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.
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!
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:
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.
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 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.
From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com
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:
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!
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 :)
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 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:
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…
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 :)
Pinning the rouleau loops in place
Tailors tacks marking button shank location
The final button at the waist was in the gold dupion to match the fabric belt.
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).
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 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.
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.
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):
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