I'd always thought I'd make my own wedding dress. I knew it would test my sewing skills, but I like a challenge. However, the experience of making 4 bridesmaids's dresses for my sister's wedding made me rethink the idea. Even a simple dress takes lots of work to make it look good, the materials alone cost a lot and I decided I didn't really need the extra stress. So, a complete DIY was out of the question.
Then there was the matter of what sort of dress I wanted. I toyed for a long time with the idea of knitting myself an off-white Elfin Bride with beads, and wearing it over a corset and swishy skirt. I still want to knit Elfin Bride someday, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't have enough time to knit it in secret and I wasn't sure about getting it to fit as I wanted. My weight's fluctuated a lot over the last couple of years and I wasn't sure, even with a corset, I could get the tight fitting look I wanted without it being too tight.
Enter Wedding Bee. Where I came across beautiful lace dresses. Of course I now can't find the ones I fell in love with, but they were all lace, long and sleek in silhouette, often with a deep v neckline, no ruching or weird pick ups, just yards and yards of lace skirt and trains. I was in love. I also had no idea how I was going to find such a dress in a bridal shop, let alone afford one. I didn't want to spend hundreds and thousands on a dress, but I did want to feel like a bride.
Thus, I arrived at eBay. One night, having had a brief chat with some friends about looking for wedding dresses, I decided to have a search on eBay. I was vaguely looking at lace and/or vintage style dresses, wondering what I could find. There were very few all lace dresses, in fact I think I only found one. It looked good, the right necklace and a gorgeous waterfall train of lace ruffles - just enough ruffles to make the back gorgeous, but not enough to overwhelm the overall shape. I bid, not really expecting to get it, but reasoning that if by some chance I did, if it didn't work, I'd resell it. A few days later, I won, and not even at my maximum bid.
A few days later, she arrived, folded up in a box, all ruffly and lacey and ivory and beautiful. I tried her on at once and was instantly in love. This was my dress, for sure! She didn't quite fit, in fact getting the dress to go over my hips was impossible, but I figured I'd lose some weight with 6 months or so to go. This was wishful thinking!
Over the next few months, I kept looking at wedding dresses. Not totally seriously, but wondering if I should have a back up plan in case my slimming into the dress plan failed. But my dress was still there, waiting in her box. I knew, however much I looked, I wouldn't find anything I loved as much. A month or so before the wedding, it was obvious I wasn't going to fit into my dress as she currently was. A drastic plan was needed. While looking up how to make a bustle, I found advice on how to let out dresses, including the advice to create a lace up back. Lightbulb! At that point, my dress had a zip with little buttons alongside it. Easy to do up, in theory, but less forgiving of a variation in size. A post on an OBB forum gave me exactly the information I needed to make a lace-up back happen.
With less than a month to go, I went home to my parents' for a few days, where my dress was being stored, shopped in John Lewis and my new favourite haberdashery MacCulloch and Wallis and set about making my dress fit. I took out the side seams, almost all the way down and let them out as far as I could, removed the zip and created lacing loops along the centre back seam. I was pretty desperate and not at all sure it was going to work, until the moment when my mum laced me into the newly altered dress for the first time and suddenly, it all came together. It wasn't a perfect fit, but was it good enough and way better than it had been at first.
When it came to the time to put on my dress for real, I felt gorgeous! The dress hugged my curves in all the right places, swished at the bottom and trailed behind me beautifully. At my mum's insistence I added some tulle to the front neckline, making it a little less decollete. On the day, I felt beautiful and I felt like myself. What more could you want?
In lots of ways, I struck lucky. I didn't venture into a bridal shop, apart from a brief look at Oxfam's bridal shop in Cambridge, so hadn't even thought about the shapes that suited me. I was shopping based on fabric, rather than shape per se, and didn't really realised how fitted my dress was until I got it. In the event, I think the mermaid/fishtail/trumpet shape suits me well. The style is Begonia by Marylise. The few photos I've seen online really don't do it justice. I'm so happy I had the confidence to do the alterations that needed to be done. The overall cost was much less than the fairly modest amount I'd budgeted for it and there's no way I could have made something similar from scratch for that price. I've not seen a dress like it in the weddings I've been to recently, which makes me quietly happy. So, even if I didn't make it myself, I ended up with a dress that was unique, beautiful and very me.
Photos by Dave Routledge.