Wedding Gowns

The Wedding Gown: Inside Details

My youngest son was recently married and I had the joy of creating my new daughter-in-law’s gown. But before elaborating on the details of her gown I thought I would share photos of gowns I created for my other two daughter-in-law’s.

My oldest and his bride opted for a beach wedding on a far flung island in the Bahamas; not easy in terms of travel and logistics, but spectacular. She chose heavy silk crepe fabric and I embroidered abstract roses on the skirt. Random petals were cut out and backed with silk organza. The embroidery doesn’t show well in the photo. Silk organza flowers covered the narrow shoulder strap and cascaded down the bodice.

liz-gown

My middle son’s bride chose an antique looking crochet lace woven from silk, wool and cashmere. The ivory lace was backed with white silk charmeuse and underlined with ivory silk tulle. The lace required precise layouts as it had a large pattern and I wanted to position the scalloped edge to skim the ground in the front. Hemming this lace wasn’t an option so the toile needed to be carefully fitted. I also played with various edge and seam finishes using the lace borders. Here is a pic of her getting unrumpled and set for her entrance.

sarah-gown

My youngest and his bride chose a beach setting for their wedding so her choice of a simple gown sewn in heavy silk crepe worked well. We designed a dress with a fitted and flared skirt, bodice with low necklines front and back, and jeweled belt.

The problem with low neckline in both front back is keeping the shoulder strap up. The bride doesn’t want to spend the night struggling with falling straps. Spiral steel boning solved the problem. After attaching the strap to the back bodice, interfacing with a channel for the boning was stitched to the underlining. The boning extends to the waistline seam in order for the strap to be supported from the waist up.  Seams were turned under and catch stitched, ready for lining.

back-boningback-strap

My first draft of the bodice had all the shaping transferred to one dart but no matter how I shaped and pressed the dart it ended in an unattractive point. The day before our final fitting I removed the front bodice and remade it using princess seaming which had a much better silhouette. I added a layer of cotton flannel to the front to camouflage a stick-on bra. The flannel was catch stitched just inside the stitching lines to avoid unnecessary bulk.

bodice-first-draftbodice-second

Firm cotton sateen reinforced the center front. I normally use silk organza for this but the deep plunge neckline needed something firmer.

front-stabilizer

The lining was inserted by hand. There was no way to do this by machine and sometimes sewing by hand is simply easier and produces better results. Hand sewing enabled me to ease the lining in much smoother than could have been done by machine.

lining-1lining-2

A final touch for good luck is a horseshoe covered in silk ribbon. I start with a small cardboard horseshoe shape. Wrap narrow silk ribbon from both ends meeting at the top. Secure with narrow double sided tape and add a bow.

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A French bustle held the skirt up for the reception. Color coded silk ribbons made it easy to tie everything up after the ceremony.

bustle-diagram

The bow drooped but all else stayed secure.

bustle-back

veil-in-wind

preview

 

Draping

What to Wear to a Beach Chic Wedding

What is your interpretation of “beach chic” attire? This was for a very casual beach front wedding. If you google the term “beach chic” the attire most often suggested for women is a long sundress.

I had fabric purchased at Mood last summer in the stash. It was a silk crepe de chine panel print. Very interesting but would definitely require some creative cutting to make the most of the design. I had two panels and planned to use one for a long wrap skirt and the second for the bodice and trim.

Silk Panel

Skirt draping started first. I have a professional style dress form which has been padded to my size. I find the effort spent constructing this saves so much time that I can’t imagine working without it now. The process I used is detailed in my post on April 25, 2014. How time consuming to drape and fit a design only to need to make alterations because the dress form is shaped differently than your body.

I basted a lightweight silk/cotton batiste to the silk and thread traced a reference line for the hip. Start at the left side which will be the skirt underlap and work around to the right side seam. At this point, just get the hip aligned; don’t worry about the waist shaping.

Begin DrapingContinue Draping

When you reach the right side seam, smooth the fabric downwards from the waist, which will drop the reference line. My post on November 3, 2015 also gives an explanation of how to drape this style of pleated skirt.

Right Front Drape

Form the first pleat. Second and third pleats are formed.

First PleatSecond PleatThird Pleat

Shape the back darts, pin in place and thread trace. Thread trace the waistline. I’ve also placed a thread mark at the center back line

Back Darts PinnedThread Trace Waist 2

 

Next you want to accurately mark the front waist and the pleat shaping. I pin a narrow ribbon around the waistline. Remove the skirt from the form, being careful to keep everything pinned in place.

Front WaistRemove Front Waist

Now I cut the waistline seam leaving a 1 inch seam allowance.

Trim Front Waist

I wanted the front overlap to gently curve from the hem to waist. An easy way to experiment with possible shapes is to use a length of leaded drapery weight. It is easily shaped yet is heavy enough to stay in place while you cut.

Drapery Weight

Front Curve

I had considered a lapped closure but as the bodice and skirt were attached the easiest solution was to insert a zip at the center back. How to do this with no back seam? I found inspiration from Valentino. Here is a center back invisible zip with a contrast satin welt.

Valentino

Why not turn this into a design detail? Construct it like a narrow welt pocket.

Zip 2Zip 1
The bodice was a simple scoop neck with tiny piping at the neck and armholes. It was cut on the bias so the design is shifted 45 degrees from the skirt.  I left the center back seam open to the waist so ties at the back neck were in order. I used thin drapery pull cord; measured the amount needed for the neck edge and added about 15 inches to each end for the ties. The ends were done first, cording removed from inside and then a bias strip covered the center portion. The bodice was lined to the edge with the same lightweight silk/cotton and fell stitched to the piping seam line.

Cording 1Cording 2Cording 3Piping

Finished!

Finished 1Finished 2

I must also mention that in addition to his medical practice, my husband decided to become a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain,  which gives him the authority to officiate at weddings. We are close friends with the bride and groom and they were thrilled to have him conduct the ceremony.

Officient

 

Wedding Gowns

Follow the Birth of a Custom Wedding Gown

I have an exciting project in the works and finally have enough pics to share it. I’m creating a gown for a July wedding and will be posting the progress, both as a record for myself as well as a memento for the bride.

The focal point of this gown is absolutely spectacular handmade Point de Venise lace which has spent the last couple of months in Connecticut being cleaned. Hard to believe this lace was created with a single needle and sewn entirely by hand. We were told by the restorers that the lace was likely made during the 1820’s!DSC_0572
Closeup of the detail
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There are two matching pieces. One is rectangular with a scalloped border and the other this shape.
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The dress will be a simple strapless gown with train which will be bustled up for the reception. The lace will be a separate top hemmed at the midriff with short sleeves. Buttons covered with dress fabric will close the top at center back. The fitting muslin with lace draped to approximate the top.
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A gown with no embellishment calls for luxury fabrics. I met the bride and her mom at B&J Fabrics in NYC and set up a work station at one of the long tables overlooking 7th Ave. The window provided loads of natural light for color matching. Antique lace is never white and and we needed a LARGE selection of fabrics to choose from. The staff at B&J were incredibly helpful, pulling roll after roll of various shades of ivories. We finally decided on a wonderfully drapey 4 ply ivory silk crepe which will be underlined with white double faced silk charmeuse. The white underlining brightened up the ivory just enough to compliment the lace.
Fabrics 1
The lace will be backed with ivory silk tulle which will provide just enough stability for it to hold its shape nicely. The same silk tulle will be used for a short veil.
Fabrics 2
Veil 2
The first step is now to create the gown’s under structure of a boned corset and attached petticoat. I’ll tackle that in the next installment.

couture sewing

Luxury RTW and More

To celebrate a friend’s birthday we did a “girls day” in NYC. Although none of my friends are sewers we all enjoyed the current exhibit at the Anna Wintour Costume Exhibit. The theme was “Death Becomes Her”; a display of mourning wear through the last couple of centuries. We were lucky enough to plan our trip for opening day and were treated to a private showing of the exhibit. My photos were terrible and no flash allowed; much better shots here. The moire fabric in photo 7 was spectacular.

After the museum we wandered our way up Madison Ave. and stopped in a very upscale resale shop. Chanel dominated the racks! Even at resale prices, my shopping splurge in Paris for Chanel fabrics looked like a downright bargain. I was able to get some shots of garments and even got inside a few.

Black Chanel Jacket

White Chanel JacketHoundstoothBlouse and RoseRose
I’m working on a clone of this flower pin. Here’s a back view.
Rose Back
Inside Houndstooth
The houndstooth jacket was lined only in the sleeves. Seams were turned so they were hidden by the lining. The seams in the jacket body were serged and turned under, making a very clean finish inside.
Blouse Back
The black silk blouse had a back neck opening constructed like a shirt sleeve placket.
Lining Seams
Seams, even in the linings, were generous. The garment sections had all been serged before sewing together; makes for easier alterations and with the generous seam allowances, the salesladies assured us that the jackets could be altered three sizes up or down.
Chanel Braid
Chanel braid looks like a bias strip of fabric frayed and sewn on as trim.
Valentino Ribbon
A Valentino design with amazing pleated ribbon detail. Crystal drops were sewn in between each pleat.
Zipper Finish
Even zippers were carefully finished on the linings.
Jacket Shoulder
The jacket sleeve seam and shoulder pads were impeccable and created the shoulder line Chanel is known for. Note how the shoulder seam is pressed open at the top. The shoulder pads have a unique shape. I managed to dissect a couple of different ones.
Pattern 1
Here is the pattern for one. These are not bulky, oversized pads but provide just subtle lift and shaping for the shoulder, Notice how the pad is constructed to extend into the sleeve and provide support. I tried to convert the pattern to a pdf file but the sizing got wonky no matter how I did it. I think it will print at the correct size if you just print the photo on a 8.5 by 11 inch sheet and don’t allow scaling. Let me know if this doesn’t work and I will email you the file, hopefully in the correct size.

I used cotton quilt batting. Pieces cut and marked with placement  lines.P1000229
P1000230
Mark the shoulder pad back and notches.
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Stitch piece 1 and 2 together. I used a 5.0 mm wide three step zig-zig stitch. Start and one end, butt the edges together and sew, butting the edges together as you sew. The pad will take on a curved shape.
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Section 4 will fold with the edges offset. Place the folded edge along the placement line on piece 3 with the narrower side up towards you. You want the layers to be graduated with the larger parts towards the outer side of the pad. Open the fold and stitch on the line. Fold back in place. Your piece should look like this:
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Position sections 3 and 4 along the seam line of 1 and 2.
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Turn and place a few pins on the outside of the pad to hold the layers together.
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Stitch the darts closed on piece 5 using the three step zig-zag stitch. Place it on the underside of the pad.
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Stitch the dart in piece 6 and add it to the underside of the pad. Be sure the edges are staggered.
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Place the pad on a ham and steam. The steam will compress the batting and start holding things together.
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Using a length of doubled thread, stab stitch the layers together. Don’t pull the thread tight as you don’t want dimples in your shoulder pad.
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Add a line of stitches along the seam line where you have multiple layers. You don’t want this coming apart inside the finished jacket.
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Put back on the ham and give it a good steam to meld the layers together. The finished pad. Notice how it isn’t huge and gives support to the top of the sleeve.
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Another style I discovered. This one is even easier to make.
Pattern 2
Pattern 3
Sew pieces 1 and 2 together with the zig-zag stitch, matching notches. Notice how the neck edge is longer in the back.
Piece 3 is placed inside and then piece 4.
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Sew the dart in section 5 closed and place.
P1000255
Steam over the ham, stab stitch the layers together, and steam again.
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Notice how the shoulder pad extends to the neckline seam.
A few readers have asked about adding shoulder pads to a Chanel style jacket. The jacket construction does not allow for internal pads, but you could cover a set with the lining fabric and tack them into the finished jacket. Some figures just look better with a little more lift at the shoulder.
I did see one quilted jacket at the shop. I couldn’t snag photos as it was carefully guarded by the salesladies. From what I could tell it was well within the skill level of many home sewers. The silk charmeuse lining was a vibrant print and the colors in the lining echoed the boucle. The trim was constructed using fibers from the jacket fabric.
We ended our “girls evening” with dinner and a painting class. We were required to purchase two glasses of wine during class so the paintings are being saved for an appropriate event.

Notes on downloading the shoulder pad patterns:
Printing directly from the photo won’t give you the correct size. Right click the pattern photos, save as a jpeg file. Open with a program allowing you to resize. You will have the correct scale if Piece number 1 measures 4 and 13/16 wide for the first pattern and 5 inches for the second.
P1000258
P1000259
I tried several pdf converters but nothing gave the correct scale. I’m open to suggestions if you have experience.

couture sewing

Jacket Finished

After enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, I’m back with the finished jacket.

Front View
Front View
Back View
Back View

I had some dotted silk crepe in my stash and decided to use it for the lining. I attached chain at the hemline, adding weight so the jacket hangs properly.

Side View
Side View
Lining
Lining

Next post will be first steps in the boucle jacket. I’m still exploring options for trim. This is where many non-authentic jackets fall short. The wrong trim can turn your designer jacket into an upholstery project. I’m looking closely at the designer photos for trim ideas and will report. Thanks for following me.

couture sewing, Evening Wear

Runway Dress, Part 2

Now that you have yards of assorted strips you are ready to start attaching them to the tulle under-dress. Only the right side seam of the dress has been sewn, so lay it out flat. Decide how long the finished dress is and mark a hemline 10 inches above the finished length. I used the polyester organza and cut a strip 21 inches wide and the hemline width plus 1 inch. Fold this wide strip right sides together and sew 1/2 inch seams along the short sides. Turn right side out and press only the seams; leave the bottom edge as a soft roll. Polyester organza doesn’t want to press flat, so the fabric will help to maintain this rolled edge look. Sew the strip on the line you have marked, establishing the finished length of the dress.

Now work your way up placing the strips as you like using the photograph as a guide. I hand sewed them in place as I feel that hand stitches make a softer, more fluid garment. You can also machine sew. The ultrasuede was difficult to hand sew, so I used the machine for those strips.ImageImageImage

Stop at the waist. Decide the shape of the neckline and the placement of the uppermost strips. I used a double layer of the polyester organza, stay stitched the neckline and armholes. Then hand rolled the edges catching only the undermost layer of fabric.ImageImage

Work your way down to the waist in the same manner. I found hand sewing the bust area much easier to control than machine sewing. Stop when you reach the waist. Sew a length of satin ribbon to cover the raw edges at the waist. Sew the left side sean inserting an invisible zipper. I also left a slit from the hem to mid-thigh.

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Views of the inside showing rows of hand stitching.Image

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The finished work

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couture sewing, Evening Wear

Chanel Runway Dress; Easier Than You Think

Chanel gownI noticed this dress from a recent Chanel runway show and set out to copy it. Two photos showing the original dress.Chanel gown detail
I started with a simple sheath dress such as this McCalls pattern but you could use anything similar.012
If you aren’t sure how it will fit make a test dress in muslin. It needs to be slim fitting but not skin tight. Make sure to peg the skirt. That means taper the side seams below the hip line. You want the hem narrower than the hips; that makes for a more slimming line.
Cut the dress from a sheer, flexible fabric. I used cotton tulle in a nude color. You could also use silk organza but I find the tulle works best. Nylon tulle is NOT the same thing. Cotton tulle can be difficult to find locally but most better shops in cities carry it. I use Mood, B & J and others and they do mail order.
Sew the darts and the right side seam with the wrong side out. That means your darts and seam will be facing out like a lining. Leave the shoulders and left seam open for now. It will make placing the trim strips much easier.
Now for the fringed strips. I bought 2 yards each of light, medium and dark gray silk organza. I also got 2.5 yards of both medium and dark sparkle POLYESTER organza. You will be cutting some of the trim with a soldering iron and silk can’t be cut with a heat tool; it will just burn. Very important to get 100% polyester.
Working with one color of silk at a time, cut 4 to 5 inch wide BIAS strips from the yardage. You will wind up with yards and yards of bias strips. I recommend cutting some test strips from a corner before you cut the entire yardage to test the width. Make the strips wider or narrower if you need.
Press your bias strips in half the long way so now you have narrow double layer strips. Take a stiff brush and fray the cut edges. I placed a piece of canvas on my pressing surface and brushed away. The brush will damage your ironing board cover, so please use something to protect it. I found canvas better than a smooth, slippery surface as the silk didn’t slip around. I used a brass scrub brush.006

Next work on the polyester trim. Cut several bias strips from each color of the poly organza. I made mine about 3 inches wide. Don’t cut the entire yardage as you will need some for the large strip at the hem and also for the top of the dress.
You will need a heat tool to cut the wavy edge so it doesn’t fray. Cutting with scissors will leave a raw edge and that won’t last long. The heat tool will sear the edges and prevent fraying. I used an inexpensive soldering iron from Radio Shack. Make sure yours has a pointed tip.
You will also need a piece of plate glass. I used a scrap from an old window and wrapped the edges with duct tape to prevent injury. Draw some wavy lines on a piece of paper. When you are happy with the design place the paper under the glass so you can see your design. You can also cut freehand, but having the pattern to follow was easier for me.
Heat up your tool and place a strip of organza with one edge along your drawn line. The fabric is on top of the glass and can now be cut with the soldering iron. Make sure you work with one layer at a time as multiple layers will be melted together. Practice this a few times on scraps before starting. You need to cut slow enough to allow the heat to cut through the fabric but fast enough to prevent melting and holes.009010
Last is the fringed strips. I used lightweight charcoal Ultrasuede and cut 1.5 to 2.5 inch wide strips on the crossgrain. Ultrasuede is most flexible that direction and you also will need only about 1/2 yard; nice since it’s not inexpensive.
Chalk a line about 1/2 inch in from one long edge, turn on a movie and get comfortable. Arm yourself with the sharpest scissors you can find and cut fringe. The chalk line is a guide of how deep to cut and I just eyeballed about 1/8 inch for the width.
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Next post will be how to start putting everything together. Let me know if anything is unclear. This is not a quick and easy project but do-able if you take it slow and focus on one step at a time. No wonder the price tag is astronomical at Chanel!