Six months ago a sweet young bride came to me with a project…to make a wedding dress from her recent purchases on Ebay and Craigslist. She explained she was “artistic” and had a “vision” and didn’t know if I could fulfill her dream. Then she pulled out 3 different garments and pieces of garments she had already harvested/
attacked from her bag. First up was a beautiful lace coat from 1950: Lovely all on it’s own but all she wanted to use was the vest section at the top. The bodice would be this raggedy limp pearl encrusted rayon camisole: and eventually attached to those would be a skirt section she slashed from another dress: then to top everything off is a beaded collar she made from a collection of old earrings:
You may be wondering what all these things have in common…nothing…and that is what makes someone call themselves an artist, I think. So here we go…down the rabbit hole of ultra shabby chic…re-used, re-purposed, recycled, re-claimed bits and pieces all whipped into the dream dress for a 20 year old with a head full of ideas.
To make this journey a quick one I have created a Pinterest board of all 68 techniques/steps I used to make this dress. I could not include all of them with descriptions here on this one posting so if you have the time, feel free to check them out HERE.
Every 2 weeks she would show up to try on the garment in progress and add or subtract or totally change her mind, then I would pin and baste again and wait for her evaluation of my interpretation. The dress remained on a mannequin in my sewing room and no matter who came by, they just shook their head and asked, “what is she like?” and all I could say was that she was a part-time
Every try-on day we discovered more things that could not be adapted or changed or modified but it challenged my mind and sewing skills for sure. Making a flimsy rayon top into a structured top that would support a floor length skirt required adding boning and under lining and bust cups and almost totally done by hand, ripped out, moved and re-sewn by hand. As the skirt was added and lined it was apparent that the scalloped embroidered hem had to be shortened from the top and more and more was pinned out and trimmed from the top and then of course being more A-line the more I removed from the top, the more darts and tucks would have to be added.
The rayon top would only be used for the front section with the back being cut away almost completely except for a thin strip above the waistline seam of the skirt. The rayon top had a dropped V front which had to be highlighted and the skirt after being lined itself was to be cut away and attached by hand along the edges. The lower edge of the skirt would have the old lining cut away to reveal the new shiny lining:
Just as we were getting to the deadline of the wedding date, a week before, the bride came for her final fitting and it had been a 4 week gap between fittings and the dress looked awful…all baggy and I was shocked…what had happened? Well, she says, I joined a gym and lost 20 pounds…great! As you can see from the first photos she was thin to start with and now the dress hung like a rag and everything had to be taken in and up one inch and during this time she decided that she wanted the entire front bodice covered with the remains of the scalloped lace. Never mind that the lace vest edges had already been sewn down, this latest fancy was to have all that lifted, ripped open and the new bit added and the lace edges folded back down and re-stitched by hand. OK…it is doable and after taking in the lower side seams of the skirt to be more tapered she added that she wanted a peplum too so those pieces were whipped together to form a back peplum and again all added by hand…are we done yet?
Not quite…remember she had a piece left over from the coat? Well, well, it re-appeared and she wanted an over-skirt now UNDER the peplum that had been attached and stitched down at the side seams and zipper. Sure…let’s keep adding more shit…and as she said…”we have a whole week to add more stuff”…let’s do it! Over-skirt added, peplum re-attached…invoice presented…but wait…next would be the beaded collar added again all by hand and the announcement that she would be totally covering the front bodice, already encrusted with pearls under the new lace layer with more huge earring jewels especially at the bottom of the front V…so leave that uncovered…sure, everyone needs a beaded feature right over their lady parts. OK…6 months of labor and we are done right?
Last try-on, wearing a grey tank top instead of bra-less…in she walks with sleeves cut from the last little bit of scalloped lace…she says she is going to hand sew them to the dress and add a hug sash cut from the remaining lining because it just “needs more at the waist”…I smile and nod and take her cash and say goodbye.
Lesson learned…after last year and the pageant princess ball gown re-make and this re-creation vision dress…my fingers are crossed to never attempt this sort of thing again…but the whole time taking 68 photos for you I was smiling about the day I could finally post them and share them. Have a look at the Pinterest page to see all what went into this wedding gown.
May all your sewing be less complicated and drawn out and you have time to enjoy the full flush of Spring (or Autumn)!