When it came to planning a wedding, I did not have the details worked out months in advance like many girls do. When I suddenly realized I realled needed to seriously start thinking about this, I realized I had put very little thought into what exactly I wanted, and that also included the wedding dress. My taste and style has evolved a lot over the years, so what I would have dreamed of as a perfect dress when I was 16 would look totally different now anyway.
But thankfully I have done enough sewing over the past few years that I felt comfortable (in theory, anyway!) tackling sewing my own dress – and more than that, I'd tried enough patterns of various styles that I had narrowed down what I like to wear and looks good on me.
And that of course, would be vintage style of some variety!
Pinterest probably noticed a surge in searching for vintage wedding dresses, with my accession of interest on the subject. I quickly decided on an inspiration photo for the bridesmaid dresses, of an extant 1950s dress. But my wedding dress ideas underwent a bit of evolution, though right away I was drawn to 1950s styles like this lovely image.
The full-skirted long gowns of the 1950s are not my first style preference normally for myself, but when it came to a wedding dress, I did at least know I wanted a 2 piece dress, and it just wouldn't seem like a wedding dress without one of those elegantly long and full skirts.
I've made the jacket from Butterick 8890 before, and decided that would be a good fit for the bodice of the wedding dress. ¾ sleeves look nice on me, and also with an outdoor fall wedding, seemed like a good idea, just to be safe, since I had no idea what the weather would be like. The short, nipped jacket is again a style that I like on myself, and it has some nice style lines with the point in the back and the faux bolero folding at the neck. So I didn't look any further for a wedding dress bodice.
The skirt, on the other hand, was another story... I started out really liking the skirt in this photo, but when discussing the mechanics of making it with some seamstress friends of mine, I realized eventually it was too ambitious a project for me to tackle without a pattern of any sort. I still think it's such a gorgeous skirt, though! Ginger Rogers or Grace Kelly formal style, right there!
But I still liked the drape idea, so the next option I thought of was to make a basic circle skirt and try draping it different ways. With that in mind, I went with McCall's 8960. I have several circle skirt patterns, but this one had the benefit of being only two pieces, with no gores. I didn't want any more seams than necessary. Also, it was a full circle without any of the fullness in pleats or gathers at the waist. I made a trial version first (which remains unhemmed in my UFO pile...) to check length and fit. I ended up lengthening it more in able to hem it, and taking out some of the circle, so it didn't fall in quite so many folds around the hips.
I could use the skirt pieces basically as they were, with a bit of tweaking, but the jacket required more work. I wanted it to just meet in the center so I could close it with tiny buttons, instead of overlapping – and the pattern was also a size too large for me. So I had to do quite a bit of work with a muslin, basting and trimming and rebasting, until I was happy with how it fit. Probably the muslin pieces don't resemble the original pattern pieces too much anymore! :-)
But now I had numbers finalized when it came to how much fabric was needed. I had originally thought of a combo of satin and lace – but only if the satin wouldn't be cheap looking and super shiny, and only if the lace was decent quality. Hard to tell online, and JoAnn didn't have what I wanted. Thankfully there is one small but lovely, high-quality fabric shop in Boise called CLOTH, so I checked there, with my fingers crossed. Sure enough, they had a small bridal lace selection, and this one jumped out at me right away as the one most suitable for my needs. Also the least expensive, though still by far the most I've ever paid per yard for fabric – easily worth it for the main expense of a wedding dress, though. So I happily took a few yards home.
Isn't it pretty? The little flowers look embroidered, and the decorative edge is the perfect finishing touch. I instantly had an idea to incorporate it and save myself some sleeve finishing time.
While I was there, I got to finger some of the different kinds of satin. I haven't done much sewing with formal fabrics, so I didn't know what to look for. I left with an idea of what I wanted for the skirt, and ended up buying a length of it on eBay. It IS polyester, but a very nice feel, with a low luster satin on one side and a silk dupioni look-alike on the other. Which meant that, if I wanted to, I could use either or both sides in making a skirt and/or accents.
(The satin was slightly more off-white than the lace, but I decided that if I underlined the lace with the satin, that would tie the whites together well enough that it wouldn't be an issue.)
So now with the patterns finalized and the fabric on hand, it was time to plunge into the slightly nerve-wracking, no-turning-back moment when the scissors actually cut into the fabric. But we'll save that for Part Two!