Project WD: Marfy S963 Bodice

The final and most complex part in my 3-post series on constructing my wedding dress!

I used Marfy S963 for the bodice of my dress, which I thought was very elegant – a bateau neckline at the front, deep V-neck at the back and a capped seam that curved down around my shoulder somewhat. The front design is pretty special – with princess seams across the bust which join with two darts to create shaping at the waist. As I was only interested in the top half of this pattern, I also added in a waist seam once I’d muslined it.

Marfy 936

I think this dress would translate incredibly well into a sheath dress suitable for work also, once you remove the rear flounce and raise that deep V in the back to account for hiding your bra. But then when skimming through some dress inspiration pictures saved on my computer (pre Pinterest!) I saw this – look how well it would work for a dressy dress too!

Kate Emilio

Kate Ermilio

As for the muslin – after all the pain of sewing and fitting my bustier, this was a dream in comparison. I distinctly remember wiggling into my first version of this, hardly able to wipe the grin off my face because it was so DAMN GOOD.

The bodice barely needed any adjustments other than a dart-be-gone at the back to remove some very minor gaping, extending the front princess seam a little closer towards my arm (standard adjustment for the broad shouldered) and moving the waistline down the same 3.2cm (1 1/4 inch) as I did to the bustier pattern.

The muslin was easy and came together in a flash.

The real thing? Not so much!

Forcing the very structural taffeta into the booby curve of a princess seam was a nightmare, probably complicated even further by the stiff organza on top of it…

At the muslin stage I marked out the location of my bustier underneath, so I could determine where to join the souffle to the opaque part. I then thread traced the souffle and the taffeta pieces and joined them all together. Once at this point, I could play with the placement of the organza overlay – doing my best to match the more obvious parts, like the princess seams:

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I sewed up the back and side pieces first – which is when I realised that any kind of normal thread against the souffle would stand out like a burnt pixel on an LCD screen – kind of ruining the sheer effect!

A trip to Spotlight later and I had some ‘invisible’ thread – basically a very fine fishing line. This thread was about a third of the thickness of your regular gutermann poly thread, and incredibly difficult to work with… because you can’t bloody well see it. Also, it curls up worse than cotton thread after being under tension, and very easily snarls itself up – working with small lengths of this ‘thread’ when hand sewing was a must. I went cross-eyed every time I had to thread a needle with it, and quickly realised that sewing it would have to be relegated to daylight hours only.

I sewed the souffle seams together with the invisible thread on the machine (it handles fine as long as you go slowly, otherwise you’re dealing with too much plastic on plastic friction and it gets stuck on the machine’s spool holder, ruining your tension). I then cut back the seam allowances to 1cm and used the (hand sewn) rolled hem technique to seal everything up.

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It looked quite pretty I thought!

You can see in the photos above that the organza overlay was initially separate to the souffle – once I’d got the bodice sewn together, I focused on joining these two layers. I cut away the sheer part of the organza from around the floral shapes – there was of course a small amount of fraying but I liked the way this softened the cut lines.

Initially I thought I’d use a pick stitch, but the invisible thread doesn’t work so well in angles. What did work was a (pretty haphazard) loose running stitch – there’s actually a lot of thread sitting on top of the organza overlay – but you can even feel in when you run your fingers over it, let alone see it.

The Belt
The original inspiration dress (an indeed many of the dresses from that particular collection) had a metal belt with a matching leather buckle at the back of the dress – the metal part tying in beautifully with the gold of the fabric.

backline

From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

belt idea 2

From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

As a tribute to this, I used a silk and metal blend dupion to create a contrasting line at the waist. This was such a fabulous and unusual fabric! And one that needs to be stored rolled up, else the metal parts of the fibres remember the fold line and refuse to be ironed out… Entirely irridescent and perfectly metallic in appearance:

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

‘Gold Fanta’ photo via the Tessuti Shop

I used a 1.5cm wide strip of horsehair canvas and covered it in the dupion, using a fell stitch on the wrong side to enclose the canvas. I chose the size based purely on the size of the buttons at the back so it would all tie in nicely. I sewed this directly to the bodice along the waist seam line, leaving the top un-sewn to encourage the illusion of it being separate.

The perfectly matching gold 'belt'. And one little spot where my organza placement didn't quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

The perfectly matching gold ‘belt’. And one little spot where my organza placement didn’t quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

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There was one little spot on my dress where I just didn’t have scraps big enough to cover the entire piece… I was originally going to then applique stitch a cut piece of fabric over it, but in the end decided not to (it looked wrong).

I did end up sewing a horse shoe shaped piece of lace over the top of it :)

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From that little imperfection I was bizarrely reminded of my visits to several notable Mosques – Hagia Sofia in Istanbul and pretty much every Mosque in Iran – and the incredible relief artwork and mosaic tiles. The artists have been said to intentionally make mistakes in their intricate geometric patterns – an interesting article about that here. As an imperfect being, I rather like the parallel. And even though there are small errors – the overall effect is still strikingly beautiful. Indulge me with the particular holiday snap that inspired this?

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The Closures
The Marfy pattern shows the use of rouleau loops and buttons at the back – I absolutely wanted to keep this feature. After reading about some wedding dress zip horror stories from your comments to this post, buttons seemed like a doubly safe option! I saw on this J’Aton dress (um… oh how I love those boys’ creations – inspiration alert!) how they extended out the fabric on the button side of the closure to act as a sort of facing, and decided to copy the concept:

J’Aton gown from Pinterest

As I’d already cutout my fabric and sewn the pieces together at the time of seeing the above picture, my facing wasn’t quite as wide as I’d perhaps prefer it to be.

Of course, it also recommends to do this in Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book, as otherwise when placed under tension the two fabric edges would be likely to gape. I’m sure I had read over this paragraph (it’s on page 40) multiple times before seeing the picture above and having it click into place though… definitely a visual learner!

Once all my fabrics were cut out, I sent in my covered button order to Kate at Buttonmania – she’s never failed to impress me with the quality of her work and this time was no exception. I had a series of 13mm round-top buttons covered with just the taffeta, the taffeta and organza overlay, and the gold metal dupion. I didn’t end up going with just the plain taffeta in the end – too jarring a combination against the organza! Seems completely obvious when you see the buttons on the fabric though…

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From Susan Khalje’s online shop I bought a strip of rouleau loops – no way was I going to make this myself if a ready made option was already available! The cord was white though – and I was planning to attempt dying it. That wasn’t something I ended up getting around to though, which I’m a bit sad about. You can’t see a huge amount of white, but it’s still there to be seen if you’re looking. I was running out of steam… and time!

I used tailor’s tacks to mark the location of each button, before hand sewing them on. It was quite an exciting moment to see each button be added to the placket :)

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Pinning the rouleau loops in place

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Tailors tacks marking button shank location

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The final button at the waist was in the gold dupion to match the fabric belt.

The Lace
This is where I REALLY started getting excited! I couldn’t wait to get home every night from work so I could sew more on :) I did have a moment of wondering if the lace was even really necessary because it was so lovely just on its own… but nah.

Well. The lace – which I’m told was made specifically to match the organza – was a super gorgeous embellished chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side, and a tiny repeat at the other selvedge. In between was paisley shaped teardrops of the same. I decided fairly early on to use the tiny selvedge repeat down the V-neck at the back – it would be light enough to be supported by the souffle and in turn provide some stability along the bias edge. This was the first lace I applied, using the invisible thread (ugh, nightmare).

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The rest of the lace was cut and appliquéd across the bodice and down onto the skirt. The shapes I cut were dependant on the lace design to some extent – in the photo below are two repeats with the bottom one turned upside down so they ‘connected’ with the same beads at the centre. The lace on the skirt is a different part of the repeat, with a few smaller shapes that I could easily cut out (without having beads going flying off in every direction) to try and make the placement look a little more organic.

I had a yard of this lace… and I didn’t even use a quarter of it, if you discount the fact that I used virtually the entire small selvedge along the back line. When using lace as applique – it becomes an incredibly economic fabric to sew from. You need a lot less than you think you do!

Once I’d secured the edges to the fabric and finished hand sewing it down, the netting was cut off.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt. I sewed this on over the course of a week, again due to working with the ‘invisible’ thread it was only able to be done during daylight hours.

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I’d purposely cut the front skirt panel to have a big floral motif closer to the hem and a bit of empty space at the waist, which I thought at the time would do well for lace placement. The original inspiration gown had lace ‘tumbling’ down one side of the gown front, so I imitated that.

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How natural light makes a difference to the colours! This is probably the most true colour representation of the fabrics and lace in this post.

Learnings from the bodice…
Quite a few. Namely, the taffeta was very challenging to work with. Just because you test a garment by making a muslin, doesn’t mean it will turn out that way – because fabric hand can change everything.

Whilst I absolutely loved the end result of my dress, there was one element that didn’t work out on the day that did break my heart a little (I’ve accepted it now though):

Wedding Dresss 2

And that’s the pooching of the bodice under my bust. I have two theories – the first being that I had the position of the very-snug waist stay not quite in the right position – this was up against the bustier so wouldn’t have been able to move once done up and incorrectly positioned. The other theory is that it’s the taffeta = 1, my sewing skills = 0. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

It’s all been parked for things to take into consideration should I ever work with silk taffeta again.

And that, my pretties – is it. Well, mostly. I also made two other dresses… coming up next!

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

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74 thoughts on “Project WD: Marfy S963 Bodice

  1. Your dress is just stunning. I started sewing a while after I married my husband and could not imagine being able to execute such a beautiful vision. I so think the further we move from an event, the less details play on your mind. I felt terrible at my wedding because I forgot to pose for photos with the annuals my step dad had planted for that purpose and I wished I had picked prettier shoes. But when I look back, all I see are happy people that I love in happy photos.

  2. Your gown is insane pretty! I have a few fancy dress patterns that I couldn’t resist buying but have never sewn because I have no where to wear them, but it’s so interesting seeing how other people have made super fancy frocks.

  3. Congratulations on your labour of love.
    Thank you for sharing the process and your private pictures.
    Stunning job and stunning dress.
    May I wish you both every happiness for your life together.

  4. I am in serious sewing heaven raptures. Completely mind blowing and a stunning stunning result. The photo with the “pooching” is one of my favourite and it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the dress at all. Am now really looking forward to seeing what else you have up your sleeve for us next…

  5. Your dress turned out so gorgeous and you just glow in all the pictures!! Thank you for bringing us through the journey – I can imagine it was hard to keep your lips sealed during the process :) I’m currently planning my wedding and though I’ve sewn a few things, I can’t imagine tackling the dress – planning is stressful enough! So I’m curious if you could share with us all your wedding dress sewing ‘timeline’? When did you finish it all? Or at least most of it? Did you set deadlines for yourself? Did you leave anything for last minute?

    • To be honest I was so busy being focused on making sure I had a dress to wear on the day I didn’t get to think much about keeping the secret! But thank you, Carrie :) I did absolutely have a sewing plan along the way, with milestones to keep me on track….
      November – First muslin of the skirt and bodice. A lot of running around trying to source silk taffeta, buying notions, researching techniques and just generally thinking a lot about it. I also prepared muslins for both bridesmaid dresses, and I cut out the pieces for all five silk robes.
      December – I sewed all 5 robes, finishing those on Boxing Day. I had my first fitting session with my old teacher on the skirt at the beginning of the month, and further refined that before sewing it up in poly taffeta and organza in preparation for my next fitting session in January. I also sewed two bustier muslins for fitting purposes. I also had an initial fitting session with both my bridesmaids.
      January – I only had two weeks for sewing in January as we spent the other half on the beach in the Philippines, so it was almost a write off. I finished both my bustier dress rehearsal muslin and started my final bustier. I had my second and final fitting session for the skirt and bodice, ending up with the ‘final’ muslin. I also cut out the dark green bridesmaid dress.
      February – I finished the final bustier! I started working on the dark green bridesmaid dress… which pretty much took me the whole month. February is where I started freaking out/knuckling down, sewing for up to 4 hours each week night and virtually the entire weekend right through until the end. I finished the green dress all bar hemming in just over 3 weeks solid. I cut out the light green dress, and started work on that.
      March – I cut out my skirt pieces and started work on my dress bodice. I got them both sewn up then left them on my on-loan dress form whilst I finished the light green bridesmaid dress…
      April – I spent the first week hemming my dress and sewing on lace, I hemmed both bridesmaid dresses on the 4th, and finished my dress on Tuesday the 8th, and we got married on the following Saturday. Phew!

  6. WOW! I am in total awe of the detail and effort you put into this dress. It is truly a princess gown, and it turned out beautifully, you looked lovely in it! I have been checking my emails and stalking your website after your initial post of sewing your gown waiting to see how it turned out. The series of the projects were a wonderful read, thank you for taking us on that journey with you. Congratulations on a wonderful start :) You inspire me on tackling something complicated!

    • Thank you Lee-Ann, I’m about as proud as it gets over it :) You’ll never regret pushing yourself – even if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it too, you learn so much.

  7. Wow, I’m more in awe with every post! I can hardly imagine taking on a project like this, so many daunting details in difficult fabrics! You did such a fabulous job. I would be interested in seeing your timeline too… I just can’t really fathom the amount of organization, time-management, and positive attitude that this took!

    • Thanks Kelly! Yeah, I started sewing a little bit after getting back from honeymoon and was pretty shocked at just how tunnel-vision focused and productive I was in the lead up to the wedding. I’ve put a basic timeline on how it all unfolded a few comment up if you’re interested :)

  8. God! This is just so pretty it makes my eyes hurt! Hahaha! I love LOVE LOVE your lace placement, and all your couture methods are just so inspiring. But that fabric… sigh… so truly stunning. and I still can’t get over how wonderfully that fabric compliments you! You look ‘lit from within’ (though I guess some of that could just be that wedding day ‘glow’?) Anyway, such a stunning, stunning dress. Thank you SO much for sharing your process with us – it’s been such an inspiration!!

    • Oh you’re making me blush! I agree though, the fabric and I were meant to be and it felt like the universe was saving it just for me. And gosh I love it to bits. Thank you for your lovely words! x

  9. I can’t get over how beautiful your gown is, and of course how beautiful you look in it! The lace is just stunning. Your attention to even the smallest detail is evident in each photo. Congratulations!

  10. Your dress is absolutely amazing! You did such an amazing job, it’s just as gorgeous (if not more so) than the inspiration. Definitely my favorite handmade wedding gown I’ve seen!

  11. Thanks for sharing. I’ve really enjoyed this series of posts, and of course, your dresses absolutely stunning! You are right to be so proud! Beautiful!

  12. Your dress is exquisite – everything!…the fabrics, the colours, the textures, the shape of the dress, all the amazing details and it suits you perfectly. You are a beautiful, beautiful bride and with your super attractive husband you make a wonderful couple. All the best to you in your new life together. You look very well suited.

    I don’t know if it would be difficult to take out the button loops – they could be dipped in a tea bath to make the colour more to your liking or dyed with some avocado pits! It’s a very small thing but if it bugs you and it would be easy to change, then I’d say – do it. It will make a difference to you.

    Thanks for your amazing posts about putting this gorgeous creation together. An absolutely wonderful journey. Also the robes you made for yourself and your attendants are beautiful too.

    Barbara

    • Thank you for your lovely words, Barbara :) I probably won’t do anything about it now, now that’s it’s all done with – but I’ll keep that in mind for another time. Someone said they use markers to colour in things like that – another great idea I though!

  13. It is so beautiful! I am still in awe over the souffle and how incredible it looks. I had a bit of that pooching on my wedding dress too. I was told by a friend of mine who is an incredibly advanced sewist that it is not a failing on the part of the sewist, or the pattern, but is because we can’t possibly stand with ramrod straight spines all the time. In a garment like a wedding dress, the minute we relax our postures, we’ll get some pooching. It made sense to me at the time – there is a lot going on in a wedding dress bodice after all.

    • Ah it’s always lovely to hear a new concept/idea/opinion that is in the favour of me not having screwed it up! haha, thanks Rachel. The souffle is pretty amazing stuff :)

  14. Thanks for sharing your journey through the creation of this fabulous dress. I so enjoyed following the progress and the final result is just stunning. I think we sewers are highly critical of our own work and we see all sorts of things we think could be improved. No one else even notices these perceived imperfections but it’s what keeps us striving to improve. If the white button loops bother you try a permanent Sharpie marker. I use them all the time; they come in all colors and are much easier than dying and you can work on a finished garment. Your dress is lovely and I hope you have another opportunity to wear it.

  15. Just beautiful. And thank you so much for all the sewing nerd goodness! All that fabulous details and those lovely pictures. And as someone commented on Instagram, you should absolutely wear it to Frocktails. If nothing else so we can sigh over all those lovely details up close ;)

    • haha, thank you. I don’t know about that… my usual dry cleaner refused to clean it because the test he did on a scrap of my lace dissolved some of the beads. So it looks like I’m going to either do it myself at home, or leave it soiled! Argh!

  16. I think the comment that you glow from the inside out is really true. You glow in all the photos. I thank you for writing such detailed posts about your long journey. It really is appreciated. It is beautiful as is your handiwork.

  17. Your wedding dress is such an awe inspiring creation. The amount of detail, the time and effort you have put into sewing it are a real credit to your skill and perseverance. You are glowing in all your Wedding photos…absolutely stunning. I am at the planning stage for my own wedding dress, but you have set the bar extremely high. Mine won’t be nearly as exquisite as yours, but I hope I will enjoy the process and be as happy with the result as you have been.

    • I have no doubt it will be wonderful whatever you do, Jean – sewing ones own wedding dress is a triumphant achievement regardless!! Thank you for your lovely words and I wish you all the best :)

  18. So beautiful. The pooching (which wasn’t noticeable until you pointed it out) is just one of those perfect imperfections!

  19. oh i used invisible thread once, that stuff is horrid to work with! i know there is superfine thread used in shirtmaking, wonder if that would have worked for you. at any rate, you did fabulous with what you had, i can’t see a single stitch! the lacework is just gorgeous. i especially love how it comes down the front over the waistline. as far as the “pooching” i wonder if light boning would have been enough to fix it. personally, i think it looks charming and i hadn’t really noticed until you mentioned it! i totally understand those nagging thoughts though. when i made my sister’s wedding dress two years ago i made a huge error in the skirt draft (i had no conception of how a train is drafted…) and i still think about it! nobody would notice the problem unless they knew something about grain lines, but i still cringe at the thought!

    anyways, thank you for sharing the process of making your dress, it was truly inspiring!

    • I’d love to know if it would work – I might see if I can source some! Because working with that fishing line was just dreadful. I’m sure if I had sewn the foundation bustier and the dress as one, that it would have been eliminated, or at the very least minimised. I did agonise over whether to join or separate for quite some time, but I think it would always be better for the dress to have that structure rather than just be an overlay. At least this way I know so next time I can make an educated decision rather than a guesstimate! We are easily our own hardest task-masters. Thanks Lisa :)

  20. OH MY GAH, THAT KATE ERMILIO DRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OK, swoon over. Your dress turned out beyond beautiful, and the little doubts you have about it would never be noticed by anyone else! I’m so impressed by your work and so glad you shared the whole process on your blog!

  21. I have just loved reading about the making of this gorgeous dress! What a project – you must be so, so proud of what you created! Your dress will be part of your wedding memories forever – it seems like the dress is as happy as you look wearing it!

  22. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Not only your beautiful needlework but your fabulous taste!! I got married in jeans – no white dress has ever really appealed to me – but THAT dress! Yowza. That glowing peach. SO GORGEOUS.

  23. Wow – I really want this all in video form – I would sit and watch in fascination how it all came together. But perhaps I am just greedy for details!!
    I wouldn’t worry about the “pooching” – I would think it comes from being able to move. My bodice of my wedding dress was pretty close to solid, with heavy satin, boning etc – there was no pooching, but then I could barely move or breath comfortably all day. Give me a tiny bit of pooching any day!! (and yours is minute)

    • That’s what everyone seems to be saying, Lizzie, and I’m happy to take that! I think had I made the foundation bustier and bodice as one, then it wouldn’t have been an issue, but hey! Next time I sew a fancy frock I’ll be able to make an educated decision rather than a guesstimate. Otherwise, thank you so much! haha :)

  24. I can’t tell you enough how impressive these posts are. You’re very inspiring. I love the gold belt attachment technique and the matching toned buttons. Your colour palette is beautiful

    • The gold belt came together as an idea at the last minute thanks to the help of a wonderful fabric shop assistant who knew her stock and was able to send it interstate for me – and I’m so glad I decided the dress needed it! haha, thanks Amy :) Time for a G&T, methinks.

  25. The dress is gorgeous. You are gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing all of this. The way your creative vision came to life for your wedding day is just spectacular! Amazing!

  26. I said it before but it’s still beautiful. I really like the sheer section, and the lace edging on the back neckline, and the gold belt is a really nice addition.

  27. Pingback: Sewing Goodness Extracts | Lin3arossa

  28. Absolutely gorgeous!!!!! You created the gown of your dreams like no one else could do. I, to, created my wedding gown 10 yrs ago….what satisfaction this accomplishment brings! Blessings upon your marriage…..thanks so much for sharing!!!!!

  29. I love to see you used a Marfy pattern. Did you know Alessia from Marfy, Ferrara, Italy, home exchanged here in Perth several years ago? and she has recently been home exchanging in Qld?

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