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Hillary’s muslin

For nearly all custom work I take on, I insist that we include a mock up as part of the dressmaking process. It’s positively crucial to confirming that the fit, shape and style of our custom design are just right. No matter how thorough a set of measurements I take, there are often little details to fit that are hard to anticipate. No matter how carefully we’ve discussed the design and reviewed the sketch, there’s always a chance my client and I don’t share quite the same vision of what the final garment will look like, and it’s much better to review and adjust the design, if need be, before we’ve cut into the expensive fabrics of the final garment! Even when we are on the same page, sometimes we discover that on her actual body, a slight change to the design may flatter her better than what we originally planned. For all these reasons, I like to make a full mockup whenever possible, and fit it to my client in person so we can fine tune the fit and design.

Hillary’s muslin fitting was a delight. We were both thrilled to see the design taking shape. I got to see her SHOES for the first time that day too. Remember how I said I thought she’d want some surprises? Her shoes were killer, and a more modern element to pair with her vintage inspired gown. Hillary also brought a petticoat she had purchased elsewhere to wear under the gown, and we determined it wasn’t quite full enough or long enough on its own. So, I would add an additional layer or two to the lining of her skirt to give the extra fullness we needed.

In terms of the dress itself, I started with a bit of extra ease in the bodice, and we pinned it out in just the places we thought most flattering. The skirt was all done with knife pleats gathered onto the waistband; some of them were deeper than others and we decided we liked the fullness of those deeper pleats best. The sash needed some adjustments to fit, and we marked them on the mock up. The jacket needed adjustments too, and because the lace was our priciest fabric, I suggested I make a second mock up to be sure the adjustments were just right before we moved forward on the lace jacket.

Another detail we discussed at her muslin fitting was the neckline for Hillary’s dress. I started with a very high neckline on the muslin, one that sat just barely below her collarbone, so that we could adjust downward from there. Once we tried on the jacket mock up, we determined that the jacket would provide the coverage Hillary wanted, which meant the neckline of the dress itself did not need to be so high. I suggested we establish a completely different neckline for the dress, dropped lower down, and that we reserve that “second look” for her and her husband to enjoy privately. She was thrilled with the idea, and we spent some time discussing the shape, the height, and marking out an extremely flattering, distinct neckline for the dress that only the two of them would know. It gives me a great deal of joy to be able to include such details for the bride and groom, that may not be visible to any of the guests at their wedding and might not even be saved in any photographs, but that contribute a little something special to the experience and meaning of that day.

The end result of her muslin fitting was that we both felt we could safely move forward on the *actual* dress and sash with the minor pattern adjustments needed, and that we must make a second mock up for the jacket to be certain it would be perfect.

Up next: beginning work on the actual dress at last!


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.


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!


Square One

In the midst of my work on Rachel’s bridal gown, my family moved to a new home. Needless to say, it’s been a busy, hectic, exciting, stressful, wonderful time. We’ll be staying put for a good long time now, and I’m excited to be able to decorate, settle in, really make this home our own. So, I let my Girly-Girl decide how she wanted to decorate her new bedroom, and she picked butterflies. And because I sew, and because I find myself compelled to create more work for myself, I offered to make her a quilt.

I have never sewn a quilt before. I’ve been sewing for pleasure for around fifteen years, and my business is nearly two years old… but mainly I’ve made clothing. Quilting always seemed to a Florida girl like me like the sort of task that took forever to complete and resulted in something you could only use once or twice a year (cause let’s face it… it’s hot here all but maybe two weeks of the year!) My Girly-Girl has changed my mind. 🙂 She likes a nice cozy warm blanket, and she likes bright colors, strong patterns, and unique designs. A quilt for her will be worth every stitch!

We’re making solid squares with hand drawn appliqued butterflies (and on a few of the squares, flowers, bees, caterpillars, dragonflies). The appliques are machine stitched but the antennae are hand embroidered. Without further ado, here is the very first quilt square I ever made:

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post pics of the final product soon enough (it is still in progress for now!)


Rachel’s Corset

My newest client Rachel was asked to be maid of honor at her friend’s wedding a couple of months ago – an honor of course, but there was a slight problem. The bride chose strapless gowns for her bridesmaids, and Rachel’s curvy figure demanded better support than an off-the-rack strapless bra was going to provide. Rachel asked a mutual friend, Ann-Michelle, to help her find a suitable corset at one of the lingerie shops in the mall. Ann-Michelle told her for a suitable corset, the mall was not the place to go!

I discussed the options for corsets with Rachel. We talked about the sort of shape and cut she wanted (fairly long lined, coming to a V at the front), the neckline (sweetheart), and kind of closure (front busk, back lacing), as well as the degree of shaping and support that would be appropriate (supportive enough to have a showdown with gravity and win). We also talked about fabrics. Rachel’s corset was going to be worn to her friend’s wedding, but also to her own a few months later, so we definitely wanted fabrics that had a beautiful, bridal feel to them. The time frame was tight and didn’t allow us to shop around, but I had some gorgeous cream and pale gold silk brocade in stock and Rachel really loved it! There wasn’t quite enough for the whole corset, so we made one panel in an accent fabric – champagne satin – which ultimately emphasized the hourglass shape the corset created. I hand dyed the laces champagne as well, to match. The fashion fabrics sit over two layers of sturdy cotton corset fabric so the corset is strong and durable. The entire bodice is supported by 22 pieces of flat and spiral steel bonings, as well as the front busk. We met during the construction of her corset for fittings and made a few adjustments (both for fit, and to ensure the neckline of the corset didn’t show above the neckline of her bridesmaid gown). A good fit is infinitely more comfortable, and more supportive as well!

The end result was exactly what she’d needed. Rachel was thrilled! She told me she’d been dreading her friend’s wedding a bit when she hadn’t known how she was going to manage the strapless gown, but with the corset she was looking forward to it again. After the wedding, she sent me a message to let me know it had been comfortable the whole day, and she’d even found an opportunity to wear it again since. Music to a corset maker’s ears!



A mutual friend referred Rachel to me a few months ago. Rachel had been asked to be maid-of-honor at her friend’s wedding just a few months before her own, and she was interested in having a corset custom-made to wear under the strapless bridesmaid’s gown, and also interested in discussing her ideas for her own wedding gown.

At that point in time, Rachel and her fiancĂ©e had not yet selected a venue for their wedding, but they were leaning towards a wedding on the beach (a splendid option for those of us here in Florida!) Because of that, Rachel imagined a tea-length dress, not too formal and not long enough to drag in the sand. I sympathized immediately – my own wedding six years prior had been on the beach, and I’d insisted on a shorter dress myself. She also knew she wanted to incorporate purple accents somehow, as purple is her favorite color. She sent me a few photos of gowns she liked that had purple accents, and apologized that there wasn’t a consistent style across them. Aside from the length of her gown and the presence of purple, she didn’t yet have a clear vision for what she wanted. I told her it was not a problem! The photos she’d shown me did have a few elements in common (all were A-lined strapless gowns, and all of them had sheer fabric overlays). I put together a couple of quick sketches for her based on what she’d sent, more as a starting place for us to discuss my interpretations of her ideas than as final designs to choose from. We discussed them briefly, but without a solid decision on the venue her vision for her wedding day wasn’t yet clear. Plus, the corset was her immediate need. So, we decided to set aside our discussion of her wedding gown design for the time being. In the end, that was a good call – some of her initial ideas changed pretty dramatically, and the design we came up with in the end was very different indeed from these original sketches.

I can scarcely wait to begin sharing the actual gown we’re sewing for Rachel, but her wedding isn’t for a few more weeks, so in the mean time I’ll write my next post about her corset!

July 2019
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