This instructable is to both show an example of what can be done when you DIY your wedding dress and will also include tips for sewing with silk!
The story behind this dress: A dear friend of mine / former roommate was finding it hard to locate a ready-made wedding dress that she loved. She had a pretty clear picture of what she wanted, but nothing in stores came close. And after she told me what she was looking for, I understand why! In the wedding world where more-is-more, finding a simple silk dress was impossible, no matter what $ range we looked through. Every dress has to have that 'something special' so we found dresses with the cut she liked, but made from a patterned fabric. We found a dress with a bow in the back, but it had a fuller-than-full tulle skirt. We found a plain silk dress, but it can with beaded/bedazzled shoulder or back. Working together, we developed a general idea of a plain silk dress, but with a sheer overlay (possibly in a non-white color), low back, and a bow in the back.
Step 1: Design! Mock Up!
We tentatively finalized our design and began the work. You don't need to reinvent the wheel for every garment you make - for this dress, I used the basic skirt from the Vogue 1030 pattern (http://sewing.patternreview.com/Patterns/19558), but I lengthened it around the waist and moved the fullness from the front to the back of the dress. This had the effect of shifting the side seams towards the back, but you can't really tell in final garment. I didn't have time to design a dress with a train (I've never done that from scratch), thus I started with a commercial pattern base. The top half, however, is entirely self drafted and took a number of tries to get the v-cut just right. j
TIP: When working with silk, make your mock up in a polyester material of similar weight and drape! You can, of course, mock up in silk, but who has the $$$$ for that??
While making your mock-up, order swatches of silk you are contemplating (unless you live in NYC and have access to Mood...) - we purchased a bunch of swatches from Mood online and after analyzing them in different lights, decided to go with a slightly-off white silk crepe de chine base (TIP: no one really looks good in pure white!) and for the overskirt, we went with a coral-pink silk chiffon.
Step 2: Sew Sew Sew!
I was a bit terrified to work with silk, but it was actually way easier than I anticipated. It is vitally important to use microtex needles when working with silk - the sharpness prevents the needle from catching a thread as it goes through the fabric and creating a run in your garment. If you can afford it, I'd also recommend working with silk thread, but an all purpose will do fine as well. The silk thread will grab less at the silk fibers of the material.
Whenever working with lightweight fabrics, but especially with silks, use french seams. French seams will allow you to finish your garment nicely inside and out and not add weight or risk making a run in the fabric if you did something like a rolled serged finish.
Step 3: Finish Well
My final tip and part of this story is to finish well. It can be so tempting to cheat a little bit when you've been working on a project sooooo long and when your deadline is nearing, but persevere! I made the sash and bow in the last day before the wedding and while I was so tempted to finish the bow ends by machine, it looked so much better to finish by hand, but doing essentially 8 yards of a rolled hem via whipstitch takes a while. A final press and this dress was ready to go...until the morning of the wedding. Good thing I packed a kit of things to bring 'just in case,' as the original fasteners I put on the bow and sash (hooks and eyes) did not keep everything in place the way I wanted. A run to the store later, snaps and safety pins saved the day!
In the pictures you can see both the full underdress (which is fully lined with silk) and the overskirt/sash and how in different light, the colors look very different, in a very awesome way!
Step 4: Dance the Night Away!
Finally, have fun wearing your dress :) Best bit of this dress is that I made the skirt and sash removable, so when the August night got warm, we could pop both off and continue on the dance floor!
There are many other things you can do when working with silk - stay stitch, and strengthen seams with tissue paper, etc, but they were not necessary in this design because of its simplicity and because nothing was cut on the bias.
All photos in this instructable by Melissa Ergo! (I have permission to use them)
If you'd like to see some other photos from the wedding head over to these two links: