Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Here comes the Bride...

Sophie & Graham

It all began in November last year. A girlfriend got in touch to ask if I might be able to help out a friend of hers who was getting married and feeling very daunted by the prospect of having to navigate the sea of bridal magazines and wedding boutiques to find her perfect dress. Not even imagining that I would end up making the dress myself, it started out as a sort of Bridal Consultation. We would meet every couple of weeks and I'd try to break up the time into manageable tasks - deciding on a shape, talking designer vs. vintage; bespoke vs. off the rail, going through fabric samples, building up a moodboard... and before long we had designed her wedding dress. At which point came the inevitable, "so, you reckon you can make this then?". Ummm, I guess so...

With three months until the wedding, I got to work on the first toile. We had loosely based the design of the bodice on a Jenny Packham dress, which involved a ruched plunging neckline and some sort of lace body underneath (which would be shop bought), and the skirt would be a simple half circle with an overlay of gathered organza.

Jenny Packham // toile no.1

So far so good. Except that we couldn't find a lace body. So the second toile was to incorporate the lace into the bodice under the ruching over the bust. We were both very happy with the lace bodice, but suddenly the ruched bust and gathered skirt looked frumpy and, well, ever so slightly matronly... 

toile no.2

Third time lucky! Toile number three saw a simpler, smoother skirt - something in between a half and quarter circle with a half circle organza overlay, with the excess slightly gathered in back. We kept the lace bodice but lowered the neckline and lost the ruching, adding little lace cap sleeves to keep her decent for a church wedding.

toile no.3

And just as soon as I thought I'd nailed it, I realised I then had to actually make the Real Thing. Capital R, capital T. No more calico, poly organza and scrap lace... We were talking ivory dupion silk, Chantilly lace and silk organza (all from Joel's). I won't even say how many pounds worth. With every cut, every stitch, I was experiencing a bizarre concoction of my heart sinking at the thought of doing it wrong, and absolute elation at the prospect of doing it right. 

As it came together it became more and more apparent that I was, in fact, doing it right! The only modifications needed after the first Real Thing fitting (at which point, let's be honest, there is really nothing fundamental that can be changed without having to start all over again) were reducing a little volume from the cap sleeves - easily done, just a bit of handstitching at the underarm - and adding a subtle lace scallop into the V-neck to soften her cleavage.

first fitting of Real Thing

finished bodice

Everything was going wonderfully. Sophie seemed thrilled, I couldn't quite believe I had pulled it off and the only thing left to do was to handstitch scallops of the Chantilly lace to the hem and train of the silk organza overlay, an absolutely blissful task which allowed me to spend long, serene hours meditatively sewing, reflecting, and hopefully infusing each stitch with love and happy visions of their future together.

But there was one fundamental component still missing: the silk covered buttons and loops I had ordered never arrived!!! With a matter of days to go until the wedding, and a wedding dress gaping open at the back, we managed to get another batch of buttons and loops made at MacCulloch & Wallis just in time. And when I say just in time, I mean that there wasn't even enough time for Sophie to try on her dress before having to get straight back in her car and race back to the country! I never thought I'd be have pre-wedding jitters on behalf of someone else, but I promise you, the night before the wedding I dreamed that the dress had fit so badly that she'd been forced to go out and buy some hideous replacement dress instead... But then I saw these pictures start to crop up on Facebook -

Thank you, Sophie, not only for trusting me with possibly the most important dress you will ever wear, but for giving me the pleasure to experience the making of something so significant as the dress you wore to be married. I wish you both all the happiness in the world. And babies! Lots of babies!!

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