|Joanne and Alison in the final bridesmaid dresses. These are sleeveless with armhole princess seams and a hem band which was a feature added at the last minute|
My three daughters and I sat down and tried to work out what we wanted from a bridesmaid's dress for two of my daughters at the third’s, (Helen's) wedding. The bride’s fiancé, Anthony, was also involved in the discussion and decisions.
|At this stage, lace 3/4 length sleeves, ribbon trimming to lace bodice and a lace waist treatment; |
the bows persisted but the neckline became less of a V shape
|Lace bodice with V neck trimmed with ribbon. |
After this, we tried boat neck before finalising shape and of course removing sleeves.
Daughter 1, Alison, is of above average height about 5’9”. She is slim, with large breasts which caused her considerable distress when she was younger. Her bra size is UK32G +. (the exact size of course depends on the style). In common with most people with large breasts, she has larger shoulders and upper arms than she would like - she doesn't like the size of her arms and would prefer to hide them with a small sleeve like a cap sleeve or a three-quarter or long sleeve. She doesn't like tee shirt length sleeves as they are unflattering to her. She also feels she can look shapeless if the under bust area is not sufficiently tight. She likes a deep waistband/yoke. She discussed neck shapes and thought she'd like a boat neck, quite wide and fairly low. She has a pretty good idea of what suits her.
Anthony and Helen wanted the dresses to be in the shade Cambridge Blue (I've discussed this choice in the waistcoat post). They searched for suitable fabric that would match the groom’s and ushers’ ties, and groom’s waistcoat (this fabric was bought at the same time). They found a good quality crepe-back satin in the right shade in Joel and Son, and bought this after telephoning me for reassurance about quantities (design not finalised at this point).The dresses are very close to the shade they were looking for - I don't believe they could have done any better. Having found this fabric in this shade, that dictaede the final fabric - we had looked at various silks etc without finding the right shade. So we now abandoned the idea of lace or of a silk organza overlay.
Unfortunately Joel and Son doesn't sell thread or other notions and I had to buy them separately. I also had to buy underlining and lining materials. I bought the underlining, a faux dupion silk, from Bombay Stores in Bradford - this fabric was in the perfect shade. I bought the lining after searching online and getting samples from Truro Fabrics - again, a pretty perfect shade, important in case any of the bagged lining peaked out despite understitching. The fabric was going to be used satin side out and really didn't need additional lace - and we decided against an organza overlay to the skirt.
Some internet searching led us to an inspiration photograph. This particular dress was sleeveless, had princess seams and a jewel neck and a low back with bows across. Our final design ended up rather more like that than our original inspiration.
|This still had a lace bodice but the back ended up virtually the same shape|
|The cap sleeves were later dropped, otherwise the silhouette is similar to the final dress, though fabrics changed|
My first step for both girls was to make up a basic fitting toile, after getting a lot of measurements. I used the Sure Fit Designs system to draw up the bodices. Alison would require a very substantial FBA from a regular commercial pattern and Joanne would require a lesser one. The SFD kit allows cup size to be taken into account. The kit also uses bust point, bust apex to apex width, length of shoulder to apex and shoulder to waist etc as well as shoulder width. I paired these bodices with a simple circular skirt, did the toiles, using the same toile for both daughters as it happens (and we eventually decided to go with this type of skirt). I was making these up without my daughters being present as they live at a distance from me.
|An early toile;|
the final neckline is both higher and narrower as bra straps are visible on the inside and the sleeve was falling off the shoulder
|An early toile; the centre back panel is very narrow here and was widened significantly, although the final shape was very similar|
|The shoulder needed to be narrowed significantly. |
I wanted to bring it in to cover the bra straps so both daughters could wear their normal bras
|It was a shoulder princess seam at this stage.|
I cut one of the sleeves off and later we agreed to have a sleeveless dress instead.
|Too big at sides|
|Too big under bust and in waist|
|Too long and baggy in the back|
By this time, just a few weeks away from the wedding, I realised, finally, that I just didn't have enough time to do these dresses justice and make the wedding dress. My tutors agreed to make up the dresses, checking Alison's pattern first to make sure it was trued and do a final fit when the girls arrived a couple of days in advance of the wedding. They estimated the cost of this based on 10 hours per dress - I reckoned if they took 10 hours it would take me at least twice that although by this time I'd had plenty of practice making this dress up!
Some adjustment was required for both girls - allowing more space around the waist in both cases. When they arrived for the Thursday morning fitting (Saturday wedding), Alison's dress was more or less done apart from the hem but Joanne's hadn't been made up. Alison's dress had to be altered. Joanne was able to try the bodice and skirt on separately. However, there was a significant problem with the zip. It seemed that there was insufficient girth and this was putting a great deal of strain on the zip. Joanne has a significant difference in girth between hips and waist. More adjustment before we were able to pick up the dresses late Friday afternoon.
The design changed even in those two days before the wedding! As often happens, the hem of the circle skirts dropped unevenly - and of course, they hadn't been made for that long. When the hems were evened off, with the girls wearing them and the skirts marked from the floor to the shortest length and this distance marked all around, the skirts were too short, although we had been happy with the length of the toiles. The original inspiration photograph had a contrast band of organza at the bottom of the skirt and Rory suggested she could add a band, even reversing the satin to provide a greater contrast. There was just enough fabric. We all agreed that the band was necessary for length but felt we didn't want the satin reversed. I had originally decided against such a band as I felt it added too much complexity for my skill level. I'm glad the band was added as this is the part commented on most (Images I have are from the front, so no opportunity for people to comment on the back). Thank you for rescuing the dresses, Rory.
Edited to add - I've just got the dresses back. Now that I have them back, I'll show an image of the back of both dresses but not, unfortunately on the live models. Missy is somewhat smaller than either dress so the backs are rather gapey compared to how they were on the live models and I decided against steaming them so these are as they just came out my carrier bag! I'm afraid it's miserable weather, pouring rain and rather dark so this is the best I can do for photos today. I'm going to leave this post and schedule it to post automatically in a couple of days - the weather is forecast as being even worse tomorrow. I plan to put them away and move on.
|Back detail of Joanne's dress. on Missy|
|Back of Joanne's dress and front/side of Alison's|
I said earlier that I had made these dresses up many times at toile stage. Of course, I still have the personalised patterns and could consider making up a dress in a different fashion fabric for Alison (I don't think it's Joanne's style, somehow). I probably would alter the pattern to include the hem band although an alternative would be to make the skirt longer if fabric width allowed that. Then I would feel I could legitimately lay claim to having made the dress from start, making the pattern, to finish and only then could I put a review on PR of course. Yes, I'm disappointed that someone else made them up (although that's allowed and is standard practice for the design students - as my fellow students and I found to our amazement) but it was essential at the time as I had taken too much on; also essential was buying my mother of the bride outfit rather than making the outfit I had planned.
Yes, I'd do it again (even if slightly differently!)