Thursday, February 04, 2010

"The Dress" Details

Making my wedding gown was probably the most intimidating part of the wedding planning process -- most intimidating in theory, but in actuality one of the simplest to execute!

Like most girls, I had a "dream dress," based off of a Jessica McClintock ballgown that I'd seen in a Victorian Trading Co. magazine. Then I found a Bliss Victoria wedding book, published during the magazine's heyday in the 90's -- and another dress caught my fancy, this time with a bit of 18th century flair.

And then it hit me. Why not make a Regency dress? I was already planning on using the Regency gown for my bridesmaids, I love the Regency style, and let's face it -- I'm just a little bit fond of Jane Austen! *wink*

I decided to make two pieces; a dress and a "pelisse." With this design, I'd be able to use the dress again in a variety of ways.

I ended up using two patterns to base my design on -- the wonderful Sense and Sensibility Regency Gown pattern (which I used for all of the skirt pieces, as well as my base for designing the pelisse bodice), and McCall's 3571 (which I used for the bodice and sleeves of the under dress).

My requirements? 3/4 length sleeves (my favorite length!); a modest neck/shoulder area; simple, tailored lines. I decided to use dupioni silk for the gown; I love the texture, the drape, everything!

For the underdress, I played with the Sense and Sensibility bodice, but I just couldn't get exactly what I wanted. So I decided to try my McCall's pattern, which I've had much success with in the past.

By tailoring the bodice seams, I was able to get the right look. Since I was wearing a pelisse over it, the lines needed to be smooth and fitted. Providentially, I came across an article some time ago that mentioned using flannel to interline formal gowns -- it adds body,and also hides the seam allowances (which "disappear" into the soft flannel). I tried it for the bodice, and it worked perfectly!

The entire gown is lined in Egyptian cotton -- lining the sleeves made everything simpler (no sleeve hem!). I also avoided my serger for all but one seam edge (on the skirt placket), and stuck to French seams and bound seams. For the sleeves, I modified the McCall's pattern to remove the center seam, and I also changed the shape of the sleeve "hem" to be higher in the front and slope gently down to the back. It not only adds a bit of gracefulness, it also prevents the sleeve from having a cut-off look.

The buttons on the underdress are from my paternal grandmother's stash -- she was an avid seamstress in her lifetime. Having grown up in the Depression, she knew the value of repurposing. I even had a box of used sewing machine needles that she'd saved! At any rate, these beautifully demure mother-of-pearl buttons blend perfectly with the silk.

For the pelisse, I used the Sense and Sensibility pattern as a base. I darted the bodice front (instead of gathers), changed the neckline to a "V," made a 'solid' back, and added a front closure. For the skirt, I added a 1 1/2 foot train to the back, and changed the front to close in the center and cut away to the sides. The idea of a 3/4 length sleeve with a woven oversleeve caught my fancy, and I was able to scrounge up a few very blurry screen caps from the Kate Beckinsdale (or "Brown") version of Emma to help me with my design:

It took several trial runs, but it was worth it! I think the sleeves are my favorite part of the whole dress, actually.

Figuring out a closure for the pelisse proved to be more difficult than I thought! Most clasps are made of metal, and I didn't want to break up the simplicity of the dress with something metallic. During a browse through JoAnn's I discovered some decorative frog closures in black and gold. No white. But they did have white cording, and I'd experimented with the little frog toggles before. So I dug out my vintage Vogue sewing book and set to work!

After the dress was complete, I felt that I wanted to do something more. I loved the dress, but there a total lack of embellishment. So I decided on some simple embroidery for the waistband of the pelisse, using the simplest of embroidery stitches.

This is the second generation of wedding dresses that have been sewn on my paternal grandmother's machine -- she made my mother's wedding dress with her machine, and now I've made mine with it, as well! My beautiful mother still fits in her wedding dress, so we had our photographer take some shots of us together.

The total cost for the dress, notions, veil, and shoes was about $100 -- thanks to JoAnn's 50% off coupons, Dharma Trading Co., and Payless clearance! *wink* I'm so glad I decided to make my own gown; it was a wonderful and (relatively) stress-free experience. The veil, on the other hand... but I think I'll save the veil for a separate post, since this one is already quite full!

Credit for these photographs goes to our wonderful photographer, except for the detail shots of the dress and the design sketches


  1. im new here, but you do really beautiful work! What a talent to be used for the Lord! I hope one day, my 11 year old daughter can be such a beautiful young lady as you are!

    Christina from TExas

  2. What a beautiful, breathtaking gown! You made such a beautiful bride. I am so impressed by your work. And what precious memories to know you made your gown!! Thank you for sharing the pictures. I just love seeing the special touches you put into it! :)

  3. Gorgeous! I really love your design - so simple and so flattering on you. I love the photo of you and your Mum together...and on a completely unrelated note - my parents have that "Broad and Narrow Way" print in their house!

  4. What a wonderful dress! You are an amazing seamstress, Shannon! I agree with you, the sleeves are the most beautiful part of it.
    how or when do you plan using the dress again? I had a friend who had her wedding dress dyed so that she could use it again. Though doing that with your dress would be a crime :-)

  5. The picture of you and Mom turned out great! Love you!


  6. A beautiful dress for a beautiful young woman. Congratulations.

  7. Beautiful, Shannon!!!
    I love the last picture! ;)

    ~ Much Love,

  8. Your dress is beautiful. Congratulations and best wishes!

  9. So beautiful! I love the gentle simplicity of your gown.

    Thank you for sharing your process. I'd love to make my daughters' dresses or give them the skills to do so themselves :-) What inspiration!

    Lots of love,

  10. GORGEOUS. You are so talented!! I love the picture of you and your mom ~ precious! :) That's an amazing design, too!

  11. Yes it is gorgeous and just amazing Shannon! I love the sleeves too and the embroidery are gorgeous!!

  12. Beautiful gown!


  13. What a perfectly lovely dress! Thank you for posting pictures, they are beautiful. :)

    God bless you both!

  14. Beautiful! Simply Beautiful!! :D

    To the KING be all the glory!


    "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

  15. So pretty!My favorite part about it is the sleeves,love that weaved detailed.


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