How to sew your own wedding dress
Something sewing has taught me is that if you don’t give it a go, how do you know you can’t do it? That’s probably true of a lot of things in life as well but for me, when I’m sewing, it’s sort of become my new motto. If I haven’t tried something before I arm myself with as much knowledge as I can from books, the internet or other people and then I dive right in.
Actually if we’re being really honest, sometimes I just dive right in without the knowledge and then see what happens It doesn’t always turn out badly. I think a lot of new sewers hamstring themselves by forgetting that simple sentence. They have heard, “zippers are hard” or “setting in sleeves can be really tricky” amongst other sewing myths so they avoid sewing items that require these skills when really what they should be doing is reading up a bit of advice and then just giving it a go.
So my wedding is over, I am Mrs Curious Kiwi, I had a wonderful day and I am really happy that I chose to make my own wedding dress, something I hadn’t done before (obviously) and wasn’t sure I’d be able to do but I gave it a try anyway. Sure there were times when I was pulling my hair out wondering what the heck I was doing. There were a few tears and one tantrum, a lot of stressing and some swear words but I also gained some new sewing revelations and a whole lot of confidence in my abilities.
One of the new sewing skills I came away with and had never tried before attempting it on my wedding dress was boning. Putting boning into a dress was a bit of an enigma to me, surely it was going to be difficult and require a little bit of luck and some sort of sewing magic. I had my first go on my muslin and it was nowhere near as difficult or mysterious as I imagined it to be. Boning is now added to what I call my “Sewing CV”.
There are plenty of other seamstresses who have successfully made their own dresses, they were a huge inspiration and my main motivation and I enjoyed seeing their journeys as much as I enjoyed my own. We all tackled our dresses in different ways to suit our wedding styles, budgets and sewing skills.
The first wedding dress I saw someone make was by sassymulassy on BurdaStyle, I was already engaged at the time and it definitely planted the seed. Since then quite a few more have popped up and they are all amazing feats of sewing skills.
My far my biggest inspiration was following Melissa of Fehr Trade. Her wedding dress journey (and in fact her whole wedding) was a huge motivation for me and you can read about her amazing dress story here.
Some other links I found useful were:
- A practical wedding
- Adding a corset back to your wedding dress
- Orchids in May
- Wedding dress tips
If you are thinking about tackling this scary but rewarding project why don’t you check out their stories for a little bit of courage. My wedding dress posts can be found here and I thought I’d jot down a bit more of my internal thinking below.
(WARNING: This may end up as another epic post, you may want to go grab a cup of tea first and a sandwich)
DISCLAIMER: I’m not going to pretend to be an expert at this since I’ve only made myself one dress (and certainly don’t have any intentions of needing to make a second one, well not for myself anyway) but I thought going through the steps I took to make my dress would help others who are considering doing the same but are maybe not quite over the line yet.
First things first: This project is pretty important, like me, it might be your most important project so far in your sewing life. There are going to be enough problems and hiccups along the way and the last thing you need is problems with your sewing machine/s so if it’s been a while or they aren’t quite running how they should you might want to book them in for a service. I regularly maintain my machines so they were fine but I still gave them both a through clean and an oil as per my machine manuals. Also don’t forget to sew some scraps after freshly oiling it to take away any excess and test it again if you’ve left it sitting for a while, the last thing you want is dirty oil on your pristine white fabric.
Next, do a bit of internet research, this can get a bit overwhelming but just gather a few images of dresses and details you like. Then edit and make a folder of your most favourite things.
If, like me, you aren’t at the point in your sewing life that you can draft an entire wedding dress from scratch, don’t panic, check out all the great patterns available from the major pattern companies and don’t forget the independents too. One pattern might not cut it, you might need to use one as a base and make alterations or combine two patterns or more to create your dream dress. Also don’t forget to look at the formal dress patterns too, some of them would look amazing as a wedding dress in the right fabric.
Once you are familiar with the patterns that are out there go to a dress shop and try on some wedding dresses. You need to do this, I know from experience that the dresses I had in my head (and millions saved to a flash drive) did not look as good on me as I imagined and instead I ended up going for a dress style that I initially thought I wouldn’t like.
Here are my Wedding Dress (pretend) Shopping tips:
- Start early, especially if you are shopping on the weekend, the shops get really busy fast. I began at 9am and still had to wait inline for about 30 minutes before I could start trying on.
- Don’t mention to anyone in the shop that you intend to make your own dress, I don’t think they’d really like that.
- Take at least 2 un-related females with you (they’re more honest – although the girl next to my change room had her brother helping out…weird) and make a fun day out of it, dress shopping in the morning followed by a yummy lunch, you’ll need it, it’s quite hard work!!
- Don’t look at the price tags, remember you aren’t buying so don’t let those little tags deter you from trying anything on.
- Start by choosing some dresses that you think you will like (they usually start you with 6) and try them on, eliminate the ones you don’t like as you go and get more if you need too.
- While you’re getting laced up send your girly minions out to pick a wildcard dress each, something they want to see you in, this is fun and will get you trying on styles you might not have thought of.
- Keep going until you love what you see in the mirror.
- Most dress shops aren’t too keen to let you take photos of the dresses because a lot of people do this and then get the dresses made overseas for cheap. You can try asking but if they say no then get them to write down the dress(es) you like and you might be able to Goggle them (although I had no luck with my favourite, the name was too generic) but if you girly minions are clever you might be able to get a few sneaky pictures.
Once you’ve made up your mind stick to it. You will get a lot of suggestions from a lot of different people, don’t let them stray you off the path to your perfect dress.
Everyone’s got an opinion but you don’t have to take every suggestion on board, I know this sounds cheesy but listen to your heart.
Having said that, when it comes to buying your fabric, the ladies at your local fabric shop can be pretty expert at helping you with fabric selections, listen carefully to their advice
Now go back to those pattern websites and look for a pattern or patterns that closely resemble your dream dress and buy it/them in your size.
If you are short on time don’t forget you can always buy a downloadable pattern.
If you have never made one before or never make one ever again in your sewing life this is the time you MUST make a toile/muslin.
I started by making my pattern up as per the envelope out of a good weight calico, the kind of weight I imagined my final fabric choice to be made from. If you want to use some fancy fabrics then this is also the time to do a little pre-dress fabric investigation so you know what’s out there and whether you need to buy fabric and notions online.
Once you have your first trail dress finished you can start making any alterations. I hit this using two different methods. For the pleat, corset back & neckline I worked my changes in the calico dress directly and the transferred my changes to the paper pattern pieces. For the internals I altered the paper pieces and created new ones based on the ones I had. You could also combine two or more patterns to create your masterpiece as well. Use whatever methods that suit your skill level and are familiar with. This can take a bit of time and be frustrating but now is the time to learn if what you want to do is achievable.
If you set a budget make sure you allow some contingency for sewing mishaps, or that amazing trims you saw and MUST have but is more than you thought it might be.
Get your shoes sorted so you know if you need to add extra length into the pattern (I added 4cms!).
It sounds obvious but allow yourself plenty of time, you don’t want to be hemming your dress on the morning before the ceremony. Once I chose my pattern I gave myself one month to sew the muslin and one and a half months to make the actual dress. I probably didn’t need nearly that much time but I was generous because I work full-time so that meant my sewing time was limited to evenings and weekends. I work better under a little bit of pressure so I found myself slacking off procrastinating early on and most of my dress got finished in the last few weeks.
Believe in yourself and your sewing abilities because you truly don’t know how much you can achieve until you’ve tried.
Don’t forget to share your amazing dress with me when your done