Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on February 27, 2012
How I Sewed Two Dresses in Under Twenty Hours
Well, it all started when my bachelor brother called home last fall to announce he had met this girl named Sophia – and had plans of marrying her someday. “Someday” soon turned to “this summer”, and in early winter we celebrated their engagement. Their wedding date was set for August 4, 2012…
Fast forward from their engagement in early January to just one month later, and we were now dealing with an engaged couple who would much rather be getting married that week! They were determined to save even their first kiss for marriage, so six months seemed like forever to them. “I don’t care if I have to get married in jeans and a t-shirt – I just want to get married!” said the bride-to-be. I knew there was no way I would ever let this girl go without a wedding dress, but I’ll admit that I was a little relieved to hear that her parents were bringing the David’s Bridal gown of choice on the airplane for the wedding (which we had just two days to plan!).
On such short notice we hardly had time to pick a suitable wedding location, but there was one church where a friend of ours attends that was open for that Friday evening. My parents quickly arranged all the necessary details to pull the whole thing off in two days, and within a few hours they had scheduled the church, photographer, videographer, wedding coordinator, pianist, and decorations. Since they were handling the main logistics of the event, my goal was to make sure we all had suitable dresses for the occasion.
My mother’s dress (an elegant copper-colored taffeta gown which was dripping with ruching and beading), was about four inches lower than what she likes to wear, so I raced off to the fabric store and purchased a hand-beaded medallion in matching shades of gold and copper. Placed over a “v”-shaped satin inset, it would be the perfect finishing touch to the gown both for elegance and modesty.
Since I was supposed to be one of the bridesmaids in the August wedding, (and since I was now the only bridesmaid in
the area as all of her friends lived in her home state), I automatically became the maid of honor by tragic necessity, which meant I needed to sew my dress rather quickly.
At the same shopping trip I picked up one of my favorite dress patterns, Simplicity 2442. This pattern has an empire waistline with a
crossover bodice that reminds me very much of a Regency era dress, although the wide ruched waistband gives it a clearly modern feel. The only problem with this pattern is that it is too low cut (I drew in the black neckline in the picture above), so I would need to do quite a bit of altering.
For the materials, I chose a royal purple heavy-weight satin for the main body of the dress, with an embossed pleated satin in the same purple color for the cap sleeves. Before I left the store, I stocked up on dozens of yards of necessary wedding decorations – white and purple tulle,
royal purple satin ribbon, white organza ruffled trim, and sheer purple ribbon for bows.
When I came home that afternoon, my aunt (who was also the pianist for the wedding) brought over her newly-purchased dress which was in need of a couple inches more in the neckline. It’s at times like these that I’m glad I always keep a good supply of stretch laces to fill in low
necklines! So together we chose a floral patterned lace from my stash which I sewed in by hand, and in just a few minutes the dress was completely modest.
By late that evening, my bridesmaid dress was about half-way done, and I felt that I would be done in plenty of time. Tomorrow, Sophia and I would have a leisurely day making sure that her hair, makeup, and fingernails were in perfect order …. Or so I thought.
At around 8:15 that night, the bride-to-be came into my sewing studio in a most dejected mood. She had just received a text message saying that due to an apparent health concern, the person bringing the dress was not going to make it.
Well, I couldn’t stand to see her so sad, and of course I always love a good, challenging sewing project, so off we went to the fabric store! “We can make it just in time – they don’t close till 9 o’clock!” I said. My parents came along to purchase the materials, and with a picture of
Sophia’s original dress in hand we raced through the bridal department choosing satins, tulle, and laces. While my
mother helped her decide on which tiara to buy, I dashed back to the pattern department and wildly flipped through the pattern books before concluding that there was no pattern on the market for what she wanted.
No problem! Patterns are just sort of a starting point for wedding dresses anyhow, so I chose Vogue
1095 which at least had the correct silhouette. Later on I would redraw the neckline, scrap the sleeve pattern, insert a seam at the natural waistline, and add two layers of overlay to the skirt. Since both the bride and groom wanted the dress to be more modest than the average strapless wedding gown, I would also make a basic cap sleeve (as shown in my Modesty Solutions e-book) and attach them to the gown.
Before leaving the store, we grabbed boning, crinoline, organza, and lining, plus enough Swarovski crystals to dazzle up even the plainest of ivory pumps. I will never forget how much fun I had racing through the steps of designing a wedding gown, and seeing how quickly the bride cheered up as she got to pick out any French laces and Austrian crystal jewelry she wanted! Oh, it was so much fun!
11:00 PM – The three of us ladies went upstairs to the sewing room for some serious work! While the bride applied iridiscent Swarovski crystals to her wedding shoes, my mom helped me cut out the pattern which had to have some major adjustments to arrive at what we had in mind. I was thankful to have a big bowl of coffee ice cream nearby, and was sincerely hoping it would keep me awake that night. While I always pray that God will bless my efforts on whatever project I’m doing, I think this was the most “prayed-over” dress ever. I knew there would be no way humanly speaking that I could lose that much sleep to make two dresses from scratch overnight, alter my mom’s gown, take care of the ring bearer’s pillow, and look even remotely suitable to be in a wedding – in less than 20 hours!
12:00 o’clock midnight – The pattern had been entirely cut out, and I was making some final adjustments to the tissue pattern after doing several fittings on the bride. We redrew the neckline to be much higher for a modest wedding dress, but I added a very nicely shaped sweetheart neckline to the pattern.
1:30 AM – All the bodice fabric had been cut out for a long time by this point, and I had assembled almost all of the bodice seams. Since there were four layers to this boned bodice (fabric, underlining, interlining, and lining), there were plenty of seams to press! I would sew one seam and toss it on the ironing board where my mom would press it.
2:30 AM While I knew the bride would need to try the bodice on at several points, I finally sent her to bed since she needed all the rest she could get for later that day! Once I had attached the boning to the inner layer of the bodice I sewed all the layers together at the neckline very carefully (this was not an easy task!). Finally, I understitched all the seam allowances to the lining to keep the neckline laying smoothly. (Understitching also lessens the chance that the lining will “bubble” up above the neckline to where it would be visible.)
4:30 AM – I was assembling all the skirt pieces just as fast as I could, but pressing all those seams was not a short task! Since this gown was to have a slight train, the skirt was incredibly long. (Nevermind the fact that the heavy acetate satin didn’t take too kindly to being pressed!) Then I had to gather 15 yards of tulle into the second layer of skirt which would add a bouffant look to the gown.
5:00 AM – I realized that if the flowers would be glued onto the ring bearer pillow in time, they would have to be made first! So I whipped up three royal purple rosettes from my leftover bridesmaid dress fabric and glued them onto the ivory pillow with very strong glue. So strong in fact, that we had to put the pillow in the bathroom and leave the windows open!
6:00 AM – The skirt lay in three pieces – the satin skirt (assembled), the tulle overlay (assembled), and the French lace overlay which could not be attached until the bride had tried it on for length. The bodice itself was set aside and awaiting the lace overlay, which could not be sewn on until the bride had tried it on. Up till now I had been feeling wonderful (which is unheard of for me if I stay up late at all!). My mom had been kindly staying up with me the whole time to make sure I stayed awake. But finally I couldn’t make it any longer, and I fell asleep on the sewing room floor as the sun was just starting to peer through the window…
12:30 in the afternoon – I had just seen the wedding program, and somehow it was so amazing to see their names in print like that – it was a good reminder of why I was doing all this sewing, and why it would have to end by 6:00 that evening!
1:00 PM – The bride had tried on the bodice, and it was clear that I would need to take in about an inch in the waist. So I altered each one of the layers of the bodice, repressing the seams to make them look neat and tidy.
2:00 PM – If any of you have sewn French lace onto a bodice, you’ll know that you can’t just lay it flat and stitch it around the outside edges. On the contrary, Alencon lace with those intricate appliques has to be cut and shaped around the floral motifs to have it fit around the curves of the bodice. But on top of the normal lace shaping process, we had to cut a large chunk out of the center in order to have the scalloped edge match up on each of the sweetheart neckline curves. Then came the tricky task of sewing it all on invisbly, for which I used invisible thread to hide the stitching as much as possible.
3:00 PM – With the bodice set aside, we managed to pin together the heaviest skirt I have ever worked with! There were six yards of shiny bridal satin as the first layer, topped with fifteen yards of challenging tulle, and finally the overlay of four yards of $90 a yard French beaded lace! I tried my best to mark for the hem, but boy was it hard when the high heels kept getting caught in all that fabric!
4:00 PM – I was having a most difficult time sewing three layers of skirts to four layers of bodice! All those beads and crystal sequins were so very hard to sew over, and while I had tried my best to remove most of them from the seam allowance it was not an easy feat… Then I suddenly realized there was no way an invisible zipper would go through all those layers, so I sent the bride and groom off to the fabric store to buy a regular zipper as fast as they could.
It was right about now that for the first time in over 24 hours I actually started to feel stressed! “Oh, God, please help me! This is way too much work for one person to do!”
4:30 PM – Since I had done all I could do on the dress, I took the fastest shower of my life before diving into work on my bridesmaid dress. Thankfully it was partially assembled, but I was flying at top speed to get it done. In an unprecedented act, I left all the seams unfinished on the inside simply because I had no option timewise!
5:30 PM – My purple dress was finished, so I sewed up a panel for my mother’s brown dress just as fast as I could. After glancing at the clock, I called my brother to tell him I needed the zipper rather quickly. “Well, we’ll be there in about twenty minutes. We’re at another store right now.” “No, you don’t understand. I need the zipper now!”
6:00 PM – Barely in time, I got the bride into the dress and marked where I would need to put the zipper. I also pinned on the cap sleeves as fast as I could. While I sewed the zipper into the gown, Sophia got a garment bag and padded hanger ready. In her bag of supplies for the evening she packed up my make-up for me since I knew there was absolutely no way I could get it done between now and when we would leave for the wedding.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family and wedding party had been at the church for hours and were rehearsing the wedding without the bride or groom. : )
6:30 PM – After breaking three needles on my Janome while trying to make it through all those layers, I had to quickly change to my back-up machine to finish the gown up. The cap sleeves were sewn on with invisible thread by machine, and I sincerely hoped that the two layers of tulle would be strong enough to hold it all together for the ceremony….
The next hour is kind of a blur… We were driving down to the church with the most relaxed wedding couple I had ever seen. I was trying desperately hard to put on my makeup in the back of the car despite the fact that it was pitch-black outside. My hair was a damp disaster, since I hadn’t had a chance to blow-dry it after showering, so I tossed it up in a butterfly clip… Then we were dashing through the cold to get to the church, and running down the stairs to the dressing room. Flatirons and curling irons were heating with incredible speed, while I was trying to help the bride into her gown without the high heels getting caught in all those layers. Miraculously, we had brought all her jewelry, so while some other ladies hunted for her veil I helped her get her necklace, earrings, and tiara on… The wedding coordinator was at the door saying, “You have five more minutes”, and all the while I was trying to tell which bouquet was Sophia’s and which was mine…
Then finally the hour had come, and as if in a daze we wound our way up the curving stairway and into the back of the sanctuary we had never been to before. How I wished I had put my contacts in so I could see a little better, but I probably would have been too misty-eyed for them to help me anyhow…
When the pianist began “The Trumpet Voluntary” I watched as my adorable little cousin swished her purple velour dress down the aisle, and my ten-year-old brother (a miracle baby) solemnly carried the wedding rings up to the stage. As my turn came to walk up front I noticed that at least fifty of our close friends had managed to come out despite the two-days notice, and many of them had worn the wedding color of royal purple.
Then the audience rose to its feet as the bride strode beamingly down the aisle, and I was having a hard time deciding whether I should watch her face or my brother’s as she came closer…
Before I knew it we were all on stage, and I was listening to them take each other “for better or worse, for richer or poorer.”
The little brother that I remember as an infant was now promising to “love and cherish, till death do us part.”
Meanwhile, I was looking at the back of the bride’s gown and thinking, “Good grief! That dress was on the sewing machine less than an hour ago!”
I took the bride’s bouquet as she and my brother prepared to exchange rings, and I’ll admit that I did get a little teared up. My father was performing the ceremony, and while he’s done dozens of weddings over the years, he had never married off one of his children before. It was truly an amazing experience.
When at last he pronounced them, “man and wife”, my father explained that this was going to be their very first kiss ever. A couple days before the bride had alluded to the fact that they had something planned for this first kiss, but I hadn’t guessed it would be this original!
Since Sophia was a little shy about the whole crowd watching her first kiss, my brother swung her around to her left, and leaned over about halfway as she hung onto his neck. The whole audience roared with laughter as they had their first kiss out of sight, with the groom’s back to the audience!
It was undoubtedly the most joyful wedding I have ever been to!
The newlyweds were absolutely adorable, and they are both so photogenic that we didn’t have even one bad picture in all the hundreds that were taken!
After we all walked back down the aisle, the guests headed down to the reception hall downstairs while we stayed back in the sanctuary for some quick photographs. The main thing that struck me about Sophia’s appearance was that she just sparkled all over! It seems like pictures can never exactly show how something looked for an evening wedding, but believe me when I say that the gown was absolutely sparkly! The crystal sequins were dazzling in the church’s lights, and between her hairclip, earrings, necklace, tiara, wedding ring, and sparkly dress, she was exquisitely beautiful!
And here’s one last posed picture of the couple before we head into the reception:
Okay! Now we’ll see some pictures of the reception, starting with what I think is the most ridiculous tradition of all – feeding each other cake! Are the bride and groom not capable of putting cake into their own respective mouths? Does the fact that people get married mean they have to start acting completely childish while humiliating themselves in front on all the wedding guests? Well, I’m mainly joking, but I have never understood this absurd custom! : )
And when the cake tradition was over, I think we were all relieved. : )
And when at last the time came for them to leave, they newly wed couple were met with a chorus of cheers and clapping as they escaped to their car. The bride managed to squeeze her big, pouffy skirt into the vehicle with her before they drove off to their honeymoon, and I am told that the yards of fabric nearly engulfed as she sat in the front seat. Happily she remarked to her husband (or so I am told), “I look like a great big cupcake!”
I am so thankful that God helped everything turn out so well! It was an absolute miracle not only that everything got done right at the last minute, but that the wedding went forward without the smallest problem. You really would not have known that the wedding had only been planned for the last two days – I have been to weddings planned for several months that wasn’t as beautiful as this one! So while I can certainly understand why families would need longer than a week or so to plan a wedding, I am of the persuasion that maybe most modern weddings are really “over-planned”. I have worked with dozens of brides over the years, and the ones who start planning a year out are often more stressed than any other brides, simply because they have had more time to worry!
Of course the decorations, colors and flowers are important and meaningful for a wedding day, but when it comes right down to it the audience and the wedding party will really only be looking at the bride and groom, not what size bow is on the pew. Perhaps in all the preparations to make their wedding days “perfect” most brides can lose sight of how they should be preparing to say their vows, not just worrying about if all the bridesmaids will match.
So next time you hear of a couple that wants to get married right away, don’t panic! It really isn’t that impossible. With a little help from family and friends it can easily be pulled off in a few weeks. They say that 6-12 months is the average engagement time, but I’m sure many couples get things done in less time than that. And I’d be interested in hearing how long any of you were engaged for!