Friday, May 4, 2007

Wedding Dress Revisited

 
 
I can't believe that I have not yet done a post on the most magnificent (and most difficult) outfit I have ever made. If I do say so myself! That would be my wedding dress. I was married 6 years ago in September at a beautiful vintage inn near the coast. Shawn and I were married in the back garden with 40 guests watching. No word of a lie, Martha Stewart couldn't have done a better do!

And we planned it all within 3 months.
 
 
 
I am not a big fuss, must-wear-white type of girl. In fact I thought eloping to Vegas and getting hitched by Elvis sounded pretty cool at the time. But when an opening came up for the inn, completely by a fluke, there was no question in my mind that I was going to make my dress, it would be vintage, and it would not be white. So why not make it after one of my favourite ultimate sappy movie 'Somewhere in Time'. Yes I am one of those crazy groupies who loves that movie!
It was the dress worn by Jane Seymour when she first meets Christopher Reeve ('Is it you').

 

At the time, I had no serger, I had much less sewing experience than now, and I knew nothing about making a vintage dress. Plus I was new to the area/country and I had no idea where the best fabric finds were. And the 3 month time frame thing.
 
Heh, NO problem!
I went to the best place for fabric in the city, Britex fabrics where I was helped by a young gentleman I will never forget. I showed him a picture of the dress from the movie and within 10 minutes he had every bit of material I would need for the dress PLUS in the exact colour I was looking for. The dress was going to be made from silk crepe with a satin back, the circular and top shawl from a gorgeous draping silk georgette. All I needed was the lace. He quickly sent me upstairs to the lace lady. When I showed her the picture she smiled and pulled out this amazing vintage lace that had come from a warehouse in France. It was fricking lovely. Gorgeous. I had to have it. It was expensive, but hey, I was getting married, right? Unfortunately there was only a small amount of it, but she found some equally lovely lace to match.
Now all I had to do was design the pattern....did I mention I had never sewn with silk before?

Not having a pattern to work from, I spent hours pausing the video at different parts and drawing the design from eye as best I could. I decided to use a basic slip gown pattern with spaghetti straps as the first layer, but changed the neckline to go straight across. For the piece that layered on top and angled down toward the back in a half circle, I draped fabric on my dressform and designed the pattern from that. I'm not a pattern maker in the slightest, but working in 3 dimension worked fabulously. Besides, my line drawings were abominations!

 
Once I was finished with these two pieces, I kept them on the dressform and started playing with the various laces. I had also picked up some white lace from (eek!) Joann's that was actually quite nice. I started with that lace underneath, then the vintage lace, then the dimensional lace on top.


I pinned and pecked everything on until it looked right, then I took everything off and applied wonder under to all of the lace pieces, which took ages to cut around the intricate pieces. I stuck everything back on and ironed them on. I know using wonder under may sound a little appalling but it really holds everything in place very well. I hand stitched the lace as well, just to make sure nothing would come flying off during the wedding ceremony!
There was one last piece, a shawl type layer that joined just slightly under the arms and was worn on top of the dress pieces. It's a nice finishing touch but the pieces confounded me for a while. They would not hang right, would stick out at all angles. I finally ended up cutting the two front pieces on the bias, which ended up fixing the hanging problem.
Hemming the bottom of the dress proved interesting as there was only my husband to hem it and - he wasn't supposed to see the dress! I ended up standing on a pail, made him PROMISE not to look up and - he stuck himself with a lot pins, but managed to pin it for me.

The original dress from the movie...
The bottom of the dress was comprised of two layers of the white lace, and the 2 dimensional vintage lace on top. I added ivory coloured long gloves to the ensemble as well as some beautiful peach coloured vintage necklace and earrings and a small headband. I was shocked but it looked pretty much like the dress in the movie!

And mine!
 

Had I had a better picture of the actual dress from the movie at the time I would have realized there was a lot more beading than I had thought. I did a small amount of beading with pearls and swarovski crystals around the front neckline. I would have done more but I opted to keep it fairly simple as I was running short of time.

 
There was only a little last minute sewing details, and the dress worked out beautifully. People were amazed I had made the dress. It was a beautiful day all around and the wedding went off perfectly.
I look at my dress now and although there are some things I would have done better now, I still think it is just beautiful. Then there is the perfectionist in me...I would love to add more beading to it and change the lining to a better fabric. And I'm embarassed to even talk about my seams! But sometimes in life you do what you need to do...and somehow it it all works out in the end!
Perhaps I will tinker with it someday.
I went back to Britex about 6 months later looking for the lovely man that had helped me out so much that day. I don't think he remembered me but he was very happy to hear about the dress. I remember thinking he looked a little haggard.
I went in some time later and this time I had pictures of my dress to show him. The lace lady told me he was sick, had taken an indefinite leave. I don't know what happened to him, but wherever you are - thank-you.