Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Wedding dress progress/How to make a wedding dress that fits!

As you may know, my mom and I are making my wedding dress for my August wedding.  It is a very exciting process!!

I don't know exactly how much I should share with you, and how much you'd rather just see the big reveal when it's all done... but right now we've just had one afternoon to work on it so it's in the beginning stages, and it may not look like much.  I shared with you the other day about my fave wedding dress inspirations, so check those out before you judge what I'm about to show you!  Keep in mind the flavor/look I'm going for =)

I also showed you the fabric for my wedding dress in a tiny sneak peek a week or so ago.  Since then my mom and I have made/modified the pattern, cut out the dress, and assembled the skirt.  I also made the petticoat to go under, and draped the mannequin it's on with the fabric so it has the general shape of the final thing!  I'm not sure if I should show you those pictures, though; it might ruin the surprise!  But I will tell you about the construction...

The basic shape is very simple and the layers of fabric and self-fabric flowers and embellishments will make it beautiful, if all goes according to plan.  For the top, I knew I wanted a simple sweetheart neckline with pretty, shaped straps, and I realized I had a pattern that was very close.  McCall's M5849 is one of my all-time favorite, most versatile bodice patterns, and it's discontinued!

But I have my old copy, and we cut it out in the lining fabric, after measuring my waist, bust, and rib cage compared to the pattern.  You can measure your pattern pieces and add the numbers together before you cut it out, so you know it'll fit--you just have to subtract the seam allowances from each piece.  See, we added a little here and there?

Then we assembled it with BIG basting stitches to take out later, and tried it on me.  Here it is on the mannequin.  On me it fit about the same, so we took it apart and made some modifications to the pieces.  We also--no picture of this--re-drew the sweetheart neckline to a more dramatic dip.

So that's the bodice construction.  For the skirt, I knew I wanted a shape like this:
 (pics from Style Me Pretty, Ruffled, and Green Wedding Shoes)

So I know I'll need a lot of petticoatage.  That's not a word.  But you know what I mean; fullness and stiffnessm, specifically in a cone shape, rather than fullness starting with lots of gathers at the waist.

We had a bridal petticoat in a closet at my mom's house, something we'd picked up at Goodwill Outlet to go under1890's-era dresses at fashion shows my mom does, but it was tearing at several seams and really cheaply made, so I cut it up!

Here's the before:
I measured each of the layers to a couple inches shorter than my wedding dress skirt length will be, and cut off the top!  It was a pain because this thing was so cheaply made and uneven, but I got it done and pleated it onto a waistband, so now it's the right length and the fullness is in the right place at the bottom.

To cut out the skirt, I knew I wanted a circle skirt or gored skirt shape.  I decided on gores because a full circle might end up with uneven pulling on the sides (since it is on the straight grain at the center and bias on the sides, and the weight of the fabric can distort it), and I didn't want a seam down the center front.  Here's a cute vintage pattern with the skirt shape we're making on a princess-seamed dress:

You don't need a pattern for a 6-gored skirt.  We just used my waist measurement, divided by 6 panels and added the seam allowances along the sides.  That gets you the top of each piece.  To find the width at the bottom, multiply your skirt length by pi or a little over 3 and divide that number by 6 panels.  Here's the pattern piece as my mom made it:
(The cats help out when I sew at her house).

I assembled the skirt and put it over the petticoat on the mannequin--then we took the layers of tulle I bought and told you about here and draped them over, tying at the waist with the ribbon that may end up my sash.  I don't have any of the self-fabric flowers yet, but I did find some lace I like and may use.  Ohhh, I am so excited!!!

This Saturday we are going to work on it again and I'll hopefully get the shirring done on the bodice and make the tulle into layers of skirt.  More progress updates to come next week!!

What do you think--do you want to see what it looks like on the mannequin, or wait till the end?? ;)


  1. Amazing. I'm not sure that I've ever commented on your blog before--but you're in my reader and I love seeing your work. I'm so totally jealous that you get to create your wedding dress this way with your mom. My mom's thoughts on sewing are non-existent--if you lose a button, it's time to throw it out!

    Your work is very inspiring.

  2. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous . . . I can't wait to see what it'll look like! You are so brave and so (SO!) very talented to be able to do this yourself! As much as I know it'll drive me crazy to not see a step-by-step as it comes together, I think I would really love a big dramatic reveal at the end . . . but then again, I'd love to see progress, too! I'm excited to see how it looks!

    Rachel @ Maybe Matilda

  3. Oooh, I'd love to see the progress, but maybe not show everything, so there is still a reveal.

  4. Bits and pieces! Like sort of what you're doing now, but not showing us the finished piece until the big reveal!!!! And then maybe do a post with the whole assembly thing!

  5. Do the dramatic reveal and save the progress shots for some progress posts later. Sure it's going to be lovely and looking forward to seeing it!

  6. I vote for progress shots:)

  7. I'm greedy for progress shots as well. What a wonderful experience you and your mom are having... beautiful dress and fun memories for life.

  8. You are amazing! I can't wait to see the next step.

    Just Better Together

  9. I like the idea of a reveal and then retrospective in progress pictures

  10. it comes to no surprise to me and my preference to know what i'm getting for my birthday and the gender of my baby at 18 weeks gestation that I want to see every. single. detail. of the dress as soon as possible!! No surprises! I guess if you keep showing it to us on the mannequin then it'll be a kind of reveal when we see it on you, all gussied up and married and whatnot. So, that counts, right? Every. Single. Detail.

  11. I would love to see some of the inprogress work but also maybe wait for the big reveal. I'm excited to see what it looks like! Weddings are so much fun for us girls. :)

  12. I wanna see! I wanna see! This is the first wedding gown project I've seen yet... Please do!

  13. I want to see every bit of the progress. Its exciting to see how all the different ideas, steps, details will come together.

  14. i love your blog and would love to see progress shots!!!

  15. So neat! I really want to give you a million compliments but I can't find the right words. So...um...keep up the good work?

    Have you visited Bride Chic? Amy Jo has some great posts about working with vintage patterns and how wedding gowns are made. Here's a good one:

    She also puts together some great material on various wedding fads.

    Can't wait to see more of your stuff!

  16. Anonymous4/14/2011

    I'm for progress shots that don't reveal everything.

    What a wonderful experience for you and your mom. I hope you two have fun with this and I can't wait to see the dress!

  17. i wanna see it on the mannequin!!! i like to see your creations as they progress!! very exciting!

  18. I'd like to see progress shots...even seeing those will still not steal the thunder from seeing you in it on your big day!!

  19. This is such a great idea, and I know it's going to look gorgeous! We have about the same taste.

    I am not typically anti-strapless, but I am in a wedding dress. I think having some kind of strap on it is better.

  20. Oooh! Fun! Did you ever get your shoes sorted?

  21. I want to see everything! All the time and energy and love that goes into this is soo cool!

  22. Maybe if not progress shots, some thoughts on process? Is working on the wedding dress different for you than working on any other dress?

  23. Thanks for sharing the great way to make wedding dress.

  24. i want to see it as you make it, to get a better idea of how it is done!

  25. Wow!!! the project of a lifetime!. Don't forget to iron your paper pattern, later the pieces of your dress may show imperfections.

  26. So fun to read all your comments!!
    It is split between folks who want to see the dress all along the way, and those of you who want a big reveal! I don't know what I'll do, exactly...

    @Never a Plain Jane, thanks so much for the link to Bride Chic! It looks like a great blog for me to follow right now =)

    @The Dreamstress, I am SO excited, I did order some shoes--the almost perfect Nina ones, but in plain white. I will have to ask everyone's advice later about transforming them!

    @Eileen, making a wedding dress is only different from making any other dress in that I have much higher standards and expectations. I want it to be perfect!

    Don't worry, @Raquel, I pressed the pattern piece flat when I cut them out, and then used the fabric pieces as models for the other panels so they all match perfectly. The pattern piece was hardly necessary at all, just a dry run with the angles and all.

  27. Oh my goodness what a HUGE undertaking!!! As much as I want to see all the progress, you still want that nice big surprise at the end. It'd be great to get little snippets here and there but I'd definitely wanna keep some secrets!

  28. hi there thanks so much for sharing this. i really appreciate it. i have always wanted to make a ball gown so badly that i spent over a month looking at all the websites. Thanks so much!



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