Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Fabric Shopping

Wedding Dress Wednesdays are guest posts written by my Mom, Janet

Last week, I discussed how we found inspiration for Bonnie's wedding dress, and how we used that to design a unique one for her.  This week, I'll walk you through how I found the perfect fabrics for the gown.

I initially shopped at Hancock's and JoAnn's for fabrics, but their wedding selection was very limited.  I had the best luck shopping in the Garment District of Los Angeles, where I live (many larger cities have fabric stores that are on a whole different level than the national chains).

That whole shopping experience was really remarkable!  I made five trips downtown over the months and always had fun once I got there (though the LA traffic on the way was anything but).  There were so many pretty things in great shops, but those were balanced by lots of tacky places with day-glow orange evening gowns and pink plastic sparkly bouquets.  Some shops specialize in beaded trims, rhinestones, bridal accessories, or even things like ‘bed in a bag’ deals.

Day-Glo orange evening gown
  The majority of the shop owners are older men with heavy foreign accents, all consummate salesmen! “Special for you today, pretty lady!”

A typical garment district shop - they pull tons of product out onto the sidewalk.
If one was open to ideas on designing an evening gown, there are some real bargains to be had.  But I wanted bolts of a particular shade of fabric - white!

Inside a garment district fabric store - it's packed so tight you can hardly move!
The inspiration dress was made from silk chiffon.  But the silk chiffon sold at fabric stores is too drapey and sheer for our needs - it wouldn't have given the right effect.  In addition, natural silks aren’t a true white, and a lot of cream and ivory fabrics have undertones that are too yellow.  The fabric I found with the proper “hand” turned out to be polyester taffeta that had a slight texture.  The one we settled on was ‘off white’, Formal Affair by Logantex.  Bonnie says it's the color of a peony.

I decided to make the sample (practice) dress out of black taffeta.  The fabric was identical in everything but color to the white fabric I found for the wedding gown.  Most people make a muslin (heavy cotton fabric) sample, but the fabric is generally so ugly that it's unwearable.  Muslin also wouldn't have moved the same way, and I wouldn't have been able to test out the ruffles properly.  By making the sample out of nicer fabric, we'd end up with a black evening gown instead of an ugly muslin sample.

Wedding dress fabric
I ordered two bolts each of black and white taffeta.  When it was all said and done, there wasn’t much left of the white fabric, and by the time I added lace, cotton for the lining and underlining, netting, etc. the dress had well over 40 yards of fabric in it! 

While shopping, I also perused the lace.  Some were cheap or fake looking, some too heavy and old-lady looking, some too shiny, etc.  I finally found some lovely lace, in the perfect color, lightly beaded, at $35 a yard.  SOLD!  If you're used to buying cottons, $35 a yard may sound high, but lace ranges anywhere from $5/yd. for very basic unbeaded to over $150/yd for heavily beaded.

While trying on wedding gowns, we decided against rhinestone beading.  While it did provide more sparkle, it also made the fabric look more silver in color.  I chose a lace that had only clear and pearl beading so that it would blend into the fabric better (so well that you can't even see it in the photo below).

I also found black lace for the black gown.  Rhinestones and clear beads on black lace gave an all-over effect of the fabric being grey.  To circumvent this, I got a lace with all-black beading.

Beaded white lace, beaded black lace
While shopping in the garment district, I stumbled upon a number of other goods for the wedding - 50 yard spools of satin ribbon for the tables and ribbon wands ($4), silk flower petals ($3), beaded trim for the belt ($35), the veil ($8), along with some yardage for myself I couldn’t pass up.

Rhinestone trim for wedding dress belt
Pearl trim for wedding dress belt
 Also, all this time I was shopping for flower girl fabric and cotton prints for the napkins and pennants, but that’s for a later blog. 

The process of designing, fabric shopping, and pattern making took several months, but I got it perfectly planned out before I ever cut into the real fabric. Next week I’ll cover pattern making, construction hints, and overcoming problems with fittings.  All in all it was a wonderful process and one I’m so glad we tackled together!

You might also like these posts:
Wedding Dress Reveal
Hand Beading a Wedding Dress
Removable Wedding Dress Train
My wedding dress broke but we fixed it!

1 comment:

  1. ahhh, brings back great retail therapy memories!


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