DIY How to: DIY Wedding Dress ~ Tips, Hints, & Advice

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  • November 02, 2011

I got an email from a reader last week asking me for tips, hints, and resources on making a “DIY Wedding Dress“. I LOVED this idea for a post ~ sharing my own experiences with making a hand-made wedding dress .. and sharing some other tips & tricks I learned along the way! Thanks for the idea Megan!

The Capitol Romance Guide to a DIY Wedding Dress

Step 1. – Find someone that is able to make the dress!

     Initially I went right to Etsy. If you haven’t heard of Etsy’s Alchemy section of their website … it’s a wedding resource must.  For those that don’t know, Alchemy is a place where you can post what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend, and then the artists can place bids on your need. I met some amazing dress makers, instantly. One fashion student responded to my post, and even drew up a sketch for me:

Right? I was smitten! I had mentioned that I was going this route to my mom and future-mother-in-law, who is a seamstress. She kindly offered, well “I could make it for you”… At first I was a bit apprehensive, as I didn’t want it to put a strain on our relationship … but then I thought how much easier it would be for her to make it – so I could try it on and make alterations, every step of the way. This turned out to be perfect for me ~ as the pattern I ended up choosing was a bit like a patch-work quilt AND in the end, the dress was perfectly fit to my body/shape/size. A perfect fit.

Step 2. – Find & narrow down inspiration pictures

Because I went the vintage route with my dress, I think my experience was probably a bit easier. Huge wedding gowns might be harder to DIY, with all their fabric and intricacies … but regardless of the type of dress you want – you will certainly need pictures to highlight EXACTLY what you like and don’t like about all parts of the dress. I would recommend narrowing your inspiration pictures down to 3 or so … too many pictures and your seamstress might get confused or the idea might be too generic and she might not end up with what you want. Here were my 3 final inspiration pictures for my DIY vintage wedding dress:

I loved the neckline, flow & length of the first, the lace sleeves and chest line on the second, and the third showcased the cummerbund that I 100% NEEDED to have in my dress. I wanted a dash of hot pink in my wedding dress ~ and to me, the cummerbund was really flattering!

Step 3. – Find a pattern

Again, this is probably easier for vintage inspired handmade [DIY] wedding dresses, as old patterns are readily available on tons of websites and Ebay of course!

Some websites to use:
http://www.momspatterns.com/ [broken down by genre & decades!]

http://www.rustyzipper.com/womens/patterns

http://www.sovintagepatterns.com/vintagepatterns.html [also broken down by decades]

http://www.mccall.com/ [for more modern dresses & patterns! you cannot beat mccall]

Warning – this could take you a pretty long time to scour through to find the perfect pattern for your DIY wedding dress ~ it took me at least a couple weeks to find one that really captured the dress I wanted. Once I found the name of the pattern [company & number] I went to Ebay to buy it for a bargain $10.00 ! This was my pattern, Vintage Simplicity Sewing Pattern 1950′s Dress #1726:


Step 4. – Get your fabric

Because my future MIL was up in NJ, and I was in DC, we decided we would go find fabric one weekend I was home. We talked about maybe heading to NYC’s Garment District ~ which has more fabric stores than I would probably know what to do with … but instead, we took a trip to our local fabric store [Joann's Fabrics] to see what they had there first. Not only did Mama Ryback have some fabulous coupons, but Joann‘s actually had an entire bridal fabric section – whites, ivories, champagnes, in cottons, polyesters, silks, and more!

We ended up scoring the perfect fabric – a beautiful off-white/pearl shade of silk, hot pink satin taffeta fabric for the cummerbund [that matched my bridesmaids' shoes to a "T", and lace for the sleeves/top of the dress!

[Home Decor Solid Fabric-Signature Series Duppioni Silk Pearl - # 10406023]

Total price of fabric from Joann‘s [including two zippers] …. $50. Yes, my handmade, vintage wedding dress cost me $50. Yes, I am bragging :-p

Readmore to see the rest of our steps to The Capitol Romance Guide to a DIY Wedding Dress and some additional advice!


Step 5. – Get to work!

What I mean here is … give yourself a TON of time to get this done. I started Step 2 right after Andy popped the question [ok, who am I kidding ... I started way before he proposed ....]. But Step 1 came right after the proposal, in December for a November 2010 wedding. I gave myself just under a year to complete my DIY wedding dress ~ and I would advise you to do the same. My Mother in Law finished the dress in June of 2010, so had lots of room to spare – but I was lucky that she had so much time to work on it …

Step 6. – Feedback & scheduled times to meet

My MIL and I met 4 times throughout the course of the DIY wedding dress project. The very first time she had basically used what she could from the pattern and my pictures and I had a very lose outline of the dress [held together by pins!] we had to make some SERIOUS adjustments … The second time had just pins again – but she had made the adjustments and things were looking much better. We fit it better around my arms & a few other places and then it was ready to be sewn [! eep!]. The third time it was sewn together – and felt like a REAL dress! It still needed some help around the arms and needed to be hemmed, this felt more like a traditional fitting. The last time was in June when I got the email that “YOUR DRESS IS READY!!!”

Additional Tips & Advice for a DIY Wedding Dress:

1. If you don’t want to use Etsy artists, and don’t have a friend or family member that is a seamstress – I would recommend going local.  Shop around for local seamstresses and get quotes on the time/price for your dress. Have your inspiration photos ready for this! You could also try going to a Fashion school and posting online for Fashion students for a budget-conscious option! Going local supports small businesses AND it also will give you the ability to “check-in” on your dress throughout the process.

2. Know your colors prior to buying your fabric. Our color scheme was black, white, grey, and hot pink. I wanted to make sure all the shades of pink were the same, with regards to the wedding party’s outfits, so I waited to get the pink fabric for my cummerbund AFTER I had one of my sister’s bridesmaid shoes.

3. Be vocal. And be concise with what you want. If you are working with a family member or friend – sometimes this can be tough, but it will make it a LOT easier in the end of you are clear with what you want in the dress AND the way it is fitting you [or not fitting you].

Personally, the only regret I had with my handmade, DIY wedding dress ~ was that I didn’t have my MIL sew pockets into it :) Otherwise … I loved my dress …

Hope you guys enjoyed our “guide” – PLEASE let us know if you go this route. We would love to share other people’s own personal experiences with the process!

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