Wedding dressmaking update: the white one

Now that the red Chinese wedding dress is done, it was time to focus my efforts on the traditional white dress for the ceremony. I had taken a few days off back in February to hopefully get both dresses finished at the time, but it didn’t quite work out as planned.

I already had all the pieces cut for both dresses then, but I thought with there being less to sew together that I would start on the red one first with a friend who came over to help me out as it would be quicker. Boy, was I wrong! Just because there were less pieces didn’t necessarily mean there would be less sewing involved! I’m very pleased with how the red dress turned out though, so all the effort put into it has definitely made me proud. Now, I just need to get this white dress finished too!

My friend, Hélène, helping me out with my white dress

I think the fact that I was on a roll to try and get these two dresses finished so I can do the other 3 has put me in an impatient frame of mind. I know I’ve still got about another 5 and a half months to do the other dresses, but I just wanted to get it finished. So with a nice cuppa, I got down to business whenever I had a spare moment.

All the necessary tools I need to get sewing

That impatience I talked about earlier couldn’t have given me more grief I had to stitch, unpick and re-stitch the same section 3 times! First it was because the stitching wasn’t straight (I had a bunched up line under the bust), then I realised the crepe fabric for the mid section was the facing the wrong way (right side on the inside)…and if that wasn’t frustrating enough, I realised the lace for the bust section was also inside out! This was the most frustrating part, because not only is the bust made up of 2 separate pieces, but I also had to re-do the darts too.

Eventually I got all the little issues sorted and have the front half finished after 14 hours spent in total. This was also after realising when I finished sewing the lining together that I forgot to use the base part of the skirt with the shorter hem (I didn’t want a long train for my skirt), so I had to make more adjustments to the lining as well as the lace and crepe fabric. Insert big sigh of relief.

The half-finished front part of the dress

The hem itself is slightly shorter than I was expecting, but I think it turned out to be a good length.

You might be able to see in the photo that I’ve already sewn the hem of the crepe fabric just so the lace hem is slightly longer. The reason for this is when it comes to sewing the front to the back piece, if the hem of the crepe fabric hasn’t already been taken up, I won’t be able to hem this when the side seams are sewn with the lace, if that makes sense.

Next, I went to work on the raw edges of the arm holes and neckline. It’s easier to get those parts done while the dress is still deconstructed, so that when this is attached to the lining, it won’t be as fidgety to try and get the raw edges for the lace, crepe and the lining all turned inwards so it’s not visible.

Turning in the raw edges slightly so this becomes hidden

As the base part of the skirt is made up of 2 separate pieces for the centre line for the zip, I took up the hem for the crepe fabric first, making sure these two matched in length and in hem width. After assembling the back pieces together (this time checking each piece to make sure I had everything the right way round, I took in the raw edges again: this time for the arm holes, neckline and the zip. This is so that I know the lace and crepe fabric are lined up perfectly and won’t shift when I’m pinning the zip.

Lining up the zip to the centre back line

Once I’ve pinned the zip, I need to make sure the lace and crepe fabric are still aligned correctly and that they’re not short on the side seams. I also checked that with the zip pinned to the back, that everything was lying nicely especially where the 2 edges of folded fabric hide the hidden zip. Once reassured, I then sewed the zip to the dress.

Sewing the hidden zip to the back of my dress

There might be other ways of sewing a hidden zip to a dress, but I didn’t change the foot on my machine. In part due to laziness, I haven’t yet looked around for a suitable hidden zipper foot for my Brother, but I find as long as your fabric has been aligned quite well, it’s not really necessary to get a hidden zipper foot. The only issue I seem to encounter with both the old and current machines, is the zipper pull itself is too thick (even with my foot raised) and causes problems for the machine to get the needle going. I already broke 2 needles trying to sew the zip from the top, so I started lower on the zipper where it lay flat and sewed the top part by hand using the traditional method of needle and thread.

Surprisingly, sewing the back panel pieces together, hemming the crepe fabric, tucking in the raw edges and adding in the zip only took 3 hours!

The finished back half of my wedding dress

I still haven’t sewn the front half to the back half yet, that will come next. I’m sure there will be some tucking needed around the bust and waist area once I’ve tried it on. I made the dress a size bigger just so I’ve got room for adjustment. When it comes to dresses like this, it’s better to have a slightly bigger dress you can take in rather than a dress too small that you don’t really have room to extend!

I’ll be posting another update once the dress is finished and I move on to one of the 3 other dresses I’ve still to make for the wedding. There will also be Bex’ wedding dress I’ll have updates on too!

Once you become more confident in what you’re doing, you don’t necessarily need to follow set steps when it comes to sewing. Sure, there is some kind of order you need to follow when making any garment (for example, you can’t start sewing the bodice to the skirt if you haven’t sewn your darts yet, or the sleeves when you haven’t got armholes for them), but there’s not really any written rule to say you have to follow the order of the written instructions with your pattern. You can finish your lining before you start on the shell of the dress. Or to do all the darts first before you start on the skirt, and decide to do the bodice last. Like any other project, it all comes down to personal preference (to some extent) and which part you want to tackle first.

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