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The Big Project

January 26, 2013

I have a niece who is getting married. Well, that doesn’t really describe the setting very well. She is the oldest niece on my side of the family, we have only boys, and when she and her sister lost their mother as youngsters, we formed an unbreakable bond while working through the travails that experience held for each of us, and that brings us to this day. My niece is getting married. I love to sew, so I gently suggested that I would love to make her wedding dress for her. She agreed! For me, this is more than one person performing a service for another. My niece granted me the honor of making the garment that will enshroud her on the most important day of her life. She gave me the opportunity to achieve a lifelong accomplishment in couture sewing. We will share that moment with this one thing. A wedding dress.

So, since she is a photographer, I’m a sewist, and we both do a little blogging she also requested that I document this journey in both words and pictures. This is the first installment of The Big Project. Let me bring you up to date.

The first thing we needed to know was what kind of dress she would even want. Since neither of us had any experience, or had ever even put any thought into this, we decided to take a weekend and head to a bigger city where she could just try dresses on to her heart’s content. We determined we would need the whole weekend, so we booked a condo and loaded it with groceries to avoid the time it would take to go out to eat. She made a list of target bridal shops and mapped out our days. When I booked the condo, the sales rep doing the follow up call asked me some questions to define our stay and promptly told me he would put literature in our welcome packet about his aunt’s store because it was the best in the city. We went there first, of course.

The consultant asked some questions of my niece, staged a bunch of dresses in the dressing room and off we went learning how in the world one gets a 50 pound voluminously layered dress from a hanger and onto a person with the help of two extra people all in a 4 x 4 room. She found the perfect silhouette within the first hour we were there. We both loved it and she looked beautiful. In fact, time stopped for a moment and unexpected tears washed my face as I was overwhelmed with how her dad, my little brother, would feel the first time he saw her all dressed up like this on her wedding day. We were gushing over this perfect dress when we jumped in the car, and promptly decided there was no reason to go anywhere else. It was margarita time! We even had time to hang out in the hot tub and shop at Ikea before heading home.

That is how we started, and here’s what I’m up to now. The moment my niece agreed, I went online to order muslin for, well, the muslin. As it was Christmas time and I’m guessing everyone was making quilts, the lower priced yardage was difficult to find, so I ordered a cotton gingham with little daisies on it. I know it’s unorthodox, but it’s going to work just fine.

I also decided I wanted to make sure I had all the information I required to tackle The Big Project, so I researched for reference material and promptly ordered Bridal Couture: Fine Sewing Techniques For Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear by Susan Khalje. I kept reading that this book is the premiere book on wedding dress construction. It also has a forward by Claire Shaeffer, and her endorsement sold me on the book.  I was like a kid waiting for my birthday presents checking the mail every day until it arrived. When it did, I quickly glanced through every section and confirmed that there were no surprises. I was familiar with every thing she presented, but the details and tips will be invaluable!

My niece was so excited to hear I was making the “sample” dress out of this sweet gingham print she said she was going to save it, and even hang it at the wedding. I hesitated to tell her we would be disassembling it to use as a pattern…but alas, I had to. I promised that if it was possible, I would in fact (re)construct that sample dress with all it’s tailoring notes and indications on it so she could display it. I would be proud to do so! It’s such a testament to the thought and work going into this, and to the love sewn into every stitch when sewing for a loved one. I look forward to seeing if we can pull it off.

I went over and took all my niece’s key measurements – and then some, out of habit. (I measured for sleeves even though there aren’t any.) I came back to my studio and adjusted my trusty dress-form to her shape and size so I could get to work. Just on a hunch (and to save an ever dreaded trip to the store), I queried MVOPC to see if he had any pin stripe painters’ tape. I wasn’t even sure they make it. Yes, he did. My constant hero. I began outlining with the narrow blue tape the bodice of the The Big Project onto the adjusted dress form being very pleased with the results, and realized something. This is my favorite thing I’ve ever done in a long, long time. Now I will study my reference book and draw out my construction plan.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2013 6:16 pm

    Deb, I can hardly wait to see the final projrct com[leted and ready to embrace this beautifu; bride to be. Stephie is so foruate to have the dedication and skill of her talented auntie to make her wedding gown for her.
    You’ve undertaken a monumental labor of love for Stephie. I know she appreciates it from the bottom off her heart. I would love to see her Dad’s face when he see’s his baby girl in her weddig gown.

  2. September 19, 2013 6:24 pm

    We are doing a final fitting where her Dad will see her in it for the first time, and I am planning on catching that moment on my camera myself! Stand by. 🙂

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