Calm down, I didn’t refashion my actual wedding dress. It’s been put away in two specially made garment bags for safe keeping.
But I did refashion “a” dress to wear at “a” wedding…
I bought this vintage (wedding?) dress in a shop in Deptford a few years back. The fabric is so, so pretty, but as much as I tried to believe it did, it just didn’t fit. The waist was far too high. The bust was too big. The torso was too short. The sleeves were too short. Basically it was made for a much shorter person.
My plan of action was to remove the sleeves and make the bodice longer by chopping it off above the bust and adding a (longer than the original) contrast section instead. I considered adding a transparent section like you see on some wedding dresses, but didn’t really give it any serious thought until coming across this old blouse in my stash. It’s rayon and very thin, and the perfect colour to match the cream tones in the dress.
For the record, the blouse was purchased at the Mind shop in Whitby for £4.50.
Cutting into a vintage dress is not something I take lightly. I thought long and hard about what to do and decided that in the end, it was my dress and I really wanted to be able to wear it. The dress was not really in wearable condition, anyway. It had been stored badly over the years and the creases down the sleeves would not come out. The pointed ends of the sleeves themselves were dirty and yellowed from wear.
The shoulders were creased beyond rescue from hanging, and dirty along the creases.
Inside the dress was a coselette made of some rough scratchy, papery material.
The bones were broken and sticking out.
I cut the thread chains holding the corselette into the dress.
Here you can see it was in pretty poor condition. So I felt no guilt about throwing it away.
Notice the pinked seams inside? Do you think this was handmade by the wearer or someone close to them?
I took a deep breath and ripped the sleeve and shoulder seams.
After trying it on, I took it in at the sides under the arms.
I traced the shape of the original front onto paper.
I cut off the dress above the bust.
Then I drew a new, longer front section based on the original shape. I gave it a boat neck.
Same at the back!
I used my paper to cut a new shoulder section from the rayon blouse.
Now, here’s where it got interesting. How to finish the neckline and armholes on transparent material like this? Binding is one option, but I thought it might look clumsy. So researched illusion necklines and came across a few articles online. Gertie discusses illusion necklines here and here, and the tutorial I ended up following was this very helpful post from Bunny, here.
Essentially, you fold over the seam allowance at the neckline and press it, then sew a really small zig zag right on the fold, with the needle going off the edge of the fabric on the outside (below is just a sample).
The stitches have to be tiny.
Then you cut off the seam allowance close to the stitches.
Here’s how it looks on my neckline.
And on the back:
Once the new top section was constructed, I sewed it to the dress.
For the centre back I added a button and thread loop. I searched my stash and can you believe I had three covered buttons in approximately the right colour? (I went for the middle one in the end, as it was smaller).
To stabilise the button area I used a tiny bit of organza selvedge – needs must, it’s not completely invisible but some strength was needed.
After trying the whole thing on, the top section was flapping about at the front and it just wasn’t right, despite my (relatively) careful pattern piece making. The quickest fix was to take out 4cm at the front – I know it seems like loads, and it was, but I’m not sure what happened. It definitely looked much better after.
I made a couple of quick facings from some of the material I cut off for the unfinished parts of the armholes.
Here’s how the button and loop looked. Below that, the centre back is open until the top of the zip.
I decided at the last minute to make a small veil, in a suitable style for my newly refashioned dress. It’s a basic birdcage shape gathered onto a comb.
To attach it, you wrap strips of veiling around the comb.
That gives you something to sew it to.
Here it is – it’s not massive.
Since the final leg of our honeymoon took us to Las Vegas, I arranged for us to renew our wedding vows in a wedding chapel on the final night of our trip.
Just like you see in the movies! It was a tiny, kitch building.
Church steeple, fake stream and lovely stone bridge. If only it wasn’t 30C (at 7pm) we could almost have been in England.
Of course, The King was present to walk me down the aisle, sing to us, and officiate.
The whole thing was hysterical.
I wore my shoes from my original wedding, and a petticoat that I had that gave the skirt some volume.
I was pretty happy with the fit of the dress in the end. And I think the illusion neckline looks perfect (from the front anyway… the back, less so).
Repeat after me… I promise to Love you Tender, to never Return you to Sender…
The wonderful Fiona, who wasn’t able to make it to our original ceremony, by some stroke of luck happened to be on holiday in Las Vegas at the time, so she witnessed the marriage and signed the certificate.
She also took this beautiful picture of us outside the chapel after the ceremony.
Thanks so much Fiona, we loved having you there!
I guess there aren’t many people who get two weddings (in the space of two weeks) – I am definitely a lucky girl.
And I promise, this is the last of the wedding related stuff!