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.
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.
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.
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.
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!