Hannah and Pete first contacted me many many months ago to discuss Hannah's wedding dress and I was delighted to be involved. We started the process with no set idea of the finished product but a strong sense of style and theme. They had chosen to have a "Steampunk" theme and knew the colour scheme would be purple and gold.
After an initial meeting and emails back and forth with ideas, we decided the style would require unpinnings and that a corset and bustle would be needed to create the correct silhouette. So I got to work, measuring, sewing and fitting.
The corset was made from a pattern scaled up from a Victorian design, made in black coutil with a delicate pattern woven in to the fabric, with steel busk and boning.
The bustle is made from a firm woven, but lightweight cotton, with steel supports (you can see them reflecting in the flash). It folds like a concertina, which not only makes it easier to sit, but much easier to store too!
We were all very happy with the fitting so now on to the dress!
The first stage of making any garment is the mock up (toile). It is an opportunity to check fit and to an extent the style before committing to the chosen fabric. It's usually made from a calico fabric, although that does depend on what is being made.
Hannah's toile fitting was for the underskirt, which would be visible in the finished outfit, and the top section of her dress, the plan was to have a lot of draping in the bottom part of the dress, so there was no point trying to fit that as the calico wouldn't mimic the silk sufficiently in the way it drapes, to make it worthwhile.
At this stage I was able to make some minor changes to the fitting of the bodice to make sure it sat well on Hannah's frame. By now we were all happy (including Mum and Sister) so it was time to make a start on the beautiful silk we had waiting.
Sitting over the bustle but under the dress, the skirt is a complete garment in its own right and could be combined with other tops should the occasion arise.
Now on to the overdress.
Remember I mentioned draping? The dress needed a lot of length added so I had lots of fabric to make the luscious drapes that we had discussed. But how much? On the basis that more is more I added quite a lot. The section just on the floor is apporximately 4m long.
Answers to some common questions:
Yes it is a lot of fabric.
No it isn't very heavy because it is silk.
No it's not going to stay like that and need millions of bridesmaids to deal with it.
My next job was to create a pleasing arrangements of drapes and swags before the next fitting, Hannah might have freaked out had she seen this when she walked in!
Luckily she didn't freak out, she seemed quite pleased, in an understated, can't stop grinning way. I admit I was really very happy with things at this stage. There was a tiny adjustment to make at the back waist to show off Hannah's figure more, but basically it was doing everything we wanted.
The next thing to consider was the decoration, a combination of cogs, beads and rosettes was decided upon. Hannah sent me a design idea for some beading on the front, and after a few modifications, we finalised the concept and I got cracking with a beading needle.
One thing that concerned Hannah was that she might feel cold, with a wedding in November it was a real risk, and she does feel the cold. So the plan was always to make a jacket, that couldnt begin until the dress was almost finished. Again a mock up, or toile, was made, this time it had to be fitted over everything else, so that's corset, bustle, skirt, dress, and then toile. As you can see the back of the jacket needed adjustments but nothing that couldn't be addressed.
We also realised that the stay tapes holding the skirt in position needed adjustment, to prevent it wrinkling from the pressure of the draped dress at the back.
Now the jacket could progress!
We took advantage of the fact we were both attending an event at the same hotel and did a quick fitting in my hotel room, the dark "strap" you can see at the waist was a placeholder as the final part hadn't yet arrived. The jacket now fits smoothly across the back, and has gold contrast collar and cuffs and half belt at the back. After the fitting I added double buttons and chain to the jacket front, plus cogs to the collar and half belt.
There it was done!