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Our DIY wedding - refashioning my grandmother's gown

11 October 2010, 13:30

I’ve got many, many more wedding photos to come, but as I was slowly going through all the photos from friends and our professional photographer, I realised that there were a lot of parallel poses between my grandparents’ photos and ours.

Big thanks to my Dad for taking the time to scan in my grandparents’ wedding album in hi-res format, and also to our truly INCREDIBLE and AMAZING wedding photographer, Paul Tanner. I’m pretty sure he was the best money we’ve ever spent.

Confetti toss:

Post ceremony posing:

Walking back down the aisle:

Cutting the cake:

Pre-wedding girly preparations:

If you’re new to this site, let me back up a minute and explain what went on here. First of all, yes, I sewed my own wedding gown. But that would be too easy (ha!), so I decided to sew it from my grandmother’s gown.

My grandmother got married in 1949, wearing a silk satin dress that she bought on South Street in Philadelphia from a long forgotten bridal shop. When she heard that James and I were engaged, she insisted that I take the gown to refashion into my own wedding gown.

I’ve been sewing for the past 7 or 8 years, teaching myself from books, patterns, and with a lot of help from the internet. Over the past few years I’ve made everything from handbags to silk evening gowns to faux fur coats to swimsuits to jeans, but a wedding gown was a stretch even for me!

I started by taking apart the bodice (don’t wince – it was way too small for me and not really my style anyway!), pressing all the pieces out, and laying my new bodice pattern pieces on top. In the process of taking apart the original bodice, I discovered a lot of netting pieces which I overlayed onto some of my new bodice pieces to get some textural contrast effects. I was also able to reuse the original zipper and all 13 buttons and loops!

The bodice is entirely underlined in flannel (for structure and as a base for my hours and hours of handstitching), and lined in blue silk. There are 10 pieces of spiral steel boning, plus a waist stay (which keeps the weight of the gown on the waist rather than pulling from the shoulders), and four bra keepers to keep everything in place.

Sewing the gown took me a little over two months from start to finish, with extra time at the start to get the muslin and pattern pieces exactly right. I started with a pattern from a Brazilian magazine, but by the time I finished you could barely recognise it from the original!

If you like what you see here, you might want to have a look at the wedding section of this site, where I painstakingly documented the whole process, with lots of photos in between.

Oh yeah, and I sewed the bridesmaids gowns, too.

But more on that and the rest of the DIY aspects of the wedding over the next week.

PS: My Granny loved “her” gown when she saw it at our Pennsylvania reception!

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  1. Melissa, this is the most touching and beautiful collection of wedding pictures ever. You truly glow with love, gratitude and creativity. Thanks again for documenting the journey which inspires so many of us around the world.

    Jane S    Oct 11, 01:39 PM    #
  2. Everything looks so beautiful.

    — Daisy    Oct 11, 02:37 PM    #
  3. I can’t remember if I told you how fabulous the dress looks on you but it is fabulous and the two of you certainly did have a great photographer. Wonderful pictures. I didn’t see the dress up close, but I can testify to Melissa’s wonderful sewing skills. When we met in NYC she was wearing a wonderful Patrones jacket and Knip jeans and they were both wonderfully sewn, and I only knew she’d made them because, well that’s what we do! That and how many people can afford a jacket with bound buttonholes. I had a wonderful time enabling her fabric buying. Well, mostly leather which is gorgeous.

    Nancy k    Oct 11, 02:58 PM    #
  4. Its fabulous to have the comparison photographs – your Grandmother must have been so thrilled to see what you made of her dress. You both looked wonderful in it.

    — Kim Hood    Oct 11, 04:06 PM    #
  5. Beautiful!

    Shelley    Oct 11, 04:27 PM    #
  6. Awesome set of photos! Love the last pic of you with your gran – she looks so proud!

    ~Sherry~    Oct 11, 07:37 PM    #
  7. I LOVED seeing how your dress came together. Absolutely adore the “then and now” pics. Glad your Gran loved how it all turned out. :)

    You look beautiful! Happy new marriage!

    Darci    Oct 11, 09:48 PM    #
  8. Your photos are wonderful! And to see them side-by-side with your grandmother’s photos is pretty amazing. congratulations!! You looked so beautiful on your wedding day.

    Robin    Oct 11, 10:44 PM    #
  9. Wonderful pictures!

    Isabelle    Oct 12, 10:13 AM    #
  10. Wow. This TOTALLY blows me away. So, so special (not to mention inspiring!)

    Oh, and congratulations of course—best wishes for a long and happy life together!

    Camille    Oct 12, 12:53 PM    #
  11. Everything turned out so well! Thanks for sharing your then and now photos – and those of you and your grandma! Happy Happy!

    — M Kate    Oct 12, 05:29 PM    #
  12. Melissa, such a great story and inspiration….

    Mary Beth    Oct 14, 03:38 AM    #
  13. The double pictures are fabulous, but Granny is the best :-).

    — Marie-Christine    Oct 15, 04:28 PM    #
  14. Amazing pictures. If you have any trouble getting your guest pictures trying using http://www.guestsnapper.com. Worked really well for us!

    — Tracy Bruns    Oct 15, 11:23 PM    #
  15. As everyone’s said already you looked absolutely gorgeous, & your side by side pictures will be something I know you’ll treasure through the years. I trust that God will bless your marriage & give you all the joy you deserve. Thanks for letting all of us share in your story!

    — Rosalind    Oct 21, 08:29 PM    #
  16. its really beautiful…. n u did a great job… hope u hve a wonderful married life

    — khadijah    Oct 29, 09:21 AM    #
  17. Grandmother is a princess!

    — Tatyana    Jan 18, 10:49 AM    #
  18. I’ve tears in my eyes reading this post! How totally awesome, I’ve decided to make sure my granddaughters have my dress===maybe they can split it up and used in the future!

    Tee    Aug 9, 02:50 PM    #
  19. I’ve been poking around the internet, looking at diy wedding dresses for a while now…and I must say, you take inspiration to a whole new level! What gorgeous dresses both – and what a touching connection to your grandmother!

    Lizzy B.    Sep 5, 11:59 AM    #
  20. Wow. I just came across your wedding gown story. A lesson my daughter and I learned…we bought a lovely satin gown at a local bridal shop (I don’t sew quite well enought to do a whole gown). But…the alterations person only TIGHTENED the waist instead of adding boning, etc. which made my daughter’s dress rather heavy…I learned that if one cannot alter the dress oneself, it pays to find a quality alterations person who will understand…SATIN is heavy…and boning, etc. which can displace some of the weight, makes the dress easier to wear.

    — lovemydesignergenes    Jan 13, 09:31 PM    #

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