Sunday 18 November 2012

How I made my own wedding dress

I had never made any dresses, skirts, tops or pants before. As a matter of fact, I had never made any single clothing item in my life. I do have a sewing machine and have been sewing totes and making small alterations but that's as far as my sewing experience goes. This is my short journal of how I made my own wedding dress (with my Mom's help) in two weeks without a pattern or any experience in dress making.

4 months before the wedding
We set the date for the wedding and I tell Misha that I want to make my own wedding dress. He is shocked, to say the least. He very gently points out that me making my own dress might be overly ambitious. I think he just wants to make it easy on me but I know it can be done.  Instead of wasting my time searching for the ONE dress, I can just make it exactly the way I want it and save time and money. It would be a sharp learning curve; like being in a sewing bootcamp. 

7 weeks before the wedding 
I finally start planning for the dress. I start researching and figuring out what type of dress I would like and how I am going to make it.  I love long, flowing ball gowns made from natural light fabrics. I also like romantic lace tops and delicate veils.  I make this  little sketch of what I envision. I realize how much it resembles the princesses I used to draw as a little girl.

Wedding dress sketch

6 weeks before the wedding
Still searching for online inspiration. I find this image and love the rich pleated skirt and wide belt. I love how light, crisp and full it looks. I think I found the look for the skirt.
Amsale wedding dress - see source

5 weeks before the wedding
It's time to make my sample dress. I pick up 8 metres of cheap muslin and search out a you-tube tutorial on pattern making. I find this great lesson on couture draping on a dress stand. I follow the instructions to the dot and create a sample bodice for my measurements. It fits perfectly. I am impressed. I really get  into it and make a sample skirt as well, but I am not that happy with it. The skirt will need more fabric to make it fuller.

4 weeks before the wedding
I am having a moment. I tell Misha that we might have to cancel the wedding. The dress is not coming together. He laughs and tries to be supportive. I lighten up as well.
I get back to sewing and remake the skirt by adding more fabric to it. It looks  fuller now. I am optimistic again.

3 weeks before the wedding 
Mom arrives and I am relieved to have her with me. Her sewing experience is invaluable. She learned to sew from my grandmother who was a seamstress. I look forward to working with her on the dress and getting some century old sewing tips.  This is becoming a family tradition; my grandmother helped make my mother's  dress.

2 and a half weeks before the wedding
It's time to have some fun. Mom and I are going fabric shopping to Queen St. West. We admire the amazing assortment of luxurious fabrics. Lace, silk and velvet are stacked to the ceiling. We are in paradise!

We buy 1 1/2 metres of french lace. It is VERY expensive but a must. I could have gotten away with less but wanted to be on the safe side. For the skirt and a short sleeve bodice we buy 6 metres of silk dupioni. GORGEOUS fabric! Happy about going with ivory instead of bright white. Gives it a nice soft, vintage feel.

14 days before the wedding
Mom and I officially begin working on the dress. I keep calling it a dress but it's actually a two piece. Making it as a two piece makes our life much easier. I start with the skirt. It goes well and I finish it in a day. I have high hopes for finishing everything in a few days. Hm...if I only knew...

13 days before the wedding
I watch several 'how to' videos and start working on the petticoat. I want the skirt to be big and puffy, which means a LOT of crinoline for the underskirt. We soon run out of crinoline and Misha drives us to Fabricland. Luckily, it's five minutes from our house. We have no time to waste.

Petticoat in making

12 days before the wedding
Still working on the petticoat. I am sewing on layers and layers of crinoline. The skirt is still not full enough. Let's add another line of frills.
We do another Fabricland run. I pick up a half  metre of beige faux fur for the shawl wrap we want to make. It's fall after all and I like being warm, even on my wedding day.

10 days before the wedding
Taking it easy. The petticoat is coming together. I am feeling very optimistic.

Petticoat almost done
8 days before the wedding
It's a beautiful fall day. We take the day off and get out of the house to check out a local organic market. I am surprised how relaxed we are with the wedding in a week and no dress yet.

7 days before the wedding
It's time to tackle the top. We start with the sleeveless silk bodice. We use the muslin sample top as a pattern. It's not going smoothly. We are having some trouble fitting it well.
Misha keeps asking how the dress is coming along. I think he is starting to get worried.

6 days before the wedding
The top is giving us more headaches than we thought. The lace is very difficult to work with. It doesn't fit well with the silk bodice. We are being patient and still don't panic. 

5 days before the wedding
Tragedy strikes! I slip and fall on the back porch steps and spend the evening at the ER. The outcome is a fractured elbow. Luckily no nerve or muscle damage. My whole left arm gets a cast. Not good timing!

While I am in the ER Mom finishes the shawl wrap. It looks beautiful!

4 days before the wedding
Work must go on and I am handling the sewing machine with one hand. Mom is doing all the hand stitching. I can't be more grateful. She is amazing!

Sewing with a cast on
The dress has to be adjusted to my full arm cast. The left sleeve is cut short. We also keep the side open so I can put the top on. I am also thinking of covering the cast with some leftover silk fabric. At least it will match.

2 days before the wedding
We are frantically trying to finish the dress. The bodice still doesn't fit well. Trying it on with the cast is also a nightmare. My arm hurts a lot when I lift it. 
Misha stopped asking how the dressmaking is going. I think he's got the picture.

1 day before the wedding
The dress is still missing some snaps and hooks and the silk cast cover is not done. Mom is finishing up the veil. I am going to sleep at midnight. I am exhausted.

45 minutes before the wedding
My hair and make up is done and I am all dressed. A friend is stitching together the silk cast cover on me. We have 15 minutes to go. 

30 minutes before the wedding
The dress is ready. I am ready. The show is on. Let's get married!

And we live happily ever after.

3 weeks AFTER the wedding
Still waiting for the official wedding pictures but here are pictures of the dress on the stand. 

My wedding dress - the final look

Lessons learned : 

  • Don't leave the making of your wedding dress to the last minute. 
  • The petticoat makes the dress.
  • Always make your own veil, it takes 10 minutes.
  • Family is the best.

This post is dedicated to my Mom who has been an incredible support and help throughout this process.



  1. this is awesome. :) i hope to sew my own dress too thanks!!

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  4. Very impressive! beautiful, elegant dress

  5. Hi there!

    I work for 25/7 Productions -- an LA-based production company (The Biggest Loser, The Vineyard, Flip Men) -- and we're doing a new show about brides who make their own wedding dresses. I would love to Skype interview you about your experience making your beautiful dress! Would you be willing to do a little Skype with us? And/or do you know any other DIY Brides who'd like to chat? Please let me know if you'd like to talk! Email me at Thanks for your time! I hope to hear from you soon!

    Holly Golden
    Development Producer
    25/7 Productions

  6. I'm have one month left to finish my wedding dress and i was beginning to worried as i just made the muslin, i have yet to receive samples for the fabric and to choose THE fabric. So thanks for sharing your experience !
    You really did a great job !

  7. Good for you! The dress looks awesome and it's unbelievable how quickly before the wedding you finished it! Please, share some more pictures! My wedding is in May and I'm doing crazy stuff here as well ;) I'll let you know if I break my arm or something like that...

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