Thursday, February 18, 2021

• My 1940s Wedding Dress •


Thought I'd share a bit about making my wedding dress today! Unfortunately, we had very few photos taken at our wedding, so there are no stunning, stylized bridal photos. But that's okay! Instead, you get the nitty-gritty of the designing process.  

I always knew I wanted a 1940s wedding dress. Long before my husband and I were together, I knew what dress I wanted to get married in one day. It was this dreamy chiffon number with the best details. 

I was going to edge the hem in satin, raise the lining neckline and change it to a more modest sleeve or at least standard sleeveless bodice underneath, and pair it with this veil. 

I looked and looked for a pattern to use as a base for the dress, and the closest thing I found was a pattern 4 sizes too small for a ridiculous amount of money that was somewhat similar. Also, the more I thought about working with chiffon, the less I liked the idea!! It is probably my most hated fabric to deal with, so....I really began to have second thoughts on that dress. 

Then my mind went to a dress I'd seen at an antique shop a few weeks before my man and I started dating - a satin, princess line dress with dramatic sleeves.

Gorgeous, right? But as I thought about the design, I realized how unlikely it was to be flattering on me with the focal point being at the empire waistline. 

Then....*then* I found THE dress. Full, amazing skirt, delicious satin, full yet fitted bodice, details but simplicity - it was just perfect. I loved the train, but knew I would forgo that since we were having an outdoor ceremony. 

I began looking for white rayon satin online, as I guessed that was what the original dress would have been made of. I finally found one site that sold it, and ordered a swatch. When it arrived, I was sorely disappointed; it was quite thin, and lacked body and that slippery, smooth feeling I wanted. A week or so later, my mom, future mom and sisters and I all went to the local fabric shop, where I was hoping to find just the right fabric. They didnt have an nice white satins at all, and I was quite disappointed. All they had was an ivory satin, which I didn't think I wanted, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me! It was actually a more pleasing color on me than a stark white, and the fabric had just the thick yet slippery, liquidy drape I wanted. I picked up tulle to match for my veil, some lace for trim, and walked away with it all for $99 and some change!! Can we just say yes to that dress price??! 

Meanwhile I was on the hunt for a pattern to base the dress off of, and found one very similar from EvaDress, so ordered it and a slip pattern to wear beneath! My plan was to make a wearable mockup of the dress in a day length out of emerald green satin to wear as we left the wedding. 

Just a month before the wedding, I started on the mockup. I made the multi-paneled skirt for the mockup dress, andnit was looking quite nice. As I gingerly pressed my seams one evening, suddenly I noticed these strange dark spots appearing in the fabric - it wasn't scorch marks, the iron wasn't leaking any water. We never could figure out what it was from, but nothing seemed to remove it. Thankfully I had extra fabric, so I quickly cut out my go-to bias skirt pattern that I knew would look lovely in satin. Then I began on the bodice, and got it partially assembled, only to find that it was one of the most ill-fitting things I'd ever tried on. In fact, it didn't fit at all!! The armholes were inches too high, the neckline was wide and gaped awkwardly, and the bodice lacked the fulness that the pattern illustration boasted. 

It looks somewhat nice all pinned onto poor Thelma Lou, but the fact that she lacks arms is part of that reason.....

I sat down very heavyhearted on the very hard floor of the sewing room until 2:30 AM that night, looking anywhere and everywhere for an idea, a pattern, anything that would inspire an idea of what to make. There was now less than a month until the wedding, and I had no dress and no idea of what sort to make. Eventually I gave up and went to bed, but the next morning my mom pulled several patterns from he stash that she thought I might like for a bodice. I was skeptical but picked one to try, as I really had no other options at that point. It was an elegant but simple 1940s blouse pattern from lady Marlowe. 

I started a mockup of it, and found I LOVED it!!!! It fit perfectly, and was so simple but had those subtle, elegant details. 

I was very happy to have found a pattern, but still didn't begin working on the actual dress until just 15 days before the wedding, thanks to a busy work schedule and trying to pack up my life's possessions....of which there were many (namely fabric and antiquities)! 

It was a scary moment, but I finally cut into the fabric and started sewing, and it turned out to be a very easy pattern and thankfully went together without any hitches! 

(I wondered why the needle didn't want to go through the fabric....usually tapestry needles don't like to pass through satin.....)

Initially I was going to add a peplum as the pattern depicts, but after making several different shapes of them, finally decided that it just didn't suit me. 

The skirt is comprised of four identical panels, cut to fit the waist at the top, flaring out to the width of the fabric at the hem, making the circumference right around 240"!! I loved the subtle fulness of it!

The neck opening was large enough that I didn't need a keyhole or other back closure, the sleeve hems were perfectly fitted without needing buttons, the bodice didn't need to be lined - all of which made my corner-cutting heart VERY happy. I added a hand-picked zipper at the side and called it a day! 

The dress was structurally finished about a week in advance, but true to form for any seamstress (although I was rather ahead of schedule, really!!), I hemmed the dress just two days before the wedding. I've cut it much closer than that before, so it wasn't too bad, really!! It is always nerve-wracking trying to hem something so long, but I was delighted to see the perfectly even hem just skimming above the ground in our wedding photos. 

I was very finicky about what veil I wanted, and didn't like most styles that I saw, but finally found I loved a basic drop veil. I had no clue what I was doing to design one, so the morning that I was supposed to go stitch it together at a friend's house, I draped a tablecloth over my head and with my mom's assistance, decided what length I liked and approximately how it should be cut. I cut it the length, folded it in fourths, and snipped off the corners until they were decently curved, and drove off - not to my friends house, but to the fabric store to *hopefully* find an appropriate lace to edge it with! Who plans this stuff out in advance, anyway?!! 

Miraculously, they had just the right lace, and enough of it, so I purchased it, and my friend and I had a blast sewing it together and making memories. 

So that, my friends, is the long and crazy story of how my wedding dress came to be!! I forgot to mention the slip I made...which I accidentally forgot to add the *optional* side opening to, so I had to pack a scissors for when I changed out of it after the ceremony.....RIP wedding slip.

It was a crazy journey, but I absolutely loved my dress, and even better than that - my dear husband was amazed and impressed when he saw me in it 😊. 

It was a frigid, blustery, crazy wedding day, but we got hitched, and we'll never forget all the memories we made!! 

Thanks for reading!! Have a lovely weekend!

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  1. Your dress is so pretty, simple, yet so very elegant. Your description about making your veil brought back memories of my wedding almost 30 years ago. My friend, as a wedding gift, made my veil and the day we were working on it, my husband was there. Not wanting him to see me in it before the wedding, being the traditional soul I am, my friend ceremonially plopped it on his head to check the length and such... lol. A wonderful memory and I still have the veil and my dress. Congratulations and blessing for a long and prosperous marriage!

  2. Thank you for posting this. Your dress is beautiful and elegant, and I really enjoyed reading how it came about. Congratulations to you both!

  3. This is so elegant and bravo for making it yourself!! Congrats too!!


  4. You cut it close on your dress, alright, but it turned out BEAUTIFULLY! :D I thought I was pushing it with mine...and I was, but I was done a full week before my wedding; I too had pattern issues and ended up with something different than my original vision--but like you, ended up loving it so much!
    You had a beautiful wedding! <3

  5. It was fun to read your story of making your wedding dress! That sounds like me to wait till last minutes to get something like that done. :D I've had a wedding dress sitting with my hopechest things for several years now, that I've waited to do altering on since I don't have the need for it (yet, anyway). Reading this makes me think perhaps I should go ahead and get started on that altering and just get it done, since I never know how soon an event like this could be around the corner, Lord willing! :)


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