Archive for November, 2010



Early on in our custom design process, I let Rachel know that if she was interested I could custom make her veil to coordinate with her gown. She was delighted with the possibility but had no ideas about what specifically she would want. I think our mutual friend Ann-Michelle was the first to suggest she consider a fascinator instead of the traditional veil. As soon as we began thinking on that track it was clearly the right call for Rachel and her wedding day.

Again we perused the internet for inspiration. Rachel liked the look of a couple of photos with flower fascinators that had wispy feathers sort of sweeping out around them. On a shopping trip together to find flowers for the gown, we found some feathers dyed a deep purpley magenta that were just perfect! These, together with flowers Rachel selected to match the bouquet she would carry, and some stunning iridescent beads that matched the Dupioni exactly, came together to make a beautiful accessory for her hair, that coordinated wonderfully with her gown.


Change of plans

After Rachel’s fabric fitting, I worked on embellishing the skirt. Our original design plan had been to dot the skirt with small purple fabric flowers, and adding a sprinkling of beads and sequins around them for some extra sparkle. It sounded good, it worked in the sketch, it had been gorgeous in a couple of inspiration photos we drew from. In real life, on her gown, it was all wrong. The contrast between the deep purple and pale ivory was too stark, and the small flowers made the skirt looked almost polka dotted. Adding that to the mixed textures and silk pick ups that we were already using, and the skirt was far too busy. I sent Rachel pictures of the gown with the flowers pinned in place, and she replied first asking me to thin them out, and then asking if we could rethink them altogether. Rachel apologized but I let her know – this is part of the custom process, and it’s precisely the reason why I send progress photos! Sometimes what sounds good in theory turns out a bit different in practice. It was time to rethink things.

Over the course of a couple of days we emailed back and forth. I sent photos of a number of possible alternatives, adding flowers at the hem instead of dotting throughout, beading small sections of the skirt with purple beads, clear beads, small ones and large ones, sections matching the beading on the bodice, random scatterings and little flower shaped bead clusters, long trailing “vines” of ivory thread and clear sequins. I tried to do just enough of each sample to let her see, without devoting too much time to any of them and without overhandling the fabrics.

Ultimately, Rachel decided she didn’t want purple beads or purple thread in the skirt; the contrast was just too much. She liked the look of the ivory “vines” with sequins, and asked if I could do this but also scatter in a few of the beaded flowers (in clear beads) for a bit of texture. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that she wanted to change plans; the end result is so much better than what we’d designed at first, such a better fit for Rachel and for her wedding.


First fabric fitting

Fabric fittings are exciting. By this point we’ve been working together to design and create a beautiful garment, but we’ve been working in pictures, sketches, mock ups. At this point, I’m able to show my client the *actual* garment we’re creating. And in the case of a bride, it’s the first time she wears the gown she will wear on her wedding day.

Rachel first fabric fitting was FUN. Only one minor, nitpicky change was needed for a perfect fit (when I pointed it out she told me it was too small to matter; but I told her “No, we’re going to FIX it.”) Rachel brought the shoes she planned to wear on her wedding day (awesome, awesome shoes) and I marked the hemline of the skirt. We discussed the pick ups I would soon be pinning in the over skirt (I cheated in the last post and showed you a photo post-pickups because I’d neglected to take a picture of the earlier step). We both oohed and aaahed excitedly over how well the purple fabric complimented her complexion and hair color, how beautiful her figure looked in the gown, how adorable her shoes were. And we took a picture for her to share with her friends and for me to share with you! After this, we were ready for me to begin working on the finishing touches for her gown.

But coming next… a surprising change in plans.


Skirting the issue

Rachel’s gown included a skirt with four layers in all – the Dupioni over skirt, ivory tulle over satin for the under skirt, and of course lining. I had to sew the tulle layer twice; my iron has a Teflon shoe and so it does not melt fabrics, which unfortunately allowed me to neglect to turn the temperature down low enough for the delicate tulle fabric. It didn’t melt, but it shrank badly the first time. I didn’t notice my mistake until I’d sewn the entire tulle layer, pinned it to the satin, and realized it was a good six inches shorter than the satin layer! Thankfully I buy tulle by the bolt and had plenty on hand to correct my error quickly, without any delays to Rachel.

Aside from that sewing up the skirt went beautifully and and without much to comment on; we’d pretty well perfected the shape and fit in our muslin fittings. I basted the bodice to the skirts and let Rachel know we were ready for a fitting … in her *actual* gown! Stay tuned for more. 🙂



One of Rachel’s early requests was that her gown sparkle. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted beads or sequins or rhinestones or some combination (and wasn’t confident about which would look elegant and which would lean too far towards tacky) but she was sure that she wanted the gown to glitter stylishly somehow.

Once I had delved in to working with the beautiful Dupioni and satin fabrics for her gown, I was able to work on a few sample swatches of beadwork, trying different patterns both with matching and contrasting beads, mixing in some clear iridescent sequins, adding a bit of embroidery. Rachel gave me her input on the smaller sections and armed with her approval, I went to work on the bodice of her gown.

So that the back side of the embroidery was hidden between the lining and the main fabric, I needed to reach between these layers from the bottom of the bodice. And since I wanted to avoid removing the skirt from the bodice once they were sewn together, I needed add the beading before attaching the bodice to the skirt. So the first photos I sent Rachel of her *actual* gown in progress were close ups of the bodice beading to get her input.

After I beaded the bodice, I left it up on a dress form for a couple of days so I could look at it from different angles, in different lighting, out of the corner of my eye while walking past. Often, doing this allows me to notice things that I might miss in the midst of sewing, and lets me identify changes I want to make. This time, the longer I looked at the bodice the happier I was with it. It sparkled as I walked past. It looked great in full light and dim light. And the more times I saw it, the more I was sure it reflected  something of Rachel’s personality as well.

With that step finished, it was time to sew the many layers of skirt!


Practice makes perfect

A custom bridal gown will always begin with at least one mock up, sometimes more. Even when I’ve taken great care with measurements, even when I’ve considered multiple aspects of fit, there are always some details that need to be fine tuned, and it’s much better to work these out before we’re using the fashion fabrics for the gown! Additionally, some things look different in real life than we imagine them on paper. My clients and I both need to see an example ahead of time to work through any desired changes and to gain confidence with the design overall.

For Rachel, I made two mock ups, and we had a total of three muslin fittings as we fine tuned the fit of the bodice, the placement of the off the shoulder sleeves, the length and amount of fullness in the skirt, the shape and amount of fullness in the overskirt. The overall design remained unaltered in her case, but I spent a great deal of time perfecting the fit and shape to make sure her gown would be the most flattering thing she’d ever worn. Rachel was delightful to work with. She stood patiently as I pinned out fabric and insisted each time “there’s no rush; I don’t want to take it off!” Our mutual friend Ann-Michelle was able to come to most of these fittings and it was loads of fun. Rachel shared the evolving wedding plans with us and her excitement was infectious!

At her first mock up fitting, I showed her swatches I’d purchased for a few fabrics I thought would be suitable for her gown. I was thrilled when, at first glance, she announced that she loved the fabric which had been my personal favorite. It was a stunning iridesent purple Dupioni silk that took on bluer or redder tones depending on the light. None of the shades it took on clashed with orange, and it seemed like the fabric would really help pull in some of the various colors that would be present at her wedding. Plus, the texture and weight of it was ideal for the type of pick ups she wanted – some shape, some texture, but not too much volume (not too poofy!). This was one of several times that it felt like Rachel was reading my mind, picking my recommendation even before I’d suggested it!

The series of mock ups took place over a month and a half but I’m condensing them to one blog post because just as I could scarcely wait to start sewing the silk, I can hardly wait to show you photos of the *actual* gown in progress! More to follow soon…



I had to rush on Girly’s costume… unpacking has kept me very busy for most of the past week. I threw this together Saturday morning, before heading out to Rachel’s wedding. My Girly has watched enough fittings to know the drill and she politely but *very* specifically instructed me on how she wanted her costume to look. The first BIG requirement was that it had to be “whitish clearish” and not just white… the tulle layer did the trick and she told me happily “it’s nice and floaty.” She stood nicely while I trimmed the hem to a manageable length and let me recut the eye holes multiple times (and ultimately let me open up the whole face and just add makeup) so that it would be easy for her to see. Not bad for a rush job; next year we’ll see if I can devote a tad more time to it!

November 2010
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