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The Bridal Time Machine

August 12, 2010

Throughout my years of sewing, I have stitched countless custom gowns for brides to wear on their big day, including my own. I always feel incredibly honored to be the person trusted with creating the dress that is so central to the moment that two people are united as one. In situations where I have the freedom to create a gown that has a historical slant, I am in total bliss. I adore historical costuming, and I think weddings that borrow style from times gone by have the perfect combination of flair and elegance. Here are two of my favorite bridal projects, created for two of my favorite people!

My friend Stephanie has always had that vibe that she's actually from another era. She's also cute as pie, so I have used her as a 1:1 scale doll on several occasions throughout the 14 years we have known each other. She's an incredibly good sport.


Back when Stephanie and her now husband began dating, I was flipping through a book of historical garments on display at The Kyoto Costume Institute, and I came across a photo of an incredible beaded gown from 1911. Stephanie and I were working together at the time, and I walked to her desk and said, "If you and Josh ever get married, I found your wedding gown." When I showed her the picture, she loved it and asked, "But where am I gonna get that dress?" "I will make it!" I replied.



I'll admit: at the time, I thought Josh was a rebound boyfriend. Little did I know, I'd have to make good on my offer! (I was thrilled to do it, though.) The dress was made using a silk charmeuse under slip and an overlay of english net, which I spent the next five months beading. Seeing her descend the grand staircase in the venue where she was married was worth every moment spent hunched over all those hundreds of thousands of teensy beads. Every inch of the dress was covered - some areas with clear, slightly opalescent seed beads to give it a bit of soft sparkle, others with more obvious pearls and silver beads to replicate the design we so loved on the original garment. She wore the dress beautifully, and it meant the world to me to have contributed to her wonderfully unique big day.

Carrie is another dear, darling friend, and when she first got engaged, I immediately wanted to talk about her dress. She and her husband are film buffs, so I began instantly trying to think of fun ways to borrow from classic movies to find the perfect gown for her. We even talked, at one point, of subtly referencing Elsa Lanchester's gown from Bride of Frankenstein.



Carrie wanted something unique, but she also wanted to please the members of her family who had envisioned something slightly more traditional. We talked about iconic movie gowns for a looong time. I have always thought Carrie would look divine in a Victorian bustle gown, and thankfully, I had a flash of inspiration and Carrie loved the idea. We decided to use Mina's red gown from Braham Stoker's Dracula as our inspiration, but we chose a subtle shell tone of dupioni silk instead of the red fabric used in the film. I altered some of the details to suit Carrie's taste and make it more wearable for a full night of eating, dancing and celebrating.



This dress had to be assembled from the ground up, meaning the lovely bride needed historically correct undergarments to create the proper shape for the gown and support the bustle. Under this dress she's wearing a Victorian combination (bloomers and camisole combined into one garment), steel-boned corset, two petticoats and a bustle pad. Yet she looks so relaxed! And I can vouch - she danced all night long.


The best moment of that wedding? Carrie's adorable mother Polly telling me I had created the perfect dress for her little girl. We had so wanted to please the fantastic Mother of the Bride, and we had. Mission accomplished!


Do you have a bridal gown project in your future? Are you a bride-to-be yourself? If so, I highly encourage you to take a trip through time to find that perfect look for your wedding day. It ensures a one-of-a-kind look and adds a special touch to the proceedings that is completely unforgettable.

Don't forget to check out our entire collection of Special Occasion Fabrics when you're tackling your next formal wear project!


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1 Comment

Your blog was wonderful - making your own wedding dress makes it all the more special - I was married in a outside hippie ceremony 38 years ago and made my own dress - It was the typical granny dress of the era made out of white dotted cotton. I finished hemming it the day of my wedding (talk about last minute rush!) It cost a grand total of $10 - $15 dollars. Combined with a crown of white daisies it was perfect.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly Frey published on August 12, 2010 10:34 AM.

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