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Many wedding gowns are pretty straightforward when it comes to bustling. Others, like Breanna's, present much more of a challenge and require a greater level of expertise to accomplish well.
Breanna's gown has two gathered English netting top layers which are meant to float beautifully over the narrower satin and organza underskirts. And they do float... quite effortlessly... when the train is down.
However, getting those delicate, super drapey netting layers up off the ground not only securely but gracefully, and doing so in harmony with the more stiff crisp organza and satin underskirts.... ah... right... well.
Usually the only successful bustle that can be created in a case like this is by treating the netting layers separately from the under layers and creating two completely separate bustles.
This "double" bustling was really the only reasonable solution to this gown's bustling challenge, and here are the details of why:
1. Firstly, English netting is not tulle. Tulle, while being just as visually sheer as English netting, is actually quite stiff and will drape in little pointy poufs. English netting, on the other hand, is super soft and will drape similarly to silk gauze (it will fall in on itself). So, the netting layers of this gown are soft and drapey in the extreme, whereas the organza/satin under layers are stiff and crisp in the extreme. Put simply, if draped together, these fabrics would fail miserably as a team!
2. The delicacy and open weave of the netting requires a very careful and lightweight attachment application (definitely done by hand). The heavier and more closely woven organza/satin requires a much more sturdy attachment application in order to support the weight of the skirt (satin is very heavy). Again, apples and oranges.
3. The top netting layers consist of over twice as much width than the satin and organza under layers. In fact, in addition to the netting layers being much wider, they are also cut in an entirely different shape vertically. This means that the netting has to be pulled up, arranged, and attached in a way that accommodates much more fullness than the bottom layers.
So, definitely, no way around having to do two separate bustles in this case! But before I could begin calculating the actual pick-up and attachment placements for each layer, I needed to work on...
Creating a Detachable Skirting Anchor
On bridal gowns that have several layers of skirting, each layer is anchored to the others at a couple of points near the hemline (usually at the side seams and the center back seam) by a heavy thread or a crocheted string.
This anchoring helps to ensure that, as the bride is walking and turning and dancing, all the skirts stay together and move vertically as one, more or less. These anchors are especially important on a multi-layered gown that has a train, such as Breanna's... the layers of which are always trying to slide around in different directions along the floor!
So, my first bustling task was to make the skirting anchor at the center back seam detachable in order to free the layers so they could be draped separately. To do this, I removed the original crocheted string anchor between the netting and organza layers and replaced it with a narrow band made from a scrap of the netting I cut off when I shortened the hemline.
I sewed one end of the band to the center back seam of the netting layers. On the other end of the band, I sewed one side of a clear plastic snap. The other side of the snap was sewn onto the center back seam of the organza/satin layer, and voila!... detachable anchor.
The reason for using an anchor made from the netting rather than simply replacing it with another thread anchor was two-fold:
1. The 1/4 inch wide netting band would give more surface area for the snap to be sewn on securely. It would also allow more "grab" surface for pulling the snap apart (see the little doubled over "tab" where the snap is sewn on to the band?).
2. When it's time to do up the bustles at the wedding, and the band is detached (and therefore, hanging loose under the netting skirts) it will not be as visible because of being made of the same material as the netting skirt, whereas a detached thread anchor would simply look like, well, a hanging thread!
|Detachable skirting anchor, open|
|Detachable skirting anchor, closed|
And speaking of hanging threads... what you're seeing under the snap in these pictures is not a loose thread! It is the crocheted thread skirting anchor that attaches the organza layer to the bottom-most satin layer. When the skirts are hanging vertically, and the netting layers are in place over these bottom layers, this thread anchor, as well as the netting band anchor, are not visible.
Okay! Now we can move on to the actual bustling.
Bustling the Bottom Layer
The bottom bustle actually involves two layers of fabric - the organza layer and the satin layer. In this case, these two layers can be treated as one because:
1. Although they are fabrics of different weight and weave, both of these layers are cut in the exact same dimensions (one is not wider or shaped differently than the other, etc.).
2. Both of these fabrics are in the crisp/stiff range so they will drape similarly enough for our purposes.
So, for this layer, all that was needed was a simple one-point pick-up bustle... which means:
The top attachment/anchor point consists of a custom covered button (color matched to the organza/satin fabrics) sewn extra securely onto the center back seam.
The single pick-up point beneath consists of a handworked thread loop sewn at the proper placement on the center back seam. The non-stretching thread loop is purposefully made to fit quite tightly around the button so that when it is secured, the pick-up point can move from side to side without popping off the button.
|Bottom layer, single point pick-up bustle|
|Close up of single point pick-up bustle|
Stating the obvious here, but just to be clear, in the full-length picture above, the top netting layers of the skirt are pulled up and draped over the dressform so that you can see the bottom bustle. In other words, that's not some strange fashion forward veil!
Bustling the Top Netting Layer
The challenge of working with netting in general (or any sheer open weave fabric), is the extreme delicacy of the fabric. In the case of Breanna's gown, this means that the attachment and pick-up points on the top bustle needed to be sewn very carefully, by hand, and reinforced if possible, to prevent tearing.
The other concern is the visual sheerness of the fabric. In this case, the actual sewing techniques and materials (a very gentle stitch, plus a small needle and fine thread) as well as the "hardware" used for the anchor and pick-up applications must be made to look as invisible as possible against the netting, specifically when the train is down.
Obviously, a covered button and thread loop, or even a small hook and eye, were just not going to work here. Both of these options would not only be way too visible, but also somewhat overkill for the needs of the fabric.
So, my choice was to use clear plastic snaps as both attachment/anchor and pick-up point. This would minimize visibility on the skirt when the train was down. It would also provide a very lightweight application correct for the nature of the fabric.
So, after calculating and marking the drapes, I attached three snaps to the back waistline area and the three corresponding snaps on the skirt at each of the pick-up points.
|Netting layer bustle attachment/anchor points at the waistline|
|Netting layer bustle pick-ups attached|
With the sash in place at the waist, the "mechanics" of the attachments disappear completely and we're left with just a graceful, well draped bustle.
More than you ever wanted to know about the secret life of bustles, huh? lol
Breanna's custom jacket. And if you think this bustle part was involved... Well, you might want to brew a nice cup o' tea and plan to sit a spell for Part 3!