Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on June 14, 2011
Consider this your free e-book on How to Make a Wedding Dress Like Kate Middleton’s! I was planning on publishing this as an e-book, but I would rather publish this article here for you all to read. Enjoy!
Copyright Edelweiss Patterns, 2011. May not be republished without written permission from the author.
When Kate Middleton emerged from her transport vehicle at Westminster Abbey, the world gasped! Many of us were expecting a typical strapless or mermaid style, so that gorgeous “princess” style gown which Princess Catherine chose was a refreshing change for those who are tired of every wedding dress looking the same. Within minutes, brides-to-be all over the world were asking, “How can I make a gown like Kate Middleton’s wedding gown?” If you are wondering how to sew a wedding gown like Princess Catherine’s wedding dress, – good news! It’s not as hard as it might seem. Whether you’ve had enough sewing experience to tackle the project yourself, or if you have chosen to work with a designer/dressmaker for your gown, we have some tips for how to get the Kate Middleton look for your big day.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that Princess Catherine was reportedly wearing padding at the hips to make the skirt stand out at the sides. This is a technique that women have used for hundreds of years to make the waist look smaller in proportion. She also has a remarkably small waist, so if you don’t have a teeny-tiny waist yourself, it may be a good idea to invest in an under-bust corset. It’s amazing how these two foundation garments can alter the silhouette and distinguish between an average wedding dress shape, and an authentic-looking 1950s figure. Never underestimate the difference that a good, firm corset can make! The ones produced nowadays are not uncomfortable at all, and they help you stand up straight and tall with good posture for your wedding day.
Now let’s talk about the dress details. If all you want is something reminiscent of Kate Middleton’s wedding gown, you can easily give a nod to the royal wedding by wearing a lace bolero over a strapless style wedding dress. But if you really want to go all out to achieve the authentic “Princess Catherine” look, talk with your seamstress about the following design elements. NOTE: SINCE WRITING THIS ARTICLE, BUTTERICK PATTERNS HAS RELEASED PRINCESS CATHERINE’S WEDDING DRESS PATTERN, BUT I RECOMMEND READING THE FOLLOWING STUDY OF THE DRESS DETIAL SO YOU CAN KNOW EXACTLY HOW ACCURATE YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR DRESS. If you would like to read more about the differences between this Butterick royal wedding dress pattern and the original Sarah Burton design, click here for comparison pictures and a detailed article.
Let’s start with the bodice. Unlike most bridal gowns that are shaped with princess seams, this gown had vertical darts which stopped at the bust point. This is rather a foreign concept to the modern eye, but it was a mainstay in 1950s fashion, and was much more flattering than the very round princess seams which can make women appear heavier than they would otherwise. Obviously, this bodice would have had the typical four or more layers in the bodice, complete with boning (spiral steel boning is a favorite of couture designers and dressmakers all over the world.) This inner structure makes all the difference in the world for a fitted bodice! The sweetheart neckline is seen in many evening wear patterns, and can easily be traced from a standard formal gown sewing pattern. In back, the neckline is low and straight, which again is typical of most bridal patterns on the market.
For the bolero, simply take a fitted lace bolero pattern with long sleeves and a high neckline and lengthen the front of it to come down to the natural waistline. Your dressmaker should easily accomplish this by laying the bolero pattern over the gown’s bodice pattern piece, then adding tissue paper to the bolero front till the two match up exactly.
Redraw the bolero neckline with a “V” shape that meets at the center of the sweetheart neckline. Since you will need to accommodate the dress’s back closure, keep in mind that instead of cutting the back bolero piece on the fold, you will add 5/8” to the side of center back and cut at that line instead. This will give you sufficient room to finish the lace fabric and add loops and buttons to close it in back.
Once you have finished the bolero construction, you will simply line up the bolero over the gown front, pin well, and hand stitch in place using invisible stitches on the outside. In the back, you will need to tack your bolero onto the dress back neckline.
Princess Catherine’s dress had six satin-covered bridal buttons up each sleeve, so if you’re striving for authenticity, be sure to use exactly this number!
And finally, the skirt. The skirt was very full, with wide pleating in the front which can easily be re-created for your wedding dress. The pleats in back will take a bit more work to duplicate, and your seamstress will first need to decide if your train is going to be detachable or not. If it won’t be detachable, she will need to experiment with the pleating widths and flounces cascading down the back to get the look you want. It appears that the ruffly looking flounces were not separate pieces, but just sections of the skirt back that were finished on the top, but not sewn into the bodice/skirt seam. These were folded into wide pleats, left free from the bodice seam, and allowed to flow down the back. Alternately, you could construct a regular gown back with pleats and a train, and cut bias ruffles to attach down the back to simulate the flowery look of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress without complete authenticity and quite as much work.
For the dress, you will definitely need to combine patterns in order to get all the details seen in Kate Middeton’s wedding gown. The closest design that I have found is Vogue 8729. Before you say, “That doesn’t look like her dress!”, look again! This pattern would require the least amount of adjustments of any pattern on the market I’ve found in order to achieve the Princess Catherine look. Can you see why? This vintage 1950s pattern has the exact same darts, fitted bodice, and skirt fullness as Catherine’s wedding gown! All you would have to do is:
- Redraw the front neckline into a sweetheart shape.
- Redraw the back to be straight across the back, and a tad higher.
- Pleat the skirt instead of gathering.
- Add a seven-foot train.
You may see other articles online that suggest the Vogue 2979 pattern, but it is not at all authentic to the actual details. While it may have a train and bolero, the bodice is completely different, the skirt is straight, there are no darts, and it has a gathered midriff sash. It may look slightly similar, but it does not have most of the elements that Princess Catherine’s dress had.
For the bolero pattern, you have plenty of good options! Some ideas for bolero patterns are McCalls 4450 (View A), Vogue 2237, Kwik Sew 3516 View B, and Kwik Sew 3400 (narrow the sleeves at the wrist).
Wedding Gown Fabric – Official sources tell us that Princess Catherine’s wedding dress was constructed of silk gazar, which is a thin, but very stiff matte-finish silk. This material is not very common, so you could easily substitute a silk taffeta, silk shantung, slipper satin, or even silk dupioni for an absolutely stunning wedding gown.
Lace Bolero Fabric – Princess Catherine’s lace was made by hand at the Royal School of Needlework, so unless you have several thousand dollars to invest in custom-made lace, you will not find something that’s exactly like the royal wedding dress lace.
However, there is an excellent lace source that is producing a very similar lace specifically for “Royal Wedding Dress” reproductions, which you can view here.
Many French Alencon and Chantilly laces have similar designs, and these cost only a fraction of what Kate Middleton’s cost, I’m sure! The average price per yard is around $150 per yard for 36” wide lace. Just like Princess Catherine’s, Alencon and Chantilly laces have soft netting for the fabric, with small floral designs sewn on. If you absolutely cannot find any French lace you like, talk with your seamstress about taking a soft netting or organza, and appliqueing individual floral lace motifs onto the material.
Copyright Edelweiss Patterns, 2011 www.edelweisspatterns.com This article may not be republished in any form without written permission from Edelweiss Patterns. If you would like to print this off for help designing your wedding dress, you may do so as long as all copyright information is printed as well.