from a hot mess to the perfect dress...follow the adventure as the old lady and I attempt to make my wedding dress.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Round and Round We Go...

 I apologize that it's been a while since I've posted anything. There has been a whirlwind of emotions with both making this dress and planning a wedding in general. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that this whole experience is about Charlie and me celebrating the sacrament of marriage and moving forward with our new family--and although it will only include the two of us and our sweet labradoodle Teddy for a while, it will none-the-less be our family. And we couldn't be more excited! Now enough of the lame stuff...

The past few weeks have been full of ups and downs including days of feeling like I'm just running in circles exhausting myself and not getting anywhere. We spent about a week just pinning the lace to the silk pieces and I spent like 2 entire days messing with the fit of the bodice to the skirt because working with silk is so different from muslin. Just when I got to the point where I was wondering if I'm even good enough to do this or if it's worth it, the final lace samples came! The lace is AMAZING!! I'm sooo excited! Of course with my luck we will have to spend a whole lot of time piecing the lace together because the damask pattern of the re-embroidered French Alencon lace that I love, which itself is only 32'' wide, is naturally in a horizontal direction. I don't know many women who are delighted by horizontal patterns on their clothing and I'm no exception so we'll see what we can do to make it vertical.

pinning, and pinning, and pinning, and stay stitching (the sample)

The sequins look like a bit much, but I promise they're more subtle in person.

The pearls and bugle beads stand out more than the sequins.

LOVE the eyelash scallop trim we'll use!!!

The begining of the bodice marathon.
 When I first tried the dress there wasn't a zipper yet, and I still needed to fiddle with the fit, but I could tell that I do love what I'm doing and all of the frustrations will definitely be worth it. Regardless of how much I've pricked myself with the straight pins and wound up looking like I bathed 10 cats at one time (I even bled a little on the cream fabric.....shhhhhh...nothing a little peroxide and a q-tip can't fix) I'm having fun.
It's blurry and doesn't fit perfectly yet, but this is the best
picture you get. I'm probably not posting any
 more of me in the dress.

Of course it can't end with that. I ordered some samples for the final silk that came recently in the mail, and I don't know what these people were thinking but this is  NOT silk shantung. So now I have to search for something that is what I'm looking for and hope that it's reasonably priced. I'm thinking probably drapery fabric because I want that heavy weight and not the lighter weight of dupioni. I'm probably a little picky. But tough.

So finally I got the zipper in and got to try it on. I love it, but there are still minor changes to be made. I've been working on trimming scallops off of the sample lace to applique to the bodice. And I'm happy to say that I LOVE the new lace bodice! The back has a diamond-shaped cutout now, and I have to say it's a little sassy. Also, I inserted a 32'' width of lace that I pleated to fit in the center back of the skirt to create a cascade that I'm pretty excited about! This will allow us to have the train that I want with the small width of the final lace fabric. I'm really not a fan of math, which is funny because this whole thing kind of feels like the Universe's sick attempt at putting me though a word problem. Good news, Universe... I'm "Duh, winning".

Much better!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Practice Makes Impatience

Once in elementary school my piano teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, sent a note home that said, "Caroline talks too much in class." Mom sent one back that said, "You don't have to live with her." Thanks, Sandy. Obviously I have always had issues with being patient, as in it's kind of a foreign concept. I love surprises but I HATE waiting for them--it's the worst!! Even though making my dress doesn't mean the final thing is going to be a surprise I'm not enjoying all of the prep work that involves a whole lot of one of my less-than-stellar attributes: impatience. This experience is more like cooking for me. I love cooking things that are healthy with fresh ingredients (right down to thieving fresh herbs from Sandy's herb garden) but I HATE the prep work. So a lot of times I will find a recipe I like and if there's too much prep I'll google the dish and find a simpler method. Even on Adderall (I'm ADHD?! Yes. Shocking, I know.) I just don't want to wait.

When I start making a garment you can usually estimate a couple of hours before I start getting frustrated that it's not done already. I want to try it on. NOW. That is, unless I'm making something for someone else. Then I want the whole thing to be just right and I become slightly neurotic about the idea that it has to be perfect. So when Mom and I first made the decision to make the dress, and I mentioned that the lace I wanted to use runs $120/yd, we knew immediately that we should make a sample. I always hated that the samples I made in college were usually made out of crazy fabric remnants and wound up looking like a clown from Cirque du Soliel that most people would never wear. Except now that I think about it, I probably have a few friends like Adley Dameron that would have worn them. Anyway, I wanted us to make a nice-looking sample that we can donate to a bride that can't afford a dress because every bride deserves to feel beautiful on her wedding day. Plus, if we're going to the trouble of making a sample there's no reason someone shouldn't get some use out of it. We bought less-expensive fabric, began cutting last weekend, and I am thrilled to say my thirst for something tangible that I can at least pretend to try on has been quenched.

Of course, there's no way I could stick with one design--I probably got distracted by the sheen of the cream shantung fabric. I changed the design of the back of the lace bodice and decided to drape the new back to get exactly what I want, and because I'm about to punch a kitten if I have to do one more flat pattern draft. (**Disclaimer**Dear PETA and cat-lovers everywhere: I will not actually punch a kitten. Don't throw red paint on me.)  We finished cutting everything including the lining and interfacing and fused the interfacing to the sample silk this weekend so we're ready to start sewing!! And I was able to hold some of the pattern pieces up to me and feel like we accomplished something real. Then, today I put most of the pieces on my mannequin so she could "try them on", too. Her name is Charlene, like from Designing Women, and she loves the dress.

Thanks, Dr. Connell! All those college classes are coming in handy. 

See what I mean? This is just silly.

But boy, do I feel better!!

Bear with me. It doesn't exactly fit this lovely lady.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bridal Impossible

Working in retail is certainly not the most glamerous job in the world. I really hate it when people come in, obviously just to have fun, try on the entire store, force me to hang everything back up, and don't buy anything. I really didn't want to do that to some poor bridal consultant knowing full and well I wan't going to be dropping any "dolla-dolla" bills. But Tuesday I changed my mind. I had questions to ask that I knew only an actual gown would answer. So Sandy and I embarked on "Bridal Impossible"....

We went to a local bridal shop and tried on a bunch of dresses, mostly to see how they were made. There were a few, one in particular, that I really liked but it just had way too much beading for an afternoon wedding at Ascension. All the beading combined with the cheap lace and taffeta made it look a little tacky. But I was pleasantly surprised that all of the dresses I liked were highly reminiscent of the one we're working on. But I was happy for the gowns' subtle whispers like, "Make your train longer!" as I tried them on.

Checking out the construction of these dresses did answer my questions. Questions like:

1. Do I need to interface the entire dress?

Dress #1's answer: Yes. You should probably also insert a corset beneath the lining.

2. Do I need some sort of petticoat/crinoline?

Dress #2's answer: Yes. Insert it as a part of the lining about 4-6 inches below where your flare begins.

3. How big should my train be?

Dress #3's answer: Pretty dang big. (This is me trying to measure 1/2 of one of the trains and kicking myself for not smuggling in a tape measure!)

These are some of the other not-so-sneaky pictures Sandy took. She got a little camera-happy... discretion isn't our thing.

Too much beading but we liked the shape and neckline.

Not all about the neckline and asymmetry of the skirt.

Liked the shape, hated all the beading, the fabric, and color.

Also liked how the lace extended further than the taffeta on the train.

Like the fabric and the fit, but wasn't in love.

Loved the waterfall of the train.

Of course we didn't get a picture of the one I liked best. Typical.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Mom and I have been working hard during every spare moment we have. Mostly we've been perfecting patterns, and it wasn't too bad until yesterday when I decided to change the lace overlay of the bodice completely. The pattern we bought has a gathered bodice (assuming organza will be used) and with lace it would probably make me look like I belong on a football field. Since I don't know squat about football I don't see that working out very well. Because I'm so short, I had to take 3 inches out of the length of every panel, and a whopping 6 inches out of the back--which means I had to add 6 inches to the lace overlay of the back. Then there was a big dilemma about whether to have no darts, bust darts only, bust and shoulder darts, or princess seams on the lace bodice.It took me a couple hours to get the bodice right, but I think I'm getting close. We "finished" the patterns yesterday and started cutting out the sample now.

As I was cutting the sample fabric (and getting very excited) yesterday I realized I probably need to interface (interfacing is a stiff material meant to go between the "fashion" or outer fabric and the inner lining) the entire dress so it lays right. If I were going to get married on the beach I would probably opt not to, but in January in a Gothic-style church I think I should. Any advice? I'm going to buy some today and try it with the sample. Then the next question is woven or non-woven interfacing.... I guess I'll go with what's cheaper for the sample. But any advice is welcome!! Ilaine??

Here are some pictures of our progress. The muslin looks like a hot mess, I know. But I just made all of the pattern changes I made right on the muslin so none of those seams will be there next time. Also, I apologize for looking like I just woke up.

Round 1 of the muslin

ummm..... working on the bodice

Final bodice patterns (hopefully)

Final Patterns

Final Patterns

Muslin round 2

Add caption

Cutting sample silk