**Disclaimer.** I have only sewn one wedding dress. It went down pretty well with the wearer though (myself!) so here are some tips for making your own.
First things first though, read. Read any blog you can find where they’ve made their dress. Read sewing books, couture sewing books and bridal couture books. Some links I found helpful…
So...to my advice!
- Know your limits. – Now I don’t mean limit yourself as such. I learnt so many new things sewing my dress than if I’d just used what I already knew. But if your dream dress is a lace fit and flare, you’ve only been sewing a couple of months and the wedding is in 6 months, you may need to scale it back a bit.
- Start early- I actually work much better under pressure, so even if we had ended up with an 18 month or 2 year engagement, I’m not sure I would have got round to starting that much earlier than I did. That being said, I had decided on the dress design and the pattern 9 months before, although sewing didn’t start until 7 months before. Bear in mind the fitting can take as long, or longer than the sewing of the finished dress.
- Ask for help. – I don’t really like asking for help generally, I guess I’m quite a proud person. But a wedding is one time in your life where you are probably going to need help from friends and family. You can’t fit a toile yourself, even if the other person doesn’t really know what they’re doing, you need someone to pin you in at least. If you’re not confident though, definitely ask a seamstress friend, or book a sewing lesson and have someone fit you. Ask google if you’re stuck on a technique. Blog about it, or instagram it, the sewing community is pretty awesome, and there will be someone out there who can help.
- Have a back up plan. – The dress I decided to copy had scallop lace edging along the neckline and armholes, like mine did 😄. I wanted to recreate that, but decided early on that if I couldn’t find a suitable edging, or work out how to do it invisibly, or if I just plain ran out of time, I could do just white satin bias binding instead. If I had really struggled with the design I chose, I would have been happy to resort to a white version of a tried and tested pattern I loved, like the Betty dress from Sew Over It.
- Know your reasons - This really links in with point 5. I wanted to sew my own dress, for the sense of pride and achievement I would get from walking down the aisle in it. You might want to because it will be cheaper, or because then you will have a totally unique dress. Just know what your main motivation is. As I really just wanted to walk down the aisle in something I had made, I would have been happy in a simple white cotton dress, if that’s all I could manage. But if it was just about saving money, than I might have been pretty disappointed if I had to go to a back up plan, so taking a design to a seamstress, or a preloved dress might be a better idea.
- Don't sweat the small stuff - I hemmed the lining on my dress a few months beforehand, but then realised it was hanging below the main silk fabric in places. I left it, and ended up redoing it a couple of weeks before the wedding, long after the rest of the dress was finished. It wasn’t great the first time, as haboatai is so difficult to work with, but the second time was even worse, a bit of a rushed job with a terrible iron. I didn’t really have the time or inclination to do it again so figured it would do, no one would see the lining anyway. But the night before the wedding, all I could think was maybe I should have re-hemmed it?!!! No. People will not notice that your lining is not really neat, or that your spacing is slightly off on the odd button. And when it comes to your actual wedding day, you won’t either.
- Practice- if you’ve never done it before, make a toile/muslin. Make lots of toiles. I ended up doing around 4 versions of the bodice, before I was happy enough to do a full toile, and then it had more adjustments after a final fitting. I also practiced the boning, sewing with tulle, the lace edging, and even the handpicked zip. Anything that was new to me, I practiced.
- Don't listen to the naysayers.- I had a lot of people tell me 'You've taken on too much, how will you get it all done in time'. The majority of the time these were people who didn't know me really well, extended family, friends of friends. Only you know what your schedule is like, and how much time you are willing to give up. As I don’t have a 9-5 job, I knew I had quite a bit of time to work with, and being self employed I could just take on a bit less work if needed.
- Don't give up too easily. I'm not saying don't give up whatever happens. If it's the day before, you're stressed, not sleeping and you've got a long way to go before you're finished then by all means resort to a back up plan. It's just a dress. At the end of the day you are marrying your best friend/love of your life/insert equally soppy description here and they should marry you in a sack if that's the only option.
- Be proud. - Whatever happens, whether you ended up with exactly what you had in mind in the first place, or if you had to resort to a backup plan. You made it. With your own two hands. That's something the vast majority of people couldn't do. So walk down that aisle with your head held high, because you should be damn proud of yourself. And you can bet the man at the end is proud of you too.