Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making the Dress, part 1

Since I've been married for a couple of months now, I guess it's safe to talk about the dress. Momma MB swore me to secrecy before the wedding, but now I can let y'all in on the process of having my mother make my dress.

We started with two patterns from Vogue. I liked the geometric quality of this top, but, clearly, those weird little points had to go. They don't really say 'timeless' to me. And be warned that this top has absolutely no darts and for the non-sewers out there, darts are what give shape to a bodice. They are usually the way you make room for 'womanly' curves. Luckily, I don't have many of said curves up top, so it was possible, though it definitely still gave Momma MB a headache.

Then we added it to this skirt. We opted for the version without the train because we were going to be making a train out of some very special lace. When I started the whole wedding planning process, I didn't expect to be in such a full skirt, but as Momma MB and I discussed and tried on a few dresses, it became clear that with no bust and a somewhat 'ample' rear, it was going to be the best for my body type. And at 5'10" a full skirt is not going to 'overwhelm' me like I've heard some other ladies talk about. It would also prove to be the most comfortable. It didn't matter what was going on under there, no one was gonna know.


And here is my crudely done hybrid of the two line drawings above. You can see that we removed the notches from the front and the center piece from the back. It turns out that my back is so narrow, in comparison to my length, that Momma MB just had to remove the center piece and those two points that were a couple of inches apart in the original design were suddenly kissing on my back.
We used 10 yards of dupioni silk. There is a lot of yardage in this skirt. We may have been able to get by with less, but Momma MB ended up cutting out a few versions of the top so that we could get the fit just right. And since there is a very obvious direction to the weave of dupioni silk we wanted to make sure that we had enough room to fit our pieces with the weave going the way we wanted. (Momma MB wanted me to clarify that this is not the same as the 'grain' of a fabric in sewing. That is referring to the amount of stretch in each direction of the fabric there is and makes a difference with how it drapes on the body. I'm just talking about the fact that you can see lines in the fabric from the difference in thickness of the pieces of 'yarn' that the fabric is woven out out. Dupioni has almost no stretch and can probably be draped in any direction you like.)

personal picture of my dupioni silk
10 yards at $15/yd

Momma MB lined the top of the dress with cotton batiste. Batiste is usually used for christening gowns and ladies underthings. It's very smooth, fine and lightweight, it also feels lovely against your skin.
2 yards at $5/yd

We used poly satin to line the skirt, it's better for holding up the weight of the skirt.
8 yards at $7/yd

And in order to give some strength to the entire garment we used silk organza as an underlining. It was cut out and sewn individually to every piece of dupioni silk. You cut the pieces together, then sew them outside of the seam. In essence, you're just making a thicker fabric.

10 yards at $10/yd

The other ingredients of this dress were 8 yards of horsehair braid for the hem, good thread, a zipper, buttons (along with their silk cord closures) from my Grandmother/Mother's dress, and the lace from the same dress for the train. I would also recommend buying pattern weight paper because if you're anything like my Mom (read sewing perfectionist) you'll be demolishing the paper that comes with the pattern after all the changes that sometimes need to be made. In my case there was a lot of lengthening, and some adjusting for the smallish nature of my chest.

So, budget breakdown:
$150 for dupioni silk
$100 for silk organza
$10 for batiste
$56 for poly satin lining
$30-40 for patterns
$20-30 for the horsehair braid and other notions
$20 for other fabric to make a mock up of the dress before using the real stuff. Often people use muslin, but Momma MB used something similar to the poly satin lining so that the drape would be more similar to the silk.
So then add tax and such and you're looking at...
Low $400's for all the dress materials.

Certainly not bad for a one-of-a-kind, super important to me wedding dress. But if I had to pay Momma MB for her time, this dress would certainly be getting into $$$ territory. Thanks Momma MB!

And just for fun, here are some other patterns that I liked and considered. I was all over the map, like most of us are at some point in this process we call 'wedding planning.'


If any of you are out there making your dress, or having it made, don't be afraid to mix patterns and look in non-bridal patterns. There really aren't that many bridal dress patterns out there and many of them are 'dated' to put it nicely. Oh, and watch out for pattern sales, we were in a hurry to buy something while Momma MB and I were in the same city so she could put the pattern pieces on my body and take a look, but patterns go on sale seasonally and it can mean a savings of $15-20 sometimes. And good luck to Miss Sewing on her dress adventure.

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