Introduction: I Made My Own Wedding Dress!

My husband's and my biggest hobby is creating things, furniture, costumes, props, smaller decorations, .... We are makers and we liked to incorporate this theme in our wedding.

I decided to sew my own wedding dress. This was a challenging project, since I didn’t have much sewing experience. I never followed a course or anything and have only sewn some small projects like pillow casings, and only two serious pieces of clothing: a pirate corset and waistcoat. However, since a wedding dress is actually ‘just’ a corset with a skirt attached to it, and after watching tons of YouTube video's on sewing wedding dresses and on general sewing techniques that I would need, I was confident that I could do it.

Furthermore, I had some helplines offered to me, which I could consult if I encountered something I could not solve on my own. The overall process of making the dress took long, but was generally smooth, especially in the beginning. At some point smaller and one very large bump came in the road and some things took much longer than expected. Therefore, I’m very grateful to all who helped me out with the dress: my friends Lisanne and Loes for helping me cut out lace flowers and Maartje for sewing the last pieces of lace with her wonderful sewing machine and helping a LOT with the hemming and serging of all seven layers of skirts, my mother Nicole and her friend Marjon for helping me attach the skirts to the bodice, my mother-in-law Ine for her general help and advice for almost every step of the road and my husband Ruud for his mental support when things became difficult.

In this Instructable I'd like to share with you the process of making the dress. For the wedding day I made a photo book on the dress creation, so that the wedding guests could see it, and some of the images used in this Instructable are directly from that photo book, which explains the backgrounds and photoshopped items ;).

I was really happy with the result and I am proud of my creation :). I hope you enjoy my Instructable!

Step 1: Inspiration

The first step in creating your own wedding dress is to think of what the dress should look like. This can include the ideas that you've had since you were a little girl, dresses that you've seen in movies or in the countless episodes of 'Say Yes To The Dress', going to a bridal fashion show or a lot of Google Images sessions.

For my dress, I liked:

  • Drop waist bodice
  • Sweetheart neckline
  • Lace bodice
  • Lace top, so the dress is not strapless
  • Large tulle skirt. The lace of the bodice can come down a little bit to the skirt, but not too much. No lace on the bottom of the skirt.
  • Corset back
  • ‘Drop shaped' opening in lace top, above the corset lacing

Step 2: Dress Fitting

Although you don't intent on buying a wedding dress, it is a good idea to go dress fitting at several bridal shops. First of all, it is every brides dream to go to a bridal store to try on dresses. Second, I could not deny my mother, sister and best friend the joy of coming with me on this dress shopping experience. But most importantly, I wanted to see if the dress model I had in mind would look good on me, or if there were some other options that were better.

I'm very glad that I didn't skip this step. I was indeed a very nice experience to try on wedding dresses. A very nice consultant was helping me and she didn't need many words to understand what I liked and didn't like. Although I had in mind a drop waist bodice, I was curious how the more mermaid, trumpet or fit and flare style gowns would look on me. I was afraid my hips would be too pronounced in such dresses, but the consultant encouraged me to try one on. Then I tried on the dress shown in the picture (Diane Legrand 6216) and I was surprised how nice it looked on me! Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures, the dress looked different on me than on the model from the attached images. Also my entourage thought this was really me and said I shone in this dress. If I was to buy a dress, this would definitely have been the one, although with some alterations. I really don't like a strapless dress (I think it makes my shoulders look wide, I have the feeling that I have to lift the dress every 10 seconds and furthermore, our wedding is in November, so it might be a little cold not having my shoulders covered), so I would have had a lace top custom made for the dress. This would also have been possible in the store, they could even make this from the original lace of the dress.

I really thought about saving myself all the trouble making my own dress and buy this one. However, it was a little over budget, I thought it had just a little too much sparkle (there were sequins all over the dress, which made it sparkle like winter snow), but most importantly, I was already looking forward to the process of sewing my own dress and how proud I would be at the end. So I decided to change the model of the dress to a trumpet/fit and flare style instead of drop waist.

Step 3: Making a Custom Dress Form

For this step you need:

  • (Cheap) T-shirt dress
  • Duct tape (about 1.5 roll)
  • Scissors
  • Expanding foam
  • Cardboard (only a small amount, to close off arm and neck holes)
  • Rope (to hang dress form from ceiling while filling with the foam)
  • PVC pipe
  • Stand to set dress form on (I used my microphone stand)

I was planning on making the pattern for the dress myself, using a draping technique. This can be done on a store bought dress form, but then you'll need to make alterations to the pattern later to fit your body exactly. Therefore, I thought it was easier to make a custom dress form that is an exact copy of my body and use that for the draping.

To create this dress form, I was wearing a (cheap) T-shirt dress as a basis, on which my fiance Ruud stuck duct tape while wrapping me entirely. After I was fully wrapped in duct tape, we cut open the back to take off the duct tape form from me. The cut is easily closed again using more duct tape. We used expanding foam to fill the form, while closing the arm and neck holes with cardboard circles (or ellipses) and duct tape and hanging the dress form upside down by a couple of ropes. I noticed that filling can best be done in multiple sessions, because such a large amount of foam at the same time will not dry properly (depending on the used foam). I inserted a piece of PVC pipe in the foam while the foam was still wet.

After the foam had completely dried, the dress form could be set on a stand by sliding the PVC pipe over it.

The only disadvantage of this method is that the axisymmetric pressure of the foam causes the horizontal cross sections of the dress form to take a circular form, while in the human body these cross sections are more oval. Therefore, from the front and back, the dress form looks thinner than I am, while from the sides the dress form looks thicker than my body. The circumference is still the same though and therefore I figured it would still be good enough to drape the pattern on. For a next time, though, I would reinforce the dress form with some cardboard to ensure the shape before filling it up with foam.

Step 4: Draping the Pattern

For this step you need:

  • Dress form
  • Petersham ribbon
  • Sewing pins with a flat head (no glass bead on top)
  • (Cheap) fabric. Usually muslin is used for this, I used a left-over fabric which only cost 1 euro per meter.
  • Regular sewing pins
  • Marker
  • Scissors

I learned how to drape from the very clear YouTube videos of Daniela Tabois and in particular this one. I really love her channel and I learned a lot from her!

I used petersham ribbon to mark the locations of the seams on the duct tape dress form. I pinned the ribbon on the dress form using sewing pins with a flat head. I decided to make the entire bodice up out of seven panels: one front panel, two princess front panels, two side back panels and two center back panels. I only draped one half of the bodice, since the other side is a symmetrical copy.

The draping is done by taking a large enough piece of fabric to cover the panel, but not too large so it gets in the way. The fabric needs to be pinned, using regular sewing pins, flat to the dress form at the location of the panel. The petersham ribbon can be used as a guide to see and feel where the panel ends and where the fabric should be pinned down.

Once the piece of fabric was pinned nice and flat to the dress form, I used the marker to indicate the edges of the panel. Then I cut around the edge, leaving at least 1.5 cm (5/8 inch).

I repeated this for all panels.

Remark: I did not really take into account the grain direction of the fabric. However, a lady with a lot of sewing experience my mother showed some of my pictures to, noticed some puckering in my mock-up dress (next step), which might be a result of not taking into the account the grain direction. So next time, I would align the grain direction for all panels.

Step 5: Making a Mock-up Dress

For this step you need:

  • (Cheap) fabric, this can be muslin, or in my case, a cheap 1 euro per meter fabric
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Some haberdasheries to close the back of the mock-up, i.e., a zipper, some ribbon, snap fasteners, safety pins
  • Rope (to measure circle skirt)
  • Tailor's chalk

The mock-up is a very important step. Here you can see if the designed pattern is correct or if it needs some alterations. It is easy to test the alterations on this cheap version of the dress, instead of on the expensive real fabric later.

First I doubled the panels (mirrored). Since I already included a 1.5cm (5/8 inch) seam allowance while cutting out the panels in the previous step, there was no need to draw an extra seam allowance. Then I sewed all panels together. To close the back of the dress, I sewed in a zipper and I used some ribbon to close the part where the corset lacing is going to be, which I attached using snap fasteners and safety pins.

With only the bodice mock-up finished, I already noticed some alterations had to be made. Some seams needed to be taken in a little, which I did and marked for the final pattern. The seam right beneath the armpit was a little skew, so I shifted it slightly, taking a bit more fabric from one panel and releasing a little fabric from the other panel. Also the seams between the front and princess panels had to be taken in a little.

Next I sewed a simple circle skirt, which is a little longer in the back than in the front to create a small train. I used a rope, attached to the leg of a chair, and tailor's chalk to measure and mark the (quarter) circle on the fabric. I made the skirt more than long enough, such that there is definitely enough length for when the skirt gets poofier due to multiple layers and a hoop skirt/petticoat that I will be wearing underneath the dress, and enough length to finish the skirt with a hem. However, I did not bother with finding the correct length and hemming the skirt for this mock-up dress. I found out that since the bottom edge of the bodice is curved (the sides are lower than the front and back), it is not so easy to attach the skirt to the bodice. Also I found out that the bodice was a little too long, which made the dress more mermaid than trumpet, which I didn't like, so I adjusted the length of the bodice. I think with this mock-up the skirt makes my legs look very short, since it hangs down so much because of the weight of the fabric. However, with multiple layers of tulle and a hoop skirt in the final dress, it will look more flattering.

Step 6: Creating a Pattern From the Mock-up

For this step you need:

  • Pattern paper
  • Pen
  • French curves
  • Small ruler or seam gauge
  • Seam ripper tool
  • Scissors

I took apart the mock-up dress again using a seam ripper tool. Then I cut off the seam allowance from the panels, i.e., cutting at the seams.

I placed the panels piece by piece on the pattern paper and traced the edges. I used a set of french curves to draw nice and clean edges, turning and shifting the curves to fit the panel edge as good as possible.

Then I extended the edge by 1.5 cm, using a seam gauge or a small ruler. I marked the extension at several positions and then again used the french curves to draw a nice curve through them. Also I marked all pattern pieces at the waist line, so I know where to connect them. Perpendicular to the waist line, I marked an arrow indicating the grain direction, helping me place the pattern pieces in the correct way on the fabric.

I cut out two versions of the pattern: one with the seam allowance and one without the seam allowance. The one with the seam allowance is used as a guide when cutting the fabric. With the piece without the seam allowance I can easily mark the seam lines on the fabric panels after cutting them.

Before starting on the dress, I purchased a pattern (Vogue 1495) that slightly resembles the dress I'm making. I already knew I was not going to use this pattern. I was told that Vogue patterns are in general not fit for the average Dutch body type (therefore they were not even sold in the store I always go to and I had to order it online) and I would have to make a lot of alterations, making it easier for me to start from scratch instead of using the pattern. However, I did want to have the pattern, so I could take a look at the sewing instructions, which might be helpful for me. Also, I did cut out the pattern to compare it to my own pattern, to ensure me that I did not draw a very strange pattern ;).

Remark: This pattern is a basis pattern for the bodice. The bodice will consist of multiple layers: the lining, a structure layer containing the boning, the satin outer layer and the lace top layer. This pattern can be used directly for the satin and the lace, but since I'm including a (store bought, well fitting) bra in the dress, the pattern needs some alteration for the lining and structure layers.

Step 7: Fabric Shopping!

Now that all the preparation steps were done, I was confident enough that I would be able to bring this project to a good end and make a beautiful dress, and I was ready to spend some (OK, a lot of) money on beautiful bridal fabrics. So I took my mother, grandmother and mother in law for a nice afternoon of fabric shopping.

In the end, I bought:

  • 7 meters of Italian bridal satin (skirt and bodice)
  • 7 meters of lining (skirt and bodice)
  • 12 meters of bridal tulle (four layers in the skirt, plus basis for lace top)
  • 5.5 meters of organza (to add a subtle shiny layer beneath the tulle layers in the skirt)
  • 3 meters of English bridal lace (which was the most expensive part, only used for the bodice with some extensions to the skirt and some decorations on the top)
  • 3 meters of interfacing (to reinforce the satin and lining in the bodice)
  • 0.5 meter blue satin, two different types (for a potential belt or sash)
  • 3 meters of spiral steel boning (I already had matching caps from the pirate corset)
  • 2 pieces of spring steel boning of 28 cm long with dipped ends
  • 1 meter of rigilene boning (for the lacing panel and to hold the lacing loops)
  • 6 meters of bias tape (to act as boning tunnels, since they did not sell boning tunnels in the appropriate size)
  • 2000m thread
  • 2 invisible zippers (one to practice, since I've never installed an invisible zipper before)
  • 5 covered buttons (which will be covered by the satin fabric, they will be used to close the lace top of the dress)
  • Some sewing utilities that I did not own already, like embroidery scissors

Earlier, I already bought a brand new sewing machine. I owned my grandmother's old sewing machine, which is probably 50-60 years old. It still worked, but had some issues. For example when slightly pushing the pedal the machine only made some buzzing noise, but did not start sewing. When pushing it a bit more, it suddenly started sewing quite fast. Also sometimes the upper thread totally got stuck in the lower thread mechanism, occasionally pulling the fabric down as well. Not having complete control was something that irritated me in previous sewing projects. With sewing the most important piece of clothing in my life already being difficult enough, I could not afford this old sewing machine ruining it for me (my mother in law even forbade me to start on my wedding dress without a proper working sewing machine :P). So I purchased a Husqvarna Emerald 118 sewing machine, which is perfect for me. Its lay-out is simple, it doesn't have too many pre-programmed stitches that I won't use anyway, it is quite heavy and decent, such that it will stay in place when sewing and it can handle quite some layers of fabric at once.

Step 8: Sewing the Bodice

For this step you need:

  • Lining/cotton/satin fabric
  • Interfacing (iron-on)
  • Clothes iron
  • Rotary cutter for fabric and cutting mat
  • Weights (in my case I used tea cups)
  • Sewing machine with
    • Overlock presser foot
    • Regular presser foot
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Sewing pins

The bodice consists of four layers: the lining layer, the structure layer, the satin layer and the lace layer. This step was repeated for the first three layers with the lining fabric, the sturdy cotton fabric and the satin respectively.

First I ironed on the interfacing onto the lining and the satin to reinforce the fabrics. Then I placed the pattern pieces (with seam allowance) on the fabric and secured them with some weights. Sewing weights or bean bags can be used for this, or you can be creative and use anything heavy that you already own. For example, I used tea cups. I used a rotary cutter to cut out the panels, while a large cutting mat was placed underneath the fabric. I find the rotary cutter much handier than scissors, because you don’t need pins to secure the pattern to the fabrics and you don’t have to worry about the pattern shifting with resepct to the fabric due to handling it while cutting.

To prevent the fabric from fraying and furthermore extra securing the interfacing to the fabric at the edges, I used the overlock option on my sewing machine and the corresponding overlock presser foot to overlock the edges of the panels. Of course a serger could also have been used for this, however, I do not own one.

After overlocking the panel edges, I marked the actual seam lines with my tailor’s chalk marker. I used the pattern pieces without the seam allowance to do so, which I again held in place with tea cups. I first used a blue colored chalk, but I found out that it shines through the fabric. Therefore, later I started using an orange color, since I remembered once hearing or reading that a red bra does not shine through a white t-shirt. However, this color also shines through and for the last panels I used a light pink, which finally worked. Unfortunately, the ‘wrong’ colors already were on the final lining layer. A test piece also showed that it doesn’t come off in the washing machine (on a very low setting and no detergent), but the interfacing delaminates from the main fabric, so washing the lining layer to remove the chalk is not an option. Luckily, the lining layer can not be seen when wearing the dress and on the satin layer on the outside of the dress I used the lighter pink color. I don’t like that the dress doesn’t look perfect from the inside as well, but it would be too much work to remake the entire lining layer. Next time I would be more careful picking a chalk color!

When all the panels where finished I pinned and stitched them together, now using the regular presser foot on the sewing machine. After that I ironed the seams such that they lay flat and the bodice was finished! At least for the satin layer, because the lining layer and the reinforcement layer needed to be altered to incorporate a bra and a lacing panel, which will be detailed in the upcoming steps.

Step 9: Incorporating a Bra

For this step you need:

  • Store bought, well fitting bra
  • Sewing pins (with flat hats and glass bead heads)
  • Rope or ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Lining basic bodice + extra lining fabric
  • Sturdy cotton basic bodice (structure layer)
  • Sewing machine

When trying on wedding dresses, I noticed that most dresses have boning on the princess seam, going all the way over the breast, and standard bra cups sewn into the dress, but without the underwire. With a dress constructed like that, I would still need to wear a bra underneath the dress; for example, a strapless bra or an adhesive bra without straps, such that it can not be seen through the transparent lace top of the dress. Furthermore, from my view from above I thought the overbreast boning made the breasts have a weird triangular shape (although the consultant assured me that this can only be seen from above and other people won’t notice it looking strange). Therefore, I decided to make the lining and structure layer into a bra cupped corset style, while the upper satin and lace layers smoothly fall over the bra cups to make the dress not look too sexy, but still have good support. Also, to be sure of a good fit, I decided to use a store bought, well fitting bra, rather than separate cups and underwire.

The idea is to attach the bra to the structure layer and alter the lining layer of the bodice such that it neatly fits inside the bra cups. The boning in the princess seam will then stop right beneath the bra underwire.

First, I made sure that the bra would fit completely inside the bodice by cutting off the corners and securing the raw edges by some zigzag stitching. Then I used the draping technique from Step 4 to create a pattern, i.e., marking the desired seam lines with rope and flat headed sewing pins, pinning a piece of fabric to the marked sections, indicating the edges with a pen, cutting out the panels and using step 6 to draw the pattern pieces.

Next, I cut the bra cup pattern pieces from the lining fabric and sewed them together. Then I held the lining bodice to my body and put the bra over it to mark where I needed to make a cut-out to incorporate the bra cup pieces. I cut the holes and sewed in the lining cups following the YouTube tutorial by Tatiana Kozorovitsky.

The following step was to make the same cut-out in the structure layer, but now also leaving out the fabric above the bra cups. I sewed in the bra going along the underwire and the bridge. The wing bands are left loose.

Remaining step was to leave a slit in the side seam of the lining layer of the bodice to let through the wing band, such that they can be fastened in the back when wearing the dress, taking care of some extra support. Of course the edges of this slit where finished off nicely. Finally, when assembling the bodice in a later step, the lining bra cups wil be hand stitched to the bra cup itself to secure everything nicely in place.

Step 10: Lace, Lace, Lace

For this step you need:

  • Lace
  • Weights (tea cups)
  • Contrasting thread and matching thread
  • Hand sewing needles
  • Rotary cutter for fabric and cutting mat
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine with embroidery option and embroidery presser foot

For the lace layer the basis pattern for the bodice is used. I placed the pattern pieces without seam allowance on the lace, taking into acount the arrangement of lace flowers on the panel. I made sure some flowers were (almost) entirely within the panel, some deliberately for a large part outside the panel, such that they can overlap the next panel and hide the seam, and some long outliers of flowers on the top and especially bottom to overlap the tule top and skirt. I again used tea cups for weights to hold the pattern piece in place. I then traced the edge of the panel by basting with a contrasting, black, thick thread using a hand sewing needle.

After taking away the pattern piece I used the rotary cutter to globally cut out the panel, cutting around all flowers that are attached to the panel, leaving them whole. At the edge regions without flowers I left a small seam allowance of about 1 cm (3/8 inch). I then used embroidery scissors to carefully cut away the mesh fabric from the flowers at the edges. I repeated this for all seven panels.

Then I aligned the neighbouring panels following the black basted guides and secured them with sewing pins. I made sure the flowers that stuck out over the edge were always on top of the next panel. Here is why it’s important to carefully position the pattern pieces on the lace when cutting them out: you do not want the overlapping flowers of two neighbouring panels to be in the same position, but you want them offset, such that the seam will be hidden for an as large part as possible. Then I used a thread of matching color and a needle to hand sew the overlapping lace flowers onto the next panel. This is called a lace applique seam, which I learned how to do from the YouTube video’s by Elise Tonn and Professor Pincushion. In the regions of the seams where no lace flowers were present, I machine stitched the seams, then clipping off the seam allowance as short as possible.

When all seven panels were joined together in this manner, I felt the lace was too ‘open’ and I wanted to add more flowers to the bodice. Therefore, I cut out many loose flowers from the lace fabric and hand sewed them in the open areas.

This was a LOT of work and caused quite some frustration as progress is slow and the thread gets tangled up in knots often and gets stuck behind lace flower petals and leaves and sequins that stick out a little. Finally, when I was actually quite close to finishing, I called some friends to help me with cutting out some more flowers from the lace and to my surprise one friend, Maartje, offered to help sewing the loose flowers into place with her wonderful sewing machine with embroidery presser foot. She helped me out finishing the lace bodice in just over a half day, which would have taken me at least another week if I had have to do it all by hand. If only I had known before that her machine was able to do this ‘free hand’ sewing, which is not possible with my own machine. (It might be possible to buy aditionial accessoires that enable this on my machine as well, but I’m not sure.) I found it was still pretty difficult to keep the lace nice and straight and in place on this machine, so I was happy Maartje has had more practice and she did a wonderful job attaching the remaining lace flowers. In the end, I’m very happy with how the lace bodice layer turned out, it truly looks seamless and made from one single part of lace, exactly how I intended it to look.

Step 11: Boning

For this step you need:

  • Bias tape
  • Sewing machine, thread and sewing pins
  • Spiral steel boning and matching end caps
  • Pre-made spring steel boning with finished (dipped) ends
  • Measuring tape
  • Pliers

To give the dress some support I added boning to the bodice. I decided that it was enough to place boning only along the seams of the bodice and one in the center of the front panel, which makes a total of 9 bones. The bones that go on the back of the dress, next to the corset lacing, must not bend sideways when the lacing is tightened and therefore I decided to use spring steel boning, since this only bends forwards and backwards. It is possible to buy this type of boning by the meter, so that you can cut it to the right length yourself. However, spring steel is hardened and therefore difficult to cut. Furthermore, the cut edges will be sharp and need to be filed and/or covered, which is also difficult to do. Thereore, I bought pre-made spring steel boning at the right length with finished ends (dipped in some polymer I believe).

For the rest of the boning it is actually convenient and more comfortable if they bend in multiple directions. Therefore, I used spiral steel boning for the rest of the boning. This I actually bought by the meter and cut to length myself using cutting pliers and measuring tape. The ends now contain sharp wire ends which might pinch through the fabric and ruin the dress and hurt me while wearing it. So I secured matching end caps to the ends using the pliers.

To accomodate the boning in the dress, I attached boning tunnels to the structure layer of the bodice. You could buy ready-to-use boning tunnels, however, they did not sell the appropriate size for my boning at the store I bought everything for my dress. Therefore, I used bias tape and made my own tunnels. I actually used two layers of bias tape and sewed them on the seams of the bodice with two lines of stitching, far enough apart to fit the bones, but not to far apart, such that the bones do not have wiggle room. The bones go underneath (NOT in between) the two layers of bias tape. Hence, the boning is covered from one side by the cotton fabric of the structure layer and on the other side by two layers of bias tape, which both are strong enough to hold the boning.

Since the dress is trumpet/fit and flare style and the bodice reaches over my hips, I would not be able to move and sit in the dress if the boning would be placed over the entire length of the bodice. Therefore, the boning ends at the lower stomach, just above the bending point of the body when sitting down. After inserting the boning in the tunnels, the tunnels are closed off just above and below the bones by machine stitching back and forth a couple of times.

Step 12: Corset Lacing

For this step you need:

  • Satin fabric
  • Marker (tailor’s chalk and pen)
  • Measuring tool (seam gauge or small ruler)
  • Rotary cutter
  • Cord
  • Loop turner
  • Rigilene boning
  • Sewing machine with
    • zipper foot
    • regular presser foot
  • Thread

I’ve always loved dresses that have corset lacing at the back, so I knew my wedding dress needed to have this feature. The lace itself, but also the loops and the lacing panel are made from the same satin fabric that is used for the satin layer of the bodice that is visible through the lace.

I started by making the loops. I reinforced the satin with the same iron-on interfacing I also used for the bodice. Then I cut strips of about 2 cm wide on the bias (i.e., under 45 degrees with respect to the fabric direction). Since the loops consist of only small lengths of satin straps, I used a leftover piece of fabric and cut multiple strips, rather than making one long strip from a new region of the fabric. Then I sewed tunnels out of the strips, placing the good sides together. I placed a cord in between and used the zipper foot on my sewing machine to ensure an even width of the tunnel along the entire length and from strap to strap. I inverted the tunnels using a loop turner tool, which really made life easy. This way I finished a number of straps, more than enough to make all the loops from.

The loops will be subject to quite a lot of force when the lacing is tightened and need to be secured very well to the dress. Also, it is easier to first sew all the loops together on some strip and sew this entire strip to the dress, than it is to sew all the loops on the dress separately. To provide extra security, I sewed the loops on some strips of rigilene boning. This is a plastic type of boning which allows to sew through. I marked where the loops needed to go and started sewing loop by loop. It cost quite some effort to keep the loops in place while sewing, because they are rather thick and the pressure foot tends to push the straps away and it is not possible to use sewing pins. I ended up re-doing some loops and in the end they are still not perfectly sized and shaped, but after all the effort I was happy with the result. I sewed over the entire strip three more times to make sure the loops were secured. I then sewed the strips with loops to the structure layer of the bodice, along with the tunnels for for the spring steel boning (previous step).

Next I had to make the corset lace itself. Basically, the technique is the same as for the loop straps, but now I cut out two long diagonals from a new piece of fabric. I connected the two pieces on the bias, such that the seam accomodates stretching of the lace. Again I sewed a tunnel using the cord and zipper foot, but now I turned it with the cord itself, since the lace was to long (almost 4 meters) to use the loop turner.

Finally I created a lacing panel to go behind the lacing, again from satin. I used the rigilene boning to make sure it stays in shape when the lacing is tightened. I attached it to the lining layer of the bodice.

Step 13: Bodice Assembly, Yoke and Invisible Zipper

For this step you need:

  • Tulle
  • Yoke pattern piece and sewing instructions
  • Scissors
  • Basting thread and normal thread
  • Sewing pins
  • Invisible zipper
  • Sewing machine with
    • regular presser foot
    • invisible zipper foot

Assembling the bodice was the most difficult step in the entire process of making this wedding dress and drove me to several mental breakdowns. Luckily, before I started making the dress, I had several help lines offered to me and I consulted all of them in this process.

I didn’t want my dress to be strapless and liked to have a sheer top part with some lace flowers on it. The pattern I bought had an option for such a yoke and I used the pattern piece for this. I cut out the piece from tulle fabric and after sewing it together and trying it on I had to make several changes, because it didn’t fit nicely. I think in the end I started over making the yoke three or four times. This was not the difficult part, however. Joining all three bodice layers with the yoke in between at the top edge, which is curved due to the sweetheart neckline, is what caused me much headache. The tulle kept crumbling together and getting caught in the seam. In the end I carefully pinned the yoke to the reinforcement layer only, while I was wearing it, to determine the correct position. I then marked with basting thread where the seam needed to go and placed a staystitch. Then I very carefully attached the yoke only to the satin layer, so that I could see what I was doing, rather than the tulle being covered by all the other layers. Then I attached the other two layers, carefully pulling away the tulle yoke from being caught in the needle. Then I understitched the top edge and cut away parts of the seam allowance of all layers to make the top edge less thick. In the end, after starting three times over again, the result is still not perfect, but what can you expect when you don’t have that much sewing expierence, like me? Besides, the undesired wrinkles can be masked later by some lace flowers I want to place on the yoke and the issue will be solved.

Joining the layers in the back was easier. I topstitched the reinforcement and satin layer together just beside the lacing loops and I installed an invisible zipper beneath the lacing. Later I slip stitched by hand the lining to the zipper tape and beside the lacing loops. I had never installed an invisible zipper before and I bought one extra to practice. But with the invisible zipper foot and the clear instructions from the YouTube videos by Made to Sew and Professor Pincushion it was actually not that hard!

Step 14: Making the Skirts

For this step you need:

  • Lining fabric
  • Satin
  • Organza
  • Tulle
  • Measuring tape
  • Cord
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins and clips
  • Serger
  • Sewing machine

I wanted the dress to be quite poofy and therefore I decided to make multiple layers of circle skirts. The outer layers are made of tulle, for an extra poofy effect and because I like the look of tulle skirts.

Bridal tulle comes in very large widths, which makes it possible to cut the entire circle of about 2,5 meters in diameter in one piece from the fabric. For the layers from the other fabrics (satin, lining and organza) I needed to cut two half circles and join them.

To cut the circles I folded the fabric in such way that I only needed to cut one eighth of the circle. Just like for the mock-up dress I used a cord with my tailor’s chalk pen attached to the end to draw the circle part with a radius of ca. 1,25 meters. I did not make the backside longer than the front side this time, however, since I made the skirts long enough to make a small train in the back anyway. Then I cut out the circles. For the satin, lining and organza I then joined the two half circles by a straight machine stitch. For the satin the half skirt was cut in such a way from the fabric that the straight edges aligned with the fabric edge and therefore did not need finishing in some way. The seams of the lining fabric, however, were serged to prevent fraying and for the organza I used a French seam.

For attaching the skirts to the bodice I called in the help of my mother, my mother in law and a friend of my mother’s, Marjon. First we measured what the size of the center holes needed to be by measuring the circumference of the bottom of the bodice. We then measured, marked and cut out the holes from all layers of the skirts. The lining layer of the skirts was directly attached to the lining layer of the bodice, by pinning the skirt to the bodice while I was wearing it. After taking off the dress I machine sewed it to the bodice.

The other layers of skirt where first attached to eachother, two by two layers at the time. The organza was directly attached to the satin. For two of the tulle layers the center hole was made larger, such that it could be gathered at the top to create more poofyness. After all six layers (satin, organza, four layers of tulle) where attached to eachother, they were clamped to the satin and structure layers of the bodice using sewing clips. Before sewing the skirts to the bodice, I carefully tried on the dress one more time to check if everything was clamped symetrically. This was the case and I sewed everything together with two rounds of straight stitches for extra security.

For hemming the skirt I again asked my mother in law and my friend Maartje to help me. They needed to pin the skirts to the correct length, layer by layer, while I was wearing the dress and standing on a table. The back of the skirts was left longer than the front to create a small train. Maartje used her serger to make a nice rolled hem finish to the lining and organza layer. Also the satin layer was serged, but a regular hem was made with the sewing machine. The tulle layers were just cut to length, no hem was necessary.

Step 15: Finishing Touches: Buttons and Lace Outliers

For this step you need:

  • Satin fabric
  • Covered buttons
  • Handsewing needle and thread
  • Elastic band
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine

The final stage of making my wedding dress was to attach the lace layer to the the bodice and to make covered buttons to close the yoke.

The buttons were made by cutting small circles from a piece of satin fabric (using a cilinder shaped flashlight as a template for the circles). Then I made a basting stitch around the circle, not too close to the edge to prevent fraying. The thread is pulled, such that the satin circle forms some sort of sachet, in which one part of the button is placed. Then the other part of the button is put in place to close the covered button. The button can not be sewn directly to the tulle yoke, so a small strip of satin is attached first on both ends of the yoke. On one side the buttons are sewn, on the other side small loops of elastic band are sewn that can be slipped over the button to close the yoke.

The lace is attached by first pinning it in place and then handstitching the lace to the satin layer of the bodice on all edges: the top edge, the bottom edge and the edges along the lacing loops and zipper. The remaining task was to hand sew the lace outliers to the tulle yoke and the tulle top skirt. Also some extra loose lace flowers were cut out and sewn on the yoke to hide the shoulder seams and to fill open spaces. I didn’t want the yoke to be covered as densely as the bodice though, so not too many flowers were added. Furthermore, I made sure to attach some pieces of lace at the weak spots of the tulle yoke, for example at the armpits and at the edge of the open area above the corset lacing, to provide some extra strength at these locations.

Step 16: Finished Result

Finally, after months of sewing, literally with blood, sweat and tears, the dress was finally finished! I am very happy with the result and I proudly wore the dress on our wedding day!

Epilog Challenge 9

Runner Up in the
Epilog Challenge 9

Sew Warm Contest 2018

Participated in the
Sew Warm Contest 2018