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?

A Little Floral Number (Vogue 8904)

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I should know better than to sew a dress the day of a party. You could write a mathematical proof showing that impulse sewing directly increases your level of stress. But sometimes (who am I kidding, A LOT of the time) your fabric speaks to you.

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You have a serger now it says. I’m a thick, sturdy knit it says. You’ve already sewn this pattern twice it says. And so I listened. I listened and that meant I was sewing on a neckband and finishing sleeves and the hem barely 90 minutes before folks walked through the door for my birthday party.

It wasn’t all so haphazard, though. If I’ve learned anything in three-ish years of sewing, it’s that a little planning goes a long way when it comes to the finished product—and your sanity. Here are some tips for a speedy sew:

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Cut out multiple projects at once. I don’t know how I had the patience to cut out several different projects in one evening, but I did and this ponte double-knit floral dress was one of ’em. If only I’d gotten to sewing it before the morning of the party…

Pick a pattern you’ve already used. I knew this dress would fit without much fuss, as I’ve used Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8904 pattern four times now. A long sleeveless dress with panels, short sleeveless dress with panels, long sleeveless V-neck hack for Cruella, and now the short version with sleeves and no panels. (I’d link to it but the Vogue site gives a 404 error when you click through—it might be out of print…?!?!)

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Choose a fast sewing method. Sorry French seams and Hong Kong finishes! We’ll meet again some leisurely day. I used my SUPER FAST WONDERFUL serger for most of the construction of this dress and used the sewing machine to anchor the neckband and sew the hems.

Don’t rush the finishing touches. Listen, I know that my hems look better when I use a walking foot. I know it. But I let my pre-hosting jitters cloud my brain into 1). using a regular foot and 2). not busting out the twin needle. I used a ballpoint needle (I’m not INSANE, y’alls) and a zigzag stitch, and my bottom hem turned out a wee bit wavy for my liking. Note to self: Take the extra 3 minutes to attach the walking foot and thread the twin needle. Le sigh.

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Do you have any tips for speedy sewing? I’m all ears. And happy SPRING everybody! I’m embracing it with plenty of pretty florals and rosé wine. Actually, I drank rosé most of the winter, too. The gods of booze snobbery will have to pry my rosé out of my cold, dead hands.