Friday, May 27, 2011

DIY: Infinity Wedding Dress - Save Yourself Money AND Pain

I am really on a tear to share my recent do-it-yourself projects with everyone! This one is very close to my heart, as I decided to make my own wedding dress.

I was once like you. I wanted to keep to a small wedding budget, but I still wanted a killer wedding dress, and I wasn't about to cobble one together myself with bubble gum and paper clips. As far as I was concerned, the dress could take up 90% of the budget because, darn it, wedding pictures last forever. But then. Oh. God. I had a wedding-dress-shopping experience so horrible that it put me off ready-made dresses altogether.

First, let's talk about David's Bridal -- we thought it would the perfect place to look for a pretty dress at a reasonable price. When we arrived, the greeter barely spared us a watery smile. No one helped us look, which proved to be a great difficulty considering that signs everywhere warned that the dresses could only be touched by a handler. We sought out one such handler, only to be clucked at for not filling out an extensive questionnaire when we first arrived. We explained that the greeter had not said anything about it, yet we were still waived to the very end of a now-lengthy questionnaire-filling line. At this point, we merely walked out of the store, unwilling to give them our business. I do believe my bff used a few creative expletives on the way out - one of the many reasons I love her.

Fed up with the poor service at the big chain store, we headed over to a small, non-franchised bridal shop in Orange. They had a great selection of affordable dresses -- which would have been great, had they allowed me to try on the ones I liked. Instead, every time I asked about a dress hanging on the wall, the shopkeeper shoved a catalog at me and insisted I order one made-to-measure. I kept repeating that I needed to see a dress on to make sure it was flattering, but she just kept shoving that darn catalog at me. The last straw was when I asked about a dress I particularly liked -- she seriously looked me up and down and said, "That one is too small. It will never fit you." You can guess how that excursion ended (If you guessed that more expletives were involved, then you guessed correctly).

The rest of the day proved just as fruitless; either the prices were way out of my range, or the designs felt phoned-in, or the quality didn't justify the cost. I was tired, angry, and fed up with the process -- and it had only been one day! In the interest of sanity, I took matters into my own hands.

I knew my sewing talents were very, very limited, so I set out to find the simplest pattern possible, figuring that I could make up for the lack of drama with a pretty fabric. Google magic helped me find a pattern for a dress that only required one seam. Yep, only one seam. Perfect for me! Plus, this particular one-seam dress is called an "infinity dress" for its ability to twist and wrap and drape into a near-infinite amount of styles. I had to be able to find at least one flattering version out of infinity, right?

Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that I wanted white-on-white stripes for my dress. I couldn't find such a fabric online, so my friend and I headed out to Downtown LA's Fashion District. I had hoped to find something to my liking at their famous $1/yard stalls but, alas, my picky nature bit me in the backside. I ended up finding the perfect overlay at shop selling drapery fabric -- hey, if curtains are good enough for Scarlett O'Hara, then they're good enough for me. I found my lining fabric at another stall downtown, too.

Making the dress was pretty easy, albeit time consuming. The only thing that made it difficult was that I had to finish all the edges of my pieces with a rolled hem to keep my woven fabrics from unraveling. My own dress also used more than one seam, because it was full-length, double-layered, and non-stretchy -- but when you're elaborating on a single-seam pattern, you can't really go wrong. I substituted the circle skirt of the pattern for a quick hack-job of an A-line skirt, too, which resulted in a funky-cool curved hemline that I really adore. I just drew out my waist measurement, hip measurement, and desired hem width centered on the fabric, then diagonal lines to connect them all (and repeated for back of skirt and lining). I did a rolled hem at the waist and hemline of the skirt and all the way around the straps, then sewed the front and back of the skirt together along the diagonal lines, adding a zipper at one hip. After that, it was just a matter of attaching the overlay and lining straps to the waist of the dress.

All in all, I spent about $50 on fabric. Throw in $10 for the cost of a rolled-hem presser foot to finish the edges of my fabric, and that's $60 for a totally custom, customizable dress. Not bad at all... especially since it only has to hold together for one day!


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