Dress Design Details, or, the planning continues.

I have actually been doing some work on small projects– my wrists have healed enough that I can knit again, as long as I give myself breaks every hour or so (thank God!) And I do have a hand-sewn accessory project that I started back at the end of Me-Made-May, and is now in its final stage. But since the knit shirt just looks like a slightly longer tube than it did the last time I took a picture of it, and the other project is close enough to done that I’d rather wait and take a picture when it actually IS done, here’s more wedding dress pondering for you instead!

I’ve been doing my research, reading Bridal Couture and driving all of my Pinterest followers crazy by posting swatch after swatch of various white silk-type fabrics so I can compare prices. I also spent some time the other night digging through my pattern stash in order to see what helpful things I might already have on hand. (Those years of DIYing recital dresses came in handy, as I have more formal patterns than I probably should!)
Image of 1202 Cambie Dress
As a reminder, my plan is to base the bodice off of the Cambie dress. I did discover that the skirt, as is, will probably not work lengthened, because the gathered piece is basically one giant rectangle. Good for this dress and elastic-waist maxi skirts (a la Day 24), not so much for a quasi-formal dress where I’d want a little more shaping. But I did find several possibilities for the skirt already in my stash.

Bustier top and skirt sewing pattern McCalls 3853 Size 6 to 12

Option #1: McCall’s 3853. I used bodice B (the pink one) of this for the 2-piece dress I made for my masters’ degree recital. I’m thinking the skirt that’s with that same bodice on the pattern.

Pros: I’m sure it would look good with the Cambie bodice, since it’s essentially the same skirt but longer. Estimating the yardage is simple, since these are all 2-piece gowns, and that particular skirt does have the sheer overskirt that I’m very strongly considering. Also, it has a centered zipper, so it would be quite simple to adapt to the pattern.

Cons: With that overskirt, we’re talking 13 yards of fabric for the skirt alone! Also, I’m not entirely sure how flattering that much gathering at my waist will be, especially since this will be a straight-across cut with an exposed waistband rather than the overlapping bodice.


Option #2: McCall’s 3315. I paired this skirt with the bodice above for that same degree recital dress.

Pros: Mainly, I’ve made this skirt before, even though that was several years ago and the process was kind of lost in the haze of practicing/classes/TA’ing/work. It’s also a separate skirt/bodice, and the pleats would probably be a little more flattering at the waist than the gathering.

Cons: Though I’m not sure how flattering, with that straight across vs/overlap bodice thing again. Also, it’s still a LOT of fabric (over 6 yards just for the skirt), and if I want to incorporate any of my lace into the skirt, it would be overkill.
Option #3: #124 from the 3/07 issue of BurdaStyle (easily the best issue I ever bought, given that I’ve already made 2 things from it!)
Pros: MUCH less fabric yardage = saving some money! The pleats seem to be stitched down to a point, so given that it’s already straight across at the waist, this would probably be the most flattering out of the 3. Also, it includes instructions for a petticoat of sorts, which would help with the fullness. (Though I’m not sure I want to make a separate skirt to wear under my skirt, you know? I’d rather just build it all in together. But that doesn’t mean I can’t figure that part out.)
Cons: The major one is that this is a side-zipped dress. So with the Cambie bodice, I’d have to redraft the back to make a center seam, and I’m not sure what that would do to the pleat.

A fourth option I’m considering, though I don’t have any good patterns on hand for this, is a simpler A-line type skirt with a chiffon overskirt that’s split up the center front–kind of a subtle Renaissance or Regency-type effect, and it might be a nice nod to a train without actually having to bother with one. I’d just have to find or figure out a pattern that would allow enough fullness in the hem that I can comfortably walk in it. I tend to take pretty big steps, and I’m sure the heels won’t help.

(Yes, that’s right, I already have my shoes– I’m recycling the pair I bought to be a bridesmaid for one of my bridesmaids! I’m still shorter than my fiance in them, they fit decently, and I hate trying to find formal shoes that fit my extra-wide feet, so I’m just going to find some shiny nail polish to touch them up with and be done with it! So now I just need to figure out the bra issue and all of my accessories that affect fit will be in place.)

The other issue that I’m STILL trying to sort out is what, exactly, to do with the back. Here’s my thoughts so far:

Option #1: Just use the back of the Cambie, with lace on top and whatever fabric I use underneath for the front partway down.
Pros: Pattern-wise, it’s the easiest option, other than drafting a partial back to go under the lace. The cap sleeves are more or less guaranteed to work. And it would be a good way to really showcase the sunflower lace, since the detail will almost certainly be lost when layered over another fabric, unless people are looking closely.  Also, I wouldn’t need to buy another pattern since I already have it.
Cons: I’ll have to figure out whether I’d be better off splitting the top pattern-wise. I already know that, unless I underline that entire section with skin-toned organza, there is no way a zipper is going to go all the way up. That lace is way too flimsy for that. I’m not sure I want things that closed-up in back, since that’s mostly what people are going to be seeing throughout the ceremony. (Though going with the lace on top would open things up some visually.) Also, I’m not sure at all yet what I’m doing with my hair that day, and my hair is long enough that if I even leave it half-down, all of that lace detail would get covered up anyway.

For any of these other options, I’d have to buy patterns.

V8729 Option #2: Vogue 8729. 
Pros: I like the V in the back, but it’s not so deep that I’d have to worry about even a low-cut long backless bra showing. Also, that skirt could potentially work as a 5th pattern option, if I don’t mind that really 50s-ish silhouette. It would work really well with the ring, but dress-wise, I’m not so sure that’s me…

Cons: I think I’m going to have to drop the back lacing idea if I want to go with making the pre-existing waistband of the Cambie green, and that would be the easiest way to incorporate a color into my dress. (Not that the giant butt bow would be happening anyway– I’d turn those into spaghetti straps like that one inspiration dress!) But the more I’m thinking about it, the more I’m wondering if that green waistband plus back lacing plus lace covering the bodice would be overkill. Also, I’m not sure how well the cap sleeve front will meld with that back strap.

V1190Option #3: Vogue 1190
Pros: Those wider straps would be much easier to meld with the cap sleeve front, and the V-neck treatment with them is kind of interesting! Redrafting the back shouldn’t be too much of an issue either.

Cons: Though from all that I’ve been reading, the dress should be supported by the waist and not the shoulders, I still feel like I’d have to reinforce those straps quite a bit with the weight of a wedding dress skirt pulling them down. I’m also having a bit of trouble visualizing the look to decide if I’d really like the cut, when it came down to it. 

V2960Option #4: Vogue 2960
Pros: It’s already a cap sleeve, so next to the Cambie, this would probably be the second-easiest option to tweak. And I like the scoop in the back.

Cons: Given that I’m strongly beginning to suspect that I have that swayback issue, it could be rather challenging to avoid a gap right at the back there. The straps are also narrow enough on the side back that I’d also be a little more concerned about the dress staying on my shoulders with that low of a scoop and the skirt weight.

So there you have it….there’s still a lot to think about! You’ve all been very kind and encouraging so far in the comments, and I’ve seen several good suggestions, so I’d be interested to hear what all of you brilliant, creative people think!

Edit: I have to apologize– I think the commenter’s name was Alexandra. I meant to hit publish and accidentally hit delete instead. (That’s what I get for trying to moderate before I finish my morning tea.) To answer your question, the main thing I’m wondering about regarding a side zipper with the Burda skirt is the fit–the sides of my waist going into my hips  are much curvier than my back (even if I do have a swayback), and I am concerned about strain on the zipper with that sort of shaping. I am planning on building a waist stay into this, but I’m not sure if it’ll be sufficient to prevent the zipper popping open in the middle.

Edit #2: I was just poking around a bit on various pattern websites, and the skirt of this is intriguing me….
I’m looking specifically at that blue sketch, and wondering how it would look to have a pop of the green (maybe overlaid with the lace) in that contrast bit…


4 thoughts on “Dress Design Details, or, the planning continues.

  1. Can you build a bra into the gown? That would eliminate the need to adjust back lengths to hide your bra. It would be more work, but from what I remember, you did something similar with a halter dress that look really great.


  2. @Christina Possibly, and I am considering that option. Though I've realized since actually WEARING the Lonsdale for the first time that I'm going to have to figure out an alternative to stealing a bra–unfortunately, the underwires don't lay quite as well as they did when I had it all pinned together. Though I'm thinking a lot of that probably has to do with using the plastic boning from Joann's, since that tends to curve in one direction and it's likely that it's pushing the underwires out. So if I'm going to do it in here, considering I'll be doing a lot of walking around/standing/dancing/etc that day, I'm going to need to make sure I can figure out a way for it all to stay put!


  3. i second the build the bra in idea! so happy your wrists have healed, whenever i'm hurt all i want to do is the thing i can't…it's frustrating!

    alos can you please drop me aline at quietandsmall[at]hotmail[dot]com with your addy so i can ship out your goodies? thanks!!


  4. I like the last pattern you posted – the shape of the skirt seems like a good alternative to all that gathering… and would probably look good with the cap sleeves. Do you know how much fabric it requires? Back or side zipper?


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