All wedding day & most accessories photos in this post taken by Andrew Ferguson. See more of his work at www.goldengod.net.
Wedding DIYs can be wonderful, and they can be terrible. And sometimes with weddings, there is very little room for error. So imagine: it’s six days before you’re getting married, and you try on your dress for the first time. And it doesn’t fit.
That is what happened to me.
There are two important facts that begin this story:
Fact one: until two months ago, my parents and I lived 2,000 miles away from each other, and until months after my wedding none of us expected that to change anytime soon. They lived in Lawrence, Kansas, USA, I in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We saw each other once or twice a year.
Fact two: My mother is a brilliant seamstress. She made her own wedding dress, many of my brother’s and my childhood clothes, all of our (extraordinary) Halloween costumes, my prom dress and much much more. It has always been assumed by both of us that she would sew my wedding dress when the time came.
My prom dress – I was kind of obsessed with medieval princess at the time.
So, how do you make fact two (making my wedding dress) possible, given fact one (2,000 miles of separation)? Well that’s where this story begins. It was a multi-step process that involved a lot of snail mail.
The making of the dress
Step one: Jeremy and I got engaged just before Christmas of 2012, and just after Christmas we happened to have plans to see my parents and grandparents at my grandparents’ home in the Okanagan. My mom and I spent an afternoon at a local fabric store, looking at patterns until we found one with enough of the specific shapes and elements that I wanted that my mom could use the pattern as a base and modify it as needed. This was the pattern:
The dress was not meant to end up looking at all like the one on the pattern cover. But it would have the same overall shape in bodice and skirt, and a similar neckline. We would eliminate the sleeves altogether, add a sash (an obi, specifically), some lace and a veil. We bought the pattern and my mother took it and my measurements with her back to Kansas.
Step two: My mom made a linen mock-up of the dress, very loosely stitched and with markings all over it. She mailed this to me. I put it on, took the seams in and let them out where necessary to make it fit right, drew lines and marks on the cloth anywhere that I’d made changes. I sent my mom an email with written notes and photographs of the changes, then I also mailed the mock-up back to her.
Step three: My mom took the modified mock-up apart and used the segments as new pattern pieces. With these, she created a wearable cotton dress that would be the same shape as the final dress, but knee length (to save on time and material). She mailed this to me, to be absolutely certain we’d gotten the fit right.
Step four: I tried on the second mock-up dress, and called my mom about a couple of very small adjustments. She then started working on the actual wedding dress, which would be white silk.
Step five: My mom completed the silk wedding dress, and brought it with her (in her carry-on luggage!) when she flew up to Victoria, about a week before the wedding.
Step six: Six days before the wedding, my mom brought my dress over so I could try it on and we could do the hemming, which she’d have to complete by hand. She’d purposefully left it several inches too long so we could hem it to the right length all the way around. I slipped the dress on, pulled up on the zipper and…
… it wouldn’t zip up. The dress was not wide enough to zip up over the middle of my back.
It went up to a point several inches form the top, and it could latch at the very top, but between those points was an unzippable bulging hole:
Step seven: PANIC!!!
Actually, we stayed fairly calm, all things considered. My mom remarked later on how relaxed I, as the bride whose dress was in question, remained. I simply knew I had to stay calm in order to keep my mother calm, because if this was going to be fixed somehow, she’d be the one to do it. And I needed her to fix this.
We spent about 20 minutes fighting off a state of utter panic and brainstorming fixes. Then we sprang into action.
Emergency dress mod
Action 1: We booked it to the fancy local fabric store with all the high-end textiles, and bought a new piece of matching white silk. Because of course Mom had lots of scraps left over from making the dress, but she’d left them all in Kansas. Why would she need to bring them along, right?
We also ran our idea past one of the ladies working there, to see if she thought it was feasible. Educated second opinions were very valuable at the time, given our distraught state of mind.
Action 2: My poor mother had to pick out the top 6 or so inches of zipper (out of super fine silk, remember) without damaging the material around it. Then she cut those inches of zipper off entirely, tucked the raw zipper ends into the seams and stitched the whole thing back up again.
That Keep Calm meme was never more appropriate…
Action 3: Next, Mom created narrow silk tubing in eight short pieces and one very long piece. She made loops of the short pieces and sewed them to the sides of opening at the top of the dress’ back, where the zipper used to be and now wasn’t. Then she laced the long piece of tubing through them, creating this:
As always with my mother, she made it look rather easy and straightforward, but it was, in fact, a significant endeavour. It took her a couple days of very finicky work to get it all sorted and done, and THEN…
Action 4: THEN we actually got to do the dress’ hem, which was supposed to have been Mom’s only remaining sewing task that week. Here’s a rather silly photo of me in the dress and my mom on the floor at my feet, making sure the lining layer of the skirt is the right length, with the outer layer of skirt draped over her head. This is what glamorous dress-making actually looks like, y’all.
The answer to the mystery
In the end, my mom figured that the silk slid on her when she was cutting it, as silk is wont to do, causing her to cut the pieces too small. She knew this could happen, and thought she’d taken enough precautions. But our measurements were on, and the mock-up (of which the final dress was was a near exact replica in pattern) fit fine, so sliding silk had to be it. And no, no weight gain had occurred on my part, but even if it had it would not have affected this particular area of the dress. So that was also promptly ruled out. Poor mom, brilliant seamstress that she is, had made a foolish error the one time it really really especially counted.
Ultimately though, we were very lucky. If such a mis-cutting had occurred in another place on the pattern pieces (say, in the hips), there would have been almost nothing we could have done to fix it.
We also agreed that this unplanned, unintentional, emergency modification actually made the dress way cooler and more interesting, and frankly nobody would have known it was only there by accident if we hadn’t told them. But of course it was such a great story that we told everybody.
And on my wedding day, I looked and felt like the most princessly of all princesses.
Other details and accessories
There are some other (planned-from-the-beginning, fully intentional) details about the dress I’d like to mention as well. First, my mom also crocheted several yards of silk lace to go on the bodice and neckline, and to fully border my mantilla-style veil.
Pinned to the front of the dress was my “something old” – a little lace flower that Mom made from silk scraps from her own wedding dress:
I had some sewing to do as well: I neglected to stitch the comb onto my veil until the very last minute, so here I am doing that the morning of the wedding. Gotta get some crafting in every single day!
Also, because my mother is a genius, she found a way to give me a pocket. I cannot live without my chapstick on hand, and I always need a pocket for it. But pockets don’t work so well in a form fitting silk dress. So she hid one in the end of my obi:
I told you: genius.
Once my mom finished my dress and obi, her own mother-of-the-bride dress, the groom and groomsmen’s ties, the bridesmaids’ obis and some other bits and pieces, she had a bunch of scrap fabric and time left on her hands, so just for fun she also made clutches for me and for the bridesmaids. (The whole story of the bridesmaids dresses can be found here.)
Other details: For my shoes, Mom found me some on-sale just-the-right-size good quality green flats. Because why suffer through heels all day when your dress is too long for them to show anyway? I am terrible with heels.
When it came to our jewelry, we went exclusively handmade, and all off Etsy. My engagement ring, which I showed off here, was from the marvellous Etsy seller Nelly Van See. My wedding band, a simple white gold Moebius twist, came from Etsy seller June Designs. Jeremy’s wedding ring, an elegant combination of white and yellow gold, came from Tallie Jewelry on Etsy, which obviously seemed just perfect. My fantastic earrings were from Etsy seller Bend The Fish. And we got Jeremy a pair of flying duck cufflinks from Etsy seller oldtrekkie.
And finally, Jeremy’s suit and the groomsmen’s vests were purchased from the online seller Indochino, who took all the measurements and got things just right and caused us no last minute suit panic whatsoever. They also gave Jeremy the option of a monogram above the inside jacket pocket, so he had them stitch “Jeremy Petter was married in this.” Awesome.
AND THEN WE GOT MARRIED!!!
And everything was beautiful and perfect and Jeremy’s 3 year-old step-niece declared that I was “the princess” and did I mention we got married?