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)

DIY Wedding Gown #1 – Summer

“Ooh move!  I wanna see the bride’s gown!”

We all know that people stand for the arrival of the brides to catch a glimpse of her dress – at least the girls do.  Trying on the pretty gowns is also probably the best part of wedding planning.  I thought I would be one to spend hours/days/months visiting and re-visiting bridal shops before I’d settle on ‘the one’ but it only took me 20 minutes to find my fixer-upper dress (very excited about it!)

But I had an easier time picking my gown because I planned to wear multiple dresses – one for every season of the year 🙂

For the summer dress, my inspirations are:

I loved the Kate dress by Ellebay Bridal with the flowiness and the lace.  But when I saw the BCBG gown, I knew that would be perfect for a summer, beach wedding.  Especially with the light organza which doesn’t restrict movement and would not weigh me down if I wanted to walk into the water.

So a quick sketch to plan out how to connect my favourite elements of both gowns –

Fabricana is like my candy store.  I can spend hours in there – three to be exact.  You have no idea how hard it is to find beautiful lace.  The pattern I picked was a very common one that comes in many colours for a reasonable price.  Organza was on sale so bonus for me!

After picking up lining and notions, I was ready to start!

There are many sources on YouTube, even for the untrained DIY bride, to figure out how to create a pattern from a dressform.

1) Place muslin fabric (or any non-stretch scrap material) and pin onto the lines you marked.  Cut off whatever you don’t need!  Do this for half of the dressform.  You simply need to double it when you cut the fabric to create the other side and it will be symmetrical.

2) Remove the muslin pieces from the dressform and trace on paper, adding 1.5cm seam allowance around the edges.  Mark the corners, notches, darts, etc.  Place onto fabric and lining and cut.

3) Sew the bodice and skirt pieces separately.  Attach the bodice to the lining and make sure it fits!  Add bias tape to the waist of the lining to prevent stretching.

4) Pin the bodice onto the dressform and drape the lace over it.  Pin in place, creating the form of the body.  Using similar coloured thread that blends into the lace, handstitch it onto the bodice and onto the skirt.
With right sides together and the bodice in between them, stitch together the skirt to the lining. Add invisible zipper to the back.

5) Tear the strips of organza by hand.  Since it’s woven, non-stretch material, it rips very well and ends up perfectly straight.  Create a rolled hem all around the edges of the strips using a serger.  Fold the strips in half and press with an iron – props to Ursula for doing all of this part!

Pin onto the hip of the dress to determine the distance between each strip.  Take it off the dress and connect them all together by stitching 5cm between them (imagine being little people holding hands).

Pin the strips back onto the dress and space them out evenly.  Handstitch each piece into place.

So now comes the problem solving part of DIY projects, especially if you’ve never done them before:

  • The strips looked like an accordian after tacking it in place, not at all like the BCBG dress.  I played around with it a bit and pulled down each strip slightly, rolled it behind and tacked in place.  Looked more like a pumpkin after that but much cuter and I didn’t mind the reference since it reminded me of Cinderella 🙂
  • The sides were too bare and every time I bent my body, I would flash someone so I took some spare lace lying around and handstitched in onto the sides to close it off and add a bit of embellishment.
  • Ursula noted that there was something missing and said I should add a sash because the waistline looked bare and incomplete.  I felt a sash would add too many varying materials into the dress and cheapen the look.  So I dug around and found this $5 faux pearl necklace I thrifted when I was visiting Oregon coast.  Lo and behold, not only is it the perfect addition the dress, the length fits around perfectly!!!

And *drum roll* the final product!
Total cost was about $55.  Not too shabby!

I was extremely happy with the product and I finished it not a moment too soon – on the day of the photo shoot.

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 –  Sam Chin for the suit; Ursula Tsang for assisting me in this project; Brenda Tsang-Chu for baking delicious treats used as props in the shoot; Jason Fung for being an awesome fiance and prepped the other props for the shoot.

Enjoy some pictures of it flowing in the wind!