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?

Knit Inari Tee Dress

inari tee dress

Some sewing projects are a labor of love. Maybe you take extra care cutting a slippery fabric (rayon spandex: I’m lookin’ at you), or maybe you take the time to hand sew an invisible hem. For me, button-up shirts and silly, time-consuming Halloween costumes fall into the Labor of Love category. If you’re Morgan from Crab & Bee, your sister’s insanely gorgeous wedding dress falls into that category. If there’s an award for Sewing Goddess of the Year, Morgan deserves it. I don’t even want to know how many hours she put into conceptualizing, pattern hacking, and sewing that two-piece gown. All I know is that It. Paid. Off.

But, life is full of ebbs and flows. Sometimes literally: This week, my apartment flooded during a flash flood, but then I got a haircut I really like. See?! For every action there’s a reaction. Yin and Yang. Fire and Water. Easy and Hard. For every painstaking sewing project we put ourselves through, there is another satisfying, easy-peasy one waiting in the wings.

inari tee dress
“Can you get a shot of the split hem?”

And that’s where the Inari Tee Dress dress comes in. I spotted this loose-fitting dress over on Heather’s blog and immediately fell in love. I’d been meaning to try a Named Patterns garment for awhile now, and their take on the tee dress is just so chic. It’s got a cocoon silhouette that just skims the body, a split hem (cue googly eyes) that’s slightly longer in back, and sleeves with a permanently rolled up effect. Basically, this thing is crying out for Madewell-style knockoffs from the sewing world. (It’s our DUTY, people.)

named patterns inari tee dress

The Inari Tee Dress, which is a 2-for-1 pattern that also includes a crop tee option, calls for woven fabric or knit fabric with “slight stretch.” Since I wanted to do a test version before I cut into my precious tencel denim, I decided to do some serious stash-busting. The gray fabric is leftover from my Sallie romper, and the blue knit is leftover from a tank top I made for Marc and a knit Scout. It definitely has more than some “slight” stretch. To accommodate for this, I sewed the US size 8 with 1″ side seam allowances (grading to 1/2″ at the armhole) instead of the prescribed 3/8″. Anything more fitted might be venturing into bodycon, which would not be in keeping with the pattern’s slouchy, effortless style.

inari tee dress

Even now, the material clings a LOT, especially when you’re in the midst of a wind gust. Despite its clinginess, I love this dress and have already worn it a few times. The drafting of the knit neckband is pretty spot on (no gaping to speak of!) and construction was a breeze. I used my walking foot, a lightning bolt stitch, and ballpoint needle to sew everything together. To hem the bottom, I just used a simple zigzag stitch, flipping to a longer straight stitch at the side vents. Next time, I’ll understitch the rolled-up accent on the sleeve to keep the seam on the inside, and I’ll probably use a facing instead of a knit neckband when I sew this up in a woven.

Have you tried any patterns from Named? I’ve had my eye on the Alexandria Peg Trousers and Kielo Wrap Dress for awhile now. After Inari, I might not be able to help myself…