Yep, you read that right! I made my own wedding dress and you can make your own wedding dress too! This is not meant to be a tutorial, but rather an inspiration and motivation for all the DIY ladies out there who are contemplating taking on the biggest DIY challenge of all…a wedding gown. Find out how I did it (without going crazy) and what advice I would give to other brides.
Wedding planning takes a lot of time and work. It can get overwhelming trying to choose all of the details. The venue has to sparkle, shine, and impress. The cake has to taste equally as good as it looks. The seating chart has to please everyone and avoid all of the family drama. But let’s be honest, the most important wedding detail to choose is the dress.
Why is the dress so important?
The guests have gathered at the venue. Music and laughter fills the space. The wedding procession begins. The groom is anxiously waiting at the end of the aisle. The doors open and you take your dad’s arm. Canon D begins to play. You take your first few steps down the aisle, making a grand appearance. The guests are in awe. Tears and smiles on their faces. The most important of all is the groom’s reaction to seeing his bride for the very first time.
That moment is the best part of the entire wedding day. You feel so confident and beautiful in your dress and makeup. His reaction is priceless. The look on his face when he sees you in your dress, for the first time, makes it completely worth the price tag. Wearing the perfect dress on your wedding day is the key to a successful wedding day. If you feel and look your best, nothing can ruin your moment.
My husband’s reaction to me walking down the aisle was made even more sweet knowing that I made my own dress. He knew that I was making my dress. In fact, it was a very difficult secret to keep for the year long process I spent making it! I was so proud of my dress and in the moment it all came to fruition. He was impressed and I felt beautiful. Suddenly, all of the long days and nights I spent working on it all felt justified and completely worth it. I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything.
The question I kept getting asked that entire night was, how did I do it? I’m spilling all of my secrets! Save thousands on your wedding dress by making it yourself!
If you had asked me if I was planning on making my own wedding dress before our engagement, I would have said “no way!” I thought it would be too complicated and it was most definitely something that I did not want to mess up. In fact, it was one of the most important garments I would ever wear in my life and it had to be absolutely perfect. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a “bridal moment.” I imagined tearing up when I tried on my perfect dress in front of friends and family in a quaint bridal salon (clearly, I watched too much of “Say Yes to the Dress”).
However, this completely changed by the time I actually got engaged.
There were many factors that went into the decision to make my own wedding gown and none of them were taken lightly.
The first factor was skill. I had been making clothes since childhood and went on to college to study fashion design. Previous to starting college, everything I made was self taught. I had little experience sewing and hardly any knowledge of constructing clothes. During college, I began to flourish in sewing. I became very good, very fast. Within two years, I was designing evening gowns for campus fashion shows. Creating these gowns required intricate hand detailing and advanced techniques. I learned from them and was able to understand what mistakes I had made for future projects. My senior year, I interned in a bridal boutique where I spent some of my time on gown alterations. The alterations I did were hand detail sewing, like replacing beads, and creating bustles. I graduated college, top of my class with impressive sewing and design skills.
Once I got engaged, reality sunk in. I knew price would be another huge factor. I’m the kind of girl who can walk into a store and immediately be drawn to the most expensive item. I’m not sure if it’s a gift or a curse.
Either way, I knew that the type of dress I wanted would be something covered in lace and beading with gorgeous style line and details. The dress I wanted would be one-of-a-kind and something that spoke to my personal style. I wanted it to be pink instead of the typical white, off-white or ivory. Something that would stand out. Let’s face it; I was never the type of girl to wear what everyone else was wearing. Knowing this, there was sure to be a hefty price tag that went along with such a couture piece. A classic white dress off the rack at David’s Bridal was simply not going to cut it, for me.
Not only would price be an issue, but questions about my perfect dress kept popping up in my mind.
How many stores would I have to visit?
How many times would I have to leave empty handed?
Would I have to settle for something that I was one hundred percent in love with?
How many dresses would I be able to try on without feeling disappointed?
What if nothing compared to the dress I had in my mind?
I had countless nightmares about shopping for wedding dresses that ended with no luck and no dress. Knowing myself, I am particular about what I want and when I have a vision in mind, I will do anything I have to in order to achieve it. It was after much thought and consideration that I realized that I had no choice but to make the dress, if I wanted it to be everything I imagined it could be. My wedding day is one of the most important days of my life. Why would I walk down the aisle in anyone else’s design?
I already had a perfect guy; all I needed was the perfect dress.
The design for my gown was a surprisingly easy process. After years of pinning wedding dresses to my “Dream Wedding” Pinterest board (I know you have one too), I had a pretty good idea of what I liked and what my style was. I had a board full of Haley Paige designs, pink gowns and a sea of organza fabric. I would look at the dress and be in love with certain things about it, while hating other parts. No matter what, there was always something I wanted to change about the dress.
First, I compiled a list of all of the things I loved in a wedding gown and how I could incorporate all of it. Afterwards, I came up with two equally beautiful designs. That’s where I became stumped. I didn’t know which to choose.
The first design featured a sweetheart bodice with beaded spaghetti straps and a low cut back paired with a flowy, A-line skirt with beaded lace cascading down. The skirt would have a small train and be absolutely picture perfect. It would be the epitome of ethereal and I would look like a real-life princess.
The second design had the same sweetheart top and low cut back, but instead had a form fitting skirt. The entire dress would be fully beaded. This would create a glamorous and dramatic look that I was envisioning. I always had a small figure and wanted to accentuate it.
Both designs fit my personality and each had pros and cons. In the end, I decided why not do both? I was making it myself after all.
I decided to create the first design with the flowy skirt for the ceremony and the second design with the form fitted, beaded skirt for the reception. It was then that I came up with the idea to make a two piece ensemble. Since I wanted both dresses to have the same top, I would make one single dress with a second, detachable skirt. The main dress would have the straight fitted skirt and I would make a secondary, flowy, A-line skirt that would be worn on top to create two distinct looks.
After the ceremony was over and pictures were taken, I would be able to take off the full skirt. Underneath, I would be left with a simple, lightweight skirt with no train. It would be perfect for dancing and mingling at the reception with no bustling necessary. It was a perfect plan! However, a detachable skirt was not something I had ever executed before and was a completely new technique for me.
I bought my fabric in August of 2016. I went to my favorite fabric store in Royal Oak, Michigan, which was somewhat of a hidden gem. They had a bridal section that I had always lusted over on previous shopping trips, but never had a reason to browse through it. This time, I reveled in the tulle, organza, satin, lace, and beads. I was completely in heaven surrounded by so many gorgeous fabrics. It was every sewer and fashionista’s dream. This moment, of choosing my fabric, was my “bridal moment.” I had never felt happier and more inspired to create something than I did that day.
I picked out a beautiful, beaded, ivory, lace fabric with scalloped edges and silver outlining. This fabric was what really started to bring my design to life and was the focal piece that I mixed and matched from. After choosing my lace fabric, I paired it with a soft, blush, satin stretch fabric underneath for the reception look.
For the ceremony look, I wanted blush organza that would flow in the wind and create drama when I walked down the aisle (considering this was likely my only chance to walk the catwalk like a supermodel as I’m only 5’2″). However, I was unable to find the fabric that I was envisioning at this store. I ended up ordering many swatches online and finding my perfect organza at Mood Fabrics at a later date. I was also able to find gorgeous blush tulle that was extremely soft and perfect for a veil.
The sales woman and my mom kept asking me if I wanted to wait and think about it. I could always come back later, they had insisted. I am a very impulsive person and I make quick decisions. There was no need to wait. I knew that this fabric would become my wedding gown the second I saw it. At the end of the shopping day, I left with bags full of beautiful fabric (more beautiful than I had ever worked with before). I spent around a total of $900 on all of the fabric, pattern, thread, boning, and other supplies. After seeing the end result, nobody would guess that I spent less than $1,000 on my dress.
The construction process began by creating the pattern that matched my design. Typically when I sew, I like to find a pattern that is fairly close to my design and then tweak it and alter it to be exactly what I envision. This takes the guess work out of pattern making and saves time and energy because I already know my size will be consistent and proportions correct.
I used a McCall’s evening dress pattern that I had used for creating some of the evening gowns that I made for my college fashion show. Since I was familiar with it, I knew how it would turn out and I was less likely to make mistakes. Plus, I already knew that it fit me well.
After finalizing the pattern I wanted to use, I first created a muslin mock-up of the shell of the straight skirt reception dress. I used muslin fabric and created a rough version of the dress. Then, I tried it on and made alterations. I adjusted the cut of the back to look a bit more flattering and let it out a little bit in the hip area. Once I was satisfied with the fit and overall look, I made the adjustments to the pattern.
Once I was certain the muslin was a perfect fit, I was then ready to cut out the pieces. I avoided cutting out the beaded fabrics for weeks in fear of messing it up. It was the key part of my design and where I had spent the biggest chunk of my fabric budget. I did not want to ruin it. Finally, I was able to work up the courage and, thankfully, it turned out perfectly. I cut out the top bodice and the skirt pieces from my yards of gorgeous beaded fabric and the pink satin fabric using my pattern pieces for the reception look.
Also, I cut out the organza skirt afterwards. I cut out 3 layers of organza and draped them on top of each other. Then, I created a lining out of the pink satin fabric to go beneath the organza layers. This would prevent the beaded skirt for the reception from showing through and ruining my big unveiling.
I began putting the pieces together according to the pattern. I sewed the pink, satin bodice together and pressed the seams flat. Then I sewed the pink, satin skirt together.
Afterwards, I did the same thing with the beaded pieces and began sewing them together. However, I had to remove all of the beads from the seam allowances.This was extremely time-consuming, but it was impossible to sew through the glass beads without breaking my needle every few inches. To finish the edges and eliminate bulkiness on the beaded fabric, I used french seams.
I layered the beaded pieces over the pink, satin pieces and attached them around the neckline of the bodice and at the waist.
I serged the flowy organza skirt pieces together by completing one layer at a time and sewed them all together into the waist band.
This completed the basic outline of the dresses and only took me a few months to complete. Unknowing at this point in time, but I had only completed the easy part!
The most important part of a wedding dress is the internal structure. No one sees it, but it plays the biggest role of all. It is necessary for the dress to stay up and stay in place throughout the ceremony, reception, and all night long. Structure is critical for a strapless dress, but should be used for all formal gowns, especially those with heavy fabric or beading. Plus, the dress will look more professional and have better quality.
I did the most research on this part of the gown. I ended up buying flexible wire boning, thick lining material, and interfacing. Using these materials, I created a corset and attached it to the front of the dress. By doing this, the dress would keep it’s shape and structure whether it was was on or off the body.
Then, I created a lining for the inside of the top and bottom of the dress. I used identical pattern pieces and the same pink satin to mirror the outside. I used the lining to cover up the internal corset and any raw edges. Also, I added tulle in the bottom half of the skirt lining. This created extra fluff that would make the bottom flare out slightly to preserve the shape and add drama.
Next, I put a zipper in the back of the main dress. I also put one down the side of the flowy skirt. For the zipper in the main dress, I only attached it to the pink satin fabric with the sewing machine. Then, by hand, I went in and sewed the lace fabric to the zipper. I also attached the lining around the zipper by hand.
Finally, it was time to work on the finishing details of the dresses. It was still far from being done. The light at the end of the tunnel was miles away.
I spent 9 months completing the finishing details!
I added a hook and eye on each skirt, I created the beaded spaghetti straps, I added lace trim around the bottom of both skirts by hand, I replaced beads, and I sewed on extra lace pieces. The time consuming part was sewing on all of the extra lace and replacing the beads.
On the main dress, I added pieces of lace in bare areas where they got cut off in the cutting or sewing process. I used extra beaded fabric that was left over after cutting out the pattern pieces. I had to cut around each lace motif and strategically place them on the skirt and bodice. I would find shapes to perfectly fill blank space or find shapes that would cover up parts where the pattern got cut off. Then I would hand sew them on with invisible, clear fishing wire thread. This adds quality to the dress and makes it look 10X better. While it is difficult and time consuming, it makes all the difference in the final version.
On the flowy skirt, I envisioned cascading lace. This meant that i couldn’t simply cut out large sections of lace to sew on. Instead, i had to cut out each individual lace piece, pin them on the skirt and sew them on by hand using the invisible thread without catching the bottom layers of organza.
After sewing on all of these individual lace pieces, I had to go back through and replace beads. By cutting out the lace, many of the beads would fall off in the process. I sewed them back on as well as any around seams that had been removed during the initial sewing stages.
Below are some pictures and examples of the process of making the details.
I was working full-time, 40 hours a week, the entire time I was making this dress. This means I only had weekends that I could devote to working on it. I worked on it a least a few hours almost every single weekend, even when I didn’t feel like it.After a total of 13 months spent making my wedding dress, I finally finished it.
How You Can Make Your Own Too
If you are contemplating making your wedding gown, take it from someone who has already done it. When I decided that I wanted to make my own dress, I was slightly discouraged by how little information was available. I was hoping to see other success stories and gather ideas and information. Here is my advice for doing it right the first time. How to avoid making mistakes, loosing sleep, and not sticking with it.
1. Know how to sew
Already knowing how to sew and having basic construction skills is a must. If you have no experience, do not even think about attempting a wedding gown just to save money. I can’t tell you how many tutorials I read when gathering advice for my own dress that began with… “learning to sew was the hardest part.” This makes me cringe and I immediately stopped reading! In the end, it will cost you more tears, sleepless nights, frustration, and probably more money, since you’ll most likely need to buy a dress after all.
2. Pick the right shape and style
Choosing the right design for your dress is crucial. Knowing your body and what looks flattering is important to creating a wedding dress that will look great. Have you ever had the experience of finding an outfit at the store that looks amazing on the hanger but awful on you? The same thing can happen. In this case, you can come up with the most beautiful dress in your mind, but it should look equally as beautiful in real life.
If you’re unsure what wedding dress styles look good on you, I would suggest going to bridal salons and trying some on. It never hurts to get an idea of what looks good on you. Plus, after working in a bridal salon, I’ve seen brides change their mind. They came into the store with a clear idea of what they wanted, but they end up falling in love with something that looks completely different. Be 100% confident in the style and shape you choose.
The beauty of making your own dress is that you can customize the size perfectly to your body. No more choosing a size off the rack and hoping it fits. If you have little to no experience in pattern making, I have found that most evening dress patterns make lovely wedding dresses when made out of the right material. Consider using an already made pattern to ensure that proportions and fit come out looking flattering. I used an already patterned evening gown for the base of my dress. It gave me a good place to start and a good fit from the start.
3. Choose the right fabric
Choosing fabric is one of the most important step that will make or break a design. Having knowledge of fabric types is a key part of choosing what will make your design shine. For example, don’t choose a fabric with a lot of heavy beading if you’re expecting it be flowy. Similarly, if you’re design has a lot of pattern pieces, consider avoiding satin that may slip when sewing or cutting and is more difficult to work with. Do your research before you buy. Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your design. I would suggest asking fabric sales people for advice if you’re unsure and getting enough extra fabric to practice with.
4. When in doubt, keep it simple
Less is always more in terms of design. Adding too many extra details, bells, and whistles can get overwhelming. Choose specific areas to add volume or make a focal point and stick with them. The shape of my dresses were both fairly simple. The beaded lace is what made it stand out and look special. If I had tried to use that fabric, make a big mermaid skirt, and a plunging neckline, it would have been overkill. There’s a fine line between tasteful and tacky. My biggest piece of advice is to edit, edit, edit. Step away and look at the big picture. Sleep on making a big design change. Don’t make impulsive design decisions.
5. Give yourself plenty of time
I would suggest creating a timeline month by month with goals. Write down what you hope to accomplish to keep you on track. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to commit to making it. When buying a dress, professionals suggest you begin dress shopping a year in advance. This gives you plenty of time to order it, get fitted, and make alterations. The same is true if you plan to make your own dress. I would suggest that you plan at least a year out, if not more. You never know what could come up. It is much better to be prepared than to not finish or rush to finish in time.
6. Create the dress for your actual size, not your ideal size
Once the engagement wears off and the wedding sinks it, brides start hitting the gym trying to lose weight before their big day. This can be very tempting, but can also cause a lot of fit issues when buying a dress and even more when you’re making it yourself. The closer you get to finishing the dress, the harder it becomes to make alterations. Instead, you would have better luck making a dress that fits you great as you are and maintaining your shape. As with dress shopping, I would also discourage you from going down a size. Many brides, and women in general, buy dresses thinking they can lose weight in time. Most of the time, they aren’t able to and the dress doesn’t fit. You don’t want to go through a year of wedding dress sewing to end up with a dress that’s too small.
7. Ask for help
If you get in over your head, don’t be too headstrong to ask for help. There are times when we don’t know what to do and it is always better to ask than to make mistakes. You will spend too many painful hours trying to fix things and salvage the dress. Asking for help will avoid extra frustration and save you from potentially ruining your dress.
8. Brag that you made it
Don’t be to shy to admit that you made your dress. Tell everyone. Scream it from the rooftops. You made it and you did it all by yourself. It’s an amazing accomplishment and you should be proud!
What I learned
The most important take away I gained from making my dress was that, when faced with a challenge, I know I will persevere
I’m sure many of you think I’m crazy for taking on such a huge project. In truth, maybe I was! I had just moved cross-country and I was working full-time all while planning our dream wedding. In all sincerity, I would be lying if I told you that I never felt stressed out or felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew, because I did have those feelings.
I definitely had my moments of doubt. There were times when I wondered if I have made the right decision. I wondered if it was too late to buy a dress instead. Sometimes I didn’t feel like working on it and had to force myself to complete something. There were weekends where I never left the house and my eyes burned from sewing on tiny beads hour after hour. There were sleepless nights where I wondering if it was all going to turn out okay.
However, I would also be lying if I didn’t tell you that it was completely worth all of those stressful moments. There were also times when I felt so proud and accomplished of what I was creating. Each time I tried on my dress at various stages, I was able to see my vision coming to life before my eyes. I used care and finesse to sew on each piece of lace. I developed my skills farther than I ever imagined was possible. Most importantly, it was one-of-a-kind and absolutely perfect for me. It made wearing it on my wedding feel even more special.
Making my own dress for my wedding day made it even more special. I will look back on these photos for the rest of my life and know that I made it. It was perfect for me and I wouldn’t change anything about it. It fit me great, made me feel good about myself, complimented the venue, and impressed my groom (the most important part!).
Why would I want to look like every other bride on my wedding day? By making my own, I created a look that no on else has ever or will ever wear. There is not a single dress out there that’s exactly the same and I know for a fact that no one has seen anything quite like it before!
Are you willing to make your own wedding dress? It can be done! I would love to hear your thoughts and any outrageous DIY’s you’ve attempted!
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