...Is not a question I asked myself. The first thing that came to mind when it was time to shop for THE MOST IMPORTANT DRESS I'LL EVER WEAR was............"I would never forgive myself if I didn't make it". As if all my years of toiling behind a sewing machine would have been for naught if I didn't AT LEAST give it a try. My resolve was strong, however. Even if the damn thing fell apart half way through the ceremony, I was determined to make it and by God's good grace I did! So here are my top 5 tips for any lady who embarks on this journey.
1. Pick a style within your ability
I veered away from and beading, embroidery or lace. Although I'm not the hugest fan of those applications my concern was the time I needed to make it wedding-tacular. A 10 month engagement while working 60+ hrs a week was an obvious no-no. I've always loved ultra 3D garments and I can flounce with the best of them so my dress design was a no brainer for me.
2. Be very patient
I searched the web for encouragement before I got started and I was shocked by how many blogs say don't do it! I've heard it all from "you need 4 arms and 16 elbows to fit yourself" or "only true master seamstress should every try to fit herself". Give me a break!!! What is point of writing a blog post with discouraging advice?!?!?! Do you want to know the REAL SECRET to fitting yourself no matter your skill level??? PATIENCE! That's all, a big bowl of never give up. If you trust that you will figure it out eventually, it will happen...eventually. I made 17 versions of my bodice until it fit perfectly. During the last 10 versions I was altering the pattern by only 1/8" at a time. Now, the length of your 'eventually' will depend on your skill level - I just made sure I gave myself ample time. I'll talk more about my fitting process in another post.
3. Just ATTACK it!
Don't comb through Amazon looking for the holy grail of wedding dressmaking. It is a waste of time and money. After all a wedding dress is just a dress only a little longer and maybe poofier than your usual dresses. You are better off putting a plan together to collect all the specific tutorials you will need based on your dress design and get going!! If your dress has appliqué - consult your appliqué guru. Fancy a ribbon corset top? - there are billions of tutorials online. Do you need a galactic petticoat? - consult your...eh..never-mind just buy it on eBay. For example, this was my first time using boning in a full bodice. This picture I found on Pinterest gave me some guidance on where to place them. If at any time I hit a part of the dress making where I wasn't sure how to move on, I consulted an "expert" source. If they provided little help - I just went back to my usual trial-and-error practice.
4. Don't believe in magic
The hardest part about drafting a dress you are REALLY excited about trying on is fighting through the muslin phase. I so desperately wanted to go straight from paper to satin just so I could see myself dressed in white. But alas, I would need to be a magician to pull off hand drafting each pattern piece PERFECTLY without testing it first. I burned through 10yds of cheap poly bridal satin to test each pattern piece before cutting into the silk satin. It was well worth it. I was able to ensure all the pieces hung in the right direction and made some crucial alteration. I even tested how and where I would place the fusible. I first cut my final fabric only 2 weeks before the wedding (crazy, huh?) By then I had a tried and trued the pattern in muslin and just kicked into autopilot for the final.
5. Get undergarments early
I HIGHLY recommend buying your shoes, bra and petticoat (if you need it) BEFORE you start your dress. Making the final dress fit without alteration was ideal for me. I knew I ran the risk of a seamstress significantly altering the look of the dress if it didn't fit properly before it was finished. Bridal bustiers modify your shape so a well fitting dress will account for those adjustments. You'll need your shoes for your hem length of course, but the petticoat (if you need it) must be worn with the shoes. Depending on the fullness you may need anywhere from an additional 2+ inches on the bottom to ensure the dress lightly dusts the floor.