"" the girl who makes things: The end is nigh - a sneak peek at the bridesmaids dresses

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The end is nigh - a sneak peek at the bridesmaids dresses

It's the beginning of the end! On 19th July my sister gets married which means one thing: I've got less than a month to finish off four bridesmaids dresses. Eeeek! You may be wondering why I haven't posted anything about this recently. Well a combination of factors really: a) I don't like posting about something until I've got the finished article and b) this project's been a grit-my-teeth-and-bare-it kinda project, which is never the most appealing thing to write about. Anyway, with the deadline rapidly descending on me like a car with the hand break off, I've managed to give one final push and get these darn dresses close to finished. And here's a sneak peak:

I'll do the grand reveal and dress bios after the wedding, but it's probably worth mentioning that, yes, that blue one is a BHL Anna dress hack and that lovely lace applique came from Minerva Crafts. I'm barely restraining myself from buying more lace and covering everything I own with it!

This project's been a labour of love and hard learnt lessons. When my sister announced her engagement back in May last year, I instantly said I'd make all of the bridesmaids dresses. A year seemed like an endless amount of time and I thought it'd be a great project to sink my teeth into. We started slowly. I sketched out some designs, my sister approved them and we bought the pattern and material. We decided to make each dress a different colour and use a different style bodice, three darted and one strapless. This all took a few a months to mull over. Then just before Christmas I started making the muslins. 

Unfortunately my muslin fitting skills left a lot to be desired back then and I didn't really know what I was doing. This was before I did Perfect Fit Craftsy course. Anyway, after fitting up all the muslins, the measurements some how seemed to shrink and I ended up with a set of very tiny pattern pieces which I used to make up the dress linings (I only made one muslin due to time pressure). Thankfully I already had a good bodice pattern which had been drafted to my exact measurements so I used this to make my dress.

Disaster ensued on 17th May. I decided to take the other dress linings along to my sister's Hen night and do 'one final fitting' with the bridesmaids. Well, the linings were so tiny, the bodice back pieces wouldn't even touch at the back. The dresses were so unrectifiably  bad that the only option was to start again. After a few tears, a bottle of wine and a deep breath I had to admit defeat for one of the dresses. I couldn't handle making all three, so we agreed to send one of them to a professional dress maker to take the pressure off. I also decided to retake all the bridesmaid's measurements (the originals weren't accurate enough) and chuck the idea of making a strapless bodice. 

In the past few weeks I've had my head down, and after starting again with at least two of the dresses and making massive adjustments to the other one, I've almost finished. Just need to insert the invisible zips now! So after all that stress, what have I learnt?

1. Think twice about making all the dresses a different design.
This isn't the kind of project where you want to go experimenting with different styles. I thought it would be fun to have a go at making a strapless boned bodice, but this would probably be better off as a project to do under my own steam. It's best to stick with something you know well.

2. Take the measurements yourself.
The bridesmaids, bless them, didn't take good measurements. People in general don't know how to measure themselves accurately. Most people seem to think that the waist is somewhere around the navel and the hip is somewhere just below it. Save yourself the hassle and do it yourself. And take as many measurements as possible, even if you don't use them.

3. There is a fine art to muslin fitting.
Yes, I learnt this on my Craftsy course. If you're going to do it properly you have to make sure that the muslin is perfect. The skirt, bodice and sleeves should all be fitted separately. It's worth geeking up on good fitting methods really.

4. It's ok to ask for help.
Why did I find so difficult to hand over one of the dresses to a professional? It was the admission of defeat. I felt like I'd let everyone down. But then again, I'm a normal person with a busy job and I can only do so much. My sister let me make the dresses because she thought I'd enjoy doing them. She didn't want me to stress about it. So in the end it was the right thing to do.

5. We're always learning.
There were lots of little fiddly bits I encountered while making these dresses which sent me into mini tantrums on a regular basis. There're tonnes of imperfections all over the dresses which I'll probably be scrutinising on the day of the wedding. Overall though, my sewing's improved and I've learnt a lot of new skills while making these dresses. And what's more I'm sure no one else will notice my mistakes as much as I do.

6. Personally, I couldn't go professional.
I've often though about sewing professionally, but after doing this, I don't think I could. Or at least not yet. Sewing is my relaxation method. I worry that sewing under pressure would kill my creative spirit.

So there we have it. The next time I post about these dresses will be after the wedding. I hope there'll be some cracking photos - from a professional photographer for once!


  1. 2... so true. I've experienced the pain of letting the recipient take their own measurements more than once!
    And good job on doing as much as you did! It's tricky enough making fitted clothing when you have the person available for repeated fittings, but when they aren't... I couldn't do that! I'm looking forward to seeing more photos!

    1. Thanks, you're so kind! I'll certainly post the photos once it's all over.

  2. They're looking great! Well done. I admire you.

  3. I'm making bridesmaid dresses for a friend's wedding too! The bridesmaids all live far away, I'm doing different designs for every bodice, and I suspect inaccuracy in the measurements. Luckily, there are only two dresses beyond my own, so I'm probably being overconfident, but I think I can do it. Here's hoping, anyway! Your dresses look lovely.

    1. Oh good! I'll start following you, I'd love to see how your dresses turn out. I think you'll be fine :)

  4. You're a very kind sister! They look gorgeous, the Anna hack in particular.

    1. Haha, thanks Katie, I hope I'll get a good reward at the end of it ;)

  5. Seeing them together is wonderful - a real rainbow effect, Well done!

  6. They look wonderful! Well done on picking yourself back up and knowing that you could do it! You should be very proud!

  7. The dresses look beautiful: I just did a google research, on the pattern because I want to take the Craftsy Class, that's how I found your project. My dress is going to be for a wedding as well and I am going to be the bridesmaid. Funny coincidence. :)