Handmade Wedding Dress: Part 4 - Creating the Skirt Toile

When I began this process, the last thing that ever crossed my mind was that creating the skirt portion of my dress would be as difficult as it turned out to be. Between my indecisiveness and then my inability to find a specific pattern (or even drafting instructions for what I hoped to achieve!) out in the world, I quickly became overwhelmed with what route I should take.

To start, figuring out EXACTLY the style I wanted was a challenge. Keeping my fabric in mind (silk charmeuse and silk chiffon) I wanted to create something that felt effortless and really flowed. Because I was torn on two silhouettes -- a circle skirt style VS a hip skimming style -- I turned to Arlen to gather his opinion on the matter. He was 1000000% in favor of the hip skimming style, which was great as it gave me a firm decision + I think I secretly was leaning towards the same silhouette all along. 

The next issue I ran into was…. How was I going to create such a look in such delicate fabrics? Both silk charmeuse and silk chiffon are fabrics that really don’t enjoy being handled very much. They look best when you let them be completely themselves with the least amount of style lines possible. Kind of a challenge when most hip skimming dresses gain their shape and contour from additional style lines, haha!

So, I did what I always do in any situation that leaves me stumped: I began researching. I googled and Pinterested silk wedding dresses until I stumbled upon the shape that I was after in fabric that looked like mine. I studied the style lines in the images and how the fabrics moved in the videos that I happened across. That’s when I remembered something : Bias cut skirts in silk are freaking GORGEOUS. They also skim the figure beautifully. 


Once I had this revelation, I pivoted and began researching bias cut skirts, evening dresses, etc. I kept coming up short (even in my favorite pattern drafting book, there was only the smallest chapter on bias cut garments!), until I fell down a rabbit hole of 1930’s evening wear.

Apparently, the 1930’s was the era of the bias cut dress. Madeleine Vionnet was said to have started this incredibly new trend of cutting her garments on the bias, something that had once only been reserved for cutting collars. This kind of technique, when used on the figure, created an effortless silhouette which simultaneously skimmed the curves while remaining ultra comfortable to wear.

That’s exactly what I want. 

However, 1930’s patterns are challenging to come by and can be rather pricey. I also don’t like basing my pattern purchases off of just line drawings or fashion drawings as they usually aren’t the same when worn on the figure. Plus, many 1930’s gowns are cut without a natural waist seam which is something I do want in a dress. So, as much as I loved some of the patterns I was seeing….

 

 


… it made more sense to draft my own skirt from scratch to ensure that I was getting exactly what I wanted. 

Just as I was about to begin the drafting process, I took a peek through my pattern stash (to see if there was anything I might be able to base my skirt design off of), and I stumbled on a wedding dress pattern that I had purchased way back when I thought I would be creating some sort of cowl neck design.

The skirt looked like it might be the perfect place to start and then make tweaks to when the time came. Luckily, I had some fabric that was eerily similar to my final fabric (I believe it is silk as well!) that I was able to just barely squeeze the skirt from. One of the panels wound up being pieced together, but that didn’t bother me since I knew this was a toile. 

I quickly sewed up the skirt, not worrying too much about any unsightly puckers I was causing in the seamlines, and tried it on.

 

It. Was. Perfect.

 

The shape of the skirt turned out to be exactly what I had envisioned! I got a quick glimpse of it on my body, but mainly I focused on making my adjustments while the skirt was on my dress form. It was much much easier to keep everything pinned in the proper place on her than on my skin!

The main thing I knew I would have to change was the waistline. This skirt was drafted for more of an empire waist top whereas my final dress hit me at the natural waist. To find the natural waist, I wrapped a piece of wide elastic around my dress form and marked it. I then compared my marking to the pattern’s waistline mark (Vogue is really good about marking the Bust/ Waist/ Hip area of their patterns!) and made the necessary changes to the pattern pieces.

Gah! I couldn’t believe how quickly my dress was coming together! At this point, everything was still very separate and I hadn’t gotten any strong emotional feelings towards my dress (aside from lusting after the final fabrics!). But then I went into Part 5 - Putting the Corslette + Skirt Together (Final Adjustments) and that’s when I started to have “the moment” everyone seems to talk about.  



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