Wedding Gowns

The Wedding Gown: Tying up Loose Ends

A wedding gown isn’t complete without bustling. Otherwise the skirt drags on the ground during the reception, getting dirty and damaged, as well as a tripping hazard to the bride, groom and guests.

As this gown had no embellishment on the skirt, I was limited to placing the pickup points at the seam lines. If you have a gown covered with lace, any hooks, loops or buttons can usually be hidden. The bride, her mom, and I all felt it would be a shame to ruin the sleek surface of this gown with any kind of fastening device. We also chose an underbustle, rather than an overbustle. The difference is that an underbustle, or French bustle, has fastenings, usually sets of ribbons, on the underside which are tied together and hold the skirt up. Underbustling resulted in poufs of fabrics we thought looked liked soft clouds.

The difficulty with bustling is that every gown is unique. While there are some basic principles, most of the time it is a trial and error process. Check out Mrs. Mole’s blog for her bustling adventures.

Here is a diagram of what was worked out with this dress:

Sorry about the poor image. The letters are also reversed. I’m working with a new computer and don’t have image editing software installed yet, so cropping images isn’t working. The image cropping on word press isn’t working either and the scanner reversed the letters, but I hope you will be able to follow.

Pastel silk ribbons are attached on the underside of the skirt, catching the seam allowances of all layers. I color code so that it’s hard to mess up. Points A and B are one color (say pastel pink), points C and D are blue, points E and F are yellow and so on. I find that silk ribbon is strong and also has a texture that poly ribbon doesn’t. Poly ribbon tends to slip and the knots come undone. Silk ribbon tends to stay tied.  We also do a trial with the maid of honor (or whoever will be doing this) so she has practiced before doing it solo.

The skirt at center back was 20 inches too long, so the distance from A to B is 20 inches. That brings the center back up to floor length. Next C and D are tied together, E and F together. We all felt the bustle looked better if it was dragged towards the center back so an additional ribbon was attached at point G (above A) and worked like a large swing tack to prevent the bustle from falling too far forwards.

The small amount of excess length at the side seams was controlled by attaching G to H and I to J.

Sounds easy but it does take some time and trials to get the lengths right.

Cleaning and storing:

The silk dress was cleaned by a local cleaner. Lace top, dress and veil were taken to The Textile Conservation Workshop for conservation packing.

Conservation Workshop
This is the same workshop which dated and cleaned the lace pieces before I began working. They are experts in the field of textiles and with this fragile lace, the bride wanted to do everything possible to preserve it. Notice the large flat soaking trays where pieces can be gently soaked. There is a large drying screen which allows fabrics to be laid flat to dry and water drains preventing further stains; no hanging which might further damage a delicate piece.

What a fascinating project this was!

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14 thoughts on “The Wedding Gown: Tying up Loose Ends”

  1. Well, I think what a fascinating person you are! What a gift you gave to the bride and her family – and what a gift you have given to readers, Mary! I have truly loved reading about each and every step of this process. Thank you 🙂

  2. I just love this dress. It is so classic and flattering…really perfect on her. I am so glad you were generous enough to share the process and the finished product with us.

  3. Thank you so much for including all the steps you took to make this one-of-a-kind heirloom dress. We have all learned a lot about the sequences and techniques and the reasons for doing what you do. I love the diagram of the bustle and while I don’t use ribbons, the result is the same for under bustles…some former brides tell me that their bridesmaids were too tipsy to tie the right ribbons together so sometimes the photos are less than perfect.
    Lesson learned is to get that bustle done up before the bar opens! Can you take a little break now or do you have more projects like this to start again?

    1. I try and “fail proof” the bustling process. I schedule a final fitting to include the person who will be doing the bustling and perhaps a back up person. I also give them a printed cheat sheet with the directions written. Sometimes cell phone photos to also help. We also do a practice session where I have the designated “bustler” actually DO IT.
      I do know exactly what you mean about the attendant getting too tipsy or nervous and blowing the process. It happened at a wedding where I was a guest and was called on to do an emergency job when the original plan failed.
      More great projects in the works!

  4. What an elegant dress you’ve created.Thank you for the pictures and details of construction. You are right; there seems to be nothing published. Your blog has been so helpful. Thanks for several enjoyable reads!

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