|(it's the wind that makes it look very uneven)|
When she showed me the picture I directly felt that it would probably be best to make a skirt and a corset combo. I got a budget of around $300 to work with, when it came to fabrics my sisters only wish was that it should be white and shiny. I really felt that if I was going to make a wedding gown, then I wanted to make it in real silk. In the end I decided to make the gown out of silk charmeuse, yes it would be a pain to work with but the flow of the fabric is just so beautiful.
Now on to the different parts.
Petticoat - this is actually the piece that took the longest time. I wanted to make a full petticoat in just silk organza, so I spent a month cutting up strips of organza and making a tiered skirt. After that month I realized that it simply didn't look full enough, when I had the skirt over it. Late one night I decided to start over, I cut up the whole petticoat, found a remnant of poly tulle in the stash. I made a row of tulle ruffles instead, and then I could attach all the pieces of organza that I had cut off from the original skirt were just enough to make a ruffle attached to the tulle. That took a lot of piecing of every remnant of organza that I had. I haven't hemmed the organza, but just used a satin stitch to bind the edges of it. In the end the petticoat is a very pieced things made out of fabrics from my stash and the 5 m of silk organza that I bought for the originally planned petticoat. It gives a lovely shape and to be honest it's actually the piece that I'm most happy about.
Skirt - The skirt is made out of 3,5 meters of silk charmeuse. Silk charmeuse is a tricky fabric and I thought and pondered about how I would be able to make a full skirt, with as few seams as possible. I felt that with each seam the risk for puckering and unevenness got higher and higher. In the end I simply used one long piece of fabric, so it's on the cross-grain, and then I gathered it with box pleats to the waistline. The box pleats gave a lot of spring to the skirt, and made it possible to make a full skirt, with just the centre back seam.
Corset - now making a corset with silk charmeuse is of course just asking for trouble, and I was fully aware of it. I used the TV110 pattern, but I raised the front quite a lot to make it fully cover the bust. She didn't want a busk so I cut the centre front pieces as one. My sister has a very large bust, but once again it shows how great this pattern is. I cut out the DD-cup pattern and it fit like a glow, or actually I made it a bit too big, but it worked great in supporting the bust and give it a great shape. My sister isn't used to wearing corsets, and she was very insistant on having straps in order to feel secure. I added straps made out of coutil, silk charmeuse and the very last piece of organza from the petticoat. I'm a bit angry that I didn't take a picture of the straps because I came up with my own solution on getting them to be placed to where she wanted it. Basically the straps are attached on the outside of the cup in front, and then they are placed diagonally towards the opposite shoulder on the back. On the back they are tied on through an eyelet. The result is a pair of straps that look like a halterneck from the front, but they don't put any weight on the neck, and they are adjustable with through the ribbon in the back.
The corset itself is made out of two layers of coutil, with the boning placed between these two layers. The goal was to make it look more like a bodice than a corset, so I didn't want to have any visible boning channels. The charmeuse was placed as a shell over the strength layers. In order to make it possible to even cut the charmeuse without it moving too much I first fused it to a layer of interfacing, more for the cutting than to make the fabric stronger. Despite this I couldn't quite get the parts to line up perfectly, so there are a few wrinkles on the corset, but I'm still very happy about it. For the boning I used the heavy spiral steel from VenaCava for the first time, except for the front where I replaced the busk with several spring steels and in the back where I also used spring steel around the grommets. I also used a length of normal spiral steel over the bust curve, since the heavy spiral steel wasn't available in the length needed. I used one piece of boning on both sides of every seam, but no boning in the middle of the panels. This isn't a tightlacing corset, so I wanted to make it as "light" as possible while still achieving a great shape. I'm definitely converted to using more spiral steels in my corsets from now on. The corset is laced through metal grommets with double faced satin ribbon.
Shrug - The shrug was the worst part to make, simply because I hate making sleeves. My first plan was to use a stretch charmeuse to make it easier to fit, but the stretch silk charmeuse that I ordered turned out to be more yellow than the charmeuse for the corset and skirt, so they didn't match. For the pattern I used an out of print Butterick pattern that I happened to have at home. This pattern has quite a noticable collar, that I had to remove, my sister didn't like that look. A bit of added complexity was that I had cut out this pattern back in the day when I wasn't exactly caring about transfering markings to the pattern pieces, so I had no markings to work with. For the sleeve this was of course a big problem. I made a mockup of the sleeve in cotton and it felt tight, but it turned out that if I cut the sleeve on the bias the same pattern piece fit a lot better and more comfortably. The sleeves aren't set perfectly, but among the best that I have ever done. The shrug also has a bit of extra in that I attached a piece cut from one of my father's ties to the cuff.
The whole outfit was topped with a tiny veil. It's an oval of silk organza, she really didn't want tulle in the veil because she felt it looked like a mosquito net, and bound with some silver bias tape.
I would have loved to put up a photo of me and my sister to also show what I made for myself, but we only got a photo by the wedding photographer with the two of us, and those pictures will wait until we get them.
Fabric: 10 m silk charmeuse, 1,5 m white coutil, 5 meters grey silk organza,
Pattern: Butterick 4451 for the shrug, TV110 for the corset, no pattern for the petticoat or skirt.
Notions: regular sewing thread, zipper, hook and eye, grommets, boning, bias binding, double faced satin ribbon.
Hours to complete: I tried to keep track of the time for this gown, but failed. In all I would say that on average I have probably worked 2-3 hours every day between the end of June and first week of August. A lot of this time was spent on the petticoat that I cut up.
First worn: The wedding on the 9th of August
Total cost: My sister gave me a budget of around $300 (2000 SEK), and I didn't keep the budget, but not with too much. I think if you count the fabrics and boning I was on the budget, but the notions and small things like ribbons and things like that made go over budget.
What I learnt with this projcet I managed to work with a very tricky fabric, but I'm most happy with a gathered confidence in making sleeves. They still aren't perfect but at least my sister didn't walk down the aisle in big poofy balloon sleeves. I've also realized why I will never take commissions or make things for other people. It simply wasn't as fun because I felt a lot more pressure for this gown than I have for projects for myself. It was a great experience and I'm proud of it, but I will probably never do it again.
As a bonus here is also a picture of the wedding cake that my other sister made, a lovely thing with vanilla cake and layers of raspberry mousse under a blanket of Italian meringue butter cream and sugar paste.