How to Make Your Own Wedding Dress
What?! Make you own dress? This is a joke, isn't it? Nope!
It may sound difficult, but it's really not as difficult as it sounds. Time consuming, yes, but difficult, no. If you can go to a fabric or craft store, flip through the patterns for wedding dresses in the fabric section, and purchase the right materials, you'll be just fine.
Now, I strongly recommend that you start your wedding dress creation about a year ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to pick through the different steps of the process and really do it right. You'll want to have your dress completely finished at least two months out from your wedding to make sure that you have plenty of time those last two months to worry about other things and take a break from sewing before your wedding. You may even decide to construct a wedding veil or a petticoat for yourself at the last minute.
However, before you jump headlong into the wedding dress construction process, try your skills on something easier. Maybe you can make a flower girl dress or a dress for one of your bridesmaids. This will give you a taste of sewing so you can decide whether or not to make your wedding gown yourself, and it will give you a little experience with smaller projects before jumping into the BIG one.
Just like I recommend in my other articles regarding wedding dresses, including finding one and choosing one for your body type, you will always want to go through the research process of finding a dress you love and visiting bridal shops to actually try them on. Too many brides go buy the pattern, the fabric and all of the supplies, only to realize during the process that they chose the wrong dress.
Go out and truly find the right dress for you, and in the process, look at seams, hems, waistlines, sleeves, overlays, liners, and any other part of the dress that might help you during the sewing process. Seeing what they look like in real life, and maybe even taking pictures of them, will give you a good reference point in the future. Remember you want to consider your wedding style, the formality of the wedding, the weather on your wedding day, and even your body type when choosing the right dress and the right dress pattern.
I know you're impatient to get going. Let's get started!
Step 1: Choose Your Dress Pattern
You can easily find these in the fabric section of your local craft or fabric store. In this section you will see pattern books allowing you to flip through all of the pictures until you find the one you like. The actual patterns are kept in drawers organized just like the card catalog at the library. These patterns typically run pretty cheap, but a more extensive wedding dress might cost you a little bit more.
I recommend choosing a simpler pattern if you are a beginning sewer. Obviously more advanced sewers will be familiar with this process and will know exactly how to choose the right pattern. Know that you don't have to limit yourself to the dresses you find. As long as the changes aren't humongous, you can easily make changes, like getting rid of the sleeves or shortening a skirt, on any pattern.
Along with your pattern, you'll want to look on the back to determine your size according to your measurements (commercial pattern sizes aren't the same as regular clothing sizes). This will tell you how much fabric to purchase and what else you might need to buy. Go pick up all of your materials now. You'll want to purchase everything you need all at the same time.
You'll most likely need bridal fabric, lining, underlining, interfacing, boning, thread, a zipper, buttons, loop tape, straight pins, a seam ripper, sewing scissors, vinyl measuring tape, muslin fabric, and most importantly, a book about sewing techniques, especially if it's specific to wedding dresses. This will be most valuable! There are a few above that I highly recommend if you'd like to purchase one ahead of time!
Ask someone at the shop for help with purchasing all of the right materials if you get confused.
Step 2: Pick Your Bridal Fabric
For ease in sewing and for a beautiful look, try a nice silk fabric. If you ask the attendant at the fabric store, I'm sure they'll show you all of the beautiful bridal fabrics and offer you some helpful advice. For help with all of the fabrics available to you and what might be the best choice for each of the parts of your wedding day gown, visit my article on Wedding Fabric Choices Defined.
Step 3: Decide on Any Changes
Once you get home with your pattern and all of your materials, you'll want to plan out what changes you are going to want to make. On this dress (the one in the initial pattern shown), it was decided that the sleeves were a no go and the waistline, instead of being a basque, it would be more of a natural waistline. Easy peasy!
These changes were super easy to make, but you may have something different in mind for yours. Take these into consideration before pinning or cutting any muslin fabric for your initial mockup.
Step 4: Create Your Muslin Mock-Up
I know this seems silly when you could just save time making the real thing instead, right? You won't feel that way when you cut into your more expensive bridal fabric and end up making a serious mistake. At least with the muslin, it's cheap, easily replaceable, and you don't have to be super careful with it.
By creating this mockup before you get started with the real thing, you can tug, stretch, cut, pin and whatever else you'd like to make it just perfect, so that you're absolutely happy with the product you are creating and ready to cut the real thing. In order to make your muslin mockup, begin by opening your pattern and pulling out all of the pieces. You'll have to cut them all out (Carefully!) before you can use them. When taking your measurements, make sure to include the undergarments (bra, corset, whatever) that you plan to wear on your wedding day, along with the shoes you're thinking of. If need be, add a few extra inches to the bottom of the skirt for possible shoes. You can always trim a little later.
Lay them out and pin them individually to your muslin fabric in a way that allows you to use the least amount of fabric as possible. There's no need to waste any. Pin the pieces to the fabric and then cut each piece out of the fabric. Now's the time to make any changes you were considering. Give yourself a little extra just in case. You can always fold and stitch tighter later. Finally, baste them all together. Click here for tips of making a basting stitch.
Once it's all basted, try it on. Remember you'll want to be wearing your wedding day undergarments and shoes for this fitting. This is the point where you'll need a second person! Granted, I know you can try on your muslin dress all by yourself, but pinning accurately is going to be a little tougher.
Go ahead and let your helper pull and tug and make sure the dress looks exactly like you wanted. It might take a few days, but be sure to get this part right as this is what will determine the final look for your gorgeous wedding dress. When taking it off, be careful of the pins. You don't want to get stuck! Now either baste it up yourself from the alterations you've made, or have your helper do so. (It's super helpful to have someone assisting you, especially if they are more experienced.)
Cut the extras off and try it on again. This way you know that you truly have an accurate dress to base your bridal fabric pieces off of. Do any further alterations and pinning, keeping in mind that this process might be repeated multiple times before you have it just perfect, until you have a finished product.
Step 5: Alter Your Paper Pattern
Now that you've got your muslin dress perfectly altered exactly the way you want it, mark it, take it all apart and bring out those paper pattern pieces again. You will be essentially cutting the paper pattern pieces you purchased to match your muslin dress.
You will then be laying out your beautiful bridal fabric. Make sure that you are using the right fabric for each pattern piece, in the case that you are using multiple types. Lay out your pattern pieces in the most efficient, space saving way possible, pin them down and then cut out your bridal fabric pieces. Once all of your pieces are cut out, remove the paper pattern pieces and use your sewing pins to mark an necessary lines needed, along with where the seams will be sewn.
You will begin by basting your pieces together first. This allows you to easily take them out if they are incorrect. Once completely basted, try it on! The altering cycle will now begin again. Pin, Baste, Pin, Baste, until you get it just right. Remember this is your real dress! Make sure it looks exactly like you want it to.
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Step 6: Sew That Dress!
Before sewing it all together, you might consider creating a liner. This is especially critical if you a) have a light fabric that might be see-through, b) have chosen lace or another type of rough fabric for your dress that might irritate your skin, and/or c) if you intend to add crinolines to your dress.
Crinolines are the really stiff fabric frequently present underneath wedding dresses to give their skirts a bit more fullness. Crinolines are often added to dresses in up to three layers. Many brides have crinolines attached to the undersides of their dresses and then they also choose to purchase or make a softer petticoat that it worn separately to add even more height.
These, with a softer liner underneath them to keep from scratching your legs, can be added before or after you sew your wedding dress. Consider the decision of a liner,crinolines or both before finishing your dress. When you're ready, pull out that sewing machine and sew your wedding dress. (Also think about overlays, sashes and of items that might be attached to your dress.) Hand-sewing sounds great, but it's simply not reliable unless you are a professional seamstress. Even they use the stitches of a reliable sewing machine so the dress doesn't come apart at the least expected moment.
Step 7: Last Preparations
At the beginning of this article, we discussed being completely finished about 2 months before your wedding so you don't have to worry about it anymore. Make sure you keep your completed dress in a safe place where it won't get damaged or stained before the big day.
About 2 weeks before your wedding day, purchase or borrow a hand-steamer so you can lightly steam any wrinkles or light dirt spots out of your dress to be ready for your walk down the aisle. If done correctly, given the time needed to be done right, and if sewn with care on a reliable sewing machine, you'll turn out with a beautiful dress. Didn't my example turn out beautifully. You'd never know it was hand-made!
And there you have it! Sewing your own dress will mean more to you than buying one will ever mean. You blood, sweat, and tears will have gone into this one. You'll have memories of the time and effort you loving put into the creation of this one, and most of all, you'll know that you dreamed it, you cared for it every step of the way, and you created it!
Congratulations! You should be proud of all of your hard work! Wear it with pride on your wedding day knowing you made it happen!