Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The search for a pattern.

In case you've been wondering (and I'm sure you
have over the Christmas break) the next stage,
in our DIY adventure is - da da! the pattern.

If you've ever made your own clothes, you will heed the importance of this. While I might have very strong ideas how I want this to look, I don't have the technical, pattern cutting skills to go it alone without just a touch of guidance and inspiration.

Luckily, I could spend days pouring over dress patterns so for me this was no hard task. For my beloved, it was slightly less entertaining as he was abandoned to share polite, sport-based small talk with my dad, while me and mum went
giggling to the computer to seek out some designs.

After a bit of searching, we happened upon So Vintage Patterns. If you've never seen it, I demand you click through now. It is dress-making heaven.

What we found there was a very exciting selection of lovely patterns. Having, on occasion, leafed delicately through vintage patterns in shops and market stalls, it's quite fun to have them all laid out on a handy website for you.

And so pretty! Take, for example, the 60s style at the top of the page. I'm loving the bridesmaid dresses, especially the open-pleated one with the bows.

I also love the way they label so many patterns with "So Audrey!" which, as already established, is definitely an aim here.

Then there's this gorgeous, short-sleeved, bows-on-top lovely on the side here (focus, naturally, should be on the bridesmaid dress which is the right length, rather than the bride which, although lovely, is simply far too long). What's extra cute here is that the neckline has a lovely heart shape, but it's still a high neckline. It takes it from little-girl style to quite sophisticated.
The only real problem is that it looks so nice in red, it's hard to imagine in ivory or white.

Another pattern which caught our eyes was this v-necked number at the bottom. This has something much-desired in our quest for the perfect pattern - ultra flattering, shape-defining princess seams. We also loved the v-neck which was open, but not too deep. Sadly, we then had the problem that it's covered in lace.

Now, I love lace, but it's not part of the plan - especially because there's going to be quite a lot more going on with this dress without plonking lace over the top of it as well.

Anyway, as lovely as all the So Vintage patterns are, there's also the small catch that, being vintage patterns, each is available in one size only. Patterns *can* be used as a guidance for bigger or smaller sizes, but probably by someone a bit more talented at doing so than me.

Don't get me wrong, if I saw the right one at the right size, I'd have grabbed it - and I'd definitely recommend the site as a source for any other brides going the DIY route or getting someone to make their dress up.

In the end, we decided to use some of what we'd seen on the site as inspiration - and source a contemporary pattern instead. But So Vintage definitely gets the props for pointing us in the right direction.

If you're interested in any of the patterns above, the links are below.

Friday, 10 December 2010


It's all very well, you may be thinking, wanting to make a dress. But what you need is a vision.

Well, you'd be right. In fact, vision is another reason why I've decided on the DIY(WM) (Do It Yourself (With Mum)) option. There are a huge number of wedding dresses for sale in the world. Unfortunately the vast majority of them are almost exactly the same, give or take a detail here and there. Strapless. Floor length. And, beautiful as they are, these are the two very things which I would never want in a wedding dress.

"Oh" you may cry "but there are plenty of designers who don't just do that". And yes, you'd be right - in fact I'm going to post about some of my very favourites soon. But in reality, I have sat through entire bridal fashion shows and been interested in only one dress out of 90. And it's only been because it was short. Not because it was what I dreamed of.

The thing is, I've never been a fan of floor-length. In fact I can think of only one occasion in my life where I've chosen a floor-length skirt (my sixth year prom) and it just... isn't me. My first thought was of a fifties, prom-dress style look - which you'd understand if you could see my wardrobe. Big skirts are definitely the way.

So when trying to explain this all to my
dearest, and initially horrified mum, I had to come up with some good ammunition and description. My mind, as it often does when trying to think of a simple explanation, went immediately to Grease. The Perfect Prom Dress - Sandy's dress during the dance off. And it's even white. (There will be plenty more Grease references in the future so if you're not a fan... sorry).

But what really swung it in my favour with mum was the Audrey Hepburn pic at the top. From her role in Funny Face, she has, as is customary for Audrey, the perfect look.

The dress we want to make won't be a perfect replica of either of these. But it will take the elements I most adore - the big skirt, the layered petticoats, and the overall sense of elegance - from each.

And if anyone shows up looking like Cha Cha, they'll be shown the door immediately.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Some historical facts to give you some context - aka why I decided to make my own dress

As with many things for little girls, it all comes back to what my mother taught me.

My mum and dad got married in 1970 (originally, I wrote 1969 but - oops - have since been corrected. Some daughter I am). In the wedding photos, she looks like Cher - not 80s, power-ballad, gun-straddlin' Cher, and not scary, immobile-face, do you believe in life after love? Cher - but natural, beautiful, long black hair Sonny-and- Cher.

Her dress was a beautiful, empire-waist, long, long-sheer-sleeved perfectly sixties number. It is perfect on her (once I steal a pic of it to post, you'll see). She used to have it in the house (she threw it out one year in a big clear out. I didn't find out 'til later and am still gutted) and I remember oohing and aahing at it when she first showed me. And you know what? She made it herself - as she never fails to remind me, for £5 out of curtain fabric. You would never guess, looking at it.

Another thing I remember from being young is a very specific sound. It's the sound you get when you cut a piece of fabric with the scissors against a wooden table and it's just about one of the greatest sounds in the world. It reminds me of watching my mum create our Hallowe'en costumes.
We would visit Remnant Kings in Cumbernauld Town Centre - an absolute treasure trove of different materials, stacked in long racks which towered above our heads. I would walk through, eyes wide at the colours and sparkle on display.

Back home, Crruuuuppt went the scissors along the table as she carefully cut along the lines. She would run it through the machine and suddenly out of a bolt of otherwise boring brown fabric you'd have a cloak for Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars being a lasting favourite in our family, my mum found herself making the same costume for my brother when he was six, as when he was 24).

A few years later, she taught me how to do it myself - how to cut a pattern, piece it all together, and stitch it up. Then three years ago she bought me my very own machine and I went nuts.
It can get a bit addictive, this making your own stuff thing. Imagine being guaranteed that your outfit is a one-off and there's no chance that someone else will show up in the same thing. And imagine that your clothes were all measured to fit you, perfectly, and suited to your style and body shape. What more could a girl want on her wedding day?

Anyway I always just kinda assumed that if and when the day came, I would follow in her footsteps and make something of my very own. So that's what I'm going to do - or rather, what we're going to do together.

Of course, we always add as a big caveat, if we mess it up, we'll just go out and buy one.

What's this all about then?

Hello there.

What am I up to? You may well ask. Well, the first point is, I'm trying not to turn into a total maniac. Y'see, I'm getting hitched next year and I've made a deal with another bride-to-be that we won't allow ourselves to do that. It's pretty important but easier said than done, I believe. So my theory is, I'm going to get scribbling here, so that I don't bore all my friends/colleagues/countrymen with all this wedding guff. Too much. So if you're a friend, colleague, or countryman, you can choose whether to read or not - rather than face me yibbering on into your face until next September.

The main idea is to write about the whole making the dress thing - because I just really want a good record of the creation process as we go along. See what I plan to do is collect all this together at the end and present it, as the story of my hard work, pin pricks and tears to my beloved. Because it's bizarre to me not to be asking his opinion on one of the most important outfits of my life. This way, he can see it in retrospect - and hopefully it'll show him how much it means to me, to get this perfect for him.

So that's the plan. Whether it works - we'll see. Stick around and find out.