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Creating my wedding dress

When we finally set a date for our wedding, I had a deadline for making or finding a suitable outfit for the occasion.

I knew I wanted to either make from scratch or adapt an existing dress. I did however feel I wanted to give myself the opportunity to have a wedding dress fitting in a bridal boutique even if it was just for the experience! I booked an appointment locally and went on my own. The shop owner was lovely but just didn’t get what I was after. Her selection of dresses were contemporary but mostly column- style so very tight fitting, tummy- clingers. They all seemed to be full length and with trains and boning and hooks & eyes and all incredibly uncomfortable and definitely ‘not me’. They were also made in China. Disappointing for a small local boutique. They also cost over a thousand pounds!

I started by researching patterns and fabrics- ordering samples on a weekly basis. It was much harder than I thought to find a fabric I liked. I didn’t particularly want to go for something silky, shiny or sparkly. I did however, want some sort of print or self -pattern but keeping within the traditional cream/ ivory colour palette.

I really liked 2 particular fabrics- one was a circle pattern called ‘mirror ball’ which really appealed but on a large scale was too gold and shiny. The other had a retro Orla Kiely style stem but was a bit matt and wasn’t fancy enough.

I started looking at lace- a fabric I hadn’t really worked with before. I’m not exactly a fan of lace although I marvel at how it is traditionally made. I thought about net and tulle and layering of fabrics and I played around with some off cuts of bridal lace I had. I even made a layered bodice toile using these off cuts. It was pretty but looked way too fussy for me.

When searching through online fabric supplies I happened to discover a fabric on Minerva Crafts site that was a mix of soft tulle and chunky matt lace. The motif was a simple daisy shape with a nod to the 1960s. It was perfect! I quickly ordered a sample and when it arrived I could tell I wanted to incorporate it in my design. I liked the playful look and the soft feel of it against my skin. I thought if I used it on the whole dress it might look too much or too heavy so I decided on a little bolero with three quarter sleeves.

Around the same time I was looking locally in Brighton for vintage style tea dresses as a base to adapt. I found such a garment one Saturday in Beretun Designs. It was mid calf, had a full skirt, fitted bodice, shaped neckline, made of heavy weight crepe with a slight stretch plus had pockets! Ideal! At about a tenth of the price of the others I had tried in the bridal boutique, I snapped it up. I also knew I could add to it and adapt it.

To make the most of the full skirt, a fifties style petticoat was necessary. I chose an ivory layered tulle number from Doris Designs. They also sell every colour you could wish for. I was tempted by the pastel candy colours, considering a duck egg blue for a moment but went for a matching one.

In terms of adapting the dress I changed the neckline to a sweetheart shape. This involved pulling the existing neckline through to the lining and stitching in place. I didn’t even need to cut any fabric away.

I made a belt from a very pretty decorative applique motif I had acquired years ago (probably from my theatrical costuming days). I stitched it onto a length of delicate silk ribbon (surprisingly C&H had in store). The belt was the only sparkly part of the outfit and gave a nice central feature.

Making the bolero from the daisy lace was both straightforward in construction (self drafted pattern based on a jersey shrug I already had) and complicated in finish. I couldn’t hem it as this would look bulky so I cut around the individual daisies making sure they were symmetrical on the front opening of the jacket. Cutting close to the daisy motifs gave an irregular scalloped edge which sat flat against the bodice and my arms. I used a small amount of ‘fray check’ in case of any loose threads.

So that the bolero would stay in place on my dress, I attached a number of tiny clear press studs on both garments.

Accessory wise, I chose a pale blue diamante necklace owned by my late Nana, fabric flowers on hair grips from Rock n Rose and low heeled ‘pearly girly’ shoes by Irregular Choice.

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