Wedding Graduate: Down To My Soul & The Dress

I’m so excited (wiggly here! excited!) to introduce the fabulous blogger Down To My Soul, to talk about the process of making her (stunning!) wedding dress. I try to present lots of wedding clothing options – wedding pants, custom dresses, family dresses, bridesmaid dresses as wedding dresses, and of course the great wedding dress hack. But it was really important to me to have someone talk about making her dress. I’ve noticed, as I’ve talked about the process of making my dress, that people find the idea of sewing their own outfit very overwhelming – like something someone very talented in a far off world, but not something that is realistic for them. Not true! The making of a dress is the act of creating a possibility, and it’s something that you can do if you have the desire to do so. So, without further ado, the inspiring Down To My Soul:
I am one of those women who never dreamed of getting married or wearing the ‘white dress’. I have vague memories from when I was younger of my mother walking me past bridal shops and commenting on the different styles hoping I would show some interest. Unfortunately for my poor Mum throughout my life (and only up until a couple of years ago) I was really very happy to never marry. My de facto status suited me just fine. It meant however when DB (my husband) and I did finally decide to ‘tie the knot’ that I was (at first) seriously lacking in ideas as to what kind of dress I might like to wear. I think I might be the only woman I know (married or unmarried) who has never tried on a dress in a bridal shop! I did know though that whatever style I chose I was going to make it myself. A number of considerations influenced my decision:

Throughout our engagement DB and I were adamant that our wedding was really just going to be a fun party with a bit of “legal stuff” at the beginning. We are a super casual couple and saw our wedding as a significant but very personal occasion that should reflect our outlook on life. We weren’t keen on all the formality and expectation that seems to come with weddings.
Out of all our family photographs, I love my grandparents wedding portraits the most. Married not long after the second world war they all wore civilian clothing and had simple ceremonies either at the registry office or in a local church with afternoon tea receptions at home. These weddings weren’t elaborate events requiring months of planning and stress, they were unpretentious and very pure celebrations of two people being joined in matrimony. The post war focus on frugality meant everything was either homemade or borrowed. This kind of approach really appealed to us. I certainly didn’t want our wedding to be cheap but there were a number of things I just couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on, especially a dress that would likely only be worn once.

Another concern of mine was wanting to know where my dress was made, I am aware that some bridal salons have their dresses “manufactured” offshore. I like to buy Australian made and owned wherever possible and was uncomfortable with the thought that I might be complicit in purchasing something that was made in a country where wages and workers conditions are not protected by law. Making my own dress made it more “mine” somehow too. Perhaps it’s because I rarely buy clothes new or maybe I’m overly sentimental but purchasing a dress to be worn on my wedding day seemed really strange to me, I felt that it needed to be my creation.Wearing my mother’s dress was never an option since it was destroyed in the Ash Wednesday bush fires of 1983. But including my Mum somehow in what I was going to wear was very important to me since she passed away a number of years ago. Doing everything myself gave me the ability to take my time and think about exactly what I wanted.

I’m only 5’2″ and have learnt from experience that big skirts and structured bodices make me look like a child’s doll. Same goes for lots of pattern and detail. I also didn’t necessarily want a dress that was any shade of white to begin with. I actually was thinking about a creamy coffee kind of colour but DB was wearing brown and I ended up falling in love with a gorgeous ivory silk. I have always sewn and have made lots of my own clothes but I was careful to choose a design that I knew I could make without too much hassle. I don’t know anyone else who sews so I wanted to be confident that I could do most of it myself. In the end I had to ask the dressmaker down the road to help me with the hem length simply because I couldn’t bend down and pin it whilst I was wearing it. On the whole though I didn’t have many other problems.The process of making the dress was quite meditative, I really enjoyed sitting down and working on it. Because DB was away for most of the time, I was able to sit quietly, think about our relationship and what I hoped for our marriage. It gave me the most overwhelming sense of satisfaction to finally wear it and know that I had sewn every stitch. I love it when I see other homemade wedding dresses, particularly those where other women in the family are involved. I really encourage other women to think about making their dress as an alternative to buying one.

Making your own dress can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. I recommend purchasing the best quality material you can find, if your fabric is well made the dress will just about make itself. That doesn’t mean the material needs to be new, I’ve seen some stunning vintage fabrics around. And sewing isn’t a special talent, it wasn’t so long ago that just about every woman knew how to sew! Family members and friends who can sew will love helping out and feeling involved. If you have a machine the job is infinitely easier and an overlocker (serger) saves time in finishing the edges. It is best to make a muslin (mock up) of your design first that way you can familiarise yourself with the construction and hopefully avoid any mistakes when it comes to making the real thing.My dress wasn’t expensive, it doesn’t have a designer label and it definitely won’t win any awards for perfect seams. But I do adore it, it was so beautiful to wear on a magical day that marked an important milestone in the lives of my beloved husband and I. Now I can cut it up, alter it, dye it and wear it out to dinner, maybe I’ll have it finished in time for our first anniversary!

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  • Jennifer.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this WONDERFUL article about making your own dress. I finally realized that if I didn’t make my own dress I would be foolish. I have two years till our wedding and have been sewing my own clothes for 13 years! This post just confirms that (plus your fabulous e-mail to me a few months ago when I couldn’t shake the bridal weight from my shoulders). Thank you again, your blog keeps me sane, and happy and even though I don’t know you – I love you for it.

  • Jen

    I can hardly sew a button but I really enjoyed reading this story — and dress is so gorgeous!

  • Beautiful. I love how you talked about thinking about the marriage as you sewed it.

  • Just wonderful and beautiful and so special…

  • i love their outfits.

  • I love the back! So beautiful. I have very basic sewing skills, but this post made me want to keep practicing!

  • such a great post. this dress is one of the most beautiful dresses i have EVER seen…it inspires me to learn to sew!!

    the wedding photos are gorgeous {love the groom in the vest only} and such a sweet note.

  • This dress is absolutely beautiful! I’m so amazed when people make their own dresses, probably because I’m really bad at sewing!

  • This dress is so beautiful!

  • Oh geez, I’m blushing!
    Thanks Meg you are a diamond :-)

  • i wish i would have seen read this before buying my own dress. i admit that as much as i enjoy making everything, sewing clothing has always felt overwhelming to me! i did end up hacking my own dress instead of spending money on alterations though, and at least the $ for my dress went towards a good cause. still, to sit there and enjoy constructing my own wedding dress while reflecting on your relationship just seems so dreamy…

  • I’ve always wanted to start sewing my own clothes, this just puts the icing on the cake. It seems like a win/win.

  • April

    Wow. Gorgeous gown, gorgeous woman. And what a lovely figure she has, too.

    I cannot sew on buttons, so it is awesome to see the talent in others.

  • I’ve never been interested in sewing my own clothes, including my wedding dress, but making “the dress” a reflection of yourself and your values is a beautiful thing and I applaud your talent! I, too, never stepped inside a wedding dress shop; I stumbled upon my dress online by accident, loved it, and bought it on sale ($140). It reflects my values of simplicity and thrift, and I also plan on hacking it up after the wedding so I can wear it again! Thank you for your wonderful post–this blog in general is a great opportunity to read about like-minded brides and realize that I’m not crazy for wanting something different in my wedding!

  • VERY impressed.

  • You were so brave to tackle making your own dress. I can sew but still would not have been comfortable making my dress. It came out beautifully.

  • Lovely…

    So happy to see other “home made” dresses around :-)

  • I love this post about an “unpretentious” wedding… and it looks beautiful. How lovely.

  • Cyd

    I absolutely love this. Further proof I must learn to sew so I can do lovely things like sew miniature dresses for hypothetical babies of the future.

  • gorgeous..I wanted a red velvet dress but other forces nixed that so I chose a lovely off white velvet..picked out a simple pattern and had it made..worked out perfectly..used a veil from my great grandmother..

  • Moz

    Your dress looks damn amazing and I *absolutely * agree about it mattering where and how your dress was made. Weddings dress manufacturers are notorious for having their dresses made in China or India and not being fair trade or verified as being non child labour. It is possibly the most dreadful thing about paying an extortionate amount of money for one, the fact that the people who made it (both sewing it or making the fabric that went into it) weren’t paid properly. In fact, it’s one of the worst things about weddings full stop.

    In any case, I know it was a long time ago, but congrats on your marriage!! xx

  • Clare

    “the Ash Wednesday bushfires”…yay for another Aussie APW reader, though I’m sorry to hear your family went through that. A lovely post.

  • Marchelle

    I’m so sad I missed this when it was originally posted. Beautiful dress, and lovely process.