The story of Marlies handmade wedding dress.

Every now and then someone arrives at my sewing class with a big sewing ambition. It’s always very exciting not only for the person with the plan but for me and the rest of the class to watch the project as it’s takes shape.

In June last year Marlies arrived with not much sewing experience and a very big plan to make her own wedding dress. With a good few months ahead of the January 2018 deadline it seemed doable. She had some ideas how she wanted her wedding outfit to look but nothing set in stone.

The time passed way to quickly and the deadline was upon us.  The outfit was finished just in time to travel with her to Edinburgh for the wedding.

Marlies worked incredibly hard on this amazing project taking new and advanced techniques in her stride. Despite the time pressures and design decisions she remained focused and un-flustered.

Lots of people have followed her progress in class. There have been ups and there have been downs, Marlies kindly agreed to share her experience for this blog post. This is her wedding dress story….

What made you decide to make your wedding dress?

I didn’t want a standard white dress. I love how 1950s style dresses fit me and came across some examples made from a sari. I also saw a great picture of a Dior jacket from 1947 and as this was something I would definitely not find in a shop I started wondering if I could do this. Discussing with friends, as well as with my husband, I decided to take the plunge.

How much sewing experience did you have before embarking on this project?

I did not have a huge amount of experience. My mother sews, and I had accompanied her to a few classes when I was young. I think I did three very small projects in the past. Two easy skirts and a bolero top.

How did you approach planning your outfit?

Before starting on the actual dress, I decided to test my skills. There were a few techniques I knew I had to familiarise myself with. Things like darts, zips and how to insert lining into a pattern. This first dress was there to test if this was something I could do. In the meanwhile I started looking around for patterns and specific elements that I would like to incorporate in my wedding dress. I had already found my fabric in one of the Indian shops here in Leicester. A grey sari with gold borders. My husband actually found the pattern we used in the end. And I decided to use the gold borders of the fabric to create borders for the v-neckline, the waist band and as the hem of the dress. And then there was the jacket. I love the new look style Dior jacket and found a pattern for it.

How did you find the making process, was it what you were expecting?

The making process mostly matched what I was expecting. I trialed techniques before doing them in the actual fabric. This testing phase took up a lot of time. So much that some people started wondering whether I would make my deadline. But this testing was also invaluable in being able to pull all of the techniques the way I wanted. Once I got into it, I also started playing around with the patterns more. As I was going through this process myself I discovered which elements I really wanted to get right, like the collar on the jacket. The original pattern had a notched collar, which looked a bit business like. An earlier version of the Dior jacked had a shawl collar and I decided to try and recreate this in a toile. These changes did impact my timeline and added to a bit of stress in the end. But looking at the photo’s now I am happy I did this.

Talk us through what was involved in making your outfit.

There are lots of elements I can focus on in terms of what was involved. Finding the right fabric, finding the right patterns, familiarising myself with techniques.  Learning to work more systematically. Being part of a supportive sewing group and having an instructor with patience and calm to guide me. All these things have led to the result.

The other aspect was finding time to do things out of class. I had a month in October where every day I told myself to do at least one task on the dress. This usually led to about an hour of sewing every day. But this was in the stage where the idea was completely clear, and I could manage to do these elements on my own.

What were your high points and what were your low points in making the outfit?

There were some highs and some lows.

I have had some worries about the neckline falling right as in my test piece it was a problem. This worked out well in the end on the actual dress. I think because of the gold border being a bit stiffer than the border on my test piece. The most daunting moment was when I hadn’t checked the temperature of the iron and the bodice lining started to react to the heat. Thankfully this was in the seam allowance. But I recall that day!

The most positive moments I associate with the jacket. I was really pleased with the shawl collar on the toile. It needed some small adjustments, but it worked. And when I tried the jacket for the first time I was happy with the fit and the length we had adjusted it to.

If you could go back in time would you do it again? Would you change anything about the making or the style?

I would do it again and I would keep my outfit the same. Looking back on the process I would probably visualise and plan out the complete look before attempting the full project. So instead of testing while already working on the project I would take more time and test more. Having said that, this project has also taught me you can test as many times as you like, but in the end each time is slightly different.

How did you feel on the big day?

I felt very proud of my accomplishment. It made the day feel extra special Everybody commented on it and I would not have had the exact dress I wanted if I hadn’t done it this way. I also felt that after making this dress I could really start sewing more and make my own wardrobe. So along with making a great outfit for the day I had also learned a valuable skill.

If you could give any advise to someone thinking of making their wedding dress what would it be?

I guess I would ask if the dress they picture is something they think they could buy in a shop. If the answer is no, then making your own can be the solution you are looking for. Draw what you have in mind and show it to someone who knows how to sew and determine whether this is achievable. Or, of you are ahead of the game and can already sew, work out the steps you would need to go through. Balance your level of skill with the dress design. But also challenge yourself, take classes to learn how to incorporate new techniques or to plan your project better and work more professionally. Make a toile or attempt some of the harder techniques on a test piece. Last but not least, take advantage of this being your project and customise your outfit to match what you want it to be.

One more thing. I think it is important to have some people who support you through this process. My mum was part of my support group. I have sent her pictures of the entire process. I also found out that a few of my friends also sew and they were very encouraging. Julia’s help and calm instruction when I was not having a great day and the people in the sewing group have really made it into an enjoyable experience. My husband was also fully on board and I think this makes a difference. It is something to consider whether you want him to be part of it and already see the dress. In my case the design was a joint effort and we really enjoyed the process together.


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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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