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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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