I had a wedding dress. A beautiful white lacy dress. Just over a month before my wedding and I had a gown that strongly resembled the dress of my dreams - it just needed a couple more things to be perfect!
- More lace. (Yes, more!)
- And buttons. (No, I was not going to be safety pinned into the dress on my wedding day!)
Lace, upon lace, upon lace! That was pretty much the theme of my wedding gown. Beyond the lace appliqués from my mom’s wedding dress and husband’s grandmother’s wedding dress, I also had a piece of lace from Thailand that I wanted to incorporate into the design. The lace as a whole was a bit too heavy and modern for my current tastes and the general feel of my gown, but it did have such pretty swirl motifs! (Which is why I bought it to begin with, such pretty and unique twists and swirls!) This lace was a case of a little bit goes a long way so I opted to cut some motifs out of the yardage and appliqué them onto the dress so the swoops and swirls could really shine!
I wanted the net lace over skirt on my dress to be noticeably higher on one side than the other so I decided to use the swirls from the Thailand lace to highlight that feature.
My idea was for the swirls to trail down the front of the skirt at an angle in an organic fashion, holding up the net lace slightly, like the roses in the above 1860's fashion plate. I began by cutting motifs out of the Thailand lace.
What pretty shapes the motifs were!
I decided to start at the top and work my way down. I pinned the first motif so the swirls came up on the bodice just a little bit, overlapping the pleats in the bodice lace.
Then I worked my way down the skirt. Where one motif ended, the next was added.
I played with the angle and the way one motif connected to the next until I was happy with the direction the lace was going.
Every now and then I would pleat the net lace up beneath the motifs because I wanted the overskirt to be just a little bit higher in the front than it already was.
The trail of Thailand lace ended at the bottom of the net lace, right where the cascade of lace from my husband's grandmother's dress began.
When I was pleased with the positioning of everything, I hand sewed each and every motif in place.
Hand sewing on all the different laces - the sleeve lace, the lace from my mom's and my husband's grandmother's dresses, this lace from Thailand, heck, even the net lace over skirt, was definitely the most time consuming and tedious part of making my wedding dress!
But it was totally worth it! I love all the different laces and layers and stories that are in my wedding dress!
That said, the amount of time and effort that went into all the lace, made adding the closures to the back of the dress feel quick and easy!
(and those actually took a bit more work than I'd originally intended. . .)
Somewhere in my stash I have some pre-made elastic button loop tape. It came to me in a bag of random sewing stuff from a thrift store or something at one point in time. It was nice, good quality, stuff. I'd been saving it for years, intending to use it on my wedding dress one day to save myself some time. Well, when I was actually ready to sew the buttons and loops onto my wedding dress I could not figure out where the heck those pre-made loops were. They must have gotten misplaced in my sewing room move last summer, and now they were nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere I could think of with no luck.
Thus, I would be making my own button loops. I was sure this would be a very time consuming process, but really, it wasn't too bad! (Not after hand sewing all that lace at least!) And the end result looked nicer to me than the pre-made button loops would have.
I made the loops out of bias cut strips of silk, sewn into narrow tubes. Turning those teeny-tiny tubes right side out was certainly the most tedious part of the process!
I figured out a couple different methods involving yarn, ribbon, and occasionally large needles to make this happen, but I'm not going to go into describing that here. Once I had the tubes turned right side out, the hard part was over and it was a pretty straight forward process to finish the loops.
I cut a piece of twill tape the length of the opening in the back of my dress, decided how far apart I wanted the buttons to be, and made marks at those intervals all down the length of the tape.
Then I formed the loops, out of the silk cord I'd made, between the dots on the twill tape, anchoring the cord to the tape with a few hand stitches at each point.
Part way down the tape I realized I'd misfigured and the buttons were going to be way too close together if I kept them at this spacing. So, I un-did all the loops I'd just made, re-marked the twill tape, and started over.
Forming the loops went faster this time with the larger distance between marks!
I finished making the button loop tape at work one afternoon, then I was ready to attach it, and the buttons, to my dress!
I sandwiched the button loops between the back of the dress and the facing I was using to finish off the back opening.
Once the button loops were sewn in place and that side of the back opening was finished off, I moved on to the other side - buttons!!
For the button side I made an underlap back extension thing. I wanted the back edges of the bodice to meet evenly when the dress was buttoned, so this underlap would make sure the dress didn't gap open between the buttons.
I was getting tired by this point and just wanted the dress done, so I used the underlap as the facing to finish off this side of the back opening as well, rather than making a separate facing to really finish things off nicely here.
The net over skirt was hand stitched to either side of the opening.
Once the loops, facing, and underlap were all stitched in place, I pinned the back of the dress closed. . .
And marked the button placement with a pilot frixion pen. (Don't worry, these marks would iron right off easily!)
Then on went the buttons!
Lots of buttons! Once they were all on, the marks were ironed away.
And my dress was ready to button up!
I added a hook and eye at the waist and at the top of the bodice to keep the strain off the buttons at these high tension areas.
To keep even more strain off the buttons, and to keep everything fitting properly, I added a waist stay.
I used a blue petersham ribbon picked up at a recycle shop in Japan when I was there a couple years ago.
The ribbon was cross stitched in place to the boning channels at the waistline.
The ends were finished off with hooks and eyes.
And that was it. Just under a month before the wedding and my dress was done, finished, complete, ready to be worn.
After months of working on this gown, and years of dreaming of it, having it finished was a very surreal, strange, feeling. I decided to add one last little detail, I embroidered our initials onto the waist stay.
One final detail to make this project of a lifetime complete.
I was ready to wear the dress and get married!!
If you've missed any part of my wedding dress series, you can catch up here:
Heirloom Lace Details:
And the Undergarments: