Handmade Wedding Dress

My sister got married this past September, and like all people with questionable decision making abilities and poor impulse control, I offered to make her wedding dress…

crazy screaming seamstress


Just kidding!!

It all worked out.

I’ve been meaning to put together a post about the process for months, but I guess I needed a little wedding detox first.

This was my most ambitious project to date, and I was a little nervous about it, but I also really wanted to challenge myself and go outside the comfort zone of what I usually make.

My sister wanted a strapless dress with a fitted bustier top and a full skirt.  She wanted the top to be lace and have built in bra cups and the skirt to be chiffon with some gathering at the waist for optimum floaty-ness and swishy-ness.

wedding dress muslin

First skirt muslin.

At first we thought the skirt of the dress should have tiers, so I draped a version like that.  My sister decided she wanted the skirt to have a sleeker look, so I draped a second one.  This time I also used poly chiffon instead of muslin to get a better idea of how the finished skirt would look.

draping second test skirt

Second skirt “muslin” (chiffon).

I draped a muslin for the top as well and had my sister try it on several times so I could adjust the fit and get the style lines just right.  She tried it on with the awesome beaded capelet she planned to wear at the wedding for the full effect.

trying on the test dress

Fitting time!

Once everything was fitting correctly I made a paper pattern from my muslin and used that to cut out all of the pattern pieces for the dress.

bodice pattern pieces

Cutting, basting, sewing…

The bodice needed to be cut out four times – lace/satin/lining/fusible.  Before sewing, I completely basted the lace pieces to the satin pieces, all around the edges.  The bodice was also fully boned and needed underwires, so once the lining was constructed I stitched in casings along all of the necessary seams.  I used flat steel boning for extra support.

cutting out the skirt

My very professional method of weighting fabric down with Roseanne and Simpsons DVD boxes.

I had to cut the skirt out on the floor because it was so flared.  To keep the silk from shifting (and also to keep it clean) I cut it between paper.  To do this, just lay one sheet of pattern paper out on your cutting surface, then lay your fabric on top of the paper, then lay another sheet of paper on top of the fabric.  Trace your pattern onto the top piece of paper and cut through all the layers as one.

wedding dress in progress

It’s coming together…

So after many weeks, some back spasms and a few crying fits…

finished wedding dress

TA DA!!!

Oh yeah, we also decided to add straps to help keep the dress up.  I realized it probably needed a LOT more boning and interfacing to help it stay up, with the weight of all that skirt fabric pulling it the other way.  But I think the straps look really nice!

Well that’s it!  The wedding was so much fun, but it felt like it was over in a flash!  I think it should have been more like a wedding weekend:)  It was awesome!!

I also made my dress, but I’ll save that for the next post!


11 thoughts on “Handmade Wedding Dress

  1. you did a great job! She looks beautiful :0) I also made my sister’s wedding dress…not an experience I care to go through again :0( … mari

  2. Pingback: Shibori Bridesmaid Dress | my workroom

  3. The dress is absolutely gorgeous! If you don’t mid me asking (I’m working on my own wedding dress), how full was the skirt – did you use a full circle or a half circle?

    • Thank you Liv! I not sure if it would be closer to a full or a half circle, I didn’t do any calculations with measurements. What I did was drape a flared skirt, but I didn’t add that much fullness at first, to keep it slim looking. After trying it on, my sister wanted more fullness in the skirt, as well as some slight gathering at the waist, so I slashed and spread the whole skirt pattern to widen it all over. It did end up being a very full skirt, but not bulky because it was chiffon. I hope that helps!

      • That’s very helpful, thanks! The skirt looks very floaty and ethereal. I keep going back and forth between a chiffon skirt or a gorgeous knit silk tulle, and seeing your sister’s dress may have tipped the scales in favor of chiffon. Did you only use one layer of chiffon? I’m a bit torn, I worry one layer will show too much lining through (I bought a nice enough silk habotai to line with, so it’s not so much the fabric as the seam lines of the lining showing through I worry about – since they’re different between my lining and upper skirt), or on the other hand that two layers will end up being bulky around the waist since I’m planning to gather at least the top layer.

        Ugh, for some reason I just can’t seem to make decisions on my wedding dress, I keep worrying I’ll make the wrong choice and just getting paralyzed and not choosing anything. I’m sure it’s a whole other sort of nerve-wracking to be sewing someone else’s wedding dress, but I swear sometimes I wish I was a little less emotionally involved.

  4. Hi Liv! I used one layer of chiffon. I think the seam lines were somewhat visible, but they were in the same places as the upper skirt, so with that and the gathers they weren’t really noticeable. The chiffon I used was so light, even when I gathered it, it wasn’t very bulky. Maybe do a small test piece with one layer gathered and then with two layers gathered and see how bulky it is and see if you can see the seams through it?

    I know, it is a lot of pressure. My sister was very specific about what she wanted, so that made it a little easier for me. Good luck!!

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