Simplicity 4244 – Victorian Bridal Gown

On this day, 10 years ago, I got married. This post is going to be about my wedding dress, because it is the most elaborate and luxurious dress that I have ever made, and probably ever will make. It took me many hours of sewing, it was quite a challenging project – it was definitely the most ambitious project that I have every taken on.

The Pattern

We got married, on location, at a Victorian Homestead near where we live in Melbourne, Victoria. In keeping with the location I decided to make Simplicity 4244, a Victorian Bridal Museum pattern. I had always admired this pattern, and it was, at that time, in print and available at my local store. It is now only available from Simplicity as a premium print-on-demand pattern.

The pattern itself, was a fairly standard format Simplicity pattern, there were pattern pieces, and paper instructions with line drawings – which I found quite easy to follow and well within my comfort zone. However, this was the first time that I had come across a pattern that required self-drawn rectangles! I had to go and buy a quilting ruler for this purpose- and it had to be in inches, because this is an American pattern, not metric. This is, however, a purchase that I have loved ever since, I use the ruler all the time these days.

I also had to buy a fabric marking pen with disappearing ink, and some boning, which I had never used before. I used the plastic kind for this dress – it isn’t a corset style dress, the boning is used to hold the collar up!

So I managed to follow the instructions for all the little details such as the ruching on the lower front skirt, and the fiddly collar and sleeve trims. I worked on this pattern mostly while I was home alone, as my fiancé was travelling for work a lot at that time. I went through so many spools of thread that I lost count!

I found the construction to be strange, it read that the lining was to made partially inside out. This didn’t make sense to me at the time, and it still doesn’t. I put it together my own way, which worked beautifully to create a dress that looked almost as good on the inside as it does on the outside. The other weird thing is that I never could find the instruction for cutting the lining for the train, I was happily sewing along when I came to the instruction to sew the train lining…and I didn’t have one! And I didn’t have any spare lining fabric either, fortunately I did have spare of the main fabric, and was able to use that. But at the time I thought this was a pretty big error in the pattern.

The Fabric

To make this dress I used:

14 metres of ivory silk satin
5 metres of ivory silk satin lining
10 metres of ivory silk lace*
3 metres of champagne silk organdie

That’s over 30 metres of fabric!

*The lace came in double the width that I needed, but it also had the pretty scallop on both edges, so I actually bought 5 metres and cut it through the centre.

It is, as you would imagine, quite a heavy dress to wear. I bought the fabric from a local shop that specialises in Italian imported fabrics. They have a lot of special occasion and bridal fabric, in all colours, with lots of beading and embroidery as well. I had to do a special order for this fabric, it was all colour-matched, and it was rather expensive! I do still have 3 metres of the silk satin left over, as well as scrappy cuts of the lining, and portions of the lace – I’m saving those for first communion dresses.

Details, So Many Details

This is a dress with lots of details, including lace, boning, pleating, ruching and draping. There was a lot of hand sewing, and I mean a lot! There was also a lot of pinning (thousands of little lace pins – so that they wouldn’t mark the fabric), ironing, gathering, and making bias binding.

All the pleating was done using a tool called a Clothilde Perfect Pleater. Another item that I had never used, and didn’t even know existed. If you ever need to do neat, small pleats, I highly recommend getting one of these. It was a time consuming process to do all that pleating, but totally worth it in the end, it does give the dress a true Victorian feel, particularly for the dust ruffle along the hem and all the way around the train of the skirt.

I made over seven metres of this pleated ruffle. The fabric is folded into the Perfect Pleater and then the pleats are steam-ironed into place. The lace was attached before pleating. I used iron-on interfacing to hold the pleats in place.

The dress fastens with buttons at the front, I used Swarovski crystal buttons that are sort of flower-shaped. These were locally sourced from a specialty button shop. The button holes were torturous to create, there was quite a lot of fabric that had to be sewn through, and my machine did not particularly like it. My fingers did not particularly like cutting the button holes open – I got a couple of minor injuries doing that, I was so worried that I would slip and cut beyond the edge of the button hole.

One Modification

I made only one real modification to this dress, I added some rather large hook-and-eyes to the inside of the skirt. I had the eyes attached to the seam allowances at a point just below where the big bow at the back is, and the hooks about half-way along the train. This allowed me to gather the train up and create a sort of bustle with it, so that it wasn’t dragging along the ground after the ceremony.

Accessories

Okay, so just in case you are wondering…

Gloves: I wore fingerless gloves, they are beaded and hook over my finger with a small piece of elastic. They cover my lower arms, it was winter and quite cold on the day. I ordered these online and was prepared to dye them if they weren’t the right colour – but it must have been destiny, because they were a perfect colour match.

Veil: I bought my veil online, seriously, it was so much cheaper and exactly the same as items available in the bridal shops. This particular veil is single-layer chapel length, with satin binding around the edges, and has some swarovski crystals scattered over it. I didn’t have it covering my face at all.

Tiara: well, its kind of a tiara, I am wearing a flower “tiara” made from vintage silk velvet flowers. The colours were muted pinks, and there is pearl fringing along the edge. It was a one-of-a-kind find.

Bouquet: Its not actually a bouquet, it is made from feathers, it has a decorative, victorian styled brooch featuring a swarovski crystal at the centre, and it actually fastens onto the wrist, like a corsage. Which was actually very practical. Note that almost all of my wedding guests were already married, so there was no need to have a bouquet to toss, there would probably only have been my young pre-teen nieces fighting to catch it anyway.

Shoes: Victorian style lace up shoes, in white. And of course, a lucky sixpence!

Jewellery: In keeping with the old-world feel of the outfit I wore a vintage brooch in the shape of an orchid that belonged to my great-grandmother, and a watch that had belonged to my maternal grandmother.

Umbrellas: Of course, in August, it was raining here. I had an umbrella – not a parasol! I needed it to protect me from the rain. It is plain white fabric, with a ruffle at the edge, I also bought one in pink for my Matron of Honour.

A Beautiful Day

It was a lot of work, but I still absolutely love this dress. It hit all my princess-y dreams with the ruffles, the lace and the train, but it was still practical enough for walking, sitting and dancing!

And, I know that all these photos have been of me, because this is a sewing blog so its all about the dress! But it was also a big day for this guy too.

So, I hope that you have enjoyed a look at my wedding dress. It was the biggest sewing project that I’ve ever done.

Thanks for Reading!

6 Comments

  1. Helen Glover

    That dress is so beautiful!! You did a great job on it….perfection! Also, enjoyed the happy, happy pictures! Made me smile. Thanks for sharing and happy anniversary!

  2. Alyssa Wesselmann

    Absolutely beautiful!! As someone who makes historical clothing and dreams of making her own wedding gown one day, I loved reading this post! You did a great job! And now I feel like I need a perfect pleater!

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