Saturday, June 19, 2021

My Wedding Dress - The Design (Part One)

 I'm married. That still feels weird to say. I said the vows, got the husband, and moved in with him. The other day I received my first piece of mail at my new address with my new name on it. I'm a Mrs. now. It's sinking in.

So, now that it's all official and I have begun my married life with this man, it's time to start sharing that thing I know you've all been waiting for since I became engaged about 5 months ago. My Wedding Dress!!!

Of course, there is way more to this dress than I can fit into one post, so today we're going to start at the beginning. About 10 years ago, give or take a few.

There are two things I have long known I wanted for my wedding dress. 

#1 I wanted to wear the hoop skirt my mom made and wore for her wedding. Thus, my wedding dress was going to have a very full skirt.

#2 I wanted my dress to fasten with a long row of buttons down the back. My mom's wedding dress has buttons down the back and I've always loved the look of that. Unlike on my mom's dress however where half the buttons were decorative, used to cover up a zipper, I wanted all of my buttons to be real. I wanted my husband to have to undo every last button to get the dress off of me on our wedding night. 

Hoop skirt and buttons, that's what I've known I wanted on my wedding dress since childhood. (Though don't worry, I'm sure I didn't think about the husband removing the dress when I was a child, I just liked buttons. The unbuttoning fantasy came later.) Now when did I decide I was going to make my dress? It's hard to pinpoint an exact time, but it was probably my senior year of high school. I sewed my prom dress that year, and it turned amazing! After this sewing success, I felt like I could make anything - even a wedding dress. One day.

Like all the other girls in the late 2000's and early 2010's, I kept a secret Pinterest board full of wedding ideas for my happily ever after, which of course I hoped would come sooner rather than later (Dear 18 year old me, be patient. It'll be worth it.) One day, while scrolling through Pinterest and pinning anything of interest (on a computer of course, as these were the days before everyone had a smart phone), I came across the most beautiful picture. 

This one. That swoosh of lace across the skirt. I loved it instantly, and from that day on I knew my dress would have a lace over skirt just like it!

Initially I didn't think too much about the bodice design, I just thought I'd do a strapless lace bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a bit of a basque (pointed) waist. Pretty typical style of the early 2010's. Over time however, my bodice design ideas got a little more interesting.

It started with the idea of gathered lace straps, just like the tulle ones in the picture above.

After that I found this picture of a high lace back, and fell in love with that idea.

I figured the lace could come over the shoulder and in the front it would still look pretty similar in shape to my initial gathered strap idea.

By the mid-2010's, this was my wedding dress sketch. As you can see, along with the bodice additions, the skirt plan had morphed a little bit as well.

I'd found this picture and loved the multiple different laces in the skirt.

And this picture! With that scalloped skirt yoke and those little cap sleeves! Even though my dress would have a different silhouette than this one, I still love this picture!

So, yes, about 5 years ago this was my plan for my wedding dress. 
Now 4 years ago, in 2017 I did the World Race. All the different clothing styles and fabrics I saw around the would definitely had a little bit of an impact on my dress design. 

The skirt stayed pretty much the same, with just a bit of adjustment to the proportions of the different lace elements, but the bodice changed to have off the shoulder lace sleeves with flounces at the elbow.

This is pretty much how my design stayed for the next 3 years. After the World Race I got rather depressed about my single state and didn't feel like dreaming about this wedding dress I would make in the future when I met and married the right guy. Because what if it never happened? What if I was destined to be single forever. (Be patient 25 year old me. Stop your crying. Enjoy your life as it is. Enjoy the freedom you have right now. As much as you love the man you will marry in a few years, as excited as you are to build a life with him, part of you will be sad to have the single chapter of your life come to a close. Your single years were good years, just as your married years will hopefully be as well.)

Last summer, a few months into dating my husband, I began to dream about my wedding dress again. Things might just work out with this guy, I rather liked him, and he seemed crazy about me, so I wanted to be prepared.

First, the sleeves changed from elbow length straight sleeves, to short little flutter sleeves like the ones in this 1930's painting.

While I was re-sketching the dress I decided to leave off the top tier of lace on the skirt as well, and go back to just the original "swoosh" of lace on the skirt that I'd fallen in love with nearly a decade earlier.

Last fall I came across this dress, made by Bella Mae Designs and was instantly intrigued by the gathering on the bodice. It reminded me of 1840's fan-front dresses (One of my favorite eras of fashion!), so I began contemplating how to incorporate that detail into my dress design. 

The final piece of my design puzzle came together late last fall, when I came across this 1940's dress on Pinterest.

A square neckline, made of lace. I'd always figured I'd have a sweetheart neckline on my dress, it's pretty classic after all, so I never really considered anything else. But I've long loved square necklines on different things. So why not have a square neckline on my wedding dress?

I could trim it in lace like on this 1890's fashion plate. A little different but reminiscent of the "bertha" that trimmed the neckline of most mid-19th century evening gowns.

Why not? I could keep the flutter sleeve idea, just look at how well the sleeve shape works on this 1840's dress!

A mixture of Victorian and vintage influence, and me.

Thus, when I got engaged in January, this was the design I had to work with. 

And I was about 90% sure it was perfect!

Come back tomorrow to see the fabrics I would be using to make this design!


  1. Best wishes to you! I'm looking forward to your wedding series. I made my own wedding dress from a Vogue pattern, but it was fairly simple, and the fabric was an ivory knit satin. 45 years later I still have both the dress and the husband!

  2. Wow. I am so impressed with your journey. I wish I’d thought to write down my ideas along the way. Reading this makes me remember all this wonderful memories.

  3. Ooops I didn't comment when I read this earlier but I'm really looking forward to seeing the project unfold! And congratulations again!

  4. Every time I read about your work and your words I feel that there should be a university that awards you at PhD based on the work you've done independently.

  5. I love how you combined all these time periods and details into one truly custom design that still looks so classic!