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Bridal Bodice update

1 July 2010, 14:26

When you last heard about my wedding gown, it was two years ago(!!) and I was leaning towards turning my Granny’s gown from 1949 into something with a cowl neck, deep back, and sleek lines, using Vogue 2965 as my starting point.

But recently I’ve been looking more closely at the fabric I’ve got to work with in my grandmother’s gown, and my recent cowl sewing adventure has reminded me that cowl necks need pretty huge amounts of fabric, can’t easily be pieced together, and on top of that, the silk satin in her gown is more of the heavyweight duchesse variety than something very drapey that would cowl nicely. And while I love a low back, it does make things awkward for bras and any sort of shapewear, too.

So I had a bit of a wake up call and told one of my bridesmaids to keep reminding me that “This is just one dress. It is not all dresses.” (thanks, Stacy!). Yes, I like cowls. But I also like other things, too. And I do not need to put everything I like into one dress!

So with that in mind, I looked through my extensive pattern stash for bodice inspiration, looking specifically for bodices with a lot of little pieces that could be more easily gleaned from the existing bodice of my Granny’s gown (as I’m taking it apart from the waist up, using that fabric to create a new bodice, and reattaching the skirt).

So here are some pieces that inspired me…

The standout pattern for me is definitely this Manequim pleated bodice dress that is a free pdf download from the Manequim site.

Digging a bit further, I found that this pattern is based on a dress by the designer Elisa Chanan, who is totally new to me. I can’t find my exact dress in her runway shows (for some reason she’s not on Style.com and Google’s coverage is patchy), but this orange dress has similar seamlines.

I love the lines of this dress, and that some of the panels are pleated in the original is just so me, and also hints back to the pleating on the bridesmaids dresses. But the pattern pieces for this dress are just INSANE. Even looking at the fabric layout and looking at the tech drawing, I couldn’t quite make out what was supposed to go where, and to make matters worse, all the pieces are cut in a single layer of fabric, and therefore mirror-flipped to the tech drawing, making things even more difficult to visualise… (and Google Translate is less-than-helpful with Portuguese!).

So I played around with Photoshop, isolated the bodice pieces and saw where they all lined up. Though in reality, the seam intersections are all nicely labelled on the pattern pieces themselves, so it wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought!

But even though this is my forerunner for the bodice, there are still some changes I want to make. Namely, I love asymmetry, but I’m not that keen on the one-shoulder look, so I want to add in a second strap, maybe mirror-flip it so the wider strap is on my right (to cover a scar), and play with the amount of skirt fabric to decrease the gathering. But here’s a rough mockup, anyway:

But that’s jumping ahead of myself, because the first step was to make the pattern exactly as-is, to test the drafting and fit before going about changing it!

Muslin 1

So I sewed up a quick muslin (in actual muslin fabric this time instead of a ratty old bedsheet. Yeah, you can tell it’s for the wedding gown!), emphasising accuracy above all, and “thread tracing” the edges of all the pieces in black marker pen, as well as marking the centre front and centre back. The muslin is a lot thinner than my silk, but with less drape (not that drape matters much in this particular design!). The semi-sheer muslin made it really easy to line up seam lines while sewing to make it ultra-accurate, but it’s not so great since you can kinda see my bra through this (sorry about that! And, I do realise I need to wear my bridal undergarments for the final fitting. But as I’m making my own corselet, it’s not really that important at this stage.).

Front & left

Back & right

Detail shots of the front and back

(Hypocrite alert – Yes, I know I’ve said over and over that I don’t wear shorts. This is the only pair I own, bought in 1997 when I was a senior in high school, and I don’t wear them outside the moorings!)

Neighbour Helen came over to help photograph and advise, and we both feel the fit is about 98% perfect straight off the pattern – I just need to pinch in the left side seam at the underarm as it’s gaping by a half inch or so there (though I see a bit of diagonal pulling in the front and I’m not sure if I’m concerned about those or not…?).

Other than fit, her advice was:

I may not follow all of her advice, but I do hold a lot of stock in her opinion so I’m taking it all on board while I play with the muslin…

Next steps:

General Timeline:

Oh yeah, and the secret project was announced on Tuesday! Yes, I’m being published again, though hopefully this time more than just a credit at the back! It’s going to be a very busy July!

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  1. Oh, I love your ideas for the dress. I’d been wondering for a while where your ideas were leading you with the wedding dress. This is going to be so couture. Losing the gathering at the waist and going with pleats at the back might be a better option indeed, but you’ll get to figure that out quite easily as you get going.

    Congratulations on your new publishing project! This /is/ going to be a busy summer for you :)

    Isabelle    Jul 1, 03:04 PM    #
  2. so, my dear fantastically talented melissa, your dress is going to be stunning. but…


    phew. i’m stressed for you. i’m glad you’re not stressed!

    i’m in too :) and you’re right, it does feel like a reunion!

    oonaballoona    Jul 1, 05:40 PM    #
  3. The bodice you’ve chosen is perfect. I love the idea of balancing it by adding a strap. Both the Manequim and orange dress have pleats at skirt’s waist, but here you’re the designer and get to choose whatever you want. BTW, shorts look great on you.

    — Daisy    Jul 1, 05:51 PM    #
  4. Oh my, that dress top is stunning as is your grandma’s dress. Can’t wait to see photos of it on a person.

    — PepperToast    Jul 1, 05:59 PM    #
  5. I think that the bodice is lovely and I agree with most of Helen’s advice. I don’t know about lengthening the bodice though. Yes, I do think that you should deal with the diagonal wrinkles. I will like this even more with a second strap. I am glad that you aren’t doing strapless. I’m very tired of seeing brides in them.
    Oh, and congrats on the garment you’ll be making for the book. They’d better pay you for it!

    Nancy k    Jul 1, 06:29 PM    #
  6. Is it diagonal pull or collapse? Either would need attention before you start such an important project. All your ideas look fabulous and it will be unique when you get to your wedding. I cant think of anything worse than meeting another bride in YOUR dress! Not going to happen to you.
    I should take vitamins to get through the next few months on your schedule! Good luck.

    — Kim Hood    Jul 1, 10:28 PM    #
  7. Just to throw a spoke into the works, look at this nice dress whose low back is compatible with a bra: http://www.etsy.com/listing/47891359/nvl-1940s-vintage-reproduction-sport?ref=em

    Also, about the pleating, I wonder whether you could do it as an additional layer, in something lightweight like tulle or organza. I’m afraid I agree with your neighbor about small pleats in heavy satin :-(. If you matched something else in the outfit like the veil it’d look more on purpose??

    — Marie-Christine    Jul 2, 10:33 AM    #
  8. Wow! You are off to an amazing start! This will be stunning! I have to try to refrain from overusing exclamation points :) I think your neighbor had some very insightful thoughts. Will the cleaners steam or press the dress or are they afraid to do that too? I got my dress (not vintage) at Goodwill (thrift store) and had it cleaned and pressed. I would have never guessed it was used. It was so smooth and huge—it had crinoline (they pressed that too!). My co-worker altered it for me. She was telling me about how she’d made her own gown. She said she wished she’d had it professionally pressed before the wedding because it looked so much better after the wedding when it had been cleaned. Are you going to wear a slip with a little shape? It can give the skirt a smooth form and keep the skirt from sinking in toward your legs in front when you walk—depending on the look you want of course. All right enough of my unrequested ‘help’. :) Best wishes! I pray for your continued health and wedding plans every night.

    — JenL    Jul 4, 07:50 AM    #
  9. I love your pattern but feel sad about the loss of the pleating . I would have a look for some other fabric which could have the pleating and ( ie lighter) then maybe go for a more textured surface I can see a lovely lines silk organza . This would also complement your vintage silk.. You could do all the plaeting before cutting out the pieces . Anyway I love the fact that you are using your grannys dress like that . My mother used her dress for my confirmation dress which was special .

    — marianne isaacs    Jul 5, 07:55 AM    #
  10. What if you did the bodice pleating in a lighter fabric overlay? You could use a sheer fabric perhaps-though I can’t think of a fabric that would keep those crisp lines…hmmm

    — JenL    Jul 8, 07:58 PM    #
  11. You are so brave to make your own wedding dress! It makes me nervous even thinking about doing that (I get the same feeling when watching Project Runway:), but I am sure you’ll do great.
    One piece of advice on the construction: put a piece of boning on the side where the zipper is (make a casing on the zipper seam allowance for it) to help keep the dress up on that side. I made a one-sleeve dress from November 2009 BWOF (cover), and my sewing teacher had me add the boning/“stay”. You only need the “stay” on one of the SAs, not both. You don’t want to make your dress too tight in order for it to stay up, because it may pull and have wrinkles on the front if it’s too tight. (Btw, I also added a spaghetti strap on the off-the shoulder side of my dress to help it stay up better, in addition to the boning sewn in.)

    — Olga    Jul 14, 05:40 AM    #

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