Happy Wedding, Happy Wife

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for. Here is the dress in action!

A million thanks to Stephanie Leigh Photography for capturing these incredible photos.

©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design

You can see the crazy way this dress actually stayed on. The longline bra first hook-and-eye-ed up, then the waist tape was tied in a bow, then the dress zipped, then the buttons were buttoned (because yes, they were all functional buttons. No silly button strips for this girl).

Yes, it was a pain to get off.

©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design©2016 copyright Stephanie Leigh Photography & design


Finishing Touches

Don’t be fooled by the title of this post; the “finishing touches” took weeks, and I still only got to a fraction of what I wanted to!

Initially I was going to bead all of the lace on the skirt, not just the bodice, but I threw that idea out the window after I realized how much time it took. I put hundreds of beads on the bodice alone!

Thank goodness for Amazon and JoAnn fabric which both have cheap beads.

I ended up using four different sizes of Darice beads on the dress (5mm, 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm). I found the smaller they were, the worse the quality was, but at that point I didn’t really mind.

I could have spent hundreds on beads and gotten good quality ones, but I figured I would be one of the only people to actually look close enough to notice.


I honestly didn’t realize how much the beads would change the dress. After I beaded the neckline, though, it honestly blew me away.


I still hadn’t connected the bodice to the skirt — which was good, given how impossible it would have been to haul the bodice around and bead it with the skirt attached.

Here’s the waist detail.


It’s true I beaded the dress in my car! Here’s proof. Thankfully the spring was nice enough that my fingers didn’t freeze while I sewed.

I’m also still finding beads in my car.



I removed all of the original bustling when I reinforced the skirt, so I had to come back through and re-do it all.

I did my best to keep the bustle ties where they were before, but since a lot of the bustles were ripped out, and I didn’t see the dress bustled, I had to do a lot of guess work.


One thing I didn’t plan for was that the weight of the bustled skirt would push the hoop skirt forward, making the dress stick out more in the front than in the back.

I never came up with a solution — but I also never used the bustle, so it wasn’t something I had to deal with.


This is what the bustle looked like from the inside. I initially marked the length of the ties and the location of the loops by hanging strips of salvage from the waist and pinning the skirt to it.

I later attached ties to these long strips so the bustle weight would be hanging from the waist instead of the skirt itself.


19 little loops sewn from green ribbon!


Pinning the loops in place.




I sewed the loops on with a zig zag stitch so it would pull on the fabric more evenly.


Once the bustles were in place and the beading was done, I set about finishing the zipper and tacking the bodice to the skirt.


So many pins.


All done!


That’s right. After months of work, with just that little tacking, I finally finished the dress.

Well, really my mom finished it. The zipper still wasn’t completely finished until two days before the wedding, when I begged her (in tears) to sew the remainder of the buttons down the zipper.


Sans the buttons my dear mother sewed on later.



Done and done

I’m more than 6 months married, and figured it was time to wrap up this blog and finally reveal how I finished my dress.

I left off with the new bodice my Maid of Honor and I made, along with the updated, simplified skirt front.

The dress form didn’t turn out to be as helpful as I expected it to be, but still helped a lot. Since it was vintage, everything had to be adjusted inside with wing nuts, instead of the nice twist dials no more modern ones.  I couldn’t get it into my exact size/shape, but it turned out extremely helpful in reinforcing the train and bustling the dress, which I address later.

My next step after the new bodice was dropping the lace to cover the weird “boob windows,” as I nicknamed them. I cut the lace at the shoulder, hand sewed in the new shoulders that I made from the sheer netting, and re-pinned the lace where I wanted it on the bodice.


There were empty spots on the shoulder and under the arm, as you can see here. If you look closely you can also see my basting stitches on the shoulders, which I did to keep the shoulders from stretching.

Despite the basting stitches, the netting still stretched and I ended up having to replace the netting anyway.


Initially I tried to sew the lace in place using the sewing machine. As you can see in the photo, however, the seam was very noticeable. I ended up ripping this out and hand sewing it all in place.


There were so many pins!! Needless to say, I bled a lot. Thanks, pins.

I forget if I mentioned it or not, but I specifically bought bridal/lace pins for this project. They’re thinner, and I think a bit sharper, which means they go into the fabric easier and leave smaller holes. They were great for this, especially since the fabric was old and weak.


All beautifully sewn in place! You can see how much better the hand sewing looked.

I ended up sewing most of the bodice by hand actually. the shoulders and lace were entirely hand sewn (mostly in my car over lunch breaks, actually).


Next, I moved onto putting the sleeves back in. If you’ll remember, I added beads to the sheer netting; knotting each one in place. By the time I got around to putting the sleeves in, the knots had loosened on a few beads, which was a massive problem.

I ended up using a drop of nail glue on the knots for each bead to reinforce them, and keep them from coming untied. It worked great, but made the inside of the sleeves pretty uncomfortable.

What can I say, beauty is pain 🙂


One sleeve in! Pardon my weird skirt.


Set in sleeves are a pain! Thankfully these went better than the set in sleeves I tried in highschool, when I sewed each sleeve at least four times.


Sleeve #2! I waited until the very end to put the buttons back on the cuffs, so they looked gross and floppy here.


Train Reinforcement

The next step was reinforcing the train.

I’d already sewed up the holes in the train (which were mostly centered around the old bustle ties), but the train itself was still really weak.

Step one was laying out the skirt so that the train was as flat as possible.


After I laid out the train, I lined the edge of my lining fabric up with the center seam of the train and measured out the total area of each side of the train.


Painstakingly pinning in place so I can cut it.


After I got the shape for the side seams and sewed the center seam, I put the skirt on the dress form (inside out), and draped the lining fabric over it.


I ended up using candles to hold the skirt taught to make sure I made the lining the same size as the skirt itself. That way the lining would be taking the weight of the individual layers, instead of the top fabric.


So. Many. Pins.


After HOURS of pinning, it was all ready to sew.


I opted to wrap the lining around the seam for each ruffle. One, because it reinforced the seam better than just sewing a single seam connecting the lining to the ruffles, and two (this was my main reason), there was too much fabric in the skirt to fit it under my sewing machine any other way.

This turned out better anyway because it did transfer all the skirt weight to the lining.


Finishing off the last ruffle!


I sewed all of the ruffle reinforcements, and then came back and wrapped the extra around the side seam and finished that off the same way. I decided not to reinforce the side panels, partly because there wasn’t as much stress on the fabric, and partly because I desperately wanted to move on.

I made the lining a little longer than the skirt to protect the hem lace from dragging on the ground as much.


This is where the dress started getting REALLY exciting. Up until this point, the dress had been in two pieces since I started, but I finally got to put them back together.

I started by pinning cotton twill tape around the waist of the longline bra (which is on the dress form under the bodice. Apparently putting twill tape around the waist of dresses is actually an old tradition, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I used the twill tape for a few reasons. 1. It was easier to pin the skirt to the tape than to the dress form. 2. I could sew the skirt directly to the tape and it would hold the pleats correctly, and then I could come back and sew it to the longline bra, and tack the bodice over it.

Here I’d just started measuring out where the side seams and front sections were going to go. The bodice ultimately overlapped the skirt instead of being sewn into a waist seam, so that’s why the bottom is turned up like that.


I had a very specific idea in mind for the way the pleats worked. I wanted them to open up as double box pleats at the bottom of each bodice point.

I didn’t measure anything here – everything was eyeballed, pinned, tested, and re-pinned until I liked the way it looked.


Things lining up!


After everything was pinned in place,  but not yet sewn.


Next I pinned the chantilly lace around the waist. It had been sewn along the bottom edge, but I wanted to wait until the skirt was the right shape to be able to get the lace to lay flat along the waist.


I had to put a few darts in the waist lace to fit the curve of the bodice. I repinned this again after attaching the skirt, and then hand-sewed it in place. Both along the top line, and also to the skirt.


The back area, around the zipper, was a total mess and I completely ignored trying to make it fit for the time being.


All ready to sew!


Side view!


I sewed along both the top and bottom edge of the twill tape to make sure that the pleats kept their shape and the tape was able to hold the weight of the skirt.

I also tacked the pleats in place in a few places — that’s what the awkward knot is in the middle.


Once the waist tape was sewn, I got to really try the dress on for the first time!! And yes, I almost cried.




Side view.


I couldn’t pin the waist lace while wearing the dress, so I had my friend put the dress on so I could pin it on her.

She was scandalized to be wearing my wedding dress, and kept saying it was bad luck.


The waist, all pinned and ready to sew.  Notice the cute little tuck on the left of the picture (AND THE BUTTONS ON THE CUFF!).


Back view.


Next up was the beading!