Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 1, 2015
My Victorian Wedding Dress
Of all the dresses a woman may sew in her lifetime, I believe her wedding dress is her most important and most anticipated project. There’s something so meaningful and almost heirloom-ish about making your own bridal gown, as you know that this piece of family history will be cherished for generations to come. I know this to be true since I have my great-great-grandmother’s 1913 lace wedding dress in my costume collection! (More on that later!) Each bride can create a work of art that is a true reflection of her style and personality, and her gown is something she will always remember.
As a long-time seamstress and pattern designer, I always assumed that I would make my dress just as soon as I got engaged. No problem, right? You sit down at your sewing desk and whip out a big pouffy ballgown! Right? Um, not quite… You see, I never figured into my single-girl equation that once I was engaged I would want to spend all my time with my fiance… But that’s exactly what happened! I have to admit that when planning my wedding and looking at all my to-do’s before my wedding day, I had so much to do that I actually considered buying a wedding dress instead. I really seriously considered it! I felt so overwhelmed with needing to do my gown perfectly at such a busy time in my life that I literally thought I couldn’t get it done in time. And for the first time ever, I felt like my creative energy was officially zapped. But I am SO grateful to my parents who really pushed me to sew it myself, and reminded me that I would always regret it if I didn’t sew my own gown. Boy, were they right! I’m also so thankful to my dear friend Jennie Chancey of Sense & Sensibility Patterns who encouraged me along the way, gave me moral support, and watched my progress via the pictures I sent her. (Thank you guys, if you’re reading this!) 😀 Every seam-ripped moment, every single time I had to draft yet another version of the bodice, and every time I stressed over the placement of the details were SO worth it!! Yes, it was the most challenging time in my life to sew the most important project of my life, but I wouldn’t trade the finished product for anything! I’m happy to say that I made my wedding dress myself, and someday I hope my own grandchildren might look at my gown the way I pore over my great-great-grandmother’s dress and think, “I wonder how she did that?”
My Wedding Gown Inspiration
I’ve always had a great fondness for ivory and gold together on ballgowns. I’ve always known that I’d want a Cinderella, princess sort of ballgown. Something big and pouffy, but not so oversized that I couldn’t dance in it… Something elegant and exquisite, but not so overtrimmed that I’d get lost in the gown. I wanted narrow cap sleeves with puffing or flowers on them, satin roses, chiffon ruffles, gold trim, and a cascading train. I had always envisioned delicate netting lace, ribbon embroidery, and stiff silk satin. Overall, I wanted the gown to be elaborately Victorian, but without any specific year in mind. As it turned out, I’d place my finished wedding gown between 1895-1905.
The Wedding Dress Sketch
This sketch I drew showed how I wanted a v-waist in front and back of the bodice, a sweetheart neckline, puffy cap sleeves, and lace at the hem. While the bodice did change slightly along the way, the overall gown is remarkably similar to my initial design!
For the main fabric of the gown, I chose a pearly silk duchess satin (peau de soie) in ivory, along with yards upon yards of English netting lace, chiffon, and embroidered organza lace for trim.
This material is the same kind with which Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown and state evening gowns were sewn in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
A silk chiffon ruffle for the neckline…
A very bare, undecorated silk bodice before the sleeves were sewn on.
Gathering the lace trim for the neckline…
Here is the bodice looking *much* better after the ivory lace, ivory ruffle, and gold lace were attached. It’s starting to look Victorian!
The bodice had ruched and elasticized cap sleeves to allow my arms to move while dancing… My husband and I planned to dance “The Laendler” at our wedding, so it was crucial that the sleeves not rip out or restrict movement.
So much detail! I loved this bodice so much…
And I added a gold lace ruffle to the back of the neckline for an even more Victorian look.
With the bodice finished, I now turned my attention to the skirt. It is worth noting that I’d drafted the bodice entirely by hand, after many practice versions until I got it just how I wanted it. For the skirt, I modified an old wedding dress pattern I had quite a bit. In the end, I altered it greatly, but it did at least serve as a guide to go off of at first.
I LOVED the shimmery threads of embroidery on the ivory organza lace! Very regal, I thought.
Using nearly 15 yards of delicate English netting lace, I gathered, ruffled, and applied the lace trim to the slightly rounded edge of my train… It turned out to be sheer Edwardian frilliness! I was so happy!
The skirt, now constructed, looked very gorgeous and delicately light, but I knew it was not finished yet.
I added a two inch frilled ruffle of chiffon to the hem, and covered that with the same gold lace that I’d trimmed the neckline with. It was stunning!
On the day that I finished the skirt, it was around 1 in the morning, and my mother had kindly been hanging out in my sewing room for hours to keep me awake while I tried to finish the dress that evening. She snapped this photo of that point in the gown construction where you have so much fabric it’s hard to maneuver it through the machine at all!
And then, finally, it was done! It had been close to six weeks of sewing, not including the few weeks before that I spent drafting the pattern. I wrapped up the gown construction less than three weeks prior to the wedding, and I was so happy with the end result! 😀
When I tried on the finished gown for the first time, I gasped at how full the skirt was. “It looks like a Cinderella gown!” I said. While I couldn’t wear a hoopskirt for dancing reasons, I did wear a full petticoat that added a fair amount of “pouff” to the silhouette, and made me wonder how I was going to pull off dancing “The Laendler” (from The Sound of Music). But nevertheless, my gown was ready for the wedding and I couldn’t have been more thrilled! It was a Victorian evening gown, 1950s ball gown, and royal wedding dress all wrapped into one. <3
And since I already got married, I just have to share a few sneak peek pictures with you!
Here I was with the most special gown I’ve ever sewn, right before hair and makeup in the bridal prep room. <3 The shiny stiff silk satin, yards of ruffles, and delicate lace overlay made me feel like I was wearing an antique gown.
(Professional portraits by our FABULOUS photographer Kamirin of Crooked Stream Photography. She was outstanding!)
An Heirloom Gown Display
But my wedding gown won’t be the only one in the wedding photos! You see, I asked my mother and mother-in-law for permission to display their wedding dresses at my reception along with my great-grandmother’s gown from 1913! I am thrilled that I got to “curate” a miniature gown collection for the occasion ~ after studying in so many amazing costume museums in England, I just had to incorporate that part of my “favorite things” into the wedding day! <3
Lots more to come soon!! I’ll be sharing the entire timeline of the day, plus the rehearsal and reception.
Katrina (The new Mrs. Holte!) <3
P.S. Please do not use these pictures on any other websites as they are copyrighted. You may share them to Pinterest as long as you link back to this page, but otherwise they cannot be reproduced. Thank you!