Here we are, with the second post about sewing your own wedding dress! The project is definitely moving in the right direction. I finished my wearable muslin last week and am very excited to show it to you. I’ve definitely refined a number of my sewing skills trying to achieve the perfect fit for this dress. Normally I’m pretty lazy about this. Confession time – I basically trust the pattern sizing and, unless there’s something pretty noticeably off about the fit, I go with whatever the final product happens to be. With my wedding dress, this attitude has definitely shifted and I’ve been working overtime to get the muslin looking perfect.
Since my main fabric is now washed and ready to be cut, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk you through my process of choosing the fabric and offer some general advice for you when doing the same, whether for a wedding dress or other event garment! Obviously this is totally based on my personal experience. If you have anything to add by way of suggestions from your own experience of making event garments (even if not wedding dresses), please add a comment to the post!
1. Consider the pattern
This part is elementary but also something that might involve a little creativity on your part. As I’m sure you know, patterns typically come with a list of recommended fabrics. These fabrics are ones that best guarantee the desired fit (for example, stretch fabrics versus woven fabrics) and shape or drape of the garment. When making something as important as a wedding dress, it’s obviously vital to make sure that you aren’t going against the grain (PUN!) by choosing a fabric that will totally warp the look of the pattern. If you decide that you want to go with a fabric that is not recommended by the pattern – particularly if it means working with something tougher to sew, like a silk or satin – definitely make a muslin using the same material! Make sure that it works with the pattern!
As a reminder, this is the pattern that I’m using:
The Sweetheart Dress from Sew La Di Da Vintage
With such a flirty ’50s-style dress, there are obviously a plethora of fabrics that could be used. The key is to consider what best accentuates the shape of the garment and any cute details built into the pattern – perhaps the sit of pleats, the volume of a skirt, or the shape of the bodice. In answering these questions, you’ll also need to ask yourself about whether it’s appropriate to use more than one fabric. For example, would you prefer to use satin overlaid with lace? Would you like to make the sleeves or neckline out of lace? Or perhaps use a sheer, embroidered fabric for an interesting back panel? Obviously the answers to all of these questions will depend upon your personal preference but will also be largely dictated by what’s achievable through the pattern that you’re using.
2. Consider the event
Again, this piece of advice seems obvious, but it is so easy to get lost in fantasies about the perfect dress and forget about the event itself. My choice of pattern is a reflection of the sort of day that me and my fiancé are shooting for. It’s going to be pretty informal and put together in a relatively short space of time (we’re talking about a month). I wanted a short, fun, ’50s dress to mirror the spontaneity that will characterise our wedding, but also just the general joy that after many months apart we’re finally back together and getting married. To me, all of these factors didn’t add up to the formality that I usually associate with silk or satin fabrics. Bearing in mind that I will also be getting married in the height of Missourian summer where temperatures can get up over 100 Fahrenheit, something that clings to the body is not a good idea. Temperature is key!
The most important thing is that you’re comfortable in whatever you’re wearing. Will there be lots of dancing? A fabric that doesn’t move so easily with your body might be a problem and getting sweaty while you dance isn’t a good look if you’re wearing pure silk. Just be sure to reflect on what the event itself speaks to fabric-wise and don’t consign yourself to wearing something that prevents you from really enjoying the day.
3. Consider your colour palette
This will be a relatively brief consideration for most people. However, when choosing your fabric, it’s important to think about any other colours that you’re integrating into your day – bouquets, table arrangements, dress accessories etc. Since wedding dresses are traditionally white, for most people fabric colour won’t even be a question. But if you’re torn between, white, ivory, cream, or any unconventional colours for your dress, it’s super important to think about the rest of your colour palette.
Since I’m going for a ’50s style dress, I had already decided that I wanted a big ruffled petticoat. With regards to colours, there’s a couple that I needed to consider when picking out the fabric for my main dress. The petticoat that I ended up going with is the aquamarine petticoat from Doris Designs (these petticoats are seriously GORGEOUS and you must check them out right now!). This will be paired with some lemon yellow shoes (hopefully, since I haven’t yet found any that I want).
When thinking about the colour of my dress fabric, it was obvious to me that white would end up being the best option. Since the dress is shorter, the whiteness will be broken up with the pop of the petticoat and the shoes (as well as any other accessories), stopping it from feeling like it’s just too much white.
So, if you’re using other colours, make sure to give them some thought before committing to your fabric.
4. The final fabric choice
When I was choosing my fabric, I was thinking mostly about the fact that I wanted to make sure the dress looked bridal. While a ’50s style dress is absolutely what I want, I was concerned that it could easily slip into a summer dress – rather than wedding dress – look. The fabric is totally key to getting that bridal feel. I spent a long time searching around and came across a lot of gorgeous fabrics. For those of you reading this because you’re in the process of making your own wedding dress, I highly recommend taking a look at the following websites for inspiration:
- Bridal Fabrics – This site caters exclusively to fabric for wedding dresses. A lot of the fabrics are on the more expensive side but they have an excellent range.
- Fabric Land – Not as wide a range here, but they have some nice lace fabrics. They also have a lot of traditionally bridal fabrics in non-traditional colours (i.e. not white). A lot of their fabrics are also incredibly reasonably priced.
- CheapFabrics – If you’re on a budget, this is a great place to look. Lots of choice and all so well priced.
- Truro Fabrics – Some of these fabrics are crazy expensive and most are not friendly if you are on a budget. But they are super gorgeous, particularly the laces. Definitely worth a look!
But the winner for me was White Lodge Fabric. The more I browsed around, the more I settled on using a brocade fabric. Since the dress is on the short and summery side, I didn’t want to overwhelm it by using multiple fabrics (although I did dither for a while on whether to make the sleeves out of lace). So it was super important that I choose a fabric that looks inherently very bridal without any extra additions. The White Lodge Fabric bridal range is impressively large and reasonably priced. When I came across their Bridal Brocade fabric, I was sold. I ordered samples in both ivory and white but, given that I’m matching to the beautiful aquamarine petticoat from Doris Designs, I decided that white would be the best option for me. It’s a beautiful fabric and I’m SO excited to get cutting!
I just love it. The pattern, in particular, really adds to that vintage vibe. I’m beyond thrilled! As an extra shout out to White Lodge Fabrics, there was a small mark on one of the selvedges (just running over onto the body of the fabric). They pre-empted any issue by including an extra half metre in my order. Paired with the fact that I paid second class postage and got the fabric in about two days, I think their customer service is incredible. Big thanks to them!
Finally, a little sneak peak of my muslin for you. Since I’ve worked with it simply to ensure that I get the right fit, I decided to make a muslin that I could wear as a day dress. In keeping with the ’50s pin-up style, I decided to go for a navy blue cotton with white polka dots.
It looks amazing and I’ll be sharing it with you really soon. Plus check back in on Friday for a new weekly series – My Vintage Life! In these posts, I’ll be talking about various aspects of vintage lifestyle and fashion, pointing you towards some great classic films, books, icons, and just generally fabulous bits of information. I hope I’ll see you then!