I tested it out using the stitch length and tension from my testing, as well, to ensure it worked for the extra layers.

Hem finishing:

All hems were finished with hug snug. I chose not to hand sew a blind hem for the skirt, but instead do a machine hem. I just preferred the look and how it draped. I originally was going to do a rolled hem but my rolled hem foot didn’t like the silk….or liked it too much because it nommed it to hell.

I made sure that things worked before I sewed the dress. Silk charmeuse is very delicate and my lace was pretty prone to snags/pulls and neither enjoyed seam ripping. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have to do a bunch of that…although, I did have a bit of it…. :/

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Bodice

I had the bodice done relatively quickly minus the arm finishing and cap sleeves. The insides were easy to finish with hug snug. I did have some issues with the hug snug on the front princess seams, though, but that was worked out by narrowing the seams and then resewing the hug snug.

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Skirt

The skirt was a setback. As I said, the skirt pieces slipped during cutting and I never compared them to the pattern pieces to ensure they were cut correctly. I sewed them up and then sewed them to the bodice and then I put the dress on a hanger and my heart fell.

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Things were wrong:

1) The skirt side seams weren’t going straight down. They were angling back to the back of the dress.

2) The skirt side seams weren’t draping properly and were puckering near the hips.

3) The skirt hem was allllllll over the place: long in the back, short at the side seams, long in the front.

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I put the dress in the naughty corner and I thought about other things for a little bit. I compared the skirt pieces to the pattern pieces and realized the issue: not cut properly. I think the dress sat for about a week and then I unpicked the waist and skirt side seams. I recut the skirt pieces and then sewed the whole thing again. The side seams still pucker slightly at the hips, but are greatly improved.

Cutting the skirt for the hem was a whole other ordeal. I let the skirt hang for 48 hours and then I laid it on the floor and measured from waist to the 23 inches I wanted for the hem and marked blue dots all along the hem. I then pinned the entire hem up and tried the dress on to make sure it was even. I tried it on with the crinoline and without it. Then I hemmed the skirt.

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As a result of the cutting problem, the skirt ended up shorter than I thought it would be. My crinoline peaks out at the bottom, but I have to say, I am quite pleased with that look. It’s so pretty. Maybe not proper, but I love it so screw proper.

Buttonbands and collar

The buttonbands and the collar all have a lightweight interfacing and are all sewn with a handsewn slipstich in silk thread on the inside. It made for a really delicate and lovely finish. I worked hard to get my stitches really even for the that.

I marked the buttonholes 2 inches apart and sewed on 12 buttons with the silk thread in Xs.

I really love the buttons and how they compliment the lace.

There is a bit of floppiness in the button band and collar on the left side, but I am hoping that spray starch will solve that.

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Cap sleeves and armholes

I sewed the cap sleeves on and then discovered a set back: they were too small. The armscye was too small as well. I recut the armscye and then made an adjustment to the cap sleeve pattern piece and cut out new cap sleeves. I then finished the arms with hug snug on the inside. Unfortunately, the delicate fabric didn’t enjoy all the work in those areas and I am concerned about some larger holes from needles.

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The armscye also ended up too large so I had to add in an armscye dart to pinch in that area. Not the neatest dart, but it is just under my arm and won’t be noticeable.

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Silk organza underskirt

In order to offset the heaviness of a circle skirt with such a delicate fabric, Brooke suggested adding an underskirt of silk organza. I made it about 18 inches long and sewed it to the skirt at the waistband and at the button bands. I did have a draping issue at the button bands with the underskirt and skirt pieces not draping together correctly. I had to recut the skirt piece a little and that fixed the issue. The underskirt also had a wonky hem because of cutting… :/ It’s still not the greatest hem, but works fine for under the skirt.

The waistband was then finished with two pieces of hug snug with all the layers of fabric. I was originally going to use grosgrain ribbon, but opted for the hug snug again instead. It makes for a nice finish.

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Cleaning the dress

If you ever ever ever decide to work with this type of white silk for anything at all, do yourself a favour and clean up your iron before hand. It was not so clean for this and then I had to wash my entire dress to get rid of black waxy stuff from my iron from interfacing glue and etc.

I hand washed it and then put it in the washing machine for a rinse and a spin while at the same time my heart was spinning!

It came out beautifully and only one black smug didn’t come out during the process, but it was on the inside of the button band. I got it out after the fact, though.

I actually have a new iron now, because that one overheated and melted a bit of fabric. Hopefully, the self-clean option on the new iron will work.

I still have the sash to make out of red satin. I’ll put that into my next post in the wedding series.

Next Up:

The Lingerie and I will share the flower girl’s dress, as well.

Also in the series:

April: The Wedding Dress, pt. 1: The Design, the Muslin, the Fabric, and the Outfit

Stay tuned for:

June: The Wedding Lingerie

Also in June: The Flower Girl’s Dress and Sash

July: The Wedding Dress, pt. 3: The Reveal and the Day.

The Wedding Dress, pt. 1: The Design, the Muslin, the Fabric, and the Outfit

The Design:

When I first started researching what I wanted to make for my wedding dress, I came up with some very similar pictures. All of them had a sweetheart neckline and an overlay of lace or mesh. I eventually found Simplicity 1606 and had grand plans of making it in a combination of pink and white and burgundy accents.

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I want to add cap sleeves to the dress and I want a fuller tea-length layered skirt. This is my inspiration dress:

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I made the muslin and was not happy with it. You know those pinterest fails?

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Yeah, it felt like that…

So, I went back to the drawing board. Okay…the pinterest boards and started pinning gorgeous shirt dresses.

Everyone knows I love a shirt dress! There is no better piece of clothing to wear than a shirt dress with a flared skirt.

I felt like a wedding shirt dress could be my dream wedding dress. I still wanted a full tea-length circle skirt on it. I got McCall’s 7084 around Christmas time and really loved the princess seams, flared skirt, cap sleeves, and the lace overlay in view C.

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All I needed to do was lengthen the skirt and do an FBA on the bodice.

The Muslin

The muslin process went incredibly well for this dress. I did pattern tissue adjustments and only created one muslin. Sorry just cell phone pictures for this process. I made a 2 inch FBA with size 22 using Mary’s method for princess seam FBAs. The FBA added 4 inches in total to the finished measurements for the bust and 6 inches to the waist. I also did a 1 inch narrow shoulder adjustment. Then I lengthened all of the skirt pieces by 4 inches. I further lengthened them by an additional two inches when I cut out my fabric.

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My muslin fit was amazing. The princess seams are perfect and there is no pulling across the bust where the buttons will be.

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Some tweaks in the collar had to be made (reduced the length of the collar stand by an inch in total), but other than that the muslin was perfect and truly felt like it was meant to be. After twirling around in the muslin, I decided to redraft the skirt from panels and godets into a full circle skirt do reduce the amount of seams I would need to make in the delicate silk and because I wasn’t sold on the look of the godets in a solid colour. It wasn’t difficult to cut the skirt pieces in three panels and I ended up using the muslin skirt itself as a pattern piece when I cut into my fabric.

The Fabric

I went back and forth and back and forth and did tons of research and visited tons of fabric stores and looked endlessly online for this and that and the other thing.

Getting me to settle on fabric was a difficult process, but I wanted it to be right for me.

I started off not wanting white. I started off wanting dusty rose and having burgundy or wine accents. I then thought maybe champagne with burgundy. Ultimately, I just drank a bottle of wine and clicked buy.

My main fabric is a white silk charmeuse from Dharma Trading. Dharma Trading sells wholesale dyeable fabrics in white or black along with fabric paints and dyes and many other things. I ordered samples from several different places. My samples from fabric.com were pretty disappointing. They were synthetic materials and I really wanted a silk charmeuse, because I’ve worked with it before and it sews like a dream, feels amazing next to the skin, and has a lovely drape that makes me so happy. The samples from Dharma Trading did not disappoint. I also got a few others at the time, as well, and might order again in the future. Dyeing my own fabric is definitely on my list of things to do in the future. I also got a few yards of silk organza from Dharma Trading, as well. You’ll find out what I used that for in my construction post.

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I was originally going to dye the white silk using tea or coffee to make it a champagne hue, but then I got an adorable “no” from my fiance who said he never gets to see me in white and that he really loved the idea of being traditional in that way. I was fighting hard against traditional things and I still am, but my fiance’s look was so sweet… I couldn’t say no. I never really do say no with him. It’s so difficult when he is so cute and dreamy and wonderful. *swoon*

Now that you’ve stopped gagging, I’ll go on about my fabric.

My lace fabric is from fabric.com. It’s not the best quality lace out there and is stretch lace, but it’s quite lovely as an overlay on the silk. I will be hand basting it to the lace to make sure it doesn’t move during the sewing process.

I have a synthetic cranberry satin for the waist tie. I didn’t want to use a silk for something that will be pulled and tied and possibly stepped on by family as they swoop in for hugs and kisses. I also got enough to make my sister a sash as one of my bride’s maids.

Finally, I got white rayon hug snug to bind the seams from fabric.com. My wedding dress will be pretty on the inside and on the outside.

I also ordered a lace in a pink blush from fabric.com for the lingerie, which I will talk about in a different post as I plan it out.

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I’ve now got the whole dress cut out and ready to sew:

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Creating the Outfit

I ordered was a tea-length petticoat crinoline in ivory from ReShashay. They are made of nylon organza and netting. They come with instructions to decrinkle them in the shower. It worked really well. The ivory looks quite lovely under the white silk. I originally ordered the crinoline during the champagne coloured fabric phase, but am still happy with my decision to keep it as ivory. It looks very cute under the white silk.

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If you are ever in the market for a crinoline, I really love the one I have and would definitely recommend it to other people. I could have gone through the process of making my own, but damn all that gathering and all that fabric can’t really be beat with a $36 price tag. Saves me time/money!

My shoes were also back and forth in my head. I wanted pink….red…..white…….etc.

I settled on gold and kept pinning all these lovely gold shoes. I looked into custom made ones (which were way too expensive for me) and then one day while at the mall I walked into Call it Spring and fell in love with these two matching pairs:

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The wedge heels were $40 dollars and will be worn during the ceremony. I’m not really a heel person (although, I could actually walk in these ones comfortably!) so I figure at some point I will want to burn them and put on cute flats. I picked up gold flats in a similar material as the heels for $35.

And, of course, I couldn’t resist finding buttons that matched (I have 12 buttons in total):

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I have no plans yet for jewelry, hair/nails, or the bouquet. It will all come together eventually. 🙂 I’m a pretty relaxed Bride-to-Be.

Next Up:

Sewing the dress, of course.

Stay tuned for:

May: The Wedding Dress, pt. 2: Construction and Details

June: The Wedding Lingerie

Also in June: The Flower Girl’s Dress and Sash

July: Wedding!

The Wedding Dress, pt. 3: The Reveal and the Day.

I promise I will be using the DSLR from now on so that you can see the details really well and don’t have to contend with shitty cell phone pictures.