Sunday, April 17, 2011

How to design your wedding dress, part 3.

Third instalment...

This week is a very fun wedding dress conversion.

One day the client, Kathryn, came into the shop with her Mum's wedding dress from the 1970's. It was a sweet, but very '70's dress with a lace high - necked bodice and sleeves, and polyester A-line skirt. She wanted to wear it to honour her mum, and to hopefully get an original dress for her own wedding.

1970's wedding dress

Kathryn said she wanted to transform it into a modern dress for her beach wedding. She wanted a strapless, boned bodice with the lace extended down to the hipline, and a slimmer skirt line. I suggested a a silk lining and possibly an over-lay on the skirt in order the cover the polyester. For her budget I needed to "retro-fit", not deconstruct, then re-construct the entire dress. 

So the three "S's" for Kathryn were;
1. Setting: Beach
2. Season: Autumn
3. Style: Contemporary

We integrated these through the modern strapless design, and the softness of the overlay, which created a more organic, flowing silhouette, to suit the beach setting.  

First I cut back the bodice and took it in to fit Kathryn's shape, marking the new design lines around the hip and necklines, shown below.

Then, onto the dress, I draped the corset shape in calico, extending from the new neckline to the hip line. I then transferred this and made the corset pattern in paper.

Then I made the corset "insides'' from Shapewell and polyester boning, to sit inside the shell of the dress.  There was also a silk lining, from the same (tightened) pattern. 

Then we came to a fork in the (design) roads; once I had a basic re-modelled dress, I started playing with how to adapt these features Kathryn wanted into an original, and appropriate dress.
There were two main directions:

1. As Kathryn had directed, lengthening the lace bodice to the hips. As she is a petite bride, I was concerned about the 1:1 proportion of this design, as it could make her torso look too long. In other words, she would be half torso/half skirt, which is not a great ratio. 
I added the overlay here to soften the sad old polyester skirt, and added a silk petticoat with a duster hem (ruffled). 

2. The second option was this more classical, empire-line design, below. This worked with the original line of the lace, and had a more flowing look to the skirt, which I felt suited her setting better, as well as her figure.

Ultimately, Kathryn and I devised a combination of the two. 
She wanted a fitted form over her tummy, and hips, and felt the softer design wouldn't suit her, so we went with the longer lace to the hips. But I added a belt to raise her waist visually, and we draped the chiffon over her shoulder and across the skirt to get some dynamism into the silhouette, with drape and asymmetry.

Finished gown, with lace to the hip, built in corset,
satin belt and chiffon draped skirt.

Back view

Draped side view

Front; sweetheart neckline, asymmetrical strap and skirt drape.

Again, Kathryn had a great time in her dress, and loved that it was handmade for the occasion. It was a very personal and very cost effective way to create an original wedding dress, and I had a great time doing it. Thank you Kathryn, for thinking outside the box!

Next week, a wedding dress inspired by red carpet glamour.

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