Time to talk skirts! This is the last construction based post for the dress in sure you’re relieved to hear but if you’ve ever been curious about putting a zipper in a sheer skirt I’m sharing how I did it.
The skirt is a 3/4 circle that I drafted on Swedish tracing paper using an online tutorial. Each layer is constructed individually. The base is silk satin, then rose print, then organza. There’s also a satin lining layer facing inwards in liquid satin. All are constructed with tiny French seams. I agonized over this because the rose organza bias seams were hard work. No matter how carefully I sewed them or what tricks I tried they fought laying flat.
I made two skirts and picked the least wobbly, managed to steam them pretty straight and accepted the top layer would cover them better and the petticoat would support the seams. I think it’s due to the design being printed on top of the fabric because the floral areas are a lot stiffer than the sheer area so the stretch isn’t even. Not all fabrics behave the way you want them to. Safe to say the silk layers sewed beautifully.
I didn’t want all the layers joined at the centre back of the skirt so each layer is French seamed up to the zipper opening and then clipped at an angle to sit flat. Then I could turn all the layers under together for my lapped zipper. I know the above photo doesn’t look like anything but that was the point!! The clipping (at the rose area) is near invisible. The clipping at an angle helps prevent fraying and the organza softens everything making it look hazy underneath.
Hemming the layers was awful. Utterly awful! The different layers dropped in different ways and I had to decide if I would try and level them evenly or stagger them. I wore my full outfit and my bridal seamstress expert/bridesmaid Charly came round and pinned all the layers to the same height. I then trimmed and did rolled hems on my overlocker all to the same length.
The problem with circle skirts though is that as they swish they constantly look slightly uneven. Multiple floaty layers make this more noticeable which is frustrating when you know it definitely IS even! But all you need to do is re-swish your skirt and things look better. My rolled hem settings took quite a while to work out as they needed to change a bit for each layer. They look identical above but the width and tension needed tiny tweaks. It’s very easy to get too close to the edge on a sheer fabric and then the rolled hem just pulls off so speed is the enemy. In hindsight I wish I’d levelled the layers off slightly staggered. It would have been hell to do but looked a bit better.
You might ask if the lining was necessary when I had a crinoline petticoat on underneath. Well I thought in case I took the petticoat off for the evening (which I did) or if I wear it again (which I might) it would be nice against my legs.
It was staggering 35 degrees on my wedding day so I decided to pop back to my room half way through the evening do. Run around in my underwear in the air conditioning and then pop the dress back on without the petticoat. Here’s me “rehydrating” below.
We’re on the home straight with wedding dress posts now. I hope you’re still finding them interesting!
I thought I’d share a quick peek of my test dress that shows how different my finished dress turned out.
I ordered the yellow colourway of the rose organza specifically for the test (So I’d get the effect but wouldn’t be too precious about the fabric… we’ll touch on prices in another blog post), plus used white duchesse satin underneath and white chiffon on top. On this test the under bodice is Simplicity 1606 and the skirt is a full circle I drafted myself. The rose was mounted onto the satin then the front and back princess seams of the bodices were constructed. Each skirt was assembled at the side seams but the layers were kept separate to allow swish.
Having never really tried draping before I first tried working flat, laying the bodice on my worktop. On the front I placed the pleats turned upwards, about 3/4″ wide and quite spread apart. On the back the pleats faced downwards. I then joined the side seams and attached to all three of the skirts.
It was a really revealing test. The white satin and chiffon was too bright and the pleating made me look very flat chested. The upwards pleats were definitely more flattering but they needed more curves and to be placed closer together. The full circle skirt was great for twirling but I thought it should sit flatter on my tummy. And you could barely see the print so I needed to find something more sheer to go on top. I have a little of the yellow rose organza left so it’ll be lovely to make something from in the future. (Though it’s not as nice as the pink).
I resolved to sit and think through the construction order more carefully and figure out if I could drape the bodice in one go rather than joining the side seams. Plus I had to work out how to install a zip into three layers of fabric!
In my next meaty post I’ll share the major part of the construction plus some videos of me making the dress.
There are times when I feel imposter syndrome sneaking in and I start questioning whether I’m really a creative person at all. I start believe that I can’t think up any original ideas; I just copy things I’ve seen out in the world and I don’t actually know what I want to sew or wear. This comes and goes and it helps to remind myself that I have drafted an original design in the past, I am inventive with fabrics and I only feel happiness when I look in my wardrobe.
And something guarranteed to make you feel more unsteady is a wedding and specifically a wedding dress. If like me you haven’t been dreaming about your ideal dress for years, there’s a sudden rush of confusion, pressure and indecision as you try and work out what to wear. I also know women who were rock-solidly confident in their dream dress until they were proposed to and the fear crept in.
Its a giant white dress… that isn’t really like anything you’ve ever worn before. What is actually going to suit you and what you’re capable of sewing might also not match up! And how often are we asked to create pattern instructions from scratch that result in a flawless finish???
It turns out, I couldn’t think up an original dress to make and I’m okay with that. Instead I went to several dress trials and whittled it down to one dress I really liked from Lou Lou bridal. I didn’t love it but I really really liked it. The way you can really like the possibilities a lovely pattern or piece of fabric holds. Then I thought about how I could tweak it and make it my own. Shortening it for sure, different bust gathers, a different combination of fabrics and a different skirt shape. I found a base pattern and made up the rest.
It has been a strange roller coaster ride: I found what was labelled rose voile curtain fabric online but what I actually think is the exact poly-organza fabric from the Lou Lou source dress. Ordered 5m too much silk organza and currently have no use for the excess. Made four toiles for fit and a wearable test. Nearly cried over the hem. Nearly cried over the zipper. And stabbed my fingers countless times.
It’s my dress, brought into being by these hands so it’s one of a kind in that sense and although I failed on an original design, I think I succeeded in testing my fitting, construction and time management skills.
I love my dress. Even though its not perfect… because can we ever sew THE PERFECT DRESS!? If you’ve managed to catch that unicorn please let me know in the comments.
So on Friday I got married to my favourite bloke in the world. We had unbelievably good weather, exchanged sweet and slightly soppy vows, laughed with all our friends and family, and danced the night away.
It was a joy to wear my handmade dress and see the mix of reactions from people who finally saw it finished as well as people who learnt during the day that I’d made it myself. Made of organza layers over duchesse satin it was floaty, romantic and a dream to wear. I wanted to feel like I’d stepped out of a vintage Dior photo shoot and it really felt that way when I stepped into the ceremony room.
My dress was all finished the week before and packed in a long garment bag, hidden from view. I started working on my frock before Christmas, testing toiles, deciding on Simplicity 1606 as the base, and draping a test dress to see how I could create the bodice effect I wanted. I practiced seam finishes and stitch settings and agonised over fabric choices for each layer.
In April I did the bulk of the work, with the sewing room door firmly shut and my playlist blaring. I redrafted the skirt and just managed to get the pieces on my cutting table. I spent a long time on the bodice and used every single entomology pin I had. Hemming the four skirt layers was extremely stressful and then lining up my lapped zipper nearly pushed me over the edge but as I handstitched my lining into place I knew it was going to be alright.
Everyone said to me on the day they couldn’t imagine what I was making but then they saw the dress it was exactly me, which was music to my ears. I’ll be sharing how I made the dress, tips and resources for future brides, and thoughts on the whole process throughout August. Like this post, a few will go up while I’m away on honeymoon but I’m excited to hear what you think when I’m back. So until then…
Lots of Love
Mrs Scarr xx