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A non-Weddingy Wedding Dress (For a Civil Partnership)

June 11, 2012

You’re not really allowed to call a civil partnership a “wedding” – legally – but it was, so I’m going to refer to it as such!

Meet my friends Jenny and Natasha.

Tash and Jen – blatantly stole from Tash.

A long time ago (before they were even engaged) Jen said to me “If I ever get married, I want you to make my wedding dress”. How could I refuse a challenge like that?!

So, when Tash and Jen got engaged, the first thing I did was scoot down to see her (we all work together) and say “RIGHT – it’s wedding dress time! Tell me what you want”.

As this was a non-wedding wedding, Jenny wanted a non-wedding dress, and something that she could wear again and again. She had a purple cotton plaid Dorothy Perkins dress (looking fab on fellow blogger Rosalilium)  which she loved because of the detail at the hem – there were ties inside that allowed the dress to be either straight hemmed or to pull up into swathe-like scallops. In addition, she wanted a slight vintage feel to the dress and had seen this lace overlay dress on Male Pattern Boldness. In fact, the conversation went like this:

Jen – “oh, I saw this dress on some guy called Peter’s sewing blog.”
me – “you mean Peter Lappin? Was the blog called Male Pattern Boldness?”
Jen – “Oh my god! You know it?!”

Oh Jen…

So, anyway, it looked enough like the bodice on the Colette Macaron dress (Jen wanted it with sleeves too which was a bonus!) and I knew I would be able to draft a nice full skirt thanks to my pattern drafting course. Easy, surely?

Surely not! There was a lot of fitting involved. I’ll not take you through all the steps (because there ended up being so many it would make this post the length of your average thesis), but I made up a total of 4 muslins for the dress, butchered the pattern endlessly and drafted and redrafted pieces, as you can see in the picture below.

There are four different adjustments on this pattern piece! This is why I always trace each pattern before I use it.

 I ended up having to grade the pattern up, do a full bust adjustment, widen the waistband, lower the neckline, redraft the skirt into a 6-gore gathered skirt then add in ties in the hemline to allow it to be gathered up as she wanted.

Planning pays off

In addition, I made a sash, a petticoat and a flower for her to wear should she want to. The petticoat I made up as I went along, sewing two rectangular pieces of brown non-static lining together at the side seams, sewing an elastic casing around the top and gathering about 6 metres of dark brown tulle to sew around the bottom. This peeked out beneath the scalloped hem and gave it a bit of structure.

The fabric Jen had in mind was incredibly specific. She wanted a dark brown for the main dress with a pattern of stylised flowers in a slightly  lighter brown throughout. For the contrast she wanted a caramel coloured cotton. This was to be the colour of the sash as well. I cannot tell you how hard the floral fabric was to find! In the end, I ordered this brown and green floral from Quilting and Patchwork on eBay (picture borrowed from there too) and dyed it with Dylon’s Woodland Brown to make the green more brown. Dyeing a lighter shade of brown than the main fabric ensures that only the lighter colour is affected.

You can’t really  tell how green the flowers are from this, but it reminded me of mint choc chip ice-cream in reverse! It was a lovely weight of cotton and so easy to work with – I’m so glad she didn’t want a difficult fabric!

When all the fittings were done I made the dress up. Like so!

Ready to be cut to length and hemmed

 And a close up of the bodice:

The dress was a bit too big for Felicity, and you can see the neon bra I use to fit it for me blazing through.

So, I tried it on Jen and…she didn’t like the caramel colour against her skin! So, once it was hemmed and the ribbons added to each of the skirt seams I dyed it again with woodland brown, as before. So…

Now you get to meet our beautiful bride and see the finished dress!

(Photo courtesy of Sue Robinson)

Jen ended up ditching the sash as it wasn’t as stiff/sturdy and went with a lovely wide leather belt instead. Also, the second dye lot ended up darkening the flowers even more but they’re still visible, which is slightly more obvious in the photo below.

Photo courtesy of Sue Robinson. Don’t the brides look beautiful?

Obviously, I can now see all the things I should’ve taken my time over a little bit more (I’d have fitted the top of the bodice to eliminate those wrinkles, is really what I mean!) but, y’know what?, Jen loved it, she felt a million dollars in it and she will wear it again. That’s all that really matters!

And to Natasha and Jenny…Congratulations you two! xxx

  1. June 11, 2012 10:36 pm

    Great job! I’m really impressed that you were able to sort out that hem detail– it looks amazing!

    • June 12, 2012 12:09 pm

      Thank you! It was surprisingly easy to do. I might do a quick post about that aspect of it alone.

  2. June 11, 2012 11:34 pm

    I love it! Thats hem is wonderful.

    • June 12, 2012 12:09 pm

      Thank you – she loved it too, thankfully! I was worried I was going to ruin the whole wedding for a while!

  3. June 12, 2012 4:34 am

    Well done to you for dyeing the fabric and making the dress! I’m not sure the wrinkles could have been illiminated with two different weights of fabric and on those curves too. I think they looked like part of the design. Super job JDB and super wedding photo. Congratulations to Natasha & Jenny!

    • June 12, 2012 12:11 pm

      Thanks Anne – it worked out quite well! I think you’re right about the different weights and, actually, that dress ended up being quite heavy. I hadn’t thought of that!

  4. misscrayolacreepy permalink
    June 12, 2012 4:52 pm

    What a great friend you are to do all that sewing and making those adjustments! It turned out so beautiful!!

    • June 14, 2012 11:50 am

      Thank you! I was probably a bit daft to wait until the big day to see it all on her and finished, but I’m glad I did! It was almost as much of a surprise to me as to the other guests.

  5. June 12, 2012 6:33 pm

    the dye job created an even more beautiful dress and the colours look so flattering on her (as does the dress)! it’s such a unique and gorgeous dress – you should be proud 🙂

    • June 14, 2012 11:50 am

      To be honest, I was terrified about dyeing it but I’m so glad it cam out ok. The colour really suits her and it’s exactly what she wanted so win all ’round!

  6. Thread Ov Metal permalink
    June 12, 2012 11:06 pm

    That is awesome! Great work and congratulations to the brides!

    • June 14, 2012 11:51 am

      I’ll pass on your congratulations to them when they’re back from honeymoon. They’ll be pleased to hear it!

  7. July 7, 2012 9:55 pm

    I think that the curves on the Macaron dress are really not easy to sew, but you did a great job here! She is such a beautiful bride!


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