A vintage shirtdress; Simplicity 6698
After spending close to a year on my wedding dress I…
I was incredibly lucky to have Maddie on my team throughout all the wedding prep and associated madness. She is my dearest friend, has always been in my corner and (after learning by helping me put this dress together) now my favourite sewing buddy. She has been an amazing support to me throughout my life, I really wanted this dress to show how much I care about her and value her friendship. Because I was wearing my own dress I couldn’t see it on the day… I took such pride in watching Maddie float around the reception venue in this fabulous creation, and am very pleased to report that she has worn it again!
We started with a pinterest board, which ended up being filled with dresses like this:
We knew we wanted a fit-and-flair style with a vintage vibe, high neckline, no sleeves and full skirt. Simple, right?
Enter, lace! This fabric stood out immediately as a great choice, vibrant and beautiful – like Maddie herself. I had avoided lace in my own wedding dress because I just didn’t want the drama and stress. I was worried that our simple fit and flair would turn into a nightmare with this fabric… But it was so beautiful…! Maddie (then not a sewer) encouraged me to believe that what we wanted would be possible if we gave ourselves enough time. Famous last words!
After chatting on the way home from the fabric score I sketched the master plan:
This is exactly how we constructed the dress in the end. The bodice would be an organza-underlined strapless silk section sitting underneath a flesh coloured sleeveless net bodice, onto which the blue lace would be appliqued by hand. BY HAND! We made this choice because the scale of the lace was so large and we wanted to control those motives, especially near Maddie’s face.
Thanks to Sally drafting the pattern was a cinch. Without access to a professionally drafted sloper we could never have completed this project on time. We made a toile of the sweetheart section and circle skirt, tweaked the neckline and then advanced to fashion fabric.
I was going to accept nothing less than couture perfection for the construction of this dress. The fabric was so gorgeous, and if Maddie wanted to wear it again I didn’t want the construction to be a let-down. Plus, short-cuts just seem less acceptable when you’re sewing for others.
We went “the full Khalje” on this thing (Susan Khalje). Every piece had its stitching lines carefully marked using wax paper and a tracing wheel, and thread traced. This took nearly 30 hours (Thanks, Mums!) Maddie took responsibility for constructing the mesh layer, a huge challenge for a beginner. Putting a button hole into mesh with invisible thread is as horrific as it sounds. Finishing the neckline and armholes by hand was also a fiddly and technically very difficult task.
I was responsible for the sweetheart layer underlined with organza, which was made up of 9 pieces. Most of the work was done late at night and I made a few stupid mistakes, but that’s life. I stitched the silk lining by hand, which was a pleasure because it was deliciously buttery. Once the two bodices were complete we cut the silk circle skirt and hung it for a few days to let the bias stretch out. After about 3 months of work we were ready to cut the lace, a very stressful experience!
Very quickly a pile of fabric became a very good-looking project. Maddie is a Type 1 diabetic so the dress needed to have a cheeky waist-seam pocket to allow access to her insulin pump. We cut a pocket from the silk lining and stitched a button hole into one side, allowing the line to pass through the dress. We high-fived for around an hour about this pocket, and still talk about how clever we were developing such a nifty solution. The pocket is totally invisible unless you know it’s there.
By this point my own dress was getting to a crucial point, and other wedding mayhem was occurring, so poor Maddie did almost all the dreaded applique work herself. She placed the lace motives onto the bodice and blanket stitched them in place with invisible thread. I am extremely proud of her, the result is sensational.
We had the belt made in a matching silk at Button Mania, and some buttons covered, too.
At the hairdressers on the morning of the wedding we were still hand stitching lace onto the bodice, which was crazy, but working on the dress really helped calm my nerves (I think this dress prevented a lot of bridezilla moments). We got it done about an hour before we left for the ceremony (yep…) but Maddie was the best-dressed lady in the room, IMHO.
All up, at least 8 people worked on this dress. Most of them were cutting-and-marking slaves, plus my Bridesman Brent who did a lot of quality blanket stitch on the lace motives the night before the wedding.
I really cherish the memories of making this dress. Sewing for others can be stressful because you want the result to be perfect, but pouring all your love and admiration for somebody into a garment is incredibly rewarding – especially when they love it!
Thanks for reading,