What I learned from sewing my own wedding dress

Two people stand in front of City Hall in Philadelphia wearing wedding clothes and matching white face masks.

If you are considering making your own wedding clothes, I highly recommend it! I made myself a faux jumpsuit (separate bodice and pants) and I made my partner's shirt out of the leftover fabric from my pants. You can read more about my designs in my last blog post

The best part of designing and making your own wedding clothes, in my opinion, is that you can make whatever the heck you want and have it fit you perfectly. As someone with complicated feelings about marriage and a strong tendency toward counter-culture, I felt relieved to be able to rely on my sewing and design skills instead of having to step foot in a bridal boutique.

Perhaps you feel the same way, or are otherwise looking for a fun way to express your individuality and unique creative point of view through wearing something handmade to celebrate a significant life event.

Here are a few takeaways that I learned from the process that may be helpful to you on your sewing and design journey:


#1: Give yourself enough lead time to experiment.

I started designing my wedding look a few months before our ceremony. To me, this felt like a comfortable buffer of time.

It’s important not to feel rushed, and to know that you have time to redo things if you have to.

That being said, I was definitely hemming my pants the day before our ceremony, but this is because I am a procrastinator and sometimes I work best under pressure! I intentionally finished everything else prior to the day before, though. Know thyself.

Ruby stands in her sewing studio facing the camera, holding up a bodice with a raw hem over her tee shirt to check the fit.

 

#2: You don’t have to use expensive fabric.

Sometimes there is pressure for a wedding garment to be the Most Special Thing You’ve Ever Owned™. There are a multitude of fabrics in the upper price ranges that are super appealing for bridal and other special occasion applications; delicate laces, beaded chiffon, and luxurious, shiny silks can be so alluring! If you live for this stuff, then by all means, go for it. But there is also nothing wrong with a wedding garment made from polyester, rayon, or something dug out of the dollar bin. 

I personally like sewing with inexpensive fabric because it lowers the stakes. I can afford to purchase extra in case I make a mistake. I don’t need to have a panic attack when cutting into $100/yard beaded silk.

Also, since wedding garments are typically only worn once, and sometimes not even for a full day, it might not feel worth it to you to shell out a ton of cash for luxurious fabric, and that’s perfectly ok. 

At the end of the day, people’s eyes will be on your radiant smile and joy, not the fiber content or monetary value of whatever you are wearing.

Several cuts of white fabrics lay stacked on a cutting table in a sewing studio.

#3: Purchase extra fabric if you can afford to, and plan to make a muslin mock-up/toile.

I bought about twice what I thought I needed for my design, just in case. I also recommended sewing up a muslin or toile to fit your design prior to cutting into your “nice” fabric, especially if you’re drafting your own pattern from scratch or using a pattern you’ve never sewn from before. 

Ruby stands in her studio wearing a muslin mock-up of her wedding clothes.

 

#4: Stay within your skill level.

It can be tempting to pull out all the stops and try a bunch of new techniques for a wedding garment.

We receive so much cultural pressure that indicates this will be the most significant and important garment we will ever own, and so it's natural to feel like it must also be the pinnacle of our sewing achievements! 

Assuming you’re also planning a wedding and responsible for a bunch of other stuff, this is often a recipe for disaster. Go easy on yourself, and find a pattern or settle on a design that doesn’t involve teaching yourself corsetry, beadwork, and lace-knitting from scratch. 

If you have the time and want to challenge yourself, think about integrating one new skill into the design that feels achievable on your timeline. Trust that you will have plenty of time and opportunities beyond this one garment to try new things and experiment.

Ruby is pictured from the waist up sitting on the ledge of an outdoor fountain. She is wearing her handmade wedding clothes and white plastic cat eye sunglasses.

#5: Clean your workspace and your sewing machines before starting.

If you’re going for a traditional white look, keep in mind that white fabric gets dirty so easily! Even small bits of dust and grease will find their way onto your fabric.

If you do get a stain, don’t panic. A small spot-treatment of detergent or a Tide-to-go pen might just do the trick. 

I got a small spot right on the center front of my bodice from removing a slightly dirty pin. At first I freaked out! But I was able to minimize it by rubbing the area with a dry scrap of the same fabric, essentially transferring it off of the garment and onto the scrap. If you look really closely, there is still a tiny spot, but I decided that it didn’t bother me.

Ruby is pictured from the waist up modeling the bodice of her wedding garment.

#6: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Remember, most people will not be getting up close and personal with your garment. In fact, you’ll probably only wear it for a day and most of your memories of it will likely exist in photos, which give a lot of grace. 

Did you notice that one button wasn’t perfectly centered on my partner’s shirt? Or that the stitch-in-the-ditch around my waistband was a bit uneven? I bet you didn’t! 

Trust that you and your happiness are the subject of the photo and your garment is mostly functioning as part of the frame.

Two people stand in front of the LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia in wedding clothes. They are smiling and sticking out their arms to frame the sculpture.

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