Project WD: The Inspiration, The Design and Fabric – Glorious Fabric!

Patterns and Fabrics

Skirt – Marfy S655
– silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)

Bodice – Marfy S963
– soufflé tulle (B&J Fabrics)
– silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– beaded & sequinned lace (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)
– silk/metal dupion (Tessuti)

Bustier – Marfy 2630
– sea island cotton (B&J Fabrics)
– shapewell canvas (Clegs)

photos by our phabulous photographers, Todd Hunter McGaw…
It's a white goods graveyard!
… In a white goods graveyard.

My sewing strength lies in my technical ability more so than in the creative realm – so for me to sew my wedding dress was always going to be a case of finding a source of inspiration and drawing from that. Also known as – copying!

I went to New York last year with two very specific ideas in my head – a #1 dress concept and a #2 for backup, both of which came from extensive trying on of dresses in bridal shops beforehand. I was unable to find the very specific fabric for the first in the right hue for me (which was sequins on a silk chiffon backing fabric!) and as the fabric for #2 was a simple but utterly gorgeous duchess silk satin (obtainable at home) – I mentally shrugged and figured I’d be going home empty handed.

After a weekend of fabric shopping in NYC, I was meeting Susan Khalje and the French Jacketeer’s at Mendel & Goldberg on the Monday morning to buy boucle and charmuese to make our French Jackets. I got there two hours before their scheduled arrival so I could browse in peace – and immediately upon my initial walk around I was so very strongly drawn to a particular bolt…

A sheer blush peachy coloured organza with large iridescent gold flowers created by gold thread being woven throughout. Upon gazing at it admirably, Alice – the store’s proprietor – pulled out the matching lace…

Admiring the fabrics over the top of some gorgeous boucles in Mendel Goldberg

I was already in love, the final KO came when she showed me the runway picture of the fabrics in action…

Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from
Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from

I was almost pushed over the edge into making a purchase right there and then. But being a little overwhelmed at suddenly having a new dress possibility being thrown my way, I decided to sleep on it, and if I was still enamoured with the idea later on, I figured I could always order the fabric over the phone and have it delivered whilst I was still in Baltimore.

Fast forward a week and I was on the phone making my order. Even though it was a pretty big departure from the two options I originally had in mind, I absolutely adore full skirted dresses, and the bodice shape was one I knew I could make work for me. Oh, and letting the fabrics take centre stage instead of design lines meant it would be a hell of a lot simpler to pull this together pattern wise than either of my two initial options. The next day it arrived:

2013-10-02 09.57.29

2013-10-02 09.58.57 2013-10-02 09.59.58

Over the duration of the French Jacket and Couture Sewing classes, I conferred with Susan over the best way to go about recreating this. She said silk taffeta would be best for underlining (at the time I didn’t truly understand why). From staring at the Elie Saab original dress inspiration picture I would guess that the skirt was either a) many layers of the silk organza on top of each other giving the illusion of opaque-ness, or b) underlined in an exactly matching fabric of similar/identical hand.

The organza fabric is opaque where the gold fibres are woven through, semi-opaque where the flowers are and very sheer everywhere else. Looking at the fabric rolled up on a bolt (which I kept wrapped up and hidden under the couch until it was time to sew with it) the colours were intensified into this gorgeous, peachy blush orangey-pink.

I certainly wasn’t willing to buy enough fabric to replicate suspicion a), and sourcing such a perfectly matching fabric for suspicion b) would be mission impossible.

Sourcing co-ordinating fabrics for the skirt
When I got back home I started silk taffeta recon. Several times I was recommended by well-meaning fabric store assistants to use silk dupion instead as ‘that’s what all the brides are doing these days’. Not this one, thanks!

I did source some beige-y cream taffeta from D’Italia, which complemented the organza overlay fabric pretty well. I’ve gotta say – it’s pretty delicious stuff!

Now, this isn’t something I can show in a photo, but if you put silk dupion and silk taffeta side by side, the difference is stark. Silk dupion (gorgeous stuff) is ‘slubby’ with a reflective surface showing off the weave, a soft drape and if you scrunch it up – it sits quite flat, and kinda flops back in on itself (remembering of course that this is relative). Silk taffeta on the other hand has a smooth surface texture, less sheen, is very tightly woven and is lighter in weight but if you scrunch it up – has a wonderful light buoyancy to it that the dupion just doesn’t have. Seeing this first hand I finally understood why Susan recommended it! It would provide opacity to the organza overlay without weighing it down.

One other random tidbit I learnt whilst in Baltimore – the sound silk taffeta (specifically) makes when being rubbed together is called ‘scrupe’. ha!

Fabrics for the skirt – sorted.

I’ll admit, initially I was a little concerned about how underlining in taffeta would change the overall look – easily the most terrifying unknown of sewing a dress like this is not knowing how the combined elements would look on me when finally together. And not really having much (umm… any!) experience in sewing such a garment felt like I was trying to find my way in the dark. From browsing through the collection that the inspiration dress came from, I found this:

Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection
Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection

elie saab dress 2

It’s a similar-ish fabric in a another colour way, but which appears to be constructed differently to the original inspiration dress, resulting in a slightly more structured skirt. It was amazing how these two visuals went a long way towards calming my mind!

Sourcing fabrics for the bodice
For the bodice, I went on a picture searching frenzy to get some closeups – and I noticed that the fabric for the bodice was actually quite different to the organza skirt – some kind of embroidered loveliness – and that there was two different types of beaded/sequinned lace on the bodice.

elie saab close up fall 2012 couture look 14

elie saab belt

But that was fine, my dress was always going to be just ‘inspired’ by this one – not an exact copy of it. I am certainly no Elie Saab.

During Camp Couture Susan showed me a fabric called ‘swiss illusion’ (Marina makes reference to it here) which is basically sheer against the skin – as it’s less a fabric and more a mesh – but was deceptively stable in its weave with a small amount of stretch. It was fascinating to look at because it had a hexagonal weave.

Once back home I emailed B&J to see if they had it or something similar, which they thought they did. A million thank you’s to Leisa (my fabric fairy godmother) who went in to veto what they thought I wanted! She dropped their original suggestions and got them to send me a different mesh, which was called ‘souffle’. That worked wonderfully – it has a very small amount of stretch along the grain, a good bit of stretch in the crossgrain – and excellent recovery in both directions. AND it was virtually undetectable on my skin.


Looking now with fresh eyes at Marina’s picture of her swiss illusion – it appears identical to my souffle. From what I recall of Susan’s swatch of swiss illusion though, it’s different. I specifically recall that having a very distinct hexagonal structure… but we all know the mind can alter your memory as it see’s fit! You can see how the selvedge curls up nicely in the photo above – that gave me a few ideas on finishing the edges of my bodice.

But no matter. With that fabric in hand, I figured I could use the taffeta to provide the opaque factor, and with some artfully placed applique scraps from the organza overlay fabric and my lace, it would transition from opaque to sheer in an acceptable manner.

The lace is a super gorgeous embellished Chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side and a tiny repeat on the opposite side with paisley-like shaped features in between.



Sourcing a belt:
One thing I left to the last minute was the belt. Lisa from Tessuti came to the rescue with a silk and metal blended dupion fabric with exactly the kind of metallic lustre I was after. Thank you Lisa!! You saved the day on that one :) It was a very unusual fabric and super fun to work with.

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

And finally… patterns!
After being so incredibly impressed with drafting of the skirt (and whole pattern in general) of Leisa’s Marfy Ballgown which I had the pleasure of watching come together at Camp Couture last year, I ordered Marfy S655 – from their bridal collection. This skirt was about the right proportions for what I wanted, and conveniently the amount of fabric required matched what I had bought:

S655 Wedding Dress (skirt) pattern

And I wasn’t disappointed – the skirt was gorgeously drafted. You’ll be forgiven if you have an ‘eh?’ moment – I did alter the skirt quite considerably in the end! More on that later.

When I received that pattern in the mail, I was over the moon to discover they’d included a copy of their bridal pattern catalogue and offered to swap the pattern I’d ordered with another from the catalogue should one take my fancy. Thank you Marfy! I loved the skirt lines of S655 so I wasn’t willing to swap, but I was drawn to the design lines of S936 (not online) for the bodice, which I promptly bought:

Marfy 936

The gorgeous lines of which does get a little lost in the fabric and lace. But I know it’s there, and the neckline, back line and slightly capped and curved shoulder were exactly what I was after. It’s a stunning pattern, and I can see myself making this up as a shift dress for work – removing the train/flounce and raising the back neckline.

There is also one final pattern which you haven’t seen yet – I sewed a bustier complete with bra cups and spiral steel boning as the support foundation undergarment. For this I used Marfy 2630, a stunning pattern that Leisa traced for me. I feel a little odd admitting this, but it’s actually the part of this dress that I’m the most proud of.

Marfy bustier F2630

Which segues rather nicely into my next three posts – which will cover the construction process of each of the three elements – the bustier, the skirt and the bodice.

Until soon!



  1. I just read these posts. Thank you for showing the inspiration for your beautiful dress and those wonderful fabrics. The close up of your face in the previous post is the most joyous thing of all. Best wishes for the future for you and Mr P.

  2. Gorgeous inspiration, gorgeous dress. Thanks for showing all the details! And I love the white goods graveyard photo! Congratulations as well. You made your day that much more memorable. I so wish I had discovered my sewing passion before my wedding. I was a mere 3years out and will forever dream of the dress I could have created!

    1. Who said you needed a wedding to sew a dress of epic proportions?? I say do it. You’ve got both the skills and the style! Maybe it is time to renew those vows… ;) Thanks Debbie!

  3. Thank you! Fabulous work! I am enjoying hearing about the design, inspiration and sewing just as much as the pictures of the finished dress. Siobhan x

  4. This was such a great post to read! I can’t wait for the next part! Your dress looks amazing and the fabric is just incredible. I am impressed with your fabric knowledge and I wish we had a Marfy in the UK!

      1. Oooooo! Thanks for that info! I am always seeing beautiful fabrics on blogs that say it comes from them. Will have a look!

  5. Just love how you take us on your journey! The search for those perfect fabrics, the worries, inspirations, wonderful. I can almost picture you sitting on the couch, thinking about the treasure underneath. Thanks for sharing!

  6. A sewer after my own heart! – I’m all about construction and copying rather than blank-page creativity too. Other people have had such great ideas – why not reuse?

    I don’t have a lot to say right now but be assured I’m hanging on your every word.

  7. Total hats off to you and your amazing creation. You looked absolutely divine! This is one wedding dress that will get passed down no doubt!

  8. This is the most enjoyable vicarious sewing. I love all your fabrics and reading about your inspiration+ decision making. Seeing the beautiful ending first makes it even better!

  9. i am loving all these details, and am so glad you’re willing to talk in such depth about them! looking forward to the construction posts!

  10. Love your interpretation of the original. The use of silk taffeta in the skirt provided volume without weight. I have used soufflé from B&J and it’s wonderful stuff if you need transparent fabric. Can’t wait for your next post detailing construction.

  11. Love watching the journey unfold, that fabric is over the moon!
    Those patterns are the best, I *heart* Marfy. I adore that short skirt pattern with the train, I could totally wear that to the office in navy.

    1. Oh, I’m with you on that. I’ve got it marked to be sewn up as an office appropriate sheath dress – it will be a stunner… just as soon as I get around to sewing it, of course! Thanks Becki!

  12. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with your wedding dress, the fabric is amazing, hard to put into words and the Marfy patterns are so interesting.

    1. Like you wouldn’t believe! It’s going to take me a while to come down from being a fabric snob… jersey knit? What’s that again? haha! Thanks Amy :)

  13. Wow, this is some serious sewing p@rn! These fabrics are absolutely amazing- you made the right choice! The runway inspiration is so cool, too! Can’t wait for the next post!!!!!! I really wish I knew how to sew when I got married, although there’s no way I would’ve kept cool under the pressure. Truly in awe of you, dude!

  14. I love all of this detail. Thank you again for sharing.
    Are you sure Susan doesn’t have you as her understudy because I can see you as a rising couture seamstress.
    Love you work:)

  15. I think you are underestimating your creative side! I too am loving all the detail you are sharing. Oh the fabrics… drool. Oh and I agree with Maria – I think couture is here to stay for you.

    1. You’re too kind, thanks Kirsty! Absolutely it’s hear to stay – were it not for my pitiful work wardrobe which I’m now going to focus on sewing for, I’d be all up for sewing another glorious gown! :)

  16. Love your dress. I’m looking for something for an illusion neckline and came across your site. I checked B&J web site and they don’t have the soufflé tulle you used. I emailed B&J and have yet to hear back from them. Do you have additional info on the material besides it being called soufflé tulle? Thanks.

    1. Hi Myle, I don’t, sorry, no. They sourced it for me after I sent them an email. It was called souffle mesh on their invoice so I presume that’s how it is known to them. I hope they still have it in stock for you.

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