Friday, April 15, 2011

My 'Sabrina' Inspired Wedding Dress

Almost 2 years ago around this time, I was completing the finishing touches on my very first handmade wedding gown before the wedding in May. It turned out wonderfully! I was so happy with it. And even better, I learned a lot.

This project underwent many stages of planning and assembly, which I'd like to share with you today...

First of all, I started thinking about what I wanted my wedding dress to be way before I knew I was getting married, or before my husband and I really even knew each other! I did a ton of research. I knew I wanted a vintage, classic feel. I spent many hours browsing through patterns to get ideas for what I could piece together to fit my vision. The two icons always present in my mind during my planning stages were Grace Kelly's wedding gown and Audrey Hepburn's ball gown from the movie Sabrina.

I adore Grace's delicate lace and modest silhouette, and I just had to have Sabrina's train! I wasn't sure how I was going to do this at first, and I put off figuring that out until I had the dress itself together. So here goes... (click on any of the photos for larger views)

I chose the center style of this pattern for the basic shape of my dress, with some edits and additions.

Here I am laying out my fabrics. I found a beautiful ivory satin and dotted lace from Jackman Fabrics in St. Louis for the overlay. I changed the neckline into the sweetheart shape rather than a straight boatneck.

I liked that this pattern didn't have a seam between the bodice and the skirt.. Here's a view of making the darts in the waist-to-skirt section, and the sweetheart neck on the right. The underbust puckers are also a nice detail.

My first dress try-on, as I hold the back together without a zipper installed.

This is my first train version, which I did NOT like at all. It reminded me of a little girl's dress, my flower girl's to be exact. I tried a pleated top, lace-lined shorter train that just felt really weird and kind of cheap. Not cool!

Upon much further research, I was ecstatically relieved to discover this website that basically details out the shapes and assembly for the Sabrina train! Holy moly: this was all coming together so wonderfully now! So I made a trip to Gail K Fabrics in Atlanta, GA for this amazing lace. It would work perfectly!

Sometimes you just have discover "off the wall" solutions for things. The lace piece was very wide, so I borrowed a projector from work to display the pattern of the train onto the wall in actual size (since all I had for the pattern was the tiny illustration from that site above).

Here is the entire lace part of the train after gathering the top portion. I bought some extra satin and laid it out under the lace so I could cut the satin to fit the shape of the gathered lace. The two top curved portions that look like bat wings will get sewn together, as with the satin, creating the center back seam of the train, which lays against the back of the dress skirt so the seam is never seen.

Here's the train with the center back seam sewn, just gathered at the top and pinned to the back of the dress. Notice how un-full the train appears at this point. What to do!?

At this point in my sewing skills (2 years ago), I wasn't sure if I could achieve making crinoline layers to fill that train as much as I envisioned. So I went to David's Bridal and bought a very full crinoline skirt to stuff all up in there. It worked like a charm.

I used the extra lace floral pieces to create an embroidered texture around the hem. I always really enjoy sewing on these kinds of details. It's very tedious, but relaxing somehow.

Here's the front view with train pinned on and embroidered details done at the hem. This was one of those moments where I felt like I had just accomplished so much so far! I just wanted to stare at it and smile. It became this presence in my room. I felt like it deserved me giving it a "goodnight" blessing before going to bed that night.

Next, this dress needs a dust ruffle! This part is black on Sabrina's dress. It keeps the lace from dragging on the floor. I used an ivory chiffon. A very long, ruffled piece was needed to fit around the entirety of the train hem. With all the ruffles and the length of it, my gathering thread kept breaking or I'd lose the ends to pull up within the gathers ~ frustrating!

Once I got over myself and got it done, the ruffle was sewn to the satin part of the train only, so the lace could lay over the ruffle. I soon discovered that the lace would need to be tacked into place so they would remain aligned properly with wear.

Here's the train hem, post-lace-tacking. Perfect!

...and the view from the back. The zipper is installed at this point but the dress form I bought after starting this project was too large for me, so it didn't zip up totally in the back. Later, I would apply 42 covered buttons to give some elegance to the zipper back there.

Now it needs a belt to go over the fraying top of the gathered lace train. You can see part of the top of the crinoline that I stuffed into there for train fullness too (the bright white bit). That must be covered!

So I designed a little belt-topper to enclose those loose ends. Here's my belt piece and sketched plans for it. Later I would also take more of the smaller floral embroidered bits to embellish this belt piece with.

This dang train is getting quite heavy now with all those layers and the crinoline. I bought heavy duty hook and eyes (4 of them) to affix across the back of the dress and the top of the belt. I added more floral embroidered pieces around the hooks so that when I wore the dress without the train, the hooks would not be seen.

And now for some working hard shots:

Sewing those dang ruffles on!

I also made my veil. Organza gathered at the top and sewn to a comb. In this photo I'm cutting the lace edging from my train remnants to use on the edge of my veil.

And here I'm sewing on the veil edging while watching House.
Veils are fun, and much less stressful than mile-long ruffle hems.

It's done!

Mr. & Mrs. on our wedding day!

I highly enjoyed this project, but was greatly challenged by many things that I would do differently had I the chance to re-make the gown today. I spent about 5-6 months pre-planning and planning and traveling for materials and sewing it all up in small increments.

It was definitely worth the effort! (and the literal blood, sweat and tears) that went into this creation. I know I never would have found anything like it anywhere else on the planet and I'm extremely satisfied with the fact that I could create it perfectly for myself.

The Sabrina Inspired Wedding Dress design is available for custom order in the shop
, as I would love to give anyone else the same opportunity to enjoy this gown as I have.

Wedding dresses are especially dear to my creative heart lately. I do indeed plan to create more and more of them in the near future!

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