Wedding Dress Sewing: Finding Inspiration

Date: September, 11 months until the wedding

Today I'm kicking off my wedding sewing posts by talking about inspiration. While there is a lot on the internet about sewing your own wedding dress - the patterns, the fabrics, the construction tips - there is less written about how to find inspiration and turn it into reality.

Unlike traditional wedding shopping where you can try on a bunch of different styles to see what suits you, making your own dress means you have to make a lot of these decisions on your own. From choosing a shape that flatters to picking all the details, it can be quite a monumental task! So below I outline how I went about the process of putting together a cohesive wedding dress look with all my favorite pieces.


Step 1: Brainstorm

Admittedly, I started looking for wedding dress inspiration not long after we got engaged. Probably not the day of, but we were traveling and I had a lot of time on my hands and I was already researching another dress I wanted to make and, you know, it was just so tempting. I didn't have a wedding inspiration board or anything (I think that's a bit much before you actually agree to get married, no?), but I did have a few inspiration pics of "formal" dresses that I had saved over the years.

So this was my starting point. What did I like and what did I want to wear? I scrolled back through years of inspiration and took note of the formal dresses I liked and also the details that cropped up across various types of garments.

In the inspiration board below, you can start to see bits and pieces of things I liked: I liked trumpet style and flared skirts. I liked embroidered tulle and pops of color. I liked sleek and feminine but not girly or frilly. These inspiration pics from all types of clothes helped me define my wedding style and think about what I would be interested in sewing and wearing. As this was the idea generating stage of designing, I tried to incorporate a wide range of things.


Step 2: Inspiration

Once I had a direction, I started to look at examples of wedding or formal dresses with these details. Again in the spirit of brainstorming, I saved a bunch of things that had elements I liked. I think my wedding dress Pinterest board has over 50 images on it...

At this point, it was all a big mash of ideas in my head. I liked the skirt on one, the details on another, and the fabric of a third. It was time to start narrowing things down and taking some notes.


Step 3: Details

In the third phase of designing my dress, I started to collect inspiration for specific elements of the dress - the bodice, the skirt, the fabric - and assemble it all together. Below is my inspiration for each detail of the dress:

Front Skirt: My ideal dress was fitted through the bust, waist, and hips, flaring out gently just above the knee in a trumpet style. Some of my favorites had minimal volume at front with more toward the back of the dress. These dresses have a nice drape with some body, perhaps from underlining paired with a lighter fabric.


Back Skirt: The back is really the stunner on this dress. Most feature a small sweep train as a gore starting at the flare of dress (just above the knee). The fullness in the back can be seen from the front, with the hem flaring out in a wide circle.


Bodice: For my dress, I planned a strapless princess bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a waist seam. The back is lower toward the center, with an open lace overlay. It could also include a self-fabric or contrast belt panel at the waist.


Lace/Tulle Overlay: For a pop of color, I love a colorful beaded embroidered overlay on bodice, hemline and back train. The sheer overlay should have cut-on cap sleeves and end at the waist seam.


Corset/Interior: For support, I designed a boned corset attached to the dress and extending past the stomach. It would close with ties or hooks concealed under the dress.


Step 4: Idea

As you can see, I went from broad inspiration images to really narrowing down the parts of the dress and the details that I liked. It was also helpful to break up my ideas into sections (skirt front, bodice, etc.) and gather inspiration for each piece individually. My next step was to draw up a little inspiration sketch that combined all of my ideas:

There are so many aspects of this dress that I love and think will be fun to sew: the pops of color, the tulle, the shape, and the overlay all have me very excited. Plus I think there will be some interesting design challenges putting it all together. I'm sure it will evolve from here, but the inspiration stage has been very fun.

Admittedly, it feels a bit vulnerable to put my design out there. It is hard to put a stake in the ground and say "This is what I like" and open it up to judgment from others, especially in such a public, look-at-me event as a wedding. You can also get a bit caught up in making the ULTIMATE, this-says-everything-about-me dress. But rather than get too introspective about the dress, I'm choosing to have fun with it. I may never make another wedding dress, but this is just one in a long line of creative endeavors for me. I'm excited for the challenge ahead.

Up next, researching patterns!

[Find the full list of wedding dress posts here.]


  1. If you want to see a beautiful wedding dress that was sewn, take a look at Poppykettle's blog.

  2. This dress you designed is amazing! I love that you took is through your process also. Absolutely stunning!

  3. I'm not engaged and I have a wedding which I mean, it turns out I have a haircuts-and-cake board. I have actually gotten one of the haircuts and it's LOVE. <3 Not a lot of dresses on it, though...or grooms, haha!


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