Annie came to me back in March about making her wedding gown. Annie is Maria’s cousin, the young woman I made the lace wedding gown for a couple of years ago.
I was super busy at the time, and wasn’t sure if I could swing making a full dress for Annie. I had a play coming up to make lots of 1890’s costumes for, and I had already agreed to make Christine’s daughter’s First Communion dress from her mom’s wedding dress. And little did I know I would get hired to create a kids sewing kit by a company that also wanted me to take all the step by step photos for the ten kids’ hand sewing projects. I needed to do everything before I left for my trip on May 18. So Annie found a dress on E Bay and we went ahead and decided to create an overlay for it. I guess you could describe this project as a wedding dress refashion.
Of course I had scheduled too much as usual, a problem I’m working on, and I wasn’t able to finish Annie’s dress before I went on my trip. But I did finish it last week with two weeks to spare before her wedding. Hopefully, I will have some better photos to share soon. These photos in my dark afternoon living room are grainy.
The dress Annie found on E Bay shown above. It was from Maggie Sotero. I think the original dress is absolutely gorgeous.
“Are you sure you don’t want to just wear this dress as is? ” I asked Annie. “It’s so lovely with all the seaming on the bodice.”
First I made a pattern from Annie’s measurements. I later realized I didn’t need to do this. I could have just draped the lace to the dress on the form since it needed to fit over the dress perfectly, not Annie’s figure. I could find no information on making a lace overlay on a strapless gown, so I had to figure out this project as I went. The dress was actually smaller in the waist and bigger in the bust, and there was a built in corset, which cinched Annie in and changed her shape a bit.This was the pattern I made from Annie’s measurements. It didn’t fit the dress perfectly and I had to make a lot of adjustments once it was pinned to the dress. It was a lot of work but a learning experience. I could probably whip out a pattern from most people’s measurements now. But I can’t stress enough how important the process of fitting is. Just an 1/8 of an inch off can create a big difference in fit when you have six seams like you do on this princess line bodice.
This is why I’m not a fan of flat pattern drafting without draping to test fit. The fit is just off when you skip the draping process. Every designer needs a dress form to create with, in my opinion. Unless you have a live person to pin to!Annie wanted to use some pretty lace left over from her sister’s wedding gown but we didn’t have enough for the sleeves. We decided we would make some sleeves from tulle. However, I didn’t really have enough lace to create proper lace applique seams. I have a more thorough tutorial on sewing applique seams in this post where I made a lace baptismal dress.
You need a lot of extra lace when sewing the applique seam method, which is required to create invisible seams on Alencon lace. Basically, you have to cut out the pattern along the floral motifs, making sure you don’t cut into the floral designs. The actual seams need to be thread traced so you can lay them top of one another. You won’t be sewing at the seams but along the motifs. You can pull the thread out later, but it gives you a framework to properly place the pieces together. It’s like sewing a puzzle! This is why you need extra lace.Here is an example of how I pinned the thread laced seams together, but then sewed along the motifs. This should be done by hand , by the way. Unless you have a machine that doesn’t have any chance of yanking the delicate lace under and into the feed dogs.
Here are my hand sewn princess applique seams. They aren’t perfect because I needed more lace to properly space the motifs on the two pieces. The two flowers in the middle are overlapping too much. Can you see it?Once I fitted and sewed the bodice together I hand stitched it to the bodice and turned under the top edges and stitched them by hand.Then I cut off the borders from the lace and sewed them to the edges of the dress.We had one more fitting and I fixed the gaping at the back of the dress.I then made the sleeves from netting but I could see they would need some work to make them look right. I sewed the sleeve on with a normal seam.Then I sewed trim along the armhole seam to hide the unattractive original seam.I sewed trim to the bottom of the sleeves before I sewed them up, while they were laid out flat.
The lace trim stuck out in an odd way at the armholes, making the net sleeves look like they had been tacked on as an afterthought. So I stitched them down tot he net sleeves while Annie stood patiently. It was definitely a learning experience but we were both happy with how it turned out! Annie will be so beautiful on her wedding day!Actually,she would look gorgeous in anything!