Sewing a wedding dress: The Big Reveal
Well! After trawling the internet for other home-sewn gowns, drafting…
Because I enjoy suffering I used no pattern for my corselet layer of my wedding dress. I think I will be very proud to declare this to the first person who asks (no one will ever ask).
But I wasn’t just freehanding with a pencil, armed with my professionally drafted bodice sloper I took a deep breath and began the process of mocking up the corselet layer of my dress. Beyond some inspiration and guidance from Mel and Laura Mae I had no idea what I was doing and just proceeded in a fashion that seemed reasonable. But that’s why I love to sew, no experience and a very sensible approach often gets very respectable results.
The first thing I did was watch Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress Craftsy Class from beginning to end, this really enhanced my knowledge of hand stitching and the importance of marking all stitching lines carefully. I highly recommend this class to anyone else sewing their own wedding dress.
Next I took my moulage and carefully traced off the bodice back and front between the armscye and the hip. I am a total convert to waxed tracing paper!
You can see from the picture above that the moulage has darts. I wanted to eliminate these darts by splitting the bodice front into 4 pieces, I achieved this by simply tracing the corresponding side of the dart onto its own piece of muslin, and then completing the piece :
Then I plopped my finished pieces onto some very cheap poly canvas and cut around them. You will notice some bust-like curves appeared in the pieces at this point. I am very slim through the waist but quite busty, and I knew I wanted a seamed, underwired situation to keep everything exactly where it should be. Having none of the skills required to produce this ‘situation’ at this point I decided to just fit the corselet with boob holes where boobs should be. This was actually a wonderful strategy as it allowed me to perfect the fit right through the ribcage prior to adding the bust.
I say this like it was a picnic, in reality I took a stupid guess at the under-bust line in the picture above and this proved to be a near fatal mistake. Susan Khalje was in my head telling me to leave generous seam allowances, I ignored her with very annoying and time consuming consequences! But that’s for a future post. Lesson learned: Susan K always knows best.
Armed with my four front pieces and fantasy under-bust seam I spent what felt like forever thread tracing them.
Can you see my green thread? I decided to mark the waist on all pieces with a different coloured thread. This was a fortuitous decision as there are lines going all over the place by the time I was finished. I had never taken the time to mark up a toile like this before but I am never going back to the old ‘pin and hope for the best’ routine.
You can take several stitches at a time as demonstrated above, this speeds up the process. But remember to always work on a flat surface lest you start bending the seam around and separate the two layers.
Once all of the front pieces had been cut and thread traced I matched the stitching lines and sewed them up.
I felt like a bridal couture ninja at this point for simply managing to match the waist across 4 pieces of canvas. I completed the back in exactly the same way, but I didn’t have to make allowance for the bust.
I put it on inside out and checked the fit:
Pretty good! My modesty (and probably your browser preferences) prevents me from dishing up a front-on shot of this stage, but the fit was really great, and much better than I could have achieved with an out-of-the-envelope solution. You can already see in this picture that I removed way to much fabric where the under-bust meets the side seam… oops.
I made a couple of adjustments, moved the zip to the back and took another look:
…without any boning to keep those creases at bay I was quite happy with the fit at this stage.
I then let about 4 weeks go by as I had no clue how to draft, engineer or attach seamed bra cups without a pattern or any experience. I felt my way through this nightmare in the following fashion:
I started by catch stitching all of my seam allowances into place. The poly canvas I was using could not be ironed flat, so this was a good chance to practice some hand sewing. Then my step mum Judy spent almost 30 minutes with a purple pen tracing the real under-bust line by following the underwire of my bra. Readers, this is love. You cannot trace your own underwire without moving your arms around and thus moving your underwires. It was at this point it became obvious that I had cut away too much fabric at the side seam, and so had to attach a substantial wedge of calico in this area to each side.
I traced off one side of my moulage, and carefully matched the seams and other markings to pin it right on top of my toile.
I then pinned through the new purple stitching line.
I cut this piece out and thread traced it. I made a mirror image of it for the other side and sat down to attach them.
… and here comes the nightmarish part!
Essentially you are sewing a smiley face to a frowny face. Just pin pin pin pin and remind yourself that it will work because the seams are exactly the same length. I hand basted very carefully, twice before taking this to the machine. I am not sure if Mel put her pins right under the machine but I simply do not have the skills to control these curves with pins alone.
Tadaa! I made the worlds ugliest bra. Next I put the toile back on over my favourite bra and armed with my trusty purple pen traced all of the cup seaming onto new calico pieces.
I then cut along the purple lines and traced these pieces (adding seam allowance)
I traced two copies of each side and sewed them up, catching the seam allowances down so that I did not lose my mind trying to sew across that top seam.
You’ll observe that this completely ruined my beautifully traced under-bust line, I had to true this up.
I sewed in each cup in the smiley-faced/frowny-faced fashion and did make some subtle adjustments to the seaming in the cups for a more flattering look. The next step was to unpick everything, use the pieces above to underline some of my black canvas and sew it all on again.
In the next post I’ll go through adding the underwire channel, underwires and spiral steel to complete the corselet.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing more adventures as I sew my wedding dress one step at a time.