Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: The Undergarments

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

Last week, I covered pattern making for the wedding gown.  But similar to how a quality blueprint doesn't ensure a strong house, a pattern won't ensure a beautiful dress!  Even the best-cut dress won't wear right if the support structure of the undergarments is off.

When building a structure, the underlying support has to be good quality.  Whether it’s a beautiful home, a lovely garden, or a designer dress, it must have the right support built into it.   A strapless gown with a heavy skirt is a prime example of this!

The bodice of Bonnie’s gown had the following layers built into it: 
  •  Top layer of lace
  • Taffeta to back the lace
  • Cotton under-layer so it wouldn’t be see-through
  • Cotton lining to feel ‘breathable’ next to her skin in 95 degree weather!

I sewed boning into the bodice panels, stopping at her waist.   I always trim the ends of the plastic in a slight curve, so it won’t be sharp.  I double stitch across the ends of the fabric channels, so prevent the boning from moving.  I made bias strips of the cotton fabric for the boning to ride in because I thought it would be less bulky than the readymade strips.  I also placed the boning in the dress with its natural curve in towards the body for extra support.  I made sure to stop the boning before any area that would be stitched and turned, like the neckline of the dress.  

curved-end boning partially inserted into pockets
boning sewn into pocket
After sewing the lining into the garment, I clipped the center front point of the sweetheart neckline, so it would turn inside out nicely.  I also understitched the seam allowances to the lining – this pulls the top layer of fabric slightly into the inside of the dress and prevents the lining from peeking out.

I made hanger loops of 1/8th inch ribbon and tacked them inside the side seams of the dress.  Due to the weight of the dress, these have to be sewn securely, going all the way through to the seams of the dress.  I sew the loops of the ribbon upside-down, facing the hem of the dress, to encourage them to hang down out of sight when you wear it.  This is a neat trick that I wish more off-the-rack clothing featured!

I started by building a well-fitting bra into the bodice.  I removed the straps and re-shaped the top curve of the cups so they wouldn’t peek out.  I sewed the bra into the lining by hand after having her try it on and carefully pinning it into place.  It looked fabulous, but unfortunately, cups in a dress don’t give you any real support, they just fill out the dress nicely.  

After a lot of trial and error, we removed the cups.  We were keen to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions on wedding day!  Bonnie tried on several ‘torture’ garments, like a lace up corset that only added bulk, and a body shaper thingy (girdle) that she called a crotchless torture garment!  
full-body shaper (= torture)

It technically fit, but wasn’t nearly tight enough to have any real effect.  Several strapless bras that tended to slip down when she moved also didn’t make the cut.  The best bet was the long-line strapless bra which, while not comfortable, couldn’t go anywhere and provided all the necessary support.  

long line bra (that's a model, not Bonnie!)
To give the skirt more body and fullness, I made a petticoat into the dress.  I cut a sub-lining skirt and sewed multiple rows of gathered, stiff, petticoat netting onto it.  I made sure the netting wasn’t longer than the skirt lining, because it is very scratchy!

underlining of the skirt, with petticoat made into it

Due to the weight of the flounces and the extra fullness that we added to the skirt, it tended to go between her legs when she walked.  We ended up buying a full petticoat to use in addition to my layers to keep the dress ‘poufed’ into the right silhouette.  

petticoat for wedding dress
In an ideal world, you should have all this stuff before you do any fittings, but you also have to have a make-do attitude and solve problems on the fly!  We had been working with the bra cups and sewn-in petticoat up until the very end.  We waltzed into a local bridal store the day before we left for the wedding to solve these lingering problems.  The owner welcomed us to bring in the dress and try on undergarments with it.  She was very helpful and knowledgeable and $150 later we were all set!

Because the dress had almost 40 yards of fabric in it, it was quite heavy, 5 pounds! If that doesn't sound like much, tie a bag of flour to your belt and let me know what happens!

Even though we had the bodice pretty tight, after Bonnie moved around, the dress seemed to go South, and had to be tugged upwards.  I HATE that! After a lot of discussion and tugging, we decided to make the side seams super tight right above her hip bones.  That way she could still breathe, but the dress couldn’t go anywhere.  This was a great solution and I didn’t see her tug at the dress at all during the night.  Yay!  {editor’s note: it also made my hips look tiny!}


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