It’s been a long journey trying to get my Chinese wedding dress finished. I managed to make some progress when I had a few days off in February, but once work started again, I was thrown in the hurricane of work, meeting with friends and other events.
I finally finished my dress a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier to strike one wedding sewing project off the list. Here’s a photographic journey of the production of my Chinese wedding dress!
Back in January, I had to go fabric shopping for my wedding dresses so I could get started on my dresses in February when I’ve had days off from work planned. In order to go fabric shopping, I needed to have samples of the lace cut out so I could match it with the right shade of fabric.
I was never really concerned about what shade of white the fabric was (you’ve got pure White, Ivory or Cream), but who knew that finding the right shade of red could be so difficult too? My first job was to have the pattern pieces cut and the lace fabric cut so I had samples to take with me. Let me tell you, whoever thought that this was a simple process (especially when you’re working with a brand new pattern) can think again – this process took me 4 hours alone for each dress. That’s a total of 8 hours just cutting the first parts!
The lace overlay was the first to be cut
With white and dark red samples in hand, off to the shops I went! I managed to source satin lining, the zipper and satin backed crepe for the white dress, but I was having a hard time finding the correct shade of red for my Chinese wedding dress. The first shop I went to on Nicholson Street is the one I frequent most, but when it comes to shades of red satin lining there wasn’t much choice. The frustration of it as well was, I hadn’t really considered that the lace I bought for the dress wasn’t a pure burgundy red like I originally thought, but more of a raspberry red with pink-ish tones through it. Believe me, I thought ‘What in the world is that supposed to mean?’ when I saw it, but it’s not until you look at the fabric in close detail that you see the slight pink undertones to the lace.
I eventually stopped by Remnant Kings on Bonnington Road, but even then I couldn’t get the right shade. It was down to 2 choices and I still stood there looking for 30 minutes!
Which lining do you feel matches the lace most? I had a hard time deciding!
Eventually I had the ‘bright’ idea (why I didn’t think of it sooner, I’m not sure) of standing back from the fabric so I could see it from a distance. If you can imagine, I was face to face (literally) with the fabric selection, can you think that anyone would ever stand that close to your dress to see if it matched? Eventually I realised the one on the right seemed to match perfectly. I even tested the fabric with the phone on my camera by taking photos with and without flash before I was certain I had the perfect match.
Cutting the lining fabric – can you see the slight pink tones in the satin lining?
What got me really excited was how unique the shade of red was for my Chinese dress. The lace was a raspberry red colour and the satin lining had a lovely, exotic sounding name to it too: Marvic Blackcat Red.
Once I got all the materials and accessories I need, I was looking forward to my few days off so I could get started…while dragging my feet. I think it wasn’t so much that I was having a hard time getting started, but it was more that it was such a daunting task I was put off in the beginning. I already had the lace cut, but with it being a few weeks in between cutting that and starting work on the dress agian. I knew, though, once I got over the initial reluctance I would forge on ahead every spare moment I had until it was done.
Matching lining with lace pieces
A friend had come over during my days off to help and we managed to cut the pieces for both dresses but decided to start on the Chinese dress first as there were less pieces involved: one front piece, 2 back pieces and 2 smaller pieces for the collar.
Going under the needle
The bulk of sewing the dress did take some time. With a dress with several pieces for the front and back of the bodice, you’re pinning and sewing small parts together, but with a dress with a continuous length, you’re going to be sewing a long line of stitching.
With the limitations I’ve experienced in sourcing similar/matching coloured trims and frog fasteners, I decided to abandon the idea of a one coloured dress. I realised that I was going to be wearing gold accessories with my dress anyway and it was easier sourcing gold trims and fasteners, so that’s exactly what I did. Once I set my mind to it, I was really excited to see my contrasting gold trims and fasteners to the red dress itself.
Adding gold trim bias binding to the fake ‘opening’
It was quite difficult trying to find Chinese frog fasteners that I could match with the bias binding, but it turned out quite well. The frog fasteners are a stronger more metallic shade of yellow, but having too much of the same colour would be too much. The lighter shade of gold on the bias binding complimented the frog fasteners perfectly.
Contrasting metallic gold frog fasteners
I hadn’t really spent time measuring how much gold bias binding I needed, so I just bought a short length which would have covered the arm holes and collar. The seams for the skirt would need to be a continuous length, where possible, so I needed to measure the length I needed before going back to the shop for more.
Adding gold bias binding around the hem and sides of the skirt and side slits
Last few hours were spent adding more gold bias binding
Just to give you a bit of perspective, the lace was quite difficult to stitch with just the lining, so I wasn’t about to put the dress under the machine again for the bias binding trims. The bias binding trims and frog fasteners were all hand sewn.
Close up of the collar near completion
The thickness of the lace, because of the way the flowers were made, meant that at times it was quite difficult to pin the bias binding in place and sew over this. I had to remove each pin as I moved along, sewing the binding in place, just so the edges weren’t raised.
Finishing touches to the dress: adding gold bias binding to the arm holes
I was quite excited when the dress was finally done. I had sewn bias binding to the hem of front section of the skirt, but when the dress was hung on a hanger, the lace seemed to be much longer than the lining. The extra lace ended up creating a ‘bubble’ to the hem which looked a bit strange. The hours I spent stitching the hem meant I had to unpick my stiches so I could trim the excess lace and start again.
Once I had it all done, I was really excited to see the finished dress. What I hadn’t really paid much attention to was the colour of my dress. It wasn’t until my friend pointed it out that I realised, in person, the colours on my dress (raspberry red and gold) matched my mums!
Comparing my mum’s wedding dress (left) to the one I’ve finished
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with my finished Chinese dress. I’ve already received lots of compliments for my beautiful Chinese wedding dress. A total of 25.5 hours went into cutting, pinning and sewing the dress together. Combined, that’s a whole day (non-stop) and a bit spent on the dress, but in reality I’ve been working on it every chance I got over the span of a couple of weeks.
Here’s a close up of my beautiful dress that I can’t stop looking at 🙂
My finished Chinese wedding dress (also known as a kwa)
I’ve had to hide it from the OH’s curious eyes (although he has been quite good about not trying to sneak a peek), but I’ve had to hide it from potential destruction from curious kitty paws too!
In the meantime, I’ve had to set aside work on my white wedding dress. I’ve got to work on another sewing project that I hope to post about soon, but for now I’m pleased with how well my Chinese dress has turned out. I hope you enjoyed following my wedding dressmaking projects and will continue to post about the other 4 dresses I’ve still to make for the wedding when it’s ready. Stay tuned!