January 19, 2014

A Custom Wedding Gown, Start to Finish in 6 Weeks

Alex contacted me in November about making a custom dress for her Winter Solstice wedding. I have never accepted a custom wedding gown commission less than about 4 months from the wedding date, but there is an exception to every rule!

Back bodice detail: hand-placed Chantilly lace appliques, custom covered buttons

When a Window of Opportunity Opens...

In this particular instance, many factors came together to make this exception-to-the-rule work: Alex was already decided on the design and type of materials she wanted, she was able to accommodate scheduling a quick succession of fittings, I was able to get the materials quickly, and most of all, I had an unusual lull in my holiday sewing schedule. In other words, it all seemed meant to be!

So, we began in earnest, moved quickly through the fitting and construction process, and ended up with Alex's beautiful one-of-a-kind gown finished a week prior to the wedding.

The Challenges of Petite Design

Alex had two main requirements for her gown:  1) At her height of 5 feet, it was very important that the gown design achieved a flattering, elongated silhouette (something that's often difficult for petite sized women to find in ready made garments), and 2) she wanted her gown to feature a delicate, elegant lace.

To achieve the correct silhouette, she chose a gently curved raised-waistline bodice featuring Chantilly lace paired with a semi-fitted flared skirt of subtly textured satin. Secondly, the detail of the lace and net is placed completely at the bodice, drawing the eye upward, leaving the clean lines of the skirt to fall without visual interruption to the floor. 

These two basic design decisions worked in tandem to achieve the look and fit that Alex was after: the elegance and delicacy of lace plus a visually elongated silhouette.

Alex's finished gown

Chantilly Lace

Alex made and excellent choice when she decided on a beautiful imported scalloped Chantilly lace. This particular yardage had the classic scalloped "eyelash" edging at both selvedges along with individual appliques at the center of the yardage. 

For Alex's gown, the lace appliques and the scalloped edges had to be hand-placed over point d'esprit netting which covered the entire bodice. 

As you can imagine, working with lace is detailed, slow-going work, usually done entirely by hand. Good light, a confident steady cutting hand, and lots of breaks for tea and stretching are the key! 

Separating the scallop motifs from the yardage

Carefully cutting the netting away from the cording lines in preparation to place the lace motifs on the bodice

Fitting the main lace motif to the front bodice while still at the cutting stage

Adding pearl and rhinestone beading to the lace before placing on the bodice

Shaping and hand-placing the lace appliques on the bodice in preparation for handsewing

Detail of the completed bodice front

A Matching Headpiece

One of the additional perks of having a custom dress made (besides getting an absolutely one-of-a-kind gown in the exact materials you want... that fits perfectly!) is the option to have custom accessories made as well. 

Alex wanted an understated but elegant comb to wear in her hair. So, I gathered up a few scallops of the Chantilly, made a couple of satin flowers and placed in some branches of gold wire and pearl beads (to echo the beading on the bodice), and...

Custom headpiece: Chantilly lace, textured satin flowers, gold wire and pearl beads


Alex, it was a joy working with you! I'm so glad time and providence came together to allow us to bring your beautiful wedding gown into being. Congratulations... and my warmest wishes to you and your husband, always.

1 comment:

  1. Every part of my latest buying experience was awesome! When I opened the dress there was a matching shawl included! I don't remember reading about that being included so it was a fun surprise!


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