I made my own wedding dress
This isn’t a ‘how to make a wedding dress’ post (although I have listed some homemade wedding dress resources at the end!). This is an anecdotal account of the process. Full disclosure: I loved and hated the process in equal measure.
It was summer, it was full of Pinterest moodboards and trying on real wedding dresses in shops and it was excitement and (good) tears and fun. Designing and dreaming it all up is the best. Letting your imagination run wild: FUN.
I loved this part of it – I wanted to stretch myself – I had 10 months till the big day – I had the time to make the Valentino couture gown I’d always dreamed of owning. When else would I have the opportunity to take on something like this again? I’d be stupid not to give it ago. I’d regret it. And I’d never feel me in any other dress.
And I was right. Mostly…
So after all the ‘research’ of the summer I’d decided that I basically wanted to make a Jenny Packham Nashville (by far the best wedding dress I tried on!) with the personal touches of a Hermione de Paula gown. I wanted it to be space themed and sea themed AND land themed. It had to tell our story. I wrote in my note book that I liked: fit and flare, v neck, tulle appliqué layer and veils – this was underlined and surrounded by hearts!
I looked into all the patterns, ones I could hack, ones that were dresses, bridal patterns, vintage bridal and decided that the V1032 from Vogue Patterns would be the best base for me to make it happen.
I don’t do toiles. I think it’s both a waste of time and materials. I’m not careless when it comes to making clothes; I would never knowingly make something that didn’t fit. But when you’re gonna buy 12m of fabric and another 12m of lining fabric – let alone all that tulle, I couldn’t risk not having a prototype.
TOP TIP/ Toile. Don’t ever attempt to make a garment of this importance without a toile.
Boy, am I glad I did! The pattern did not fit me well. The size chart was all wrong. I looked fat and frumpy and awful. I’m not a normal shape anyway. If sewing has taught me anything – it’s absolutely this. I needed some serious alterations and thank goodness I got a copy of Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book from the library. It guided me effortlessly through the dos and don’ts and I altered the toile to fit me like a dream. I was so happy with it.
Then I went on to choose fabric. This was a one-time wear garment so I had to make it responsibly. I chose a cotton cupro for the lining and closed loop bamboo silk for the main dress. I tried to find affordable cotton tulle everywhere but my google searches always seemed to end up futile. So I went to my local haberdashery and bought their synthetic tulle in frustration!
I got lazy.
I still had six months to go. All the other wedmin was in hand. I knew what I wanted to do. Had a toile that was perfect and a strong desire to eat all the Christmas cheese so I also got a bit tubby. Oops.
It wasn’t until the 26 January I actually cut my pattern pieces out. I spent that whole weekend constructing the dress, its lining and all its various layers. I then realised how much I had to do.. oh and just 4 months to go ’til the big day. By the end of the weekend I had a skirt.. a skirt that didn’t fit me.. LOL. I also decided I wanted to wear a bra and my dress didn’t accommodate that! So I changed the plan.
Then it just snowed all the time, right?
Winter was a low point in the whole “Anders makes a wedding dress”.
S**t I’m having a spring wedding. This is where I went through the whole creative process circle of doubt from “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER” to “THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER”.
I took on way too much embroidery. This was my downfall. I like to optimistically think that I probably could’ve finished my wedding dress in February had I gone for zero embellishment. The whole of February and March I spent embroidering that tulle.
TOP TIP/ Tulle. Try to avoid hand embroidering tulle.
It made sense for me to embroider the tulle layer separately then attach it later to the whole skirt. The dress couldn’t be constructed any further without this crucial tulle embroidery being completed.
By April I had serious anxiety around whether I’d actually get the wedding dress done. Yup, the embroidery wasn’t finished. I downed needle and focused on dress construction again. I still had so much embroidery to finish. It takes ages.
I attached my bodice to my skirt and tried it on. YAY it fits again. BOO I don’t like it. I had to step away from it. It was just a dress and I had a to-do-list as long as my arm with a wedding, my wedding, just six weeks away by this point.
Taking a break
I’d promised myself I’d make all four bridesmaid dresses and ties and pocket squares for the groomsmen too. Had I taken on too much? Absolutely! Was I going to get it done? Who knew!
I took a week out of dress making to construct bridesmaid dresses (post coming soon!) and it was a breeze, turns out sewing something this major ups your skill set massively. Four invisible zips inserted without issue, seams matched up perfectly and best of all, they fit. It was surprisingly this, more sewing, and four complete projects that got my groove back.
The finish line
I redesigned the bodice entirely, moving from the sweetheart neckline and boned bodice I’d made to a much less structured V-neck I’d wanted from the beginning. I changed the goal of the wedding dress too, whittling the wish list down to make it achievable. When you need to make things happen, somehow you just do it.
That being said, I remember the May bank holiday before the wedding standing in front on my maid-of-honour saying “I don’t love this dress”. It wasn’t finished and I just seriously wobbled. It was the only thing I had to wear and I just seen too much of it by this point the magic of the wedding dress had completely disappeared in this whole process. I spent every evening staying up into the early hours of the morning, embroidering, finishing and finessing that dress. AND I DID IT. I finished that dress. It wasn’t the same wedding dress I’d dreamt up last summer. It wasn’t even the same dress I cut out. But it didn’t matter. It was done. It was my dress and I didn’t want to get married in anything else. When I tried on the finished gown the magic came back.
It’s a fit & flare skirt with train, an empire-line waist band, v-neck princess seam bodice and embroidered tulle overlay. The top represents our love of star gazing. One of our favourite shows is The Sky at Night and even though we understand very little of the science, we’re always in awe. The stars are simple appliqué and I embroidered our star signs constellations on each arm. I wore it with my beloved Tatty Devine La Luna necklace
The waistband reads “I couldn’t be without you and the light that shines around you”. A lyric from Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Richard Hawley. I’d never listened to Hawley until Dan and I started dating. His lyrics always resonate with me. I’m forever thankful I was introduced to his music by the love and light in my life. It was nearly the first verse to God Only Knows but thankfully for my sanity it is ridiculous long…
Onto the waist and this is where I added in our love of nature. Our date, our woodland ceremony and our love of being outdoors. There’s even a little kite which represents our first dance, Held Like Kites by Arcane Roots. And on the back is some big beautiful clouds. It was very overcast the day we got engaged and as this was a story of us – I think it’s important to be realistic. Life isn’t all big clear and sunny skies.
The skirt would’ve been covered if I had the time, but what I did manage I was pleased with. The bottom of the skirt is covered in waves and the sea. The seaside is one of our favourite places to visit (I mean you can probably tell from the blog posts we write!!). Finally, there’s the big golden dunes of Camber Sands – where we got engaged.
It’s totally fucking random. It’s one of a kind. I made it. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I’m so proud of myself for doing it.
Also, a moment of appreciation for my shoes. I have exactly the same pair in brown from my Mibber days (if you know you know!). Made in Northampton, the beautiful shoes were featured in my engagement print Dan designed, I love those shoes. I knew they were made in white the season after, but that was 4+ years ago.
So I hunted them down! I sent the call out to friends, which in turn made it on to FB; I scoured eBay, Depop, Gumtree, ad boards etc etc. Relentless in my search, I downloaded every sale app, including Schpock. Bingo, a listing from 6 months ago for them. Were they still available? Would they reply? They were a size smaller too. But it was meant to be. They were worth all the effort. And I can wear them again, bonus.
Would you make your own?
I can see 100s and 1000s of imperfections every time I look at it. I can see the literal blood, sweat and tears spilled over the dress over months of agonising making. The mistakes, the corrections, the alterations, the emergency change of plans, the fit issues, and the things that didn’t make it.
Then again look how ridiculously happy I was on my wedding day! It really didn’t matter what I was wearing. I’m so glad I made it and I learnt and grew so much as a sewist. I felt like me. It was my wedding dress.
Also, turns out, if you’re having a good time, your dress will get destroyed. I had rips, spills and collected half the forest by the end of the evening. And I don’t care in the slightest (but so grateful she came back from the dry cleaners in one piece too.)
Okay, you really want to do this…
Well here’s a list of MUST resources, from hashtags and blog posts of those that have done it to classes, tutorials and books. Good luck.
Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture
I got mine from an inter-library loan
Book an appointment at dress shops to try gowns on. It’s important.
Oh and if you want any GO TEAM encouragement, I’d be happy to be a cheerleader for your project. Evidently, I know just how hard it is – feel free to get in touch 👯
On the day photography from Jess Soper Photography.
Read all about it! The big day that is, here.