Wedding Sewing: Other Fun Things

I promised I wouldn't be a bridezilla. I played nice with my mother and mother-in-law, kept the decorations simple, and even used the leftover flowers from someone else's wedding (!). Mr. Made and I also made one kick-ass wedding planning team.

But the one thing I went all out for was, you guessed it, wedding sewing. There was the wedding dress, which you've been following along with. And then I decided to do the bridesmaid dresses. (Pictures coming soon, I hope!) And then there was the rehearsal dinner dress, which I showed you last week. From there, of course, little Beatrix needed a tux. And once you start, the ideas can spiral out of control. So for nearly a year, and definitely the last six months before the wedding, I turned myself over to wedding inspiration and just let the ideas fly. Crazy bride? Yes. But a fun chance to make a whole slew of themed outfits? I couldn't pass it up! It was really very joyful sewing and I'm glad I had the chance to have fun with it.

What was on the list extras? A tuxedo for Beatrix, his and hers onesie pajamas (and one for Beatrix, of course) to wear to our bonfire after party, a rehearsal dinner dress, a bachelorette party dress, and a few things for my warm weather bachelorette and honeymoon - two crop tops, a skort, and a new bikini. Whew! I think you can officially call me a crazy bride.

While it can be wasteful to sew a bunch of things for just one event, I'm actually hoping to get a bit of use out of each of these. If the bridesmaids so choose, they can dye their white dresses and wear again (though I don't think you can expect every bridesmaid to love her dress). My warm-weather travel pieces are things I've been wanting to make forever, so this was a good excuse to finally sew them up at a time of year when I could wear them . My rehearsal dinner dress, can be worn again for fancy events (just not other people's weddings), and the same goes for my bachelorette party dress, which I wore again out to dinner on my honeymoon. Both dresses were made out of leftover fabric from my wedding and bachelorette dresses. And even the onesie pajamas, which are admittedly very silly, I hope can at least be a Halloween costume (runaway bride, anyone?). And I'm not even going to make up an excuse for a dog tuxedo - we will definitely be pulling that one out again!

So without further ado, here's a little roundup of the other wedding-related sewing I did this year:

Beatrix's Tuxedo

This one is based on her TNT Milla Milla Shirt pattern in size FB for French bulldogs. In this version, I had it zip up the back with an invisible separating zipper (you read that right!) so that we could easily get her in and out of it. Though it took the better part of a day to make, I can't resist the tiny tuxedo details like the tucks on the shirt, the sleeve buttons, and the little bow tie. Beatrix is female, but I think she really rocks the tux! She was also our videographer at the cocktail hour, so that's what you see in the second picture.

Onesie Pajamas:

I hope to have some better photos of these eventually, but essentially I made some "his and hers" wedding pajamas for us to wear at the beach for our after party. They were insanely comfortable and warm, although admittedly not terribly well made in cheap fabric. Mine is supposed to look like a wedding dress, if you're wondering.

Bachelorette and Honeymoon Sewing: 

As I mentioned above, this was really just an excuse to sew some warm-weather clothes. We don't get that type of weather around here, so with trips planned to New Orleans (bachelorette), and Isla Holbox outside of Cancun (honeymoon), I pulled out all my plans for vacation clothes and sewed them up.

This skort, Simplicity 1370, was something I'd wanted to make for years but had never found the right occassion. I used a bottom-weight fabric, narrowing the shape slightly from A-line to fitted, and sewing the shortest possible length. It was flirty and fun, but so easy to wear. I was especially grateful when the girls put me on a mechanical bull on Bourbon Street!

The first pic is from my bachelorette, and the second is the same outfit again on my honeymoon. I'm even packing it for another trip this fall! (Yes that's a penis crown in the photo below.)

I promptly made two knit crop tops to go with my new skort. I used Simplicity 4070, a special occasion dress pattern and a TNT for me, and took just the bodice pieces for the crop tops. It has princess seams in front and darts in back, and made it in a knit it just slips over the head. The tops are super comfy and pair perfectly with the high-waisted skort as well as some of my midi-skirts.

White Dress

Finally, with a few free days before my bachelorette, I couldn't help but make one more thing. It was a bit silly because I really had everything I needed (see: Bridezilla), but the girls had proposed doing a night where I wore a white dress and they wore black dresses, and it was the perfect opportunity to make just one more thing from my Pinterest inspiration. I was particularly inspired by this beautiful, fitted dress, as well as this one for the back. Unlike my other projects, it was fun to just pull out fabric and pattern and experiment on something new, not caring if it turned out or not. Using leftover fabric from the bridesmaids dresses, a fitted Lekala pattern from another project, and other things I had on hand, I challenged myself to recreate the dresses.

I'm so glad I squeezed this one in, because I really love the results. The fit is great thanks to the custom fit of the Lekala pattern, and with hidden bust cups it is easy to just slip on and feel great. It also looked nice against my honeymoon tan! Here it is worn at my bachelorette and on my honeymoon.

Bathing Suit

Oh and I nearly forgot! I also made my annual bathing suit. While it would be fun to make a ton of different ones, I limit myself to one a year so that I have just a few on hand and can replace them as they wear out. This one is based on another Pinterest inspiration, and was very easy to make myself. I made re-do the bottoms though with the fabric I have left, as they tend to ride up and are a bit on the skimpy side, especially in the back.

Worth it? Worth it! I had so much fun finally getting to make up these pieces, and glad I took advantage of my warm-weather trips to do it.

I hope to be back soon with the rest of my wedding dress, but I have to wait for the photographer to send us back the photos. Can't wait!!

Wedding Dress Sewing: Rehearsal Dinner Dress

While we wait to get some wedding dress photos back from the photographer, I wanted to show you my rehearsal dinner dress, aka the place for all my leftover wedding dress ideas. 

In my wedding dress inspiration post, I talked about how I narrowed down a lot of pretty inspiration pictures to get my design. But that didn't mean the ideas stopped coming. Or, more accurately, that every time I logged onto Pinterest I didn't see a ton of more inspiration pics. Since I was wedded (ha!) to my wedding dress design, I decided to incorporate some of the leftover ideas, so to speak, into a dress for my rehearsal dinner. Conveniently, I was also able to use my leftover wedding dress fabric for the under dress. 

Pattern: Lining pattern of Simplicity Cynthia Rowley #1104 for bodice with an A-line skirt
Fabric: 3 yds ivory beaded 3D lace and wedding dress silk viscose remnants
Cost: $95

The main inspiration for this dress was the amazing lace. For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to pick some of the most over-the-top, wild white lace for a dress. I browsed for a few months and finally decided on this one. It has beautiful 3D flowers over some of the embroidery, as well as beading at the center of each flower. The gaps between the rows of flowers left a lot of room to add things like darts and shaping, while the scalloped edges at both the bottom and the top were perfect for the hem and sleeves. 

Unfortunately, the seller messaged me and asked if they could send the fabric in two pieces and, stupidly, I said yes. When I got the fabric I realized that I wanted the full three yards for the skirt. Oops. I then had to piece it back together. This turned out well, however, because I got to practice my lace piecing technique and it was actually really fun. The result is pretty flawless and the seam was hard to find even when I was looking for it. The piecing is shown in the photo on the left, straight down the middle of the picture, and it is nearly impossible to tell if you're not examining it up close. It worked out so well, in fact, that I pieced the center back seam of the dress up to the zipper and had a beautiful skirt all the way around. 

As I mentioned above, the underdress is made from the remnants of my wedding dress fabric. I had saved just barely enough to eke out the skirt and bodice, even piecing the front bodice down the center front. And because of the demure length of the lace overskirt, I was able to cut the underskirt at a very short and flirty length. It felt daring and fun but with the added coverage of a bit of a lace. 

The pattern is my tried and true Cynthia Rowley #1104 dress, although this time I used the lining pieces instead of the main pieces as my pattern. While the original dress has great tucks and princess-seamed shaping, for this dress I needed simpler shaping to not interfere with the lace detail. The lining pieces, while preserving the same neckline and look of the dress, provided the perfect solution in a pattern I knew would fit. I then added an A-line skirt for the under-dress and a pleated skirt for the lace dress. The lace dress also has some pretty flutter sleeves, which I stole from another pattern in my stash. 

Originally I had thought about making these as two separate dresses, which would have allowed me to wear the lace dress over a different colored dress in the future. However, the lace fabric, with all its 3D flowers and beading, was actually very heavy and I knew it would be too heavy for the mesh bodice on its own. For this reason, I sewed the lace bodice to the silk bodice at the waist seam, and then attached the two skirts as one dress. 

The rest of the construction was fairly straightforward, and I was able to borrow some of the techniques I'd used on my actual wedding dress. The organza of the lace is bound in bias binding on the bodice, and the bodice is sewn together with small french seams to enclose the raw edges. The underskirt is trimmed with horsehair braid for added fullness. 

I also underlined the silk bodice pieces with some scrap white cotton to give them a bit more body, serging them together at the ends to prevent unraveling. I used a not-so invisible zipper at the back - the fabric was too bulky for some other zipper treatments, and I was afraid to sew too close to the zipper coils because I knew the thick waist seam might not zip if I did. 

It was a bit of a squeeze to get this dress done in the two weeks before the wedding, but I finished it on a Sunday, four days before we left for the wedding. And I never mind the excuse to hole up in my sewing room for a bit!

I was glad I did because the dress really did make me feel special. It was also a fun little sneak preview of some of my ideas for the real thing. All that was left to do was take pictures in the beautiful garden at the restaurant and drink (white) wine with our guests!

My mother-in-law did a truly beautiful job throwing us a rehearsal dinner. Some photos from the event: 

I suspect it may be a little while longer before I have some proper wedding photos to show you of the final wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses, but I'll be back next week with some other wedding sewing I had up my (lace) sleeve. I just couldn't help it!

Wedding Dress Sewing: The Murky Middle

Date: March, 5 months until the wedding

By now you have sat through posts about planning, fitting, and starting my wedding dress - of course there had to be a murky middle! At work when I'm helping clients through a planning process, I consider the "murky middle" of a project to be that part where they're well on their way into something, but the end is not yet in sight. And because things aren't fully formed yet, it all starts to look like an awful mess. Self-doubt creeps in, you are frustrated with your mistakes, and you're not sure you're going to reach your goal. After a month of sewing, that's how my wedding dress felt for me.

Part of the problem is that I am a lover of pants. And t-shirts. And casual, easy, every-day clothes. Before this big experiment, I had never sewn anything with couture techniques and I was starting to feel it. It was hard to know when to hand-tack my seams and when that would distort the shape of the garment. It was hard to figure out how to keep the yards and yards of silk clean and neatly pressed as I ran them through my sewing machine and stored them in my small apartment. It was hard to figure out how to finish the embroidered, beaded mesh, which was so fragile in some areas and so stiff and substantial where it had been embroidered. And at one point, when I tried it on mid-way, it just looked limp and uninspiring.

Pictured from left to right: the second muslin, the fourth muslin, the murky middle, and ?? that lies ahead.

I'm not writing all this just to complain, but to document for others who may be sewing their wedding dress that this is part of the process, and it is OK. Before the hem tape was sewn on and I figured out how to finish off the tricky bits and press and clean the train, things weren't quite there yet. And that's just how it's going to look in the middle of the project. You will be frustrated by new challenges, wonder if you're up for the task, and generally doubt yourself. But push through. Because once all those finishing touches are on, it really will start to look amazing.

Some in-progress photos:

Boning channels and steel boning - which was easier to work with and cheaper than I thought!


Bust cups - I discovered when I made my other dress that it's still good to have some sort of nipple protection, even with bust cups. This dress is very sturdy and can cause chaffing!


Special touches (fun fact: Mr. Made originally thought I had stitched this to the outside of the dress).


I re-sewed the front bodice three times with different interlinings and degrees of accuracy, and I still think it looks a bit puckered!


Figuring out the best finish for the embroidered, beaded tulle. And yes, this was on the ACTUAL bodice piece - even after making samples I didn't get it quite right!


Everything was unraveling all the time.


This is what your sewing area looks like when it's being taken over by a big white dress.


Things got busy, and messy!

Up next: the finished dress! But first, a break for bridesmaids dresses, a dog tuxedo, and some other wedding sewing... 

Wedding Dress Sewing: Making a Dress!

Date: February, 6 months until the wedding

In my wedding dress sewing adventures, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to cut into my fabric and start. After months of designing and fitting and testing, it was hard to pull the trigger and say, "I'm ready!" Finally in February, with six months to go until the wedding, I cut in and went for it. In this post, I'll share my construction notes and tips I picked up along the way.

During this process, I relied heavily on Alison Smith's Couture Dressmaking Techniques class on Craftsy and Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture book. While I love good old-fashioned internet research, it helps to have a comprehensive guide to the subject. I rented the book from my local library, where you can special-order books from any other library in the state, and bought the Craftsy course during a $20 sale. And then I actually used them. I took notes, saved pictures, and poured through them until I had a comprehensive construction plan for my wedding dress.

If you're looking for internet inspiration, I also enjoyed Fit for a Queen, Brooks Ann Camper, and Bridal Sewing Techniques, as well as the adventures of This Blog is Not for You, Crab & Bee, and Poppy Kettle as they made their own dresses.

Here is what I learned:

Working with Specialty Fabrics

I bought my main dress fabric at Britex in October during their once annual 30% off sale. (While I have occassionally been a Britex blogger, this dress fabric was all purchased by me.) After wandering around the store for a good bit, one of their lovely salespeople took me under her wing and guided me toward the right fabric - a sturdy silk-viscose satin with a good hand and all natural fibers for breathability. She recommended a silk blend to get the benefits of silk but avoid some of the excessive wrinkles. I bought eight yards as well as eight yards of silk organza and was a happy customer.

What I learned about silk satin (it's kind of a pain): 
  • Yarn “floats” give satin its luster but also make it prone to snagging, so be careful of snags when working with and storing the fabric. Buttons can also roughen up buttonholes on silk fabric, so consider placing decorative buttons over a functional snap. The floats also make this fabric directional, so make sure to use a directional layout when cutting. 
  • Folds are difficult to remove. For this reason, uncut fabric should be stored on a bolt rather than folded. Cut fabric, as well as the final garment, should be stored carefully. Store inside out to prevent abrasion, soiling, and wrinkling. 
  • Satin glazes when pressed without a cloth, so always press from the wrong side with a pressing cloth. I made myself a silk organza pressing cloth from the remnants of my dress, which worked fabulously. I now use it for everything. 
  • The fabric can pucker when sewn. For long, vertical seams, consider cutting slightly off grain to prevent puckering. 
  • To give the fabric more heft without weighing it down, silk organza underlining can be used to help fill out the folds and pleats of the garment.
While I followed most of this advice, like using silk organza underlining and pressing carefully, shamefully my fabric sat (carefully) folded in my closet, so there were a few wrinkles to get out. I did follow the advice about pressing, though, using a silk organza press cloth to carefully press the wrong side of the eight yards of fabric for what seemed like hours. Thankfully, it mostly behaved and the wrinkles pressed out. 

I also ordered a beautiful beaded, embroidered tulle on Etsy. While my local fabric store sold a version of the tulle, I could only find the beaded version online and just had to have it. I'm fancy like that. While the design seemed novel at the time, I have since seen it pop up EVERYWHERE, from new pattern releases to fast fashion ads on Pinterest. Oh well, I think only those who follow fabric trends will feel it's played out by the time they see my dress. 

Here are some tips for working with specialty fabric like embroidered, beaded tulle:
  • Stitch slowly – threads can easily tangle
  • Stabilize seam allowances with a second row of stitching in each allowance
  • Neatly finish the edges with a ribbon or silk charmeuse
  • Remove embellishments from seam allowances before cutting, and use an old pair of scissors to cut embellished fabrics just in case you nick a bead
  • Press on top of a thick towel and avoid pressing over the embellishments
  • Use a faced hem so as not to turn the embellishments in toward the skin. 
Removing the beading from the seam allowances and tying off all the threads took hours... This was also the most tricky fabric to work with, and required a lot of experimentation to get the right treatment for the seam finishing. I eventually bound all the hems in silk organza bias tape, and used French seams throughout. 


Although I only had four main pattern pieces for the skirt and again for the bodice, after I accounted for the main fabric, tulle overlay, lining, underlining, and, in some cases, interlining, I had close to sixty pieces! So on cutting day, I packed my bag and headed over to my office where I have a large dining room table to cut everything out on. I made a list, put on the radio, and got to work. I think all told it took me about six hours to cut everything out single layer!

Cutting tips:
  • Cut single layer for accuracy. 
  • Cut center back pieces along the selvage for added stability. 
  • While pattern matching might not be possible at all seams on the bodice, consider where to strategically pattern match. On my project, I was most concerned about the center back of the bodice overlay, which was made from the embroidered tulle. 
  • I was also concerned about key places where I'd need to stabilize the embroidered tulle. I cut the tulle so that the bustle point would be supported by embroidery and could hide any additional stabilizer that might be needed.
  • Because the bodice needs to support a heavy skirt, several layers of underlining might be needed to both provide support and camouflage the boning. Poly-cotton batiste, muslin, crinoline, or even flannel can do the trick, and muslin can be added as an additional underlining. 
  • Mark pattern markings on underlining only – don’t mark main fabric
  • While the bodice would be fully lined, the skirt would not be. This was to keep the skirt as lightweight as possible. To neatly finish off the seam of the skirt, I cut the underlining bigger than the main fabric and used it to bind the seams using this technique.


Listed below, it would almost seem like sewing things together was a quick process. But my actual constructions notes are over four pages long, with details such as how wide to make the French seams in the tulle overlay and how high to hem the skirt off the floor. Again, I highly recommend you check out Susan Khalje's book and Alison Smith's Craftsy course, because this information could really fill volumes. Working on weekends, the entire sewing process took about two and a half months. 

  • I first assembled the bodice, which meant sewing up the main fabric (underlined with silk organza), interlining made from muslin, and lining.
  • The boning channels were then attached to the interlining, leaving room at the top and bottom for the seam allowances. I also added bust cups to the interlining. 
  • I applied twill tape to the underlining of the main bodice piece along the top seamline of the bodice. This is a technique that Susan Khalje recommends for hugging the bustline close to the body. 
  • Added a waist stay. 
  • I then attached the lining and the tulle bodice overlay.
  • The skirt panels were all sewn together and hand-tacked down to the underlining. This required hours of hand sewing. 
  • I then attached the bodice to the skirt, and inserted the invisible zipper.
  • After trying out and checking length, I hemmed the skirt with 1" wide horsehair braid. 
  • Once the rest of the skirt was hemmed, I finally inserted the tulle insert at the back of the train.
  • Finally, I added some finishing touches like the bustle point and a beaded trim at the waist. 

There was lots of experimentation, deep breaths, and hand sewing in between. Next week I'll preview my progress, and what it feels like to be in the murky middle!

Wedding Dress Sewing: The Muslin(s)

Date: November through January, 7-9 months until the wedding

After finding my wedding dress inspiration and choosing my patterns, it was (finally!) time to test it all out on my first muslin!

As someone who came of age during reality TV, I was admittedly a little bummed that I wouldn't have my "Say Yes to the Dress" moment. You know, where you try on dozens of pretty dresses until you find "the one." You know it's "the one" because you will instantly tear up, and everyone in your party will stare at you in open-mouthed amazement until your mother whispers, "It's the one."

Yeah... sewing your own wedding dress is more like trying on a muslin made from an old bed sheet with fifty pins in it, standing in the dark hallway in front of the mirror craning your neck to see if it's pulling at the back. There will be no happy tears or bated breath in your first fitting. Or at least that's how it was for me. But that's not to say it wasn't any less exciting.

I was mostly excited to sew up a muslin to see if this was a design that would work on me. I don't think I've ever sewn a long formal dress before, and couldn't wait to see how the shape would look. Similar to trying on dresses in a store, I wanted to see if the trumpet shape I was so fond of would actually look good on me. (Side note: my friend's mom was horrified to hear that I hadn't even tried on any store-bought dresses before jumping in.) After months of dreaming, it was finally time to see if it would actually work!

Chapter 1: The Dress

I sewed up my McCall's 7320 pattern first. Although I had bought a few patterns, this one really did have all the features I was interested in - trumpet skirt, sweetheart neckline, and train. Plus there were only four main pattern pieces! I graded between sizes (I'm an 8-12-14), traced everything out onto an old bed sheet, and quickly sewed it all together.

What then followed was about an hour in front of the mirror pinning and adjusting and trying different fit ideas. I even pinned in place a sample of the embroidered tulle and a ribbon to simulate a waistband. And of course ignore the printed pattern on the wrong side of the bed sheet - the real dress will be white with a colorful tulle ;)

Overall, I am quite pleased with the initial direction of the dress. It accentuates my curves nicely (who says pear shapes can't wear trumpet dresses?), will look pretty with the tulle, and is fun to swan around in. But I do have some indecision over the three different fits for the skirt. The first photo above is the dress as drafted. It is less fitted than the pattern cover, but I actually like how flowy it feels. The third dress on the right is a more fitted trumpet shape, which was my original plan going in. And the middle dress is somewhere between the two - fitted through the hips and then flowy below.

Currently, I am liking the middle one the best. It seems like a happy medium between the two. I'm a little surprised by this because I was thinking I'd go for the more extreme trumpet shape. To check my pulse, I pulled up my inspiration looks again to compare, and number 2 is very similar to a dress I had seen in the display window of a bridal shop when we were staying in Berlin shortly after we got engaged (the red dress pictured at right). It has a nice drape and shape without being too fitted. So it's that direction for now.


Chapter 2: The Bodice

Around the same time, I also started fitting my corset pattern. I had ordered Ralph Pink's Bella Corset and was planning on using it as the internal structure and bust support for the garment.

The first muslin sewed up beautifully in a rigid denim (to simulate the boning without actually inserting any). I did a major swayback and reduced the bust slightly over two more muslins and achieved a pretty excellent fit. Without the boning or even a laced back, the shape was really very flattering.

However, I then decided to alter the pattern to include bust cups for more support like a real bra. I honestly didn't really know what I was doing but was having fun experimenting. With the help of Orange Lingerie's Esplanade Bra pattern, I made about three or four more muslins in an attempt to insert bust cups.

I finally got something pretty decent, but it was still nowhere near the type of support I'd want from a real bra. With a solid, non-stretch fabric, I realized I couldn't get the tight fit and support I was after. So after at least a week's worth of work, I scrapped this idea and decided I'd just order some sort of bra if I even wanted one. *Sigh*


Chapter 3: Putting It All Together

The corset wasn't a total failure, however. I decided to swap out the McCall's bodice for the Ralph Pink corset because of its excellent shaping and more pronounced neckline. So it was off to make another complete muslin combining the two patterns into my final look - the skirt of McCall's 7320 with the bodice of the Bella Corset

For the non-sewists it was hard to tell quite how the dress was shaping up, but for me it was all I needed to have my "Say Yes" moment. Full steam ahead!

With six months to go before the wedding, I decided to sew up one last muslin in a white fabric to practice my techniques and check the fit one more time. And I was glad I did! Apparently, the flannel sheet I'd been using for my first few muslins had some give to it (d'oh!). Made up in a more tightly woven fabric, the dress was now a bit snug. Enter more fitting, more pattern adjustments, and more muslining. Luckily I had bought a lot of muslin in addition to the old bedsheets!

My final muslin looked like this: 

You'll notice that I added a few more elements from the first muslins. I finally got around to drafting the sheer overlay. In the muslin it is cut from an unused sheer curtain, but on the final version it will be replaced with the beaded, embroidered tulle from my inspiration picture.

I also wanted to add the tulle to the skirt, but couldn't quite work out how it would be attached. After much meditation, I finally decided to insert a godet in the back along the train. The sheer train added a playful element and also meant I wouldn't have to stitch the tulle over the satin skirt.

Isn't she fun? After a few months of playing with the style and fit, I am immensely satisfied to see it all come together. All that is left to do is to *gulp* cut into the good stuff and start sewing. 
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