Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Art-Deco wedding dress construction details

Thank you all for your lovely comments on the few wedding pictures I posted.  Both Mike and I really enjoyed the day, and of course I was relieved that the dresses and colour scheme turned out as I wanted them to.

This is a bit of a long post, but details my bridal dressmaking journey.

I sewed 15 garments for the wedding in order to get the final 9 pieces for the wedding group:-

  1. Toile Butterick 5705 - Alana (now used as a play dress)
  2. Final Butterick 5705 - Alana
  3. Final Butterick 5705 - Ella
  4. BurdaStyle 02/2012 - 142 - Esme
  5. Butterick 3405 - Sofia
  6. Butterick 3405 - Lilly
  7. Butterick 5710 - Sharlene
  8. Butterick 5710 - Natalie
  9. Hybrid Butterick 5325 with tapered skirt - toile underdress - Pauline
  10. Hybrid Butterick 5325 with tapered skirt - Lauren (discarded)
  11. Hybrid Butterick 5325/5419 - Lauren
  12. Toile overdress using BurdaStyle  - Pauline (discarded)
  13. Sweetheart bodice Butterick 5419 attached to skirt pieces of Butterick 5325 - Pauline final underdress
  14. Toile overdress using Butterick View D, extended to a dress length and with added sleeves.
  15. Final lace overdress - as above.
For this post I am just going to focus on what patterns I used to create my dress and the various changes I made.

The dress composed two separate pieces; an under-dress and a lace overdress and was finished with the self drafted cummerbund.

For the underdress I used the boned sweetheart bodice of Butterick 5419 and attached the skirt pieces of Butterick 5325.  Because I wanted to achieve an empire line for this dress, I attached the skirt pieces just under the bust line of the bodice and once I was happy with the fit, I cut off the excess fabric.  Initially I was going to leave the length because the bodice was boned to the high hip and this created a sort of corset for me, but sadly it showed through giving a line which I didn't like or want so removed the excess fabric.

I lined the sweetheart bodice top with a nice crisp cotton (I read somewhere that in cases of high temperatures on the day, this creates a nice cool garment with the ability to mop up any excess perspiration).  This of course is the UK and we had neither heat or perspiration issues to contend with but it felt nice to wear.  To give some more stability to the bodice I also use a crisp organza as an underlining.

For the skirt I just lined it, but I wanted to add some extra fullness to the bottom.  To create this, I added triangular 12" godets to the two front seams, and then to the lining added 12 layers of gathered ruffles which started from the top of the godet point to the bottom of the skirt. I started with the first piece which was 6" deep and then added an additional 5/8" to each subsequent layer to avoid it becoming too bulky as I moved up the skirt lining.  The final ruffle covered all the others completely.

One consideration I had was how to hem the skirt without the stitching showing through the crepe back satin.  To do this, I cut 1/2" strips of a light-weight woven iron-on interfacing which I ironed on to the wrong side just beneath the hem line.  This enabled me to pick up one of the woven threads on the wrong side of the skirt thus preventing any of the hemming stitches to show through on the right side (I'll use this again).

I finished the underdress without too many issues but my lace was another story.

I found that the scooped neck top of Butterick 5419's princess seams followed the lines of the sweetheart bodice and the skirt panels perfectly.  I used some spare tulle to make my toile because it was a similar weight. I added the sleeves from one of the other views to the scooped neck top, and then took the skirt panels from my underdress and attached them to the bodice top at the designated waist marks.  For the toile these were cut separately and then sewn together, but for the lace overdress I removed all seam allowances and then thread-traced around each pattern piece onto the lace but as a single piece.

I took the lace and found the centre and placed the centre front pattern piece along the centre line, with the finished hem sitting on the larger scalloped lace edge.  I  lined up the motifs and then thread-traced around the pattern piece.  Now working from the centre out I thread-traced each side front piece either side of the centre front piece, lining up the hems.  Now I didn't want to cut the scalloped edge so I butted the bottom corners of each pattern piece together, and laying it far enough apart so that I could stitch the rest of the seams.  This enabled me to have a continuous scalloped hem, with the only seam line through this part of the lace was on the back seam.

For the sleeves and the neck edge, I used some spare lace border and cut it as close to the border as I dared, and then used this to applique to the bottom of the sleeve.   I more or less cut a cuff with the deepest part of the border to sit at the front of my hand, and then sewed the back seam before appliquéing it to the bottom of the sleeve. For the neck and back edge, I had already removed the seam allowances on the neck edge and back edges, and then simply appliquéd the narrow border around the front neck edge and down the back.  I used a hook and eye to close the back seam just at the top of the neck edge, using a self covered button on each side.  The rest was just left to hang loose to the waist, I then  sewed a seam from the bottom to the waist line.  I used the covered buttons and sewed them to the back seam to a place that I felt was right.

There were one or two seams that cut through a motif.  To create a more balanced look, I found the corresponding motif on some of the spare lace offcuts and appliquéd them to the over-dress.

For all seams on the over-dress I used a French seam which enclosed all the raw edges.

My cummerbund was just a simple piece of fabric cut on the straight of grain and pleated.  I used poppers to secure it at the back and sewed buttons on the centre back to follow the line of the buttons on the back of the overdress.

Last but not least many thanks to Viv and Sigrid who took my calls when I needed to chat about my plans, or attend Skype calls to see what I was thinking/doing, and for Viv who spent the weekend here to help me with my fitting issues and covered the first 30 buttons and made the first bodice, which unfortunately I decided not to use, preferring the sweetheart neckline rather than the straight edge.  Sadly I had to buy another 20 buttons to achieve the look I wanted and that meant I had to cover them all by myself boo hooo.

Making this wedding dress was a first for me on many counts. 

  1. I have never purchased such expensive fabric, so was petrified of cutting into this and making a mistake especially as it was the end of the roll.
  2. I haven't sewn such a delicate large lace garment other than the bras that I have made.  
  3. This is the first piece of boning work that I have done for about 20 years,
  4. This was the first time I had done lace applique work, and
  5. This was the first time I have sewn lace with beading on (and managed to break a large number of needles).

I made the mistake of not lining the princess seam of the one of the back-side pieces correctly, which meant I had to unpick a very narrow French seam and re-sew it.  Thank goodness I didn't rip into the lace with my seam-ripper, thanks to my illuminated magnifying glass.

I did read up on some of the articles in Threads magazine, Susan khalje's bridal couture book and checked out some other blogs such as the I made this blog where Kathryn made a beautiful bridal dress for her daughter and kindly directed us to the aforementioned Threads magazine articles, but at the end of the day, this is your own personal creation, and I guess, I am just a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl,  which is exactly what I did, and I am pleased to say that it all came good on the day.

If you are thinking about making your own wedding dress, or one for your daughter etc., have a go.  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see the fruits of your labour.  Yes there were one or two stressful moments, but I am proud of this achievement, and I know my mother would also be proud of what I created.

Next up the bridesmaid dresses.  Catch you all later.


  1. Thanks for the synopsis of your dress, and the other dresses in the party. I love your gown and gasped when I saw it for the first time.

  2. You are a lovely bride and your gown is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the details of how you created your gown.

  3. Thank you for going into so much detail about your dress - and what a lovely result (I can't believe you made 15 dresses in total too, that's awe-inspiring)! I'm currently making my own wedding dress, and I think it's encouraging to see such beautiful work :-)

  4. You should be very proud and how fortunate to have two such wonderful friends:-)

  5. I can't think when you had time to sleep. Wonderful work!

  6. Thank you for the details of your wedding dress. It turned out beautiful and you looked fabulous in it. Now, you can sleep for a week to get caught up on what you missed while sewing all thoses dresses.

  7. Such a lovely dress (dresses!) You should be so proud of yourself.
    Thank you for posting all the details.

  8. Absolutely stunning, and all your hard work repaid you with a gloriously fabulous bridal party. You are a champion amongst home-seamstresses Pauline! I think you could open a salon, making formal and bridal wear, if you wanted to. Bravo! All my very best wishes for a wonderful life ahead with your husband.

  9. Beautiful dress and you look so lovely in it. Congratulations!

  10. A beautiful dress so creatively made. It looked wonderful n you. Oh and I love the way you styled your hair. Very chic! I'm in awe of how much sewing you did for your wedding!! You must be glad to be done! Hope you can enjoy a little rest now.

  11. Wow.....wow, wow, WOW! I am inspired and yes, even in awe of your abilities, creativity, perservance, and as I've said before, your productivity! I really appreciate all the detail on your dress and all the pattern information on all the dresses. I learned a great deal as I read your blog post today. I'll be bookmarking this one to come back to. Thank you again for taking the time to share all this information. Someone in Texas really appreciates you!

  12. Thank you for sharing this info with us. Beautiful!!! Fantastic work!

  13. Exquisite work Pauline - just beautiful and you look radiant.

  14. Well, considering all your "firsts" you look like you've been making bridal ensembles forever. What a gorgeous dress and you look simply radiant!

  15. You did an excellent job with this! You look very pretty in this and truly you created a beautiful garment!!

  16. Oh my - what a beautiful piece!!! Congratulations on everything!

  17. These are some really Cute Dresses. They look custom made who did you get them from?

  18. How beautiful you are in your exquisite gown. It is so nice to see the detail shots too, the lace work in particular is stunning. I have so enjoyed reading about your wedding party posts, it is amazing that you took on such a huge number of sewing tasks, all the dresses are lovely, and you are incredibly organized and productive. Best wishes and congratulations.

  19. Pauline, Your sewing amazes me. The dress is stunning and how appropriate that all of your "firsts" would be for your wedding dress. So sweet and beautiful. Congratulations!

  20. Dittos to all of the above! I would have DIED from the stress. What awesome memories you have made. Thanks for sharing them with us.
    Hugs, Joy