2016 has been a really interesting year for me sewing-wise, but so far my biggest sewing achievement has gone unblogged. The photos came through just in time to write this post before the end of the year, and I can’t wait to tell you all about my experience making a wedding dress and silk robe for my friends’ wedding.
The bride’s vision was a knitted lace, backless dress. The dress was made in collaboration with the mother of the groom, Helen, who made the extraordinary knitted part of the dress. My job was to make the silk underdress, which would be combined with the lace knit overlay. I was also tasked with the job of designing and making a floor length silk robe with a slight train.
The underdress was necessary, not only to protect the bride’s modesty, but also to provide some structure to support the knitted layer and hold the shape of the garment when the two were sewn together. This was of particular concern as the wool had a tendency to stretch out.
The main challenge we faced making this dress was that the bride lives in Glasgow so I posted each toile to the bride and carried out fittings via FaceTime and Facebook messenger. I did visit her once in person to adjust the dress, which was helpful, but probably the saving grace in the end was that we made a duct tape dress-form of the bride’s torso so that we could use it to check the fit as we went along.
My process for making the silk part of the dress began by making the bride’s bodice and skirt blocks. I then started drafting the dress and sent her the first toile to try on.
The first toile was very low cut, all the way down to the small of her back. It occurred to us early on that this design feature could prove quite impractical, as it would be awkward to wear and dance in without it falling off. I did a lot of research about constructing backless dresses, mainly online and with reference to other patterns and shop bought garments. We concluded that if we made it so low cut we would either need to have something holding it together at the back along the top of the shoulders, or we would need to stick the dress to her on the day to keep it in place.
In the end we decided this just wasn’t going to be practical and it made sense to raise the dress at the back closer to her natural waist, so I redrafted the pattern.
In total I made 10 toiles before the final garment. Some were due to fitting alterations, but also the style of the dress evolved quite a lot throughout the process as the bride tried them on and clarified her vision. The final version ended up being a bit of a pattern hack as very close to the deadline we changed the bodice style from princess seamed, empire line to the lingerie slip like style. I used the cup piece from a vintage lingerie pattern (New Look 6029) to save myself time and merged it with my dress to give the final garment you see in the pictures.
The under-dress was made with silk dupion, which was a beautiful weight and provided some structure for the knitted overlay. The two were made independently and then sewn together at the zip. The dress was sewn partly on the machine, but finished by hand. I used satin bias tape to finish the hem and the neckline. The straps were rouleau made with the silk dupion. I sewed the zip in by hand.
I took some photos of the underdress before we attached the knitted layer.I apologise for the terrible lighting. I was very busy that month so they were taken at 6am before I went to work. The sun was only just rising, so I didn’t have much daylight to work with. I was actually lying on the floor to get the full length of the dress in the shot. Although they aren’t the most beautiful photos I wanted to include them to give you an idea of what the underdress looked like before we combined the two.
Also my over-critical brain wants me to mention that the dress could have done with a good steam before these photos, but oh well 🙂
This week the happy couple, Jim and Sam, sent me copies of their wedding photos so here is the dress and robe on the day. It was an amazing feeling to see Sam walking down the aisle in mine and Helen’s creation. We were very proud. It was a first for both of us.
The robe was made with the same fabric as the underdress. I made an outerwear and sleeve block from the bride’s measurements. I then drafted the pattern, which was floor length with a slight train. The robe had no closure at the front, which meant it was very simple and elegant in style. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the full length of the robe. The bride wore it as she walked into the hall for the meal and it billowed out behind her beautifully.
P.s.If I manage to get hold of a photo of the full silk robe I will share it on Instagram and update this post.