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I can breathe a sigh of relief now — the actual sewing of my wedding dress is under way. Over the holidays, I camped out in my parent’s basement for a few days and cut out my entire dress on top of their ping-pong table. There was no way I could have cut out my wedding dress at home — the skirt pieces, especially the overskirt layers, are ginormous. We’re talking multiple five-feet-wide pattern pieces; there’s a lot of fabric to create the long trains of the dress. I just don’t have that kind of open space in our one-bedroom condo, or a nice table big enough!
Before I really got going on cutting out all of the fabric, I made a dress out of a cheap polyester fabric similar to my silk to “test drive” the pattern and see how everything would fit. If you’ve never sewn before, patterns rarely fit 100% right out of the pattern envelope they come in. Everyone’s bodies have their own individual nuances and quirks, and even if you pick out a size that corresponds with your body measurements, you most likely will need to tweak the pattern to get it to fit right. For me, I realized with my test dress I needed to raise the neckline, take in the excess fabric along the bust, and take in the waist on all of the skirts.
Then came the challenge of cutting out my fabric. Silk is notoriously fussy to cut out because of its slippery and shifty nature. Even if you smooth it out all nice and neat on your cutting surface and pin down your pattern pieces, it will still move around when you go to cut it out with your scissors and the edges of your pattern pieces will be all choppy — that’s hard to work with. I did some digging around for ideas in my sewing books and found a nifty trick — sandwiching the silk fabric between layers of tissue paper. The tissue paper has enough grip to hold the silk in place and made it so easy to cut everything out:
Look at those beautiful smooth edges! I used the same method to cut out my silk georgette overskirt pieces. Georgette is similar to chiffon — it’s almost like working with a wispy cobweb, but a little more substantial and not as transparent. The tissue paper did the trick!
The last part to cut out was the lace for the bodice. I was pretty terrified to cut into this lace since it was the most expensive fabric I ever bought in my life and I had *just* enough to cut out all of my bodice pieces — no room for error. One of the tricky parts of working with lace is lining up the floral motifs across a seam so the pattern looks continuous. On top of that, because of the way this lace is manufactured (this type of lace is called Alençon), it stretched slightly after I cut it out and my lace pieces ended up being bigger than the silk pieces that were to go underneath. I just took my time sewing the lace and silk pieces together, smoothing everything out, and it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be.
Here’s the front! This bodice is almost complete, I still need to sew the lining pieces together and then attach it to the bodice. That’s why all of the edges look rough and unfinished in these photos.
There’s a technique you can use called “appliqué seams” to eliminate seamlines in lace garments — it’s very labor-intensive and time-consuming, which is why those allover lace wedding dresses are so pricy. I used this technique a few years ago on an allover lace cocktail dress and it took forever and a day to sew. For my wedding dress, having the princess seamlines show on the bodice wasn’t a big deal for me, so I opted to sew everything normally.
This is a detailed shot of the back so you can see how everything lines up along the back seam. I’m going to use an invisible zipper for my closure, but over the seam I’m going to sew tiny silk-covered buttons to give the illusion that the dress is closed with buttons all down the back. That’s a little sneaky trick I saw when I went to try on dresses to make sure I knew what style I wanted to wear on the big day.
Now I just need to make the lining, attach it to the bodice, and then it’s on to the skirts! Everything is coming together smoothly, and getting all of the dress pieces cut out was a big monkey off of my back. We are now t-minus five months to the big day.
If you want to see more shots of how my dress looks so far, make sure to check out a short video I made detailing how exactly I cut everything out and what the bodice looks like on the inside. And if you’re thinking about making your own wedding dress, I have a free resource guide you can download over on my blog to give you some tips on how to start the process.