Friday, July 6, 2012

New Look 6723: Structure

Ducks are cute.
For the final installment in my wedding dress saga, I wanted to talk a little about the structure built in to the dress, as well as a few interesting construction tidbits. I won't go over every little detail, as that would bore you to tears, but if you'd like more details, I'd be happy to answer individual questions.
A wedding or formal dress generally has much more built in structure than does your average summer sundress. Although this dress isn't the most structured you'll see (no boning!) it does have some internal elements to help it keep it's shape, as well as to allow construction details to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The bodice consists of 5 layers; lining (Hang Free from Hancock's), underlining (Imperial Batiste), the fashion fabric (poly shantung from fabric.com), point de'esprit tulle to underline the lace (from Joann) and Chantilly lace (also from JAs). All of the layers except the lace were basted together and treated as one in construction. They were seamed by machine and the seam allowances were catchstitched to the underlining. In this case, the underlining serves as a structural component to support the fashion fabric, as well as hiding the catchstitches. The catchstitching secures the seam allowances and finishes them.
The lace layer was applied much later, after the skirt had been attached. The lace was hand sewn to the bodice. Again, the underlayers support and conceal the delicate stitching. The motifs were individually cut out and hand stitched to overlap across the seamline, making the lace continuous across the seams.
The bodice pieces were cut out along the scalloped border of the lace and the lace edge was placed to overlap the waist seam slightly. Again, the lace scallops were hand stitched to the underlying lace of the skirt as well as secured to the waistline.
The dress is fully lined, of course. Although machine sewn to the neckline and sleeve hemline, the insertion points at the zipper and armscye are sewn by hand. The lining is stabilized at the neckline with strips of organza selvedge.
Here is the sleeve, which you can see is lined to the edge. The fashion fabric armscye is machine sewn, with the lining sewn in with fell stitches by hand. This is my absolute favorite way to finish the armscye of a dress. I just think it is so beautiful.
In back you can see the zipper/button unit, as well as the sweet keyhole. The dress closes with a hand picked, lapped  zipper. The button loops are elastic and are purchased already attached to a gimp braid. I inserted the braid into the right side of the zipper lap as I was installing the zip. The buttons are sewn onto the zipper overlap.
To keep my stitches even when prick stitching the zip and applying the buttons, I used this awesome product which was suggested by some Facebook sewing friends. It is a 1/2 inch wide tape with measurements in metric and English printed on. Since my zipper lap was 1/2 inch wide, I just stuck it with one edge along the seam and placed my prick stitches every 1/4 inch using the ruler.
The skirt is layered much like the bodice, this time with 6 separate parts; lining, a net ruffle attached to the lining to add body, fashion fabric and underlining (this time poly organza from Joann), point d'esprit tulle and lace. The fashion fabric/underlining unit, tulle and lace layers were each constructed separately to allow them to flow over each other. They are all attached together at the waist and zipper only.
The fashion fabric/underlining unit is hemmed with horsehair braid. This adds structure and weight to the hemline, allowing it to drape nicely with still giving it fullness. The horsehair is stitched to the right side of the fashion fabric, turned under and catchstitched to the underlining.
From the right side, you can see the outline of the braid and the gentle curve it gives the hem.
The other structural component of the skirt is the layers of net that are attached to the inside of the lining. For this dress there are 4 layers of net, each one 7 yards long, which are gathered tightly and attached to the lining just below the zipper. This puts the fullness below the fullest part of the hip, giving the skirt plenty of flare without adding bulk to the hip line. A more traditional 50s style dress would have more fullness, and include layers of tulle or net sewn into the waistline to flare the skirt from that point, but we were going for a slimmer, modern (and not costume-y) shape.
Just for laughs, here is how I evened up the hem after the bias had hung out. I hung the duct tape dress form from a nail in the doorway so that I could easily reach the hem on all sides. The hanger I used inside the dress form rotates (a critical feature when you are making a duct tape form!) so I could just rotate the dress around and see it from all angles, making sure the hem was perfectly even.
I know you want to see how the dress looks ON the bride! I got a few not-very-good snaps of her when she came to pick up the dress. Hopefully, once she gets her bridal photos, I'll have some better ones to share.
This was such a fun project and I am so glad that I got to do it! I hope you enjoyed these little tidbits. I'll answer questions in the comments.

8 comments:

  1. Stunning!!
    That certainly brought back some memories!!

    Beautiful job.

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  2. Amazing work Katie!
    To me, this is the most impressive part of the dress--5 and 6 layers.
    (I thought 3 was hard enough).

    The prick stitching trick with tape measure is cool.

    I don't understand how the lace overlay works. Where is it attached? Following the bodice seam lines? I tried looking at the photos more closely, but it's well hidden--which you meant to do, I just wonder how it's done.

    Lovely, lovely dress. Lucky bride.

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    1. The lace is mostly attached only to itself with teeny little stitches. I used a very fine embroidery thread so that it was invisible. In a few places I had to stitch down to the underlying bodice, where I just went all the way through the layers and most of the stitching is on the underlining. It was a very organic, go with the flow process.

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  3. What an incredible amount of work! Absolutely beautiful job!

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  4. I love the pictures with the toys around! Evidence of a family around a bride-to-be is so cute!

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing these details. It's turned out beautifully! I've never seen a dress like this while it's in progress, so I really appreciate the information.

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  6. The wedding dress is gorgeous. The bride-to-be looks absolutely delighted with her dress. The amount of work and attention to detail that you have done is amazing.

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