Why I’m Not Making My Own Wedding Dress

My name is Dani, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I can thank sewing for the “recovering” part. Most of us who sew can spot our mistakes from a mile away, even if they’re barely noticeable (or downright invisible) to others. Learning to embrace the imperfections in my work has been a struggle at times. But I’d much rather wear an imperfect garment than throw something in the UFO pile to die a sad, slow death.

Sewing has taught me to let go. Be zen. Choose my battles. So the neckband is a little wonky. So the fabric pools a bit at the back. Is it comfortable? Is it wearable? Then it’s perfectly fine.

It’s exactly this attitude that led me to make an important decision…

I’m not sewing my own wedding dress.

Now, some of you might read this and think, “DUH! No one in their right mind would try to concurrently plan a wedding, which in itself is a part-time job, and sew their own dress.” And to you, I reply, “My mom did!” But many of you sewing-people may face this same conundrum. (Maybe you already have.)

Since Marc and I got engaged last December, to sew or not to sew was the big question, posed both by others and myself.

“Are you going to make your dress?”
“Do you want to make your dress?”
“Do I want to make my dress?”
Could I make my dress if I tried?”

I was excited, confused, and ultimately filled with anxiety considering my options. First and foremost, I knew I wanted to try on some dresses to see what I liked.

Enter the Jenny Yoo showroom in Chicago. Cue a choir of angels, because holy hell JY dresses are stunning. I don’t want to give too much away (unless you see me and ask, in which case I will gladly show you pictures of my dress!), but JY had exactly the type of dress I envisioned myself in: a classic shape with a modern twist.

I left the showroom in love with a few dresses (one in particular), but I was more confused than ever. I’d always said that if I fell in love with a dress, I wouldn’t have a problem pulling the trigger and buying it. But some part of me still felt like I should try to make it myself. Sewing is kind of my thing now, ya know?! (You know.)

Here are the reasons I stopped should-ing myself and pulled the trigger on the best decision I’ve made since saying Yes to Marc.

There’s no way to foresee the finished product until it’s done.

For the 99% of us who don’t wear fancy gowns on a regular basis, they’re kind of a big deal. There’s something magical about a voluminous, floor-length dress. The thing is, you have NO IDEA how you’re going to feel in a gown until you try it on. What if my handmade dress looked cheap, or just didn’t feel right? The margin of error was too great.

Finding the “perfect” fabric felt like an insurmountable challenge.

I encourage you to Google “embroidered silk organza fabric.”

Did your head explode? I realized that if I really wanted to do this right, I’d need to either fly out to NYC’s fabric district or start buying a godawful amount of swatches from Etsy, Mood.com, and probably a zillion other online fabric stores. A wedding dress is all about the fabric. Which brings me to my next point…

It probably wouldn’t be much cheaper than buying a dress.

Luxury fabric can run upwards of $150/yard. Consider everything that’d go into this dress: practice fabric (muslin, cheap chiffon), patterns, swatches, lining, tulle/crinoline, main fabric, notions, and my blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a lot. Maybe less than I spent at JY, but maybe more.

What if I cut a hole into it?!

Nuff said.

I feared the dress would become my boyfriend.

I’ve never made a structured gown and rarely work with difficult, fine fabric. While I think I could have pulled together something nice, I would have felt obligated to really dive into learning about construction and maybe even commit to some classes. While this sounds wonderful in a lot of ways, I work full time during the week. I’d prefer not to spend every waking minute of free time working on or thinking about the dress. I’d like to, ya know, have a relationship with my future spouse as we plan this giant party.

My workspace is small and prone to dust-bunnies.

This is the straw the broke the camel’s back. I bought 10 yards of practice muslin when I was still in the “maybe-I’ll-sew-it” camp. Folding that ginormous piece of fabric was a two-person job, and I’m sure the fabric picked up dust, hair, and whatever else may have been lurking around in the basement of our apartment. I could not imagine how I’d keep luxury ivory fabrics clean in my dank, dark workspace. Don’t get me wrong, I love my shitty little space. But it’s not cut out for a wedding dress.

That night, I woke up panicky at 2 a.m., at which point I jotted down the bones for this very blog post. I had a rare moment of clarity on the subject of my dress: I felt obligated to sew it, but I didn’t want to.

Plus…

I found a dress that I absolutely love.

I went back to JY a second time and loved my #1 dress just as much—maybe even more. I felt confident, pretty, and, most of all, like myself.

When I finally said yes to the JY dress, an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m pretty sure that means I made the right choice! (It doesn’t hurt that I bought the dress during a 20% off sale—CHACHING!)

The moral of the story here: Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over something that should be joyful! If you want to make your own dress, GET IT GIRL. I’m sure there’s nothing more satisfying envisioning, creating, and wearing a once-in-a-lifetime garment. (This DIY dress is particularly impressive!)

If you don’t have the energy, time, drive, or emotional space to make it (or you just don’t want to!), that’s fine, too. We’re all doing our best.

Thanks for reading, and cheers to all you other brides out there!


P.S. You better believe I’m dreaming up some badass outfits to sew for my bachelorette party, shower, rehearsal dinner… what else am I missing?

alder shirtdress

Finally, I Made an Alder Shirtdress

Sewing this dress was a comedy of errors on my part. A series of unfortunate events. A big ol’ bag of brain farts.

alder shirtdress grainline studio

That said, it turned out great! I absolutely love wearing it despite my handful of mistakes. You can read about those later, but for now, let’s dive in!

grainline alder

The Details

Pattern: View B of the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Studio. I sewed a size 8.

Fabric: Rifle Paper Co. Tapestry 100% cotton from Oak Fabrics. I used the Natural colorway for the majority of the dress and Midnight for the collar stand and inner yoke. (P.S. The gold bits sparkle in the light! Props to my mom for picking it out at the fabric store.)

Alterations: Added 1″ at the waist and 2″ to the hem. I ended up taking in the side seams by about 1/2″ total, tapering to nothing at the underarm. I also added inseam pockets using this Colette tutorial.

Construction: Regular sewing machine for all seams and topstitching; serger to finish all seams.

alder shirtdress 2

alder shirt dress grainline

grainline alder front

alder collar

alder shirtdress cappucino

The Brain Farts

I’d like to preface by saying that I could have avoided all of these mistakes by paying a little more attention when cutting my fabric—and especially by sewing a damn muslin. But I convinced myself that I didn’t have time for that! So here we are:

  1. Left is right and right is left. As in, I cut the wrong right front and left front, so my shirt buttons in the “men’s” style: left over right instead of right over left. Apart from being a little awkward since it’s the opposite of my norm, not a big deal.
  2. I’m 99% sure I printed off the collar stand at a smaller scale, because it came up a little short on either side when compared to the sew-along photos and illustrations! I had to re-print the collar stand at a coffee shop when I couldn’t find it in my pile of pattern pieces, and I have to assume I didn’t double-check the scale when printing. Oops! Guess I won’t be buttoning it up to the top.
  3. I snipped a hole, albeit a small one, into the right front bodice when clipping the bias binding. I covered this mistake by flipping the bias binding to the right side.
  4. I tried to fix the back armhole/yoke gaping by easing in the armholes a bit after reading this tutorial. Unfortunately, this meant seam-ripping the aforementioned binding. It was all very fiddly and added a lot of stress to an already small seam allowance. The adjustment made a small difference, but I’m not sure it was worth the time. Live and learn!

alder dress gs

alder back grainline

alder brooklyn
This is how Marc prefers to pose for photos

The Verdict

Aside from some gaping at the back armholes, I LOVE the fit of this dress. I’m glad I took it in a tiny bit at the sides to give me a little more shape. I might tweak the location of the button across my bust after wearing this a few times, as you can definitely get a view of my bra if you’re sitting in the right spot.

It did me well in the sweltering heat of NYC for not one, but TWO days. My flight was canceled so I got a bonus day (not complaining!). Zero shame in outfit repeating with this Alder. I can’t believe it took me this long to make one!

allie olson coram dress pattern review

Coram Dress in Rayon

Who knew a woven dress could be so comfortable?! My new Coram Dress, designed by Allie Olson, is a complete joy to wear. Of course, it helps when the design has ease for days, and when you sew it up in buttery-soft rayon.

coram top and dress line drawings

Per the pattern description, Coram is “a boxy woven top or dress with cuffed raglan sleeves and shoulder and bust darts for shaping.” I’ve never sewn a woven dress with raglan sleeves, so I was thrilled to give this pattern a spin to help celebrate #CoramWeek and the launch of the paper Coram pattern!

Let’s dive in.

coram dress pattern review

The Details

  • Pattern: Coram Top and Dress by Allie Olson.
  • Size: 6. My measurements are 36-29-38, so I fall between sizes 6 and 8. Allie mentioned that this pattern is designed with a ton of ease, so I decided to size down to a 6.
  • Fabric: Art Gallery 100% rayon from the IndieFolk collection, purchased at Oak Fabrics in Chicago.
  • Pattern alterations: Added 2″ of length total, 1″ at each lengthen/shorten line. I’m 6’0″ tall with a long torso, so this is a pretty standard addition for me. For reference, the pattern is designed for someone who’s 5’6″.

allie olson coram dress

coram dress close

Construction

  • I used my regular sewing machine for all construction, except for finishing the seams of the shoulder darts. Those went for a very short trip through my serger.
  • I took the pattern instructions’ suggestion and flat-felled all the seams. If you have the time and energy, I highly encourage you to finish your seams this way. Pretty innards are so worth the time upfront!
  • I sewed the optional 1/2″ waist tie to add some shaping. I might also try this with a braided leather belt from my closet at some point.

coram dress binding

coram dress belt

Tips

  • Cut the neckband a little longer than the pattern piece, and for the love of god BASTE IT ON FIRST like the instructions suggest. I’m not sure if my final neckband ended up shorter or longer than the pattern piece, but when I first basted it on, it was gaping quite a bit at one of the shoulders and center back. I shortened it based on look and feel, and now it lies flat.
  • Double-check the placement of the bust darts before you sew them. Mine turned out a little low (but not so low that I could be bothered to rip them out and re-sew).
  • Spray starch and an iron are your friends when handling shifty fabric! (Thanks for the tip, By Hand London.) I made my own spray starch using this tutorial from Bren Did.

coram dress hem

allie olson coram dress review

My Favorite Design Elements

The shoulder darts add elegant shaping, and the sleeve cuffs are simple but surprisingly cute!

coram dress without belt

coram dress flat felled

The Verdict

Coram is a breezy dress that’s easy to wear and relatively pain-free to sew. Just take your time with the neckband and hem!

It’s a great pattern to showcase a large- or small-scale print. I’m even considering doing a kooky color-blocked shirt in the vein of this sweatshirt.

And that’s it, folks! What say you? Would you wear this style?


Indiesew provided the Coram Top and Dress pattern free of charge. All opinions are my own.

true bias nikko dress side

Nikko Dress

Some of my handmade clothes are total workhorses. An Archer that I wear once a week in the winter. Jeans that replaced a worn-to-shreds pair of Levis. My go-to house sweats.

true bias nikko dress striped

true bias nikko dress

true bias nikko dress close

This dress is not a workhorse. I made Nikko as a birthday present to myself so I’d have something to wear to my annual house party. And I love it. Sometimes, you’ve gotta make a dress that makes you feel like a badass, even if you know it’ll spend more time in your closet than on your body.

Read More »

grainline studio tamarack front

Grainline Tamarack Jacket

When I first started blogging about my clothes (in 2013!), I’d try to get a post up pretty soon after I snipped the last thread. That often meant snapping ill-lit photos in a dirty mirror, using my phone’s timer to take poorly composed photos inside my apartment, or nicely asking Marc to snap a couple pics on the way to dinner. (The latter always yielded the best results.)

The point? I cared less about quality and more about showing my makes to the world as soon as humanly possible. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I blog about a sewing project within a month or two of finishing. Sure, I give sneak peeks on Instagram, but something (freezing Chicago weather, work, social life, laziness) usually gets in the way.Read More »

driftless cardigan close

Driftless Cardigan

Per usual for me, December was a mad rush to finish sewing Christmas gifts: namely flannel robes for my brothers, lounge pants for Marc, and a Pendleton wool purse for my cousin. Anyone who sews knows how painstaking it can be to make a gift for someone for fear that it won’t turn out perfect.

When it comes to sewing for myself, I’ve learned to let go. To not care if that topstitching isn’t 100% parallel or if the invisible zipper is slightly… visible. It takes a lot for a perfectionist to surrender to flaws! But that chill attitude flies out the window when it comes to gifts. That’s why I was so glad I had time to squeeze in a quick palate cleanser for myself before our holiday trip.Read More »