Enjoying the chill in the air and dreaming up designs in velvet and wool.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How A Dress Happens

 It has been a month of hard work. I don't have the official photos yet of this recent custom wedding dress job, but I promised the bride a little mini-documentary on how the process went, so here it is for all of you!

First I gathered supplies - fabrics (silk, lace, lining, interlining, interfacing), pins (several hundred of them), and my design drawing and customer's measurements for reference.

Cut out pieces - here we have heavy fusible interfacing pinned to silk, prior to fusing it on. (This is half of the back bodice.)

Start sewing everything together! I used an organza interlining on the entire dress to give strength to the fragile silk. Here you see just the organza skirt and the fusible interfacing of the bodice front.

At every step, I kept taking measurements to make sure the pieces will go together correctly (since I drastically altered and combined a couple of base patterns) and also be the right size and shape for the customer.

Once I had the "innards" of the dress all set, I began working on the skin - silk, in many places overlaid with lace. This customer chose a great antique-floral lace in an ivory that matched the silk perfectly.

I always feel a little sad, cutting lace...it feels like I'm killing something. (But my fantastic Gingher shears - a birthday gift from a dear friend - are so sharp and smooth that I'm sure the lace felt no pain.)

Because of the many layers involved in this design, I used only partial pieces where I could, to minimize the weight of the gown. The top right of the back of the skirt is covered by an overskirt drape, so as you see here, the silk does not go all the way up on that side. I sewed the silk and lace together onto the lightweight, strong organza layer, which did go up to fasten at the waist properly.

Once I had the skirt and drape sewn together, I sewed them to the bodice, and checked the train to make sure it lay evenly on the floor all the way around. At this point, the front and back of the dress are only pinned together.

Next, I pinned the silk in free-form pleats all over the bodice front.

The gown slowly emerged...

And then the lace overlay on the right half of the bodice. The lace is actually a little heftier than the silk, and so making the pleats appear equally dainty was a bit of a challenge (as was making sure I didn't trap any pins underneath any layers!) Once pinned, I sewed all those layers down invisibly by hand.

The shoulders here are still not attached to the front. At this point, I sewed together the whole lining of soft white pongee and then attached it to the gown, which finishes all those raw edges and reveals the final outlines of the bodice.

I pinned the dress together on the mannequin to check for seam placement before installing the side-closure zipper and sewing the shoulder-straps in place on the bodice front. This is when I say many prayers about the gown actually fitting my customer, as nobody is really shaped like a mannequin, regardless of their measurements.

After installing the zipper and finishing off the little inside details like anchoring the lining, it's time to do the final hemming and finish with the skirt lining hiding all the raw edges on the inside. I pinned the yards of hem together and used my amazing invisible hemming machine to do the hard work!

Added the silver-filigree button accents to the side,

and to the back of the modified Queen Anne neckline,

added a tulle crinoline layer between the lining and the skirt to "poof" it out just a little, and the gown is complete!

Such an endearing little neckline - which was the main stipulation from my customer, who knew that that particular cut was flattering on her tiny but womanly frame.

Isn't she adorable? And the gown fit without alteration after all! L.H., I had so much fun creating your gown and being a small part of your special day. Congratulations on your new marriage!

(In related news, Olde Worlde Lace - my supplier for the lace in this project - featured this gown in their blog. Thanks, Al and Marcia!)


Al Nelson June 14, 2011 at 3:43 PM  

We, at oldeworldelace.com, are really happy and surprised to find our curtain lace yardage used in such a unique way as in a wedding dress. Best of luck to you.

Bekah Tuggy June 14, 2011 at 3:53 PM  

Thanks, Al! I very much enjoyed using your beautiful lace for this gown and look forward to ordering from you again.

Joy June 15, 2011 at 1:04 PM  

Absolutely gorgeous dress, Bekah! I see from fb that you majored in music, so am wondering how you acquired/learned this amazing skill!

Kimberly June 16, 2011 at 5:22 PM  


Bekah Tuggy June 19, 2011 at 9:41 PM  

Thank you, Kimberly! Joy: I've been sewing with a machine since I was seven or eight and made a lot of doll clothes, and clothes for myself, with varying levels of success =). I became much better at it after my first degree, an associate's in Engineering Graphics. Helped tremendously with training my ability to see 3-D objects in layers and steps and as combinations of 2-D surfaces. After that - lots of practice! I was costume head in our drama department for a year at my second college, and I learned a ton just through doing alterations and seeing how professionally made clothes are put together (some of them quite poorly.)

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