DIY Wedding Gown #2 – Winter

We’re already getting some spring sunshine and the cherry blossoms are peeking from it’s bud but I’ve yet to post up the winter gown!

So here we go!  My inspiration initially was the Oscar de le Renta gown with relatively sturdy lace and flowy back.  I attempted to recreate and rather than drafting it from scratch, I bought a pattern with a similar shape and thought to alter it later.

After doing some shopping, I realize that the lace to make that dress cost minimally $80/meter and the amount of fabric to create the flow would be just as extravagant.  That being said, all Oscar de la Renta gowns start at $5500 so either way it’ll be a steal.

Searching for more inspiration, I just went gown shopping and found the red dress by BCBG (somehow not on their website) which retails just under $400.  I liked the fulllness from the layering so I thought I could still incorporate the blue (winter theme colour) into those layers.

One thing I hate about patterns – the sizes always fit way bigger than it says.  So according to my measurements, and throwing together a quick muslin, I ended up being able to wear the dress with room to spare with all my clothes underneath.  So I pinned it to a professional dressform with similar measurements to mine.

Then altered the patterns based on the amount I pinned away.

And then made two versions – dress and lining – and the foundation with boning to keep the dress from slipping down.  Finally, hand-stitching the lining to the zipper so it’ll be invisible and perfect!

And FAIL!!!!  Not to intentionally flash boobs, but look at the horrendous shape it gives the bust.  I could barely look at it without almost crying.

I couldn’t continue with making the dress knowing how it’ll look.  But at the same time, didn’t want to start from scratch after hours (every evening for a week) of work I put into it.  At the end of the day, sucking up and learning from my mistakes was the only option.

So I put a bra on the dressform and stuffed it, ran several muslins through until it fit properly, and then made the foundation first to make sure it looks good on.  Instead of doing a regular lining, I made it with white flannel to add an extra layer of warmth and softness since I knew that the location of the shoot would be somewhere freezing cold.  Jason really pulled through here and helped me through a few hours of cutting and marking each new piece.

And finally…

See the difference?  The angels are singing and beams of lights everywhere!
Now we can continue with the bottom of the dress.  Measure carefully for a accuracy and write it down so you don’t forget (keep in mind seam allowances).  There are 3 layers to give the look on the BCBG dress (the actual dress had 4 layers but way too much fabric to cut…)

Then, sew each piece together individually.  Make 6 of them.  Attach them all together with panels of the dominant fabric (crepe in this case) in between.  Attach to the bottom of the dress and we’re almost done.

Since it’s a winter shoot, it wouldn’t be complete without some sort of cover-up.  I have a pattern for a cape but the original design is way too heavy for the look of the gown so I made a few changes with muslin first to make sure it falls nicely at the shoulders.

W (11)

I personally have never worked with wool or any fabric I couldn’t mark with chalk, so I ended up learning something new too – tailor tacks.

The final process wasn’t too difficult except trying to sew through 4-5 layers of the wool.  To close the top, hand-sew a hook and eye to make it easier.  You can attempt to make a buttonhole and use a nice button but the machine I was using was just not reliable enough for me to take that chance.  Instead, I made a simple flower using the leftover chiffon from the dress.

I didn’t get pictures of this part but I added little circles of chiffon (cut by Jason ) along the gown to give it the ‘snowflakes falling on snow drifts’ kind of feeling.

I’m happy with the outcome not because it’s the most amazing design ever.  I’m just so happy it’s done and fits well.  To borrow a movie quote:

From failing you learn. From success…not so much!

AUNT BILLIE, Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Photographer – Jun Ying of Kunioo  assisted by the talented Miya Gu
Bouquet/boutonniere – Lisa Wong of Blush Floral Designs
Makeup/hair/styling – Elena Tsang (me!)
Special thanks to –  Tiana Lam for the scarf; Dom Voo and Aaron Yip for lending us winter coats; Ursula Tsang for being our photo shoot assistant in the snow 🙂

  W (15)

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DIY Dressform

First of my DIY Wedding series!

Doesn’t it look like a space skirt?

I made 3 dressforms – one for me, and one of each of my bridesmaids.

PRO:
Since I’ve made dresses for myself before, I get so tired of hopping in and out of my clothes and at the same time, not being able to pin myself down to make the clothing fit perfectly – so having a body double is great.
I’m also making the bridesmaids dresses for my wedding and they both live across the city. I thought it’ll be easier to have their body with me for fitting instead of calling them out every few days.

CONS:
If your weight fluctuates a lot, it may present a bit of a problem.  And if you don’t sew, what do you do with it?  I’m giving it to my bridesmaids along with their dresses so they can be creative about that.
If you stab pins into them, the glue from the tape will leave residue on your pins – ick!

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I didn’t take pictures of every single step because either I was doing it or had it done to me so doesn’t leave my hands free but that’s okay.  Hopefully the instructions are clear enough if you’re interested in making one and if not, you can always ask me!

Now there are YouTube videos about making dressforms that I skimmed while I made this one and though it’s not quite perfect yet.  I’ll post up what I can and also some tips to make yours actually perfect!  You definitely need someone reliable, careful, and meticulous to help you do this.

A relatively good video for reference is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI415xPiWbk

What you need:
Old T-shirt
2-3 rolls of duct tape

METHOD:

  1. Put on your old t-shirt and make sure it’s long enough to cover your bum.  Wear a non-padded, supportive bra for a nice bust shape.
  2. With legs shoulder-width apart and standing straight, wrap duct tape all around body right under your bum, around your waist (smallest part of body) and right under your breasts.  This will define the shape of your body.
  3. From the breast down, the first layer, I went horizontal layers across the front, back, and then the sides.
    TIP: Do not try to keep the tape perfectly straight because your body is not.  Curve the tape to the shape of your body to keep it accurate.  Especially the bum – lift it with the tape so it doesn’t flatten it.
    The second layer, I went vertical.  And the third layer, I went horizontal again.  This way, you ensure even thickness of tape all around.
  4. Around the breasts, it’s best to cut small pieces of tape and go in concentric circles to prevent weird bumps.  It also works well around the shoulders or anywhere with a lot of curves.
    I did not do that for the first two dressforms but did for the last one and it looks much better.
    Do three layers all around that upper region.
  5. Using a t-shirt sleeve or toilet paper, wrap around your neck and tape that area three times (none of my dressforms had this which I regret since it’ll be hard to gauge where the straps go or when needing to make halter necklines).
  6. Cut straight down the back (watch out for your underwear and bra!) and shimmy out of it.  Carefully tape the back securely.

You should be left with this!


Now comes the stuffing part which normally doesn’t get a lot of coverage in online tutorials so hopefully this will be more helpful.

What you need:

Wire hanger
Duct tape dressform (this is one of my bridesmaids)
Bag of fiber fill (I bought mine from Dressew)
Long cardboard pole which I got from Fabricland (call ahead because some stores re-use theirs for rolling fabric)
Duct tape
Cardboard (missing from image below)

So first take a wire and bend it in half and stick it into one of the cardboard pole.  This will be helpful (but not necessary) if you need to hang the dressform somewhere.  Insert into the dressform.

Start stuffing the bust region from the neck and arm holes.  Try to distribute evenly and make sure there are no empty spaces.  Seal off the arm holes first.

Take 1-2 strips of sturdy cardboard and wrap it around the pole, aligning the base of the wrapped cardboard with the base of the dressform, and tape into place.  This creates a stopper so the base doesn’t fold inwards from the weight of the dressform.

Measure the circumference of the base of the dressform and cut out and oval-shaped cardboard of the same size. Cut a hole the size of the pole in the middle.  You should use a sharp X-Acto knife because I tried to do it with scissors and I am in hurt!

Stuff! stuff! stuff! all areas from the neck and the base until it’s relatively firm all over the dressform and evenly distributed.
Make sure you stuff around the pole so it stays centered.
Slide the base through the pole until it hits the cardboard stopper.  Fold the remnant fabric over the edge of the cardboard and tape into place.  Add another stopper on the outside to prevent the dressform from sliding down the pole once it’s completed.

Finishing touches – Tape the neck hole (better if there was a neck shape) to the pole.  And the step that I missed – tape the hole of the cardboard to keep hanger in place.
And TA DA!  You’re very own customized dressform 🙂

I know there are some wrinkles but I didn’t stuff it as firmly as I could have.  I figured after the first one that it doesn’t need to be as stiff if I’m not actually draping with it but if you plan do, then definitely stuff it until firm.  Just don’t over-stuff to the point that the tape starts to rip open.

If you just want to fit a patterned dress over it, then you can leave it like this.  If you actually want to create outfits using the dimensions of your body, then mark it using a sharpie.

This is a great source to show you where to mark it:

And now you are ready to get creative!  I hope it was helpful and good luck!

A few additional TIPS for this project:

  • I found the stickiest, thickest, and most resilient duct tape was from Home Hardware.  Other brands are inferior.
  • You can buy coloured or patterned duct tape for the last layer to make your dressform prettier!
  • If you want to save money on fiber fill, you can buy a pillow when it’s on sale ($2-3 at Walmart) and wrap it around the pole and stuff it in the waist area.  That way you only need enough fiberfill for the bust and bum of the dressform 😉  One of my better ideas.
  • Get a cheap tripod/microphone stand and slide the pole over it.  It’ll keep your dressform standing straight.

Post-Wedding Bliss

To the past brides out there – ever get the feeling that your wedding is not really yours?

You have to consult with parents to make sure that the dress is appropriate, the make-up is not too out there, the hair is formal, the food is acceptable, ya di ya da.  At any rate, Paula would have looked good in a rag and the wedding definitely was her in many ways but only the side of her that can be displayed at an ‘appropriate’ wedding.

Isn’t she lovely?  Yes, that is yours truly by her side.

For me, I always recommend the bride to go with the ‘look back and won’t regret’ route with regards to hair colour, hair style, make-up, etc.  However, the au naturel approach doesn’t always apply because some people truly do not feel like themselves when, for example, they keep their natural hair colour.  That’s why hair, make-up, and styling can be so cool – you can show the world who you are as an individual or as a couple.  And if you can’t do it on the wedding day, you can do it with a post-wedding anniversary photoshoot 🙂

Vivid Moments Photographers (Raymond) is very fashion-oriented, paying particular attention to posing which highlights a woman’s best features.

Paula is all about fashion and her evening gown didn’t get a hint of justice on the big day.  First off, the gown is more risque which is so her style.  Second of all, it’s from Japan – the country where the couple were engaged and where her style was based for the last few years.
Unfortunately, there were insufficient photos from the reception to capture it’s beauty.  But no matter!  This time around, we had the chance to give her the hairstyle and make-up of choice to match the fab dress.

[Unedited Snapshot]

Makeup:
Inspired by models in Japanese fashion magazines – the more natural type, not ganguro-style or the ones where your lashes are attached 1cm below your actual eyes.

To get the look –  Use purple shadow on the lids and blend with a brown at the crease.  Thin black eyeliner and a bit of purple glitter below the lower lash line (if you can’t already tell, purple is her fave colour).  A medium coverage foundation to perfect the skin, topped with a cool pink, slightly shimmery blush to add a glow and a bit of bronzer to sculpt cheeks.  Lip colour is also a cool toned, muted pink with a thin layer of gloss to add fullness.

Hairstyle:
Half-good-girl-half-bad-ass is probably the best way to put it.  This was inspired by a character in a Taiwanese drama who wore her short hair similar to this on her wedding day.  Paula coloured her hair in Japan which she has been itching it do ever since she had to grow out her natural locks.  Though deemed inappropriate for the actual wedding, this style definitely showcases Paula’s multifaceted characteristics.

To get the look – part the hair and section away the fringe.  Curl hair using a clampless iron.  Section, twist and pin (into the twist) the side opposite the fringe.  Curl and position fringe so it swoops nicely into the curls.

And here are a few more!

Your exclusive BTS look:

Floral Glamourous

Wedding season nearly makes blogging impossible so some of you may have already seen the images months ago but it’s never too late to take a closer look!

I worked with Foroogh earlier this year (read here) and we both planned to work together again.  Another talent I was planning on working with for some time now is Vancouver fashion photographer Kenneth Kwok.

I wanted to do a classic glam shoot with a little black dress and a bold lip.  Kenneth wanted to do a outdoor shoot with a floral headpiece.  Foroogh was flexible and up for trying something different, in which case, both these looks are quite different from her gothic style.  So after much consideration (-_-) we chose to do both!

One of the biggest challenges of fulfilling an inspiration for a shoot so far has been styling.  My closet has been frequently raided for my shoots because, to be honest, I have way too many outfits for my own good and it’s nice to make use of a dress I’ve worn only once.  But not everything will fit the model and not everything can fit the theme either.

Some items just aren’t easy to find in stores if they’re not the latest trend.  So Foroogh and I hit up Dressew (the biggest fabric warehouse located downtown) to pick up a couple of things to create the outfit I had in my mind.  We found everything we need within half an hour and she offered to make the headpiece while I made the outfit.  What a team! 🙂

The hair style was a somewhat messy and wavy, meant to be blown in the wind.  The make-up was what I wanted to focus – a warm purple, glittery ‘n glossy eye, flawless flushed skin, and nude lips.  It was a mistake to apply the face gloss so early on in the shoot because as many of you who have tried, gloss is not meant for longevity.  It was creasing a lot throughout the shoot, but fortunately, that less-than-perfect look was ironically perfect for the theme and setting.

The shoot was amazing and I did more than beautify, I was the official wind-maker, flapping around a reflector multiple times to create wind-in-hair effect.  Here are some of my fave photos (edited by F).  Check out the final images here!

Floral took longer than expected so we didn’t have quite enough time for Glam.  Either way, we made it work.  I pulled out muh baby – the black dress I had my eye on for awhile selling for $100 and found it finally on sale for $40 which was the last one on the rack and was actually my size!  I was practically beside myself with stress when I handed it to Foroogh with the tags still on, but sacrifices must be made and she was very careful with it 🙂


Make-up was a bit of a twist from the classic red lip, winged eyeliner look.  The eyes looked winged when opened, but was a shaped, blended shadow when closed.  I wanted the lips to be classic but modern so I opted for a fuchsia colour instead. We also thinned out her brows for this look so it’s more polished than the au naturel Floral style.

I started with her hair swept to one side but it ended up looking too ‘prom’ than glam so up it went – a giant, teased bun wrapped with a lace braid.  It’s actually the perfect hairstyle for all the ladies with long hair when you want it out of your face during hot, sweaty summer days.

Once again, a few faves here and the final products here.

Shelayne Designs

In early February this year, Jun messaged me to ask if I was available to do hair and make-up for Gina (whom I’ve worked with before and loved) since she’s modeling for her friend’s fashion portfolio.  Kunio Photography photographed the shoot.

I loved fashion so it was a no-brainer that I would want to do this.  So on that fatefully cold day of Feb 18th, we started early.  However, it was still a chilly wintery morning, when the sky was pitch black and everyone was in hibernation mode.

Gina had been up all night, and shared some hilarious stories btw, so I give her props for being able to show up at all.  The fab designer Shelayne showed up soon after with her garment bags and fabrics.

There were three gorgeous dresses which Shelayne sewed it up the day before and pulled an all-nighter.  Impressive! I was given a run down of the level of work required to stay in the fashion program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  For all those aspiring designers out there – be prepared!

Because I had never seen the dresses before, I just worked with the information and direction I was given on the colours and feel of the look.

To our surprise, by the time we arrived on location, it was snowing!!!  Most of us were bundled up anyways but poor Gina was fully exposed throughout the three hours of shooting and was freezing!  When we finally got to our first location, the snow had stopped.  Between every long enough pause, we tried to wrap the jacket around Gina.  The saying “beauty knows no comfort” is particularly true that day.

#1 Forest Fairy

What a pretty dress!  It definitely requires a lot of character to pull it off.  Shelayne was the most concerned about this one because she thought that it was kind of ‘out there’ and not really within her comfort zone since she likes casual wear.  But we were all blown away by it and it fit perfectly into our setting.  For this look, I chose to do a heavily lined eye with deep contours and red lip to contrast with the green of the dress.  A messy, voluminous hairdo with a loose fishtail side braid complimented the dress perfectly and showcased the back of the dress.

#2 Emerging Mermaid

Okay I have to say by this point, I was exhausted.  Yes, it sounds ridiculous since I was bundled up and Gina wasn’t.  But going up and down muddy, wet stairs and walking on tree roots and rocks while carrying my Zuca case…I was unprepared.  I should have worn rubber boots instead of sneakers (*mental note for next time).

So Gina changed dresses out in the wilderness with me, Shelayne, and Jun surrounding her with random items to prevent passers-by seeing her.  Then, I adjusted her hair and make-up to match the shoot.    Removed the red lips and went for a nude and intensified her eyes with deep blue, purple, and silver hues.  Hair was released and pulled down, flung around like the nature girl she is.


Can you take your eyes off that vision of perfection?  The blue was striking against the river and the rocks.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capture the back of the dress, which was pleated at the bum and then opened onto a short train.  If I were to wear an evening gown, this would be it!

That ends that day!  Gina was almost at the point of hypothermia.  Any less of a man (or woman) would wimper in freezing cold water during the winter but Gina was so wonderfully brave.

Due to a clash of schedules, we couldn’t complete our final dress until April 29.

#3 Nature’s Bride

So for the final dress which turned out to be bridal-inspired, I went for a super clean contoured look and did a half-up rendition of the first hairstyle to keep within the theme of the entire line.  Shelayne also randomly picked up the feather headpiece I made for a previous shoot during the morning prep, so we incorporated that into this shoot as well.  The rocky location was the perfect backdrop and I couldn’t be more happy with the outcome!

Check out close-up images of the hair and make-up in my beauty portfolio.

And check out more images at Kunio Photography (BTW I have to give Jun full credit for arriving on location over an hour before we showed up each time, battling the elements, and scouted around for the perfect location.  Such a dedicated pro!)

I will update you of Shelayne’s public portfolio as she inevitably rises to stardom.