This special dress was based on view A of Simplicity 1814. I chose this pattern for the lovely two-piece tulip-like raglan sleeve with tucked neckline detail. It is hard to appreciate the sleeve detail on the envelope and line drawings, but it was a great feature when finished and made the dress look fancier than an average “homemade” dress.
When I finally got down to the business of dismembering and harvesting materials from the wedding dress (what sort of project would it be if it didn’t involve a little destruction?), I stopped for a moment to appreciate one of my favorite parts… a small but important alteration my mom made to my wedding dress. The dress that arrived after the ordering process had one “too pointy” princess seam at the bust. It looked weird. Rather than paying insane sums of money I didn’t have as a college student, my skilled mom dove into the depths of this dress bodice herself and rescued the seam. She took out about 1/2”. The end result was perfect fit! I was (and still am) very grateful for her talents and care!!
I really had to psych myself up to start cutting out the dress pieces. It was much more of a mental block than the process of cutting up the wedding dress in the first place! I tried not to be petrified of cutting pieces wrongly, but there is always that “I have one shot at this” idea floating around the back of your brain. Turns out I DID cut a couple pieces with the wrong nap (honestly, not terribly noticeable with this fabric), but I had enough to redo them so I did. Phew! If you aspire to repurpose a wedding dress in this manner, I HIGHLY suggest you take a good close look at the fabric of each piece and MARK the nap or fabric direction on the pieces BEFORE you cut. Learn from my mistakes! I sure hope I did.
Based on measurements and the finished garment dimensions on the envelope, I made a muslin of the bodice in a size 4 for my 8 year old petite girl. It fit perfectly, but in order to keep her looking as old as she is, I added 2 inches to the bodice length and cut a size 8 skirt. I did not want this to end up looking like a no-sew tulle tutu so popular in Pinterest these days for all the 2-4 year old flower girls out there. The bodice construction was easier than I expected, once you figure out which direction to fold the tucks. There may be room for debate here, but I folded them all towards the front of the sleeves, as you can see in the pictures below. It looked right to me. The main fabric was a satin, the reverse side was a nice matte that made up the wedding dress skirt. The chiffon overskirt of the original wedding dress was not usable (and I was going for a fluffier dress anyway), so I picked up some white matte organza for the First Communion dress overskirt. Here you can see the shape of the sleeves much better than anywhere else I looked in the interwebs. Really, really nice detail, and it did not disappoint after sewing. If you are sewing this pattern too, note that the tucks are tacked at the end of the fold. I almost missed this part. I made those tacks invisible, but the pattern doesn’t stipulate that.
I did the zipper differently since I used a “real” organza overskirt instead of simple lapped pieces of tulle like the pattern suggests. I did a deep blind hem on the organza. It took two tries, and I would do that part differently next time (horsehair braid, maybe?). Sewing the skirt pieces to the bodice was an exercise in patience and pinning. The skirt and overskirt are gathered separately, then attached simultaneously to the bodice. The lining skirt was attached to the lining bodice separately in order to fully enclose the zipper. I attached both the overskirt and the skirt to the zipper to avoid an unfinished seam that might ravel. It worked just fine, but it was a bit bulky in a way that no one but me will ever notice. I sewed the bulky seam and then slooooooooowly serged it to remove bulk and finish the edges. That also worked swimmingly.
I envisioned this dress having a flower at the waist. I made some satin flowers from the bits and pieces I didn’t need for the dress itself… the short story here is that you cut flower shapes and then carefully melt and curl the edges over a candle. There is a learning curve (can’t melt it too much, have to make the petals curl the right direction, don’t want to singe it and make it turn brown or black… tricky with white fabric!), but I have had success with this method for years. You can Google a million free tutorials for this if you want to learn more. I used some loose beads from the dress trim to make the mounded flower center. I sewed the flower to a pin back so that I could remove it if the dress ever needs to be dry cleaned (so far, so good). I made a matching flower for her hair but backed it with a circle of crinoline net to be able to bobby pin it into her hair. I hand sewed the beaded trim onto the dress right at the transition from the bodice to the skirt with a pick stitch. There was only one long piece of this from the wedding dress (and a bunch of shorter pieces from the neckline of the wedding dress), but it was more than enough to handle this little waist since it came from the waist of the original dress. It was my first time working with bead trim, and it was easier than I expected. I am particularly proud of the center back where the beading meets… *pats self on back*
I have not yet discovered a lot of nice places in our new house to photograph a dress on a hanger. Even a little one. I will have to work on that one since I have some me-sized dresses queued!
This project makes me so happy… I just relish the fact that the dress I wore on my wedding day – when I became the June bride and when my husband an I couldn’t even imagine such a lovely little person in our life - has become a special dress for her too. Her older sister wore a simple but elegant silk dress for her First Communion, and the part of me that wants to feel guilty for not making that dress is quieted by the fact that my older daughter does not like “being fancy”, and her sister often gets hand-me-downs. Two successful First Holy Communions, two very different dresses, two girls whose beautiful souls will never ever be the same. God has been good to us.