save money making a dress (or having it made) over purchasing one retail?
It depends. If you are trying to copy an
expensive designer gown, you will most likely save quite a bit. If you are
comparing an imported factory gown made in Asia, you may not. It will also
depend on whether you are paying a seamstress or sewing it on your own. If
you sew it yourself, you can save money. If you are paying a qualified
dressmaker, it might cost a little more.
However, there are several other important factors to consider in addition
First is Style. If you are the type who does not want to look like the
hundreds of other brides in the same ready-to-wear gown, then you may
consider making or having a dress made. Sewing a dress offers you the
luxury of designing details to your exact liking. You can select the
perfect shaped rose; whether a bud or fully open bloom; the perfect
placement of a lace applique or trim to accent or camouflage. Making a
gown creates a one-of-a-kind dress. Even though you may be using a
commercial pattern, individual choice in lace, fabric and detailing indeed
create a personal gown for you.
Second is fit. Many brides purchase an expensive ready made designer gown
not realizing they will then have to spend another small
fortune…sometimes hundreds of dollars… in alterations just to get that
gown to fit their figure. A custom gown tailored for your individual
figure always gives you a fit that is unequaled in a ready-to-wear gown.
The proper fitting takes place in the original pattern work…something
you can never achieve with a mass produced size.
Third is Quality. This is an area where there is no comparison. The gowns
sewn in Asian factories are simply not made to last. If you are looking
for an heirloom quality gown that can be cherished for generations, have
it made by a qualified dressmaker.
Your wedding gown is a dress that will be worn once but cherished for a
lifetime. To me the choice is simple.
Alicyn, I just got engaged! There are
so many choices out there. How do I find a style that will look good on me?
First figure out what looks good on your body. How many times have you fallen in
love with a picture in an ad or with a dress on a hanger, to then try it on and
find out it is a disaster. The same holds true with a wedding gown. Remember,
when the going get tough, the tough go shopping! Try many styles on so you can
really see the good and the bad.
give you at least some direction, let’s discuss some general style rules for
different figures. Do keep in mind that these are general rules. There are
always exceptions and personal taste may vary. Use the figure style guidelines
below as a direction to start.
- also known as the pear shape, you are narrow above the waist and
heavy below. Your bust is usually small, your shoulders are narrow and your
waist is defined.
Look for gowns that have fitted bodices with full skirts as they will emphasize
the waist while de-emphasizing the hips. Bodices with texture or accented with
lace and beading will create the illusion of a fuller upper body. Look for gowns
with little or no lace on the skirts and with few gathers. Princess skirts would
be ideal. Fullness in sleeves will extend your shoulder line. Jewel necklines
will add breadth to your upper body.
Avoid gowns with high necklines, which will make the shoulders look narrower.
Avoid silhouettes that hug the body such as sheaths or mermaids and avoid skirts
that have extra fullness through the hips, excessive gathers, bustles and bows
RECTANGLE - Your body is long and narrow. Your shoulders and hips are very close
in size with not much of a waist. Look for empire waists as they will camouflage
the waistline and place emphasis on the bodice and hemlines. Sleeves with
elaborate detailing will broaden the shoulders. Full skirts with horizontal
detail are best. Use a fabric that holds its shape well such as a silk dupioni
or taffeta. Bateau necklines will widen the shoulders. Avoid slim silhouettes
with vertical styling such as straight gowns.
INVERTED TRIANGLE - When your upper body is wider than your lower body. Your
shoulders are broad and your bust is full with slender legs and hips. Look for
gowns with an elongated bodice as they will tend to draw the eye down
lengthening the upper body. Sleeves that are simple with minor gathers and that
follow the natural shoulder line are ideal. Wear simple bodices with accents
kept to a minimum and with open necklines that are not too wide or low. Full
skirts or straight gowns with full trains will create the appearance of more
curves on the lower body. Also look for gowns with bustles, bows and other
adornments. Avoid heavy beading, oversized sleeves with elaborate detailing, and
empire styles since they will emphasize top heaviness
HOURGLASS - When your body is curvaceous. Your bust and hip measurements are
very close but your waist is noticeably smaller. Often considered the ideal
Look for basque waistlines or dropped waistlines as they will show waist
definition. Look for simple classic lines such as a fitted princess or sheath
gown. Off-the-shoulder gowns and open necklines are great. Avoid heavy bodice
and skirt detailing as they can make you appear heavier. Also avoid high
necklines and empire styling which will hide your best features.
I go to the fabric store and see many types of white fabric. What is
Here are some tips to use in making fabric selection.
Whenever possible, buy fabric ROT, that means rolled on a tube. If the fabric
you want only comes double and rolled on a bolt, make sure the crease will iron
Natural fibers will sew and fit like no other fiber. Silk is my
favorite. They mold to the body to help with that perfect fit. Silk is not
always affordable so a good quality polyester is a nice alternative.
Buy a polyester not an acetate. In my opinion, there is no comparison between
poly satin, taffeta, crepe, etc. or acetate satin, taffeta, crepe, etc. Years
ago acetate was very popular especially with gown manufacturers because it is
cheap. Today very few gown manufacturers still use it but the major fabric
chains still continue to carry it heavily.
Here are a few reasons why I would never spend the time to make a quality gown
with a cheap acetate. It’s a nightmare to sew on. If you get machine oil or
anything on the fabric, it will have to be dry-cleaned. It cannot be spotted
without leaving a watermark. It does not press well and if pressed wrong, the
crease is permanent. It does not mold to the body and you will never get a
wrinkle free fit. It yellows quickly with age and once dry-cleaned, it loses any
body it many have had. (Are you getting the idea that I don’t like acetate?) I
consider it a disposable fabric. Many people buy it because it is cheap but
don’t let price alone fool you. Make sure if you are price shopping that you
are comparing apples with apples. Just because both fabrics are a delustered
satin does not mean they are the same. Check fiber content and avoid acetate.
Now that I have told you not to use an acetate, let me say there are a few
exceptions. Never buy any fabric that is 100% acetate but some acetate blends
such as rayon/acetate blends and brocades are the general exception.
What should I use for lining and do I need to line and underline a
Many brides do not understand the importance of lining and underlining a gown.
It is essential that every gown be fully lined in the bodice.
Depending on the weight of your fabric, you may even want to fully line the
sleeves and skirt. Linings do not have to be expensive. I line 99% of my
garments with a basic 100% polyester lining such as pongee or coupe de ville
which costs about $3 - $4 yd. Even silk can be lined with this to help keep the
cost down. Be sure to never use acetate lining as it will alter the fit and
drape of your gown fabric.
Lining can greatly alter the color of a garment so make sure you layer the
fabrics you plan to use to see the finished color before purchasing. Lining can
be a great asset to help you alter your color slightly, however. I have often
lined ivory garments with white to keep the ivory lighter or winter white silk
with a darker ivory lining to achieve a little more color. You can even achieve
a very subtle pink or peach by lining ivory silk with a pink lining. If you do
plan to change your dress color with lining, however, please make sure you line
every piece from bodice, sleeves, and skirt, to bows and roses or they will not
match. Lining can affect the color of bridesmaid’s dresses as well.
In addition to lining your dress, a real
"couture" dress is always underlined to help achieve that perfect fit.
Underlining is something you find in hand tailored garments or in
"couture" dresses, especially fitted garments. It is not common in the
majority of sewing we do today, but I feel it makes a huge difference in the
Many guidesheets either don’t mention underlining or print it as
"optional". If I had my way, it would be changed to say
"extremely important." The fit is never the same on a garment without
underlining. The underlining acts as a stabilizer. It helps everything lay more
smoothly and fit better.
Throughout the years I have experimented with many fabrics to see which I
thought created the best overall results. My favorite underlining fabric would
have to be 100% cotton organdy for fabrics with body and 100% silk organza for
any drapy fabric. Natural fibers are a must for underlining. A synthetic fiber
would defeat the whole purpose of underlining. Cotton organdy is very stiff but
when ironed it softens considerably and molds to the body so well. The
underlining is cut from the same pattern pieces as the fabric and basted to each
bodice piece first. You must make sure the two pieces are basted as one and are
perfectly smooth. Then pretend they are one piece. I always underline a short
sleeve as well as the bodice.
Whenever possible underline with the same color as your gown. If you can only
find white underlining for an ivory dress, cut an extra layer of lining and
baste it to the bodice before underlining so the finished color of your garment
is not affected.
How can I add a bustle to my dress?
To bustle a dress, do the following:
Sew a button at the waistline on the right side of the center back
waistline seam. (If there is a bow, it is usually sewn under the bow).
Decide where on your skirt you want your bustle point by pulling it up
to the sewn button at the waist. Skirts are usually bustled so the hem
is floor length at center back.
At the bustle point on the skirt you will make a crochet chain. Use a
crochet thread or a DMC cotton pearl. (Do not use regular thread). Tie
a knot and then secure the thread thoroughly by stitching it up and down several
times. After securing, stitch up to the right side of the
fabric. Stitch again leaving a loop of thread wide enough for your
thumb and index finger to fit through. Hold the needle end tight in
your right hand. With the thumb and index finger, pull tight end of
thread through loop just enough to form a second loop, keeping the
needle end tight. Continue pulling the first loop tight against the chain.
Repeat this process until the chain is long enough to make a button
loop. When the chain is long enough, bring the needle through the loop
and pull it tight to finish off the chain. Stitch back through seam to
wrong side and secure in place.
If this makes no sense, find someone who does crochet and have them show you the
basic hand crochet chain. It is one of those things that is
easy to show, but kind of hard to write.
My last little bit of advice:
You will spend days planning and preparing for this one day. You will
spend a ridiculous amount of money on this one day. You will spend
countless hours worrying about the big and small detail for this one
day. That is all part of the wedding process. But when the day finally
comes…when you wake up in the morning and realize that this is indeed
the day…..forget about the little things. If the caterers arrive late….don’t worry about it. If the wedding cake doesn’t have the right
flowers on it….. don’t worry about it. If your hair suddenly decides it
is going to take the day off and it won’t curl no matter what you do…don’t worry about it. Nobody but you and your mother will notice any of
these things. Smile, have fun and enjoy the day. If you do, it will
truly be your day and one that you will never forget.