Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making my Wedding Dress - The Many Muslins

So, the Wedding Dress. Long time no talk.

It's been quite a journey I've been on since October. I'm just very, very thankful I started this thing a year out from my wedding.

The story started at the end of last year with my inspiration for the dress. I ordered a whole lot of supplies online the day I blogged that and within the week I had started my first muslin.

Muslin #1
I was using Gertie's Bombshell Dress firstly because the pattern looked awesome and secondly because her course is phenomenal. I was so afraid to tackle my wedding dress prior to watching this course but she made it look SO easy. I did everything as per the instructions - I cut my muslin pieces with a 1 inch seam allowance, I thread traced all the pieces, I used a basting length stitch in an alternating colour and I took my time with every detail of this thing. And I LOVED it. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy having such a large, long, slow project but it was liberating to sit down for an hour or two at a time and do just one detail of it and do it well without any rushing. I was so full of enthusiasm.

It became clear as I got it all together though that it wasn't quite fitting how I thought it would. The bust pieces were waaay too big and there was something that was just a bit odd about how it fit me. I kept pulling out the bust cups and adjusting them, trying them with padding, without padding, all the while not really loving what I kept looking in the mirror at. It was kind of sad to watch just how small the bust pieces had to get to fit me. It really wasn't doing a lot for my confidence.

I managed to get the bust pieces to a relatively good fit when I realised what it was that I didn't like about this pattern. The pointy boobs. They were just so pointy.

I'm sure this is a lovely pattern on other people but for someone with a small chest it just doesn't flatter. Pointy boobs aren't my thing, especially NOT on my wedding day. So my muslin stopped mid investigation with only one sad pointy boob cup left in it.

Sad muslin is sad.
Muslin #2
Determined to make this bustier bodice I resorted to a more modern bustier pattern with rounded cups and some nice seam lines on it. A Ralph Pink pattern which is actually meant to be lingerie. The intention was to see if I could get the cups to fit and then lengthen to bodice down to a drop waist.



I loved the seam lines on the pattern and I was so excited that it fit with my idea of what my dress would look like when it was finished. But again I hit the same problem. The bust cups had to be tiny to accommodate me and I realised the second time around that it was making my rib cage look really wide.

This was the point at which I had to walk away from muslin making and do a bit of summer sewing to clear my head.


As with my regular sewing journey since I started blogging, this Wedding Dress journey was teaching me a lot about myself, my shape and what I see when I look in the mirror. I assumed because I had chosen some beautifully shaped patterns that I would look beautiful in them. Not so. I'm afraid that the dress was wearing me and not the other way around.

It was time to simplify things and find a shape that would be flattering for me.

Muslin #3
I took a chance on Simplicity 5006. Although this was also classed as a lingerie pattern it had nice seam lines, it already came with a dropped waist and it would hopefully give me the illusions of some curves up top.



Since I came to this pattern after about 2-3 months break I was ready to get back into it with thread tracing and wide seam allowances, writing all over the muslin, pinning like crazy, the whole lot! I got so excited about this pattern that I managed to sew this is up, adjust the princess seams over the bust, do a sway back adjustment, rip the muslin apart, adjust the pattern pieces on my flat pattern pieces and sew it back up in one weekend. It was fitting well enough to see how the lining and the spiral steel boning was going to affect the fit and shape.

Spiral Steel Boning
If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen things getting serious in the sewing room.

So now we're technically onto muslin number 4 which is not without some fit issues but it's making this whole process seem worthwhile. Here she is from the front. At this point I've only pinned the lining to the muslin - this will get stitched soon.


As you can see it has two main fit issues - the crinkle line directly under the bust and these diagonal wrinkles just above my waistline. I haven't got a piece of spiral steel boning running down the centre front which I think this really needs. Also this dress will have straps and if I secure some straps to the muslin that crinkle under the bust completely disappears. I don't want to ignore that it's a fitting problem but I also don't want to take that fold of fabric out and have the bodice stretch weirdly once I get the straps on. So I'm going to play around with that.


The weird diagonal crinkle is (I think) a mix between having a sway back and having oddly shaped lovehandles. This is an issue I face on most of my makes which basically consists of me choosing pattern styles that don't highlight it. The way I see it there are two ways to combat this - firstly lose the lovehandles. I've recently started this revolutionary diet called Not Snacking which was successful enough for me to lose any weight I gained from the silly season. Christmas I'm looking at you. If I can keep it up I know my lovehandles are the first thing to go. Failing that I have an idea from a pattern fitting book I bought a while ago - I might try that.

This may be a good starting point for fixing this. Also how polite is this book?
No mention of love handles - just a "smaller waist". Love it.

The other thing I'm going to work on in the next version is smoothing out that curve of the princess seam across the bust. It's puckering a bit at the moment.


I also might look at moving the zipper to the side if it doesn't look too hideous so I can create a feature on the back centre panels. Just an idea.

Here's an inside shot of the boning channels sewn into the batiste lining. I didn't iron or clip into the seam allowances on the muslin and I also didn't seal off the boning channels at the bottom of the bodice which I promise I'll do for the real thing! This means I can rip it apart really easily to fix things.


So there you have it. I don't feel like I have much to show for the amount of work I've put into it but I have learnt so much already and I'm still really only in the beginning!


Some thoughts on the process

I've specifically given myself more time than I need throughout this process so that it would be as stress free as possible. Perhaps this comes across as a bit too casual for someone making their wedding dress but it's exactly how I like it.

Slowing down my sewing has completely changed the way I look at my sewing projects. I know once this is over I still want to have longer, more involved projects I can work on bit by bit throughout the year just like this. I'd love to make my own sloper next year and get my fit as spot on as I can for all future projects. Maybe then I could tackle a jacket/coat/blazer or maybe even pants? This might seem a little odd to do after my wedding dress but who's got the time for anything when they're planning a wedding??

Even though I'm onto pattern number 3 and I've only made the bodice so far I don't regret having tried the other patterns. In fact I'm glad I persisted because I needed to see why it didn't work for my body type to move on to something that really would flatter me. It all seems a little obvious when you type it out like this but I have no regrets. I'm happy with where I'm at and I'm still ridiculously excited to make my own dress.

My most used resources during this process

- Gertie's Bombshell course, as I've said before, has been amazing. I've revisited it a number of times over the last couple of months and I think I'll still be referring to it as I'm making the final dress.

-  Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje - I've read and reread sections of this book a number of times to get my head around the details of sewing my final fabrics together. It's helping me keep the big picture in sight.

- Fitting & Pattern Alteration Second Edition by Elizabeth Liechty, Judith Rasband and Della Pottberg-Steineckert - This is the book I took a snap from up above. It's basically an encyclopaedia of every quirk a body can have, how to identify where the fabric will pull, bunch up and how to rectify this on a flat pattern. It's really helped me to assess my fit along the way and give me a great idea of what to do when things don't sit right. It's pricey but it's been worth it.

So where to now?

The bodice needs some tweaks and I'll try moving that zipper over. I'm going to look at some fabrics in the coming weeks now that I have the exact shape of the bodice sorted out (finally).

I'm currently researching attaching a circle skirt to a U shaped basque waist. I may have to attach it to a yoke underneath the bodice and let it hang from there. But ideally I'd like to figure out how to attach the skirt directly to this shaped bodice so if you know of any resources online or in magazines or books leave me a comment.

If it all gets too hard I'm prepared to straighten off the bodice and have a circle skirt hang straight from it. We'll see how it goes.

I think this is my longest post to date so if you've made it this far thank you! I'm still loving this journey no matter how long it's taking me.

Stay tuned!

44 comments:

  1. WOW! Your bodice looks fantastic! With all this love and care put in you are most definitely going to love and be very proud of your final product. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! There is a lot of love in all this stitching.
      It's actually quite fitting for a wedding dress.

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  2. Awesome journey! I think you have totally done the right thing ditching the cupped look - the construction and style lines in the new one are far more interesting. Top tip (I've made over 500 wedding dresses) - that wrinkle under the bust will be a little bit caused by not clipping the seam - the seam allowance on 'outy' curves like under the bust and the waist, will pull across the curve so it cannot sit smoothly. Same with the back one. Clipping won't entirely eliminate it but the straps will help. If you make the bodice so fitting that the straps cannot balance the fit, it won't sit well and the straps will probably float off your shoulders. Let them bear a little of the burden and the whole thing will feel better and sit best. Remember on your wedding day you'll want to laugh, eat, hug people and dance! :)

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    1. Thanks so much for the tip! I knew the non-clipped seams were bound to pull a little but I didn't expect such a fold from that. It was soooo much worse before the boning so I'll add my CF boning channel add some simple straps for the next try and see just how much of that fold is left (and perhaps take some of it out if enough remains).
      I knew the lovely people of the internet could help me with my fitting troubles!

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  3. Best sewing project ever! Good that you are taking your time and enjoying the process.. It will make you enjoy the finished project even more.. good luck on the next steps..
    As for my tip: did you know that the people who sewed Princess Kate's wedding dress, had to wash their hands every twenty minutes, so that there would be no chance of staining the silk fabric?

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    1. Oh my god that's crazy! I think I need to read up on the making of her dress now. Thanks for the tip!

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  4. wow - you've come so far! i much prefer your current muslin as it's more dress like than underwear like! the fit looks pretty close to me.

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    1. Yeah it's a lot more flattering now that I've let go of that other idea. Live and learn!

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  5. Oh my gosh. You are doing this!!!!! Your muslin is looking awesome so far!

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    1. Haha I often think the same thing in my head - I'm doing this! And then I feel a bit proud.

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  6. Amazing work. I've just started my own toiles for my wedding dress, theres no boning or boob bits to fuss around which makes it much less stressful but I'm still working away at it until it's perfect -the real fabric is far too expensive to make mistakes on. The bodice you've ended up with looks amazing...so detailed! Looking forward to seeing how you get on with the rest of it, good luck with it all you've made an amazing start!

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    1. Oh that's so exciting to hear that you're making your dress too! I'd love to see your progress along the way. All the best!!

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  7. This is already looking really fabulous and good on you for going slowly and getting it right... I just completed a coat project and although it took me 2 months there was something incredibly satisfying about going slowly!

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    1. You're right slow sewing is incredibly satisfying and the more time I take the more perfect I want it to be. I think I've made some good progress though.

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  8. Yay! I loved reading your update! I went through a lot of trial and error when making my wedding dress too! I'm glad you have a good head start! I can't wait to see the final product, though I know I'll be waiting a while. I plan to do a post about the making of my dress sometime soon too!

    www.marriedandbright.com

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    1. Oh good! I went poking around your site the other day because I thought I surely couldn't have missed a dress update. I look forward to reading about it!

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  9. Yay! I loved reading your update! I went through a lot of trial and error when making my wedding dress too! I'm glad you have a good head start! I can't wait to see the final product, though I know I'll be waiting a while. I plan to do a post about the making of my dress sometime soon too!

    www.marriedandbright.com

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  10. WOw! to sew your own wedding dress! the last bodice is great!

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    1. Yeah it's exciting and terrifying in equal measures. I'm glad you liked the last one I was beaming when I tried it on for the first time even though it was only calico.

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  11. Great work so far. I have no suggestions for the skirt, but I look forward to seeing your progress.

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    1. Thanks! Despite the setbacks it's been a fun process so far.

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  12. What a wonderful journey and thanks for letting us in, to share with you.

    Definitely like the latest bodice. I too am small busted so know your pain... Lol

    Can't wait for the next instalment.

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    1. Yeah it's a weird thing to share online but I'm glad my online peeps are interested. Sewing is so solitary and when you're sewing a wedding dress you get a bit caught up in it so its nice to share - even if its a little too much info! How many times did I talk about my boobs in this post!!

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  13. This wedding dress is going to be a great learning experience, you are going to be a sewing/adjustment/fitting GUN by the end of this!

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  14. I've really enjoyed reading this! I always wondered what goes in to this type of dress and will definitely come read it again one day. Hardcore. Good luck with the rest of the research and testing!

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    1. Hardcore is a great word to describe this process. You're right there's so much behind the scenes stuff that goes into a wedding dress, it makes me want to read everything there is on the making of wedding dresses!

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  15. Wow, I'm impressed at how much work you've done - so many muslins! Making your own wedding dress is a huge undertaking - you'll feel so proud once it's down.

    I saw recently that Dixie DIY (I think) made her own wedding dress - a version of the Collette Macaron. It was simple, but lovely. I'd be wearing if sack if I'd had to make mine! LOL.

    If you need help on the corset part of things I know that Bobbin & Ink in Newtown run corset making classes....they also have drop in sessions that could be useful if you need help with stuff.

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    1. Thanks for the tip Melanie! It's surprising how easy corsets are to make once you know how. I think I'm going to need more help with the skirt actually - but I'll keep that in mind in case I need a teachers eyes on it.

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  16. Hi
    wish I could wear my dress at least once a month! :))) I think the online thing works great when you have your kind of attitude. I'm happy you got the look you wanted. I love weddings LOL.

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    1. Yeah I'm really happy with it! Also, weddings are great!

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  17. So lovely to read an update on this! I went through the same process... wondering whether the pattern would suit me AND the idea I had in my head. I think a lot of people would really struggle to let go of a pattern like you have, and twice! But Muslin #3 looks pretty damn amazing on. I would absolutely definitely positively go with a piece of boning at the centre front. From reading the comments - I think MrsC is definitely onto the issue (clipped seam allowances and straps will aid in sorting it out).
    Pattern #3 fits you wonderfully across the bust though :) I'm looking forward to the next instalment!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad you had the same thought process! Making a wedding dress is such a big untertaking that you can get too "in your head" about it all. And it's so hard to explain it all to people who don't sew. They don't understand what it means to fail at a pattern and build up the courage to start another one.

      I'm really happy with the 3rd pattern though - it ticks all the boxes especially on fit. And I fell in love with some lush Italian Silk for the bodice today so I've got a great idea of what the big picture is going to look like. Thanks for following along - it's nice to know I'm not the only crazy attempting a wedding dress!

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  18. Wow, your staying power is amazing! By now I'd have thrown my hands up in despair and called the nearest dressmaker to take all my money and make the damn thing herself. I applaud you! You go girl. I wish I had the patience for this, it sounds like a great and memorable journey to match to your next great moment.

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    1. Haha that's exactly why I started a year out! I guess it's different when you have a vision in your head and a dream in your heart.
      It makes everything worthwhile.

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  19. Muslin #3 is looking amazing and a much better style. MrsC definitely knows what she is talking about and every time you try it on you should have some straps in place, it will make a difference. Loved reading all your thoughts and trials and your dress looks like it will be stunning.

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    1. Thanks for your advice. I haven't always tried it on with straps because I think I may go with gathered tulle as "straps" so I don't want them to bear much weight but just help balance the dress. But you're right I should still include them to diagnose fit. All the things I'm learning!!

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  20. I love the journey that you're taking and that you're not rushing this project. I got sucked into the hype of making garments fast, butt that's not who I am as a seamstress. I like working on projects slowly. I learn more at each step and when it's over, I walk away a better sewer.

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    1. Yeah I love that that's who I'm becoming. There's so much more pride and beauty in the final garment when you listen along the way and take the time to get everything right.

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  21. Thank you for this! I knew what kind of style I wanted as my wedding dress, until I saw your muslins. When I saw them, I thought about making a strapless dress as well. Your third muslin looks amazing. I've seen this pattern, but I didn't give it a second though to it. After seeing your muslin it looks very nice. Even though you can sway me, I think I'm sticking to my original plan because it's more me. I can't wait to see the process of your wedding dress! I'm very happy that you're making your wedding dress too. It's nice to know someone who's going through the same process as I am! :) I hope to learn from you patience to make muslins so I can get the right fit.

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    1. Yeah I needed to have a lot of time to muslin otherwise I would have stressed the whole way through the process. I'm excited to be at this point though. All the best with your dress!

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  22. This is completely inspirational. It sounds so lovely that you're enjoying the process as much as you'll no doubt love the finished item.

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    1. For sure!
      I'm getting closer and closer to the picture in my head which is really satisfying.

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  23. Yikes! This looks like so much work well done. I'm sure it's teaching you lots about fitting that you can use for your future sewing thouigh. Can't wait to see the final product.

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