DIY Life Sewing

The (Re)Making of a Wedding Gown Pt II

Originally published 11/10/2017

If you’re checking in here, this is where I started working on my wedding gown, and it is lengthy. I detailed my process, trials, and tribulations journal style. You can scroll through and check out pics if you just want to see it. If you’d like to read how & why I ended up with this gown, check out Part I.

September 6, 2017
I purchased the gown for $12.49 at the Salvation Army store. I rushed home and had my fiancé take full pictures of me in the gown so that I could document from the very beginning (don’t worry, he wasn’t allowed to see it anymore after that ;)). I took pictures of all tags and just general up-close pics of the dress. I came up with a “plan”: tea length, maybe keep the sleeves, do something different to the neck, remove some of the bottom portion of the back zipper. I posted my excitement of finding this dress in my mom groups and then started feeling that nagging defeat again as I kept putting the dress on, looking at myself in the mirror. It felt bigger each time and like there was far too much work to be done. I posted in my sewing group looking for some good sewing juju and by the time admin approved my post, I had actually already gotten back enough courage to detach the bodice, the skirt, and the lining, plus remove the bows and weird underwire things from the shoulders and the giant bow from the back! A few commenters convinced me to have it dry cleaned because the fibers of the dress may have separated and gotten loose over time and said that if I waited to dry clean it AFTER I was done altering it, it may “shrink” and then be too tight. Judging by the looks, I’d say the dress was circa 80s, maybe 90s, so not too old, but old enough. I was torn between spending $100-200 to have a $12 gown cleaned or sucking it up, altering it, and having it cleaned when it was shorter and much less fabric (then praying to the heavens that it actually fit.) I put it away for the evening to sleep on it.

September 7, 2017
I decided I’d at least take the gown in for a quote to have it dry-cleaned. I couldn’t risk not being able to fit the dress in the end if I were to have waited to have it cleaned right before the ceremony. To my surprise, because I brought in the individual pieces (the bodice & the skirt), I was only charged the prices for cleaning a beaded shirt and a long skirt. Guess what the total was? $30!! I asked the clerk what wedding dresses normally ran, and she said they start at $200! I could not believe my ears. I was still winning with this gown! Before leaving the house, I had the foresight to throw the lining and tulle into the washer on delicate and would hang dry it because I wasn’t as worried about damaging that since it would have been easy to replicate. When I got home and pulled it out, it smelled disgustingly like fish! I Googled “wedding dress smells like fish” and saw many brides say that their gowns smelled like fish, even some brand new ones, but I wasn’t fining any solutions. I posted in a laundry group that I’m in, and a few folx suggested washing in Pine Sol, white vinegar, or spraying with vodka. Only thing I had on hand was white vinegar, so I crossed my fingers and toes that it would work. 37 minutes later, I pulled out a PERFECTLY CLEAN smelling liner and underskirt:) Smelly crisis averted.

Today was also the day I made the decision to remove the sleeves. I loved them and thought they were beautiful, but they just weren’t working with the vision I had in mind for my own gown. I took the giant bow (which was deemed my swatch buddy for the duration of creation) and bought some stretch mesh from JoAnn. I had decided (I think) on an illusion neckline with some of the original lace/beading transferred from the train/sleeves to the mesh. Since the dress was at the cleaners until the next day, I was unable to actually get started on this. I did buy a new seam ripper though…lost my other one yesterday. Hmmmm……

September 29, 2017
Well that was a long break! I originally took the weekend off from worrying about working on it, with the intent to pick it up the next evening when it was ready. Life happened and I had other things to deal with, so I got around to picking up my “shirt and skirt” from the cleaners two weeks later. I then decided to wait until my fiance was out of town to work on it, and he left yesterday. While the dress was out of sight, I thought really hard about leaving it long. But le sigh there was a paint stain on the back that didn’t come out, so I had to cut part of the back anyway. I didn’t make any real progress, aside from cutting the skirt apart and deciding what pieces to keep and which to donate. I also started researching how to add buttons and loops to the back. Remember how the dress was cut apart? I forgot to secure the end of the zipper and when they opened it to clean it, the pull fell of somewhere and yeah….didn’t get that back. I even tried to be a cheater and just go buy another pull, but it didn’t fit and instead of playing zipper-pull-guessing-game, I went ahead and removed it, thus removing all temptation to leave the zipper on. I should be working on it more regularly (weekly, if not a couple times a week) from here on out because the big day is 30 days away now.

In the meantime, I took on a few other wedding-related projects. I made a flower girl basket for my daughter because I couldn’t find one in stores that I liked. I also made my own bouquet, as well as my MOH’s because the lady who was working on it suffered a stroke! Thankfully, she’s recovering now, but I still wouldn’t dare ask her to keep working, even if she felt she could. I whipped these up rather quickly, and it’s one less thing to worry about. I also cut out the pattern for my daughter’s flower girl dress, but I keep going back and forth on the style of hers, so I’m not sure if it’s what I want yet, haha. Such indecision!

October 6, 2017
The skirt has been cut apart, and sewn back together tea-length. It just needs to be gathered and prepared for attachment to the bodice. I’ve been working on the bodice a lot lately. I ordered some bridal loop tape on Etsy last week, but as of yesterday it still hadn’t shipped, so I just decided to make my own, using a combo of blog posts and YouTube videos & some cording and silk scraps from the gown remnants. It would have been a wasted weekend, otherwise, seeing as how I couldn’t work on the bodice until the back of it was secured. I attached the loops to the left side, following along with the original stitch lines from the zipper. I’d rather them not had been visible, but I didn’t want to mess around with the back of the dress anymore, so I sucked it up. I had a dilemma of mixing buttons (original satin with shell buttons), but after posting in my sewing group, I decided that sticking to one would be best. Couldn’t guarantee if I ordered satin buttons online that they’d match the dress, didn’t feel like making my own satin covered buttons, so I stuck with the shell buttons! I think they look rather nice. I’ll next work on taking it in on the sides and adding the mesh to the chest, back, & arms. I wanted lace originally, but it proved to be far too challenging to remove lace from the gown and I had absolutely ZERO luck in finding any in stores that matched well enough in color and design. I hope to be completely done with the bodice by Monday so that I can move on to the skirt.

October 7, 2017
Today I finished up sewing all the buttons (ended up being 16 in total). I also brought the bodice in about 2 inches on each side. In a perfect world, I would have had a local sewing friend who was well versed in dress fitting help me out. In the real world, I only had myself, so I had to kinda wing it. The dress didn’t fit like a glove, but I got it to fit (mostly) well enough to my liking. While brainstorming on how to achieve my neckline and sleeves, I realized I could use a dress pattern that I already own as the base and hack it to my liking. It worked!! After sewing the bodice up, I cut it in half so that I could work with placement on each shoulder. I pinned my new mesh to the bodice and played around with it for a while until I got it how I liked it. I then lined the free edge around the neck, back, and arms with some thin bias tape in “oyster.” I intended to use scrap silk from the dress for this, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel like doing more work than necessary while I was juggling the kiddos by myself. It still looked pretty good! Instead of having to rip the bodice apart and put the mesh in between the silk and lining, I carefully hand stitched the mesh to the bodice lining and it worked perfectly. Not the most couture finish, but meh. The bodice was done!

October 13, 2017
I took a bit of a break again. I decided I needed to go ahead and gather the skirt today and make sure that it would work out right. Ran my two lines of gathering stitches and pinned it to my mannequin. This is where the dress sat for another few days. I feel like I started to run out of steam here.

Ocotber 20, 2017
Today, we are down to the wire and needing to be done with this gown! In order to have enough room over my hips, I had to add an invisible zipper to the top 4 inches of the skirt. I swear, this is almost where I put this gown in the fire pit. I struggled so badly to attach it because I was working on an already finished garment, where in my past experience when practicing installing invisible zippers, I had worked with flat pieces of fabric, pre-construction. Maybe I was overthinking it at the time, maybe I was rushing. All I know is it took me about 4 times of seam ripping it to get it right, and it still didn’t come out 100%. Passable, but not 100% correct. I was finally able to attach the skirt to the bodice and actually have a complete gown! Tadaaaaaaa! Now I don’t have to stress about this anymore. Pheeeewwwwww. (Y’all will see it in a few more pics, haha.)

October 27, 2017
Last minute, I know, but I made our daughter’s flower girl dress and a sign for our son to carry and his suspenders the night before the wedding. Look how cute they both were!

October 28, 2017
Today is the day!!! The morning of the ceremony, I looked over the dress to make sure there were no missed parts in the gathers, no seams ripping, and just that it overall looked great. What I forgot to do was look UNDER the gown. I didn’t realize until seeing photos that I forgot to hem the underskirt and straighten my cut line on the tulle. It bothered me for a while, but then I remembered that this entire gown was as imperfect as I was, and there was no need to fret over it. A few hours before the ceremony, I made my husband and son matching bow ties. That “15 minute tutorial” took me an hour for two haha. Look at how handsome my men are!

Even though I was working with an already-made garment, the process of making my own gown wasn’t without flaws and imperfections. With those flaws and imperfections came so many lessons. I tried so many new things and was forced to do others that I’m not fond of. I hate hand sewing, but in order to achieve some of the things I wanted (the buttons and the mesh) I had no choice but to. I jumped head first into the invisible zipper and ya know what? I messed it up. 4 times, I think. In the end, it was still messed up, but I started to ruin the fabric so I had to choice but to go ahead and leave it. If you look veeeeeerrry closely, the bottom part of it has a little bunching. But no one is looking that closely and you can’t see it in pics (unless you’re STARING…don’t stare). I used some tape on the back to line my buttons up, and just underneath the flap of where the loop tape was installed, you can see sticky residue that didn’t come off. Don’t use tape…or at least see how it responds to your fabric on a scrap before using. As I stated before, I forgot to even out and hem the underskirt. I find this quite funny because I obsessed about not forgetting to do it and STILL forgot! Haha! You know the beauty in all these flaws though?? They made the dress.

No….I made the dress!!

And I don’t think I’ve ever felt more beautiful in anything else in my life.

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  • Reply
    Simply Z
    March 1, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Your dress turned out gorgeous! You did a great job!

    • Reply
      March 2, 2022 at 9:11 am

      Thank you so much. It was really fun. Would have been nice to know all that I know now…woulda been so much better haha!

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