Sew, sew lovely

A friend of mine was recently kind enough to give me her sewing machine. Now, I haven’t used one since I was about seven years old and that was just to sew a long patchwork tube which I fashioned into a giant stuffed snake. I do want to learn to make clothing but haven’t even turned the thing on. For the bride-to-be who happens to be an experienced sewer, however, having a sewing machine can mean walking down the aisle in exactly the dress you want. Because when you’re sewing it yourself, you can do just about anything as far as embellishments and such are concerned.

Reader Phyllis (who I’ve gathered is a highly accomplished seamstress) sent me a link to a number of highly attractive bridal gown patterns from the Italian pattern company Marfy. But, while these patterns are lovely, she warns that only advanced sewers should attempt them because they come with no instructions and the pattern pieces are not marked. They are fun to look at, though!

Sleek and sexy

According to the description, this pattern creates a dress with “a corset made of rounded oblique cuts at the neckline and bottom. Shoulders have a sash gathered with an elastic and, at the back, the V-shaped top closes with a string. The slightly flared skirt is enhanced by draping at the back and over-draped train.” I think this one is my favorite, but I do love the corset tops.

Something refined

This pattern, which is actually for a princess gown with a matching riding coat, gives the bride best of both worlds. An awesome choice for the woman who may have to move between AC and summer heat or heated rooms and wintery chills.

Old school style

I’m not sure if this pattern is for a bridal coat or simply a dress styled like a coat. But it has a rather neat early 1900s feel to it – especially those sleeves – that I really dig.

I think the coolest thing about these patterns is that you can re-use them to make formalwear using other fabrics and colors. Truly thrifty. Phyllis also recommended EvaDress, which has some super vintage patterns.

If you’re more adventurous than I am, you can also check out books like Bridal Gowns: How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams and Bridal Couture: Fine Sewing Techniques for Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear which offer techniques and tips for those daring enough to sew their own dress.

Good luck!

13 Responses to “Sew, sew lovely”

  1. Cassie says:

    My mom is an excellent seamstress and has volunteered to make my dress (*sigh* if I ever need one, that is). Her best friend is getting married in May and mom offered to make HER dress. And she said no and bought one from David’s.

    I could cry, you know.

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    Oh, that’s a shame, Cassie. If someone offered to make me a dress, I’d accept in a heartbeat. It would be so much more personal than buying something off a rack. And, it would be made in love or friendship and thus special.

    Even if you’ve not got a beau at the moment, no reason not to think about the perflect dress!

  3. Twistie says:

    I lucked out in that two of my bridesmaids were excellent seamstresses and one of them was insane enough to work with me to create the gown of my dreams. It was gorgous, fit me perfectly, and looked like nothing anyone else was wearing that year. I still think it’s the prettiest wedding gown I’ve ever seen. The fact that it was designed and sewn just for me by one of the coolest people on earth only makes it prettier. It also turned out to be a surpisingly economical move. My gown was pure silk with a matching full-length slip and handmade lace, but it cost about the same as a polyester/acetate gown with glued on trim from the JC Penney catalog.

    Cassie, your mother’s friend is out of her ever-loving-blue-eyed mind. Why have something off the rack when you can have someone make you something just for you?

    As for the patterns shown here, I think they’re all great. I particularly like the third one…but that’s probably because I know it’s the one that would be most flattering to me. ; ) They’re all lovely.

  4. La BellaDonna says:

    NtB, welcome to the Wonderful World of Sewing. In the interests of furthering lunacy, I direct you to Erin at Dress A Day for entertaining reading:

    Twistie, Cassie’s mom’s friend may have turned the offer down out of love. She may have found exactly what she wanted at David’s, and opted not to put her friend (Cassie’s mom) through the whole dressmaking process because she wanted to keep her friend. I made two fabulous wedding dresses one year, one for a friend and one for my sister-in-law, who unfortunately both picked the same date. The dresses turned out fabulously, and my sister-in-law was wonderful, especially considering she didn’t speak the language at all, so there could have been awful communications problems.

    The friendship, OTOH, no longer exists.

    The problem with a friend making a wedding dress out of love is that the bride, unless she sews, doesn’t really know the value of what she’s getting. It’s that simple. It’s like childbirth; you can’t really know it if you haven’t undergone it. You can watch it, you can read about it, you can admire the end product, but it’s not the same.

    Oh, and those Marfy patterns – OH MY GOD. $105 for a pattern? For that kind of money, I’d rather have Kathleen Fasanella draft a professional pattern for me (I’m not undervaluing her, she’s fast and she’s good). And that’s for a pattern without directions, without seam allowances, without a freakin’ picture on the envelope, and one size only. Puh-lease.

    *N.B. If someone makes a pattern to your measurements that fits you, $105 is chickenfeed. CHICKENFEED. But $105 for a commercial pattern which is going to have to be altered anyway? I think not. There’s many a pretty princess pattern which can be altered to create at least two of those outfits by anyone handy with a ruler.


    Arrange your schedule for the seamstress’s convenience. Show up on time. Bring whatever she tells you will be needed in terms of shoes and undergarments. Pay for materials promptly and cheerfully. Make sure you all understand what’s wanted and what’s expected of the dress, with many hand-wavings and pictures for explanation.

    Believe me, these will help preserve the friendship that prompted the offer in the first place. I know none of the ladies who come here would Bridezilla, because trust me, you don’t want to pull any of that with a seamstress who’s armed with a pair of shears.

  5. Never teh Bride says:

    That is WONDERFUL advice, La BellaDonna.

  6. Bacon's Mom says:

    I’m making my own gown. Crazy? Yes. Exactly what I want? You bet. I spliced two patterns to come up with a reproduction 1880 bustle ball gown in green taffeta and silver dupioni. I can’t wait to wear it.

  7. Never teh Bride says:

    Ooh, 1880. Now the people of that era, they knew how to make a dress that would knock your socks off!

  8. La BellaDonna says:

    Well, NtB, if you like those patterns, hop on over to the wonderful folks at, and peruse their choices:

    There are lovely patterns, whether you like covered-up, revealing, trains, plain, whathaveyou. And 99% of the patterns have sleeves.

    TV’s patterns are accurate and freaking fabulous. Speaking as someone who’s navigated the treacherous seas of Independent Patterns, there are a lot of dangerous lunatics out there with pencils and pattern paper who ought to be locked up for the safety of all mankind. Not so the folks at TV. Mind, their fitting system is different from the standard, but that’s what makes it good, IMO. Folks, I’m here to say that, 99% of the time, when you need to alter a pattern, you don’t split the inches difference and spread it amongst all the seams: some of you are bigger in the front, some of you are bigger in the back, and some of us are bigger just in spots. Unusual spots. If you (and, hopefully, the friend helping with measurements) measure carefully, the patterns will fit with a minimum of fuss; I had much less trouble fitting my SIL and her DD than I would have had with the usual commercial pattern. (Some folks seem to have trouble with the fitting; I suspect they may not be measuring properly.) My goddaughter, who had done a minimum of sewing, was able to make a beautiful brocade and velvet bustle dress on her own (well, some over-the-phone help) with those patterns. If you want beautiful, flattering, not-too-revealing wedding dresses, and would consider having one made, that’s the place to go for a pattern. (Unless you want a Regency dress, in which case, is the place to go.)

    FWIW, I plan to collect their patterns. Just to have. Even if I never make them. Except, of course, I plan to make most of the jackety ones to wear to work. πŸ™‚

  9. Cassie says:

    Wow LaBellaDonna, those patterns are great! I think I found the skirt I want for my wedding dress already! Are they combinable? I mean, if I like one skirt, and one bodice, but want a DRESS, is it easy to put them together? *has only made one, very easy shirt in her entire life and doesn’t know what’s possible to do with patterns*

    Actually, the reason mom’s friend desided to go with an off-the-rack was because she wanted a dress she could just decide on, buy, and be done worrying about it. Which makes sense, I suppose, and she’s happy enough with what she got. So I suppose it works out. Mom’s making her own maid-of-honor dress, though.

  10. La BellaDonna says:

    Cassie, absolutely you can combine a top and a skirt to make a dress! That’s what was done through the majority of the 19th century; what we would nowadays call a “two-piece dress.” The difference between what we would consider a “dress” and the TV dresses is that most of TV’s top-and-skirt combinations aren’t stitched together at the waist; they’re worn as, well, a top and skirt (as they were in the 19thC). I suggest you go through their website at your leisure to see the endless combinations possible. There are plenty of photographs of actual people in the actual garments they’ve made, and a good many of them didn’t have all that much sewing experience. The site is broken up into sections; generally speaking, the tops that work best with skirts will be in that section (i.e., 1870’s tops with 1870’s skirts), but you may certainly combine them as you please. To make your life simpler: if you like the look of a specific outfit, DO wear the proper undergarments to get that effect, and get them before you make the dress. You get or make the undergarments first, and then you make the dress. Fittings are done over the undergarments. Many of the undergarments you might need are commercially available; my SIL got her corset and her petticoat that she wore under her outfit off the rack.

    If you’ve made a shirt, you can make one of these. πŸ™‚ If you (or your seamstress) makes a dress for you, insist on having a toile made, though. The “toile” is a garment made out of a less expensive fabric than your wedding dress, or “fashion fabric,” using the same pattern, but without trimmings (the structure, rather than decorations). All fitting changes are made to the toile, and transferred to the pattern, before the wedding dress fabric is cut into. Many seamstresses use muslin, which is an inexpensive cotton, and often a very good choice, to make toiles. I recommend using a fabric which will behave in the same way as the fashion fabric. My SIL’s dress was going to be in a very heavy satin, with a very fitted bodice and a full skirt; I wanted a fabric with more weight than muslin, so I made her toile in a soft brushed white cotton denim. Yes, basically it means making two dresses, but it’s really worth it in terms of fit and expense. Make certain you get MORE FABRIC for your wedding dress than you think you might need, and get all the yardage of whatever piece you’re buying at the same time; dye lots vary, and so does availability. You don’t want to wonder at 2:30 in the morning as you get down to the stretch, “Holy cow! I just estimated what I’d need for a train! Do I have enough???” and then find out that although when you bought the fabric for the train, three stores had the same thing, now none of them have it all.

  11. Phyllis says:

    “*N.B. If someone makes a pattern to your measurements that fits you, $105 is chickenfeed. CHICKENFEED. But $105 for a commercial pattern which is going to have to be altered anyway? I think not. There’s many a pretty princess pattern which can be altered to create at least two of those outfits by anyone handy with a ruler.”

    This is a vast over simplification on the prcess of constructing a custom wedding gown.

  12. La BellaDonna says:

    Well, Phyllis, if you read my post again, I was NOT talking about constructing a custom wedding gown in that particular post – I was giving my visceral reaction to paying $105 for an uncustomized, off-the-peg pattern. How do I know it’s off-the-peg? Because it’s not a custom fitted pattern, that’s how. It’s also why I said paying $105 for a customized pattern, a freakin’pattern and not a dress, would be chicken feed. $105 for a custom-fitted pattern would be chickenfeed because of the amount of work entailed in creating and fitting a pattern. I sure as heck wasn’t offering to make anyone a pattern for that amount.

    For the two princess-line patterns shown above, however, you bet I can take a standard princess pattern (well, one of mine, because I want one that fits) and a ruler and produce the same thing.

    Believe me, I know what’s entailed in the process of creating a custom wedding gown, because I’ve been doing it professionally for years. Had you read that post fully, or my other observations, you might have realized that I actually do understand what the process of creating a custom wedding gown entails. I am somewhat stunned that you would describe what I’ve posted above as “an oversimplification.”

  13. Again I tend to agree. When you think about it from that point of view it makes complete sense to me. Of course this is just my humble opinion. Great thing about blogs is the fact I can express myself. Nice content here πŸ™‚ Mike