Making my Wedding Dress Part 4: The Practice Dress


Well, I absolutely love this, my rehearsal wedding dress. Another labour of love! This dress took approximately twice as long as I thought it would. Because really, it's not even a wearable toile, it's just an earlier version of my wedding dress. Who decides to make TWO wedding dresses? I'm a bit daft sometimes. BUT I was slightly comforted and much more confident after making this as I dove headlong into the Real Thing (and the most expensive fabric I have ever bought in my life), knowing that I had done it all before. Having perfected my patterns and practiced every single technique I needed for my wedding dress, I definitely found the Real Thing much less of a headache.

Also, these shoes are my new absolute FAVOURITES. 

I bought the lace, the duchess satin, the lightweight satin and the netting for the Blue Dress from Whitetree Fabrics. I opted for cheaper materials than my wedding dress. I think the blue lace was £3 per metre. It's a bit scratchy but I was on a budget! The duchess satin is lovely, I'd definitely buy their duchess satin again. It's a lovely weight and quality, and sews like a dream. 



I actually really love that the motif on this lace is bows rather than flowers


There were a lot of firsts for me in the making of the Blue Dress:
- first corselet
- first waist stay
- first spiral steel boning
- first covered buttons
- first rouleau loops
- first time working with duchess satin 
- first bound slit
- first time thread tracing!
- first time draping a bodice
- first time using horsehair braid at the hem 
- first time making a petticoat 
- first hairline seam 

Wow. When I put it like that, I've learned a bucket load in the making of the Blue Dress. And a big bucket at that. 

I used a fair few learning and reference resources along the way, and a LOT of trial and error / making it up. I do not claim that the finished result is perfect, or up to couture standards or anything, but it is blooming lovely and I'm rather proud of it.

THE CORSELET

I almost chickened out of making the corselet. You see, I had listened too much to the "sewing lingerie is hard" voice inside my head, and also to others who had been so supportive of my dress making but said "Oh i would definitely buy your underwear. Give yourself a break!". So I almost chickened out and bought some. Until I actually tried to shop for some.

How do people find good wedding underwear?! The choice was so slim, the designs mostly ridiculous (who wants loads of embellishment and sticky-out-bits like beads and pleats which would probably show through most wedding dresses?) and the fit was ludicrous. I found only one contender. I liked the design, and it would work under the dress. The fit was terrible though. The tops of the cups gaped away from my body, whilst the main bodice section fit well. Plus it ended slightly too high on me, causing a lovely weird bulge. I'm not blaming the designer or manufacturer of this corselet of course. Women's bodies are invariably all incredibly different, how could one expect a perfect fit from a RTW corselet like this? 

Hang on a minute, I thought. The thing I'm most worried about in making my own corselet is getting it to fit well. But the fit is bloody awful on the RTW alternative, so I thought might as well have a go! Nothing to loose! I'm so glad I DID decide have a go.

As I explained in my last post, once I had adapted my corselet pattern (from B4443), I had a skin-tight, hip-length pattern with the exact same neckline as my under bodice. I decided to try spiral steel boning, and I'm so glad I did. I found it much stronger, more effective in structuring the garment, more comfortable and easier to use than plastic or rigelene boning. I decided to have a boning channel on each of the seams in my princess-seamed corselet, and one in between each seam, too. In the end I decided to go with a double layer corselet in order to create the boning channels: I made the corselet twice in lightweight but strong cotton, pinned the two layers together along the seams and sewed through both layers to create the boning channels. I purchased pre-cut spiral steel boning from Vena Cava designs. Their shop is excellent I have to say. 

Then I added a grosgrain waist stay, sewing it to the corselet between the boning. I toyed with the idea of having a separate closure for the waist stay, but as the corselet is skin tight anyway, it seemed pointless. I bought pre-made hook and eye tape for the closure. I hate sewing on hooks and eyes by hand! 

Inside of corselet (next to skin)

Outside of corselet (next to dress)

THE UNDER BODICE

This was pretty straightforward, really. I had my altered B4443 pattern ready to go, and as I said the duchess satin was lovely to sew. The only slightly tricky part was the rouleau loops.

I used a template drawn on paper to get the placement right for the button loops. I basically sewed through the paper, looping my rouleau rope on top, within my markers. Then after sewing I could rip the paper away and trim the loop's edges that were in the S/A. It worked a treat! The only thing I overlooked was to make sure the seams in my little rouleau ropes were facing UP when I sewed them on, so that when I flipped the seam allowance back the pretty, non-seamed side showed. Oh well, I corrected this for my wedding dress!


Testing the theory on scraps first!

I also had to make sure I created an "underlap" section at the centre back, which was also pretty straightforward.

There is also a lining to the under bodice, so I had a bit of a head scratching moment (week) trying to work out how to sew the under bodice, the corselet and the lining together along the neckline, and in what order to do everything. 
Here was the solution: finish underlap section first, add closures (button loops). Sandwich corselet between under bodice and under bodice lining. Sew along neckline. Understitch. 

THE OVER BODICE 

The lace over bodice was the part that scared me. I looked into many, many ways to create a lace over bodice, and ultimately decided to try draping a non-darted bodice with side seams and extra over-the-shoulder pieces to make it easier to drape the right shape. I did a toile first out of some more Whitetree lace I had, and this gave me more confidence to go for it in the blue lace. 


First lace bodice toile pinned over Blue Dress under bodice 



It was slow-going, with lots of pinning, thread-tracing, tacking, re-pinning, trying on... but it worked out in the end.

I knew I wanted a scalloped neckline on my actual wedding dress, but my blue lace did not have a scalloped edge, so I cut around the motifs to create one! This means the neckline shape is a bit different to my wedding dress design, but I like it anyway. 

In sewing the sleeves in I did my first hairline seam (a straight seam with a close zigzag seam right next to it, then trimmed close to the zigzag). I love how neat and delicate it looks.

The back neckline ended up a bit asymmetrical, but I have no idea how!!



THE SKIRTS

The skirts were no problem, they're simple circle skirts. The hems got different treatments though. The lace hem got a normal, hand sewn hem. On the duchess satin skirt, I decided to sew in horsehair braid to help the skirt stick out. It was actually pretty easy to apply and it had the desired effect! I'll definitely be using this stuff again! 

I used the tutorial in Claire B Shaeffer's Couture Techniques book to do the bound slit in the lace skirt layer. This is actually neater than the one I did on my wedding dress! 




THE PETTICOAT

I'd never made a petticoat before, but I knew I wanted to attach the petticoat for my wedding dress to the corselet, so I thought I best do the same on the Blue Dress! When I've worn separate petticoats before I have found they can add a bit of bulk at the waist, plus they can ride up or down and peek out the bottom of the dress unbidden, and I didn't want this with my wedding dress.

I used this excellent tutorial for making my petticoat, and just adapted the measurements slightly, plus sewed a back seam in at the end. I then gathered the lining layer at the top and sewed it onto the corselet halfway between the waist and hip line. It worked a treat! Making a petticoat is so easy! Who knew?



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This dress was made up of so many elements and MANY hours of sewing. I actually cried when I first tried it on as one piece. It has major sentimental value. Also I've read lots of blogs and had lots of friends who've said they WISHED they could wear their wedding dress again. Wearing my Blue Dress for me is pretty much like wearing my wedding dress again, and it will always be special.

A group of Liam's lovely running mates clubbed together to buy us a meal at the Wolsey as our wedding present. We went a few weeks after our honeymoon and it was so, so nice. The Blue Dress had it's first outing too and I loved wearing it!

Bathroom selfie at the Wolsey! Had to be done!

**** This post is one of a series documenting the making of my wedding dress. Click here to see an index of all posts about sewing my wedding dress! ****

4 comments :

  1. What a fantastic way to make sure there are no surprises on the Actual Dress! And I love this is kind of like being able to wear your wedding dress after the big day. It's really lovely, and I hope you have many happy years of special occasions in it. :)

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    1. My thoughts exactly! I hope I might be able to trot it out for anniversaries and such! It was really great to wear it to dinner at the Wolsey.

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  2. I'm loving reading all your wedding dress making posts! this dress is super beautiful too, I'm not surprised you cried when it was done, you put a LOT of work in to that! definitely paid off!

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    1. Thanks Rachel, glad you're enjoying reading about my wedding dress making! It was mostly sheer bloody-minded determination that got me through making it. x

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