Making my Wedding Dress Part 2: Design & Trying on Dresses!

Once again, here is last year me to talk you through my design process and trying on wedding dresses!

It took me a while to book an appointment to try on wedding dresses. Of course I knew that I should try some on, to make sure that I was on the right track with the designs I had come up with in my head, and also to check out their construction, finishes, and materials. I don’t know what held me back. I think perhaps I was secretly nervous.

When I first had the idea that I’d like to make my dress, I was very much of the thinking that “I can make a dress, I make dresses all the time. This is just an extra-special dress. It’ll be fine!” And that is true, it absolutely is. And I still have faith that I can make my dream dress, but it is a bit more, erm, involved than I first gave it credit for.

One particular morning I was sitting in the green chair (the comfiest seat in our flat), reading each and every sew-your-own wedding dress blog post I could find (I've linked to my favourites here). And WOW. Some sewers out there created full-on masterpieces. 

Then I started reading about foundation layer construction and all things corselet. Then I read about different types of lace and how to piece it together. Then I read umpteen “sewing with silk” articles, and looked at so many beautiful pictures of beautiful garments. Liam came in from the other room, saw my face and said, “what’s up?” “I’m starting to think I’m completely nuts to attempt to make my wedding dress,” I said. He reassured me, and I gave myself a talking to, and order was restored. Anyway, I always had a relatively simple dress in mind, not a princess-like ball gown with a cathedral train. It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

I got to the point where I had a full board on Pinterest of wedding dress ideas, I had sketches of my dress design and I was absolutely set on what I wanted to make. But I hadn’t tried a single wedding dress on. It was at this moment when I sprung into action and booked that appointment. It was either that or leap blindly into making the dress I had already designed, and I decided I needed the trying on help.

I do think I was scared. Scared that I’d fall head over heals for the expensive made-by-someone-else dress. Scared that I’d look awful in every single dress in the shop. Scared that they’d sniff out my plans to make my own dress. Silly, I know, but I definitely think that stopped me.

Well, the day came. As soon as I woke up the thought popped into my head: “I’m going to try wedding dresses on today.” I was so excited. I hadn’t realised I’d be this excited! I beautified slightly, popped my wedding shoes in a bag (they were one of my first purchases) and skipped off to the shop, where I was meeting my best friend and chief bridesmaid, Sammy. Everything was running a bit late at the shop, so we found ourselves sipping Bucks Fizz, reading wedding magazines and books, and giggling at the funny eighties styles. The shop had beautiful things everywhere. Sammy asked, “How do you feel?” and my honest answer was, “weird.” I did feel weird. Excited and nervous and weird. I’d never shopped for a wedding dress before. I’d never legitimately been allowed to try one on before. But now I’m getting married, and it’s time to try them on! Weird!

The thing with wedding dresses is, they’re all beautiful. They’re wedding dresses. And the assistant helping me in the boutique I went to was wonderful and brought out 5 dresses which all ended up suiting my shape wonderfully. She even let us take pictures, which, I’m telling you, was a massive help. 

In each of the dresses I felt great, but there was one in particular that made me feel… tingly. Tingly yet calm inside, content, and absolutely right. There’s no better way to describe it. I felt 100% like me (which was always TOP of my wedding dress requirements list), but like me the bride. It was quite a powerful feeling. If I had £2,000 to drop on a wedding dress I think I’d have bought the thing on the spot. But I’m not just making my dress to save money, it’s really important to me that I craft this special dress with my own hands. And the best thing was that I looked at the Dream Dress and thought: “yes, I absolutely can make a dress like that.”  I’m not saying it will be easy, but I think I can do it!

Before the appointment, I had made myself a little list of things to check for. In the moment though it was hard, especially thinking about construction and fastenings, layers and techniques, as the assistant of course helped me in and out of each dress, so I didn’t have much time to play Poirot. The pictures were such a massive help. In fact, even if I were choosing one to buy I couldn’t have done it without the pictures. Once you step out of one beautiful dress and into another beautiful dress it can be hard to remember what the previous beautiful dress actually looked like. 

When I floated down from my little cloud that evening (having looked again at those pictures about fifty times) I made notes and drawings of everything I had learned from the appointment. The freedom to pull favourite elements from different dresses, add my own ideas and make my dress so truly unique is very exciting!

So now I have a concrete plan for my dress, and a few rather long lists of how I’m going to make it all happen. 

I’m so excited to get started!


So, as everyone says, trying on dresses was a game changer. I thought initially I wanted a bodice in silk satin, with cap sleeves and a floaty knee length A-line skirt. But after my day trying on dresses, my design ideas completely changed! My dress ended up being a long sleeved, all lace affair with a calf length full circle skirt and petticoat! You can see all my inspiration on my Pinterest board. If you track it backwards you can see how much the design changed! 

First design!
Second design with cascading appliqué lace
Trying on dresses was a huge part of the design change, and really REALLY helped me to settle on which design elements I liked the most and what suited me best, but more important than that, it gave me the confidence to sew my own dress. That was when I properly decided, yes, I was going to do this. That I COULD do it.

Here is my final design (not the best drawing I admit)


My next post is all about construction, pattern altering, fitting and techniques I needed to learn. 


  1. It's interesting hearing about trying on dresses, I didn't do it but I think mostly because I walk past one shop every day and the girls that work in there always look so snooty it put me right off. Maybe one day I'll slip the wedding ring off and book and appointment at Jenny Packham though....

    1. I say do it! Why not? I surprised myself by really enjoying trying dresses on, and it helped that the shop I went to were so nice and not pushy or snooty at all. xx