Monday, 17 June 2013

My Vintage Style Silk Wedding Gown

Maybe it could be a good way to make you know me a little bit better by showing you my handmade vintage wedding dress. As many of you I'm not a professional seamstress, and I never had a particular sewing education, so this project was really something special. It was my first vintage project EVER. And it was a lot of work.

The whole thing started when I tried on a wedding dress in a bridal shop. I liked it a lot, but it was not comfortable, I don't like polyester and I was afraid of the embroidered tulle train. Besides that, it seemed to be "not me". The seller tried to hurry and made a lot of pressure, as it was the last piece. But I needed more time to think about, and I was not really sure about it, so a real odyssey on the search of the perfect dress began. 

I don't know how many gowns I tried on. And I guess I lost a lot of weight trying them on. Wish I could repeat it, it was an entirely comfortable way of losing weight... In my head I had the picture of my wedding gown I once had seen in a Vogue pattern book in the early 90s, but no dress came close to that somehow blurry picture. It had to be something completely different that was available in all those posh shops. In the end, I was so desperate that I started to search the internet for Vogue wedding gown patterns, hoping to find the ONE pattern I thought I had in my mind. Of course it was a hopeless quest...

But I found something else instead: pages and pages with the most beautiful vintage patterns from the 30s, 40s and 50s - and they all were much closer to what I had in mind than any dress I had tried on before. I fell in love with this vintage Givenchy pattern so much, but the only copy I found was too expensive. The fact that Hubert Givenchy designed this dress for the unforgettable and outstanding Audrey Hepburn makes it a very searched after item for pattern collectors... 

But I saw very soon that there are many very similar designs. So I bought some of these patterns and thought that each one of them, without sleeves and with some accessories, could make the perfect wedding gown for me. I soon realised that I would have to make it myself, as there are not so many professional seamstresses here in Switzerland, but I thought it would be possible. I had made some decently good fitting garments for me before, and I was confident to make it in time. My choice was this vintage pattern from about 1956, Butterick 7708. As many other patterns, I bought it on Etsy.

Still, the whole idea made me very nervous... 

Finding the perfect fabric was sheer luck. There are only two fabric stores left in Zurich, and I was so lucky to find the most beautiful Duiponi silk in champagne colour. I love roses, so I knew already from the beginning that I would add some fabric rose accessories. I was lucky again that they had the same fabric in a shade of pink. I felt so happy when I came home with my big bag full of this wonderful silk. I love silk, and I love roses (did I mention it before?), and therefore I had to have roses on wedding gown!

First I made the ring-cushion, just to get an idea of the fabric, how it felt to work with this silk. Then I made some kind of moussline, a test-bodice from a cotton-fabric to make all necessary alterations. I don't tell you how many times I had to alter the pattern (I guess women in the 50s had different body measurements, and I have a rather small bust), how many times I had to change this and that, as I wanted the dress to be sleeve-less and with some boning added to the side of the bodice. You really don't want to know that I had to re-make the silk-bodice again as I made a terrible mistake when I cut it the first time... At a certain point my dear husband (DH) and me had some sleepless nights as it seemed my sewing-machine didn't work properly anymore, and we were afraid it was broken. I always was afraid to run out of fabric (I still have some left!), and of course, I always was afraid to run out of time. Of course, it's a nightmare for a bride to add such a project to all the other, regular wedding preparations. I had so many sleepless nights, and in those hours in my mind I was always trying to find the perfect solution for the boning, for the under-skirt, for the straps, for the fabric roses etc... I was mentally sewing, when I was at work in my office and even at night. And, in addition to all, we were expecting our little daughter (I was in the 2nd month of my pregnancy at the wedding). This was such a special time, and my DH and I still look back from time to time and lough about it - especially remembering all the many times when he had to assist and close the zipper of the almost finished bodice with his eyes closed...

My dear friend Kunigunde with the finished gown

Of course, at a certain point, he couldn't help me anymore, and I'm glad I had a dress-form. (Her name is, by the way, Kunigunde.) Of course, I put an awful lot of work and time and nerves in this dress, but the more the dress advanced, the more I enjoyed it. In the end, making a pompadour and the rose accessories was just like having a delicious desert. The roses were made after a Vogue pattern (Bridal accents V7009), as well as the ring-cushion. The pompadour was made after a pattern from a 90s Burda magazine, and, the day before the wedding, I even had to make a bolero, as the weather was not so good as expected.

I was so proud when I put my dress on on my wedding day, so proud. And so were my parents. You can't imagine the feeling, and it made me feel even more special on this special day. And my husband's smile and look when I entered the church - I was so happy, and it was worth all the labour and the fears and the troubles.

Yes, I was already pregnant, but it's not the belly that shows it but my gesture. But nobody noticed... :-)

Today, almost 5 years later, when I look back to those weeks and especially look at my pictures, I don't regret it at all. Of course, some people looked down their noses at my "homemade" wedding gown, the probably thought it was not chic enough or not as posh as this or that glittering designer dress sold in the boutiques in Zurich City. But I don't care - this is a one-of-a-kind vintage style wedding gown, as unique as I wanted to feel on that wonderful day, and nobody ever could take that away from me and from my DH's memories. I certainly would make SOME things in a different way, and definitely I would start earlier. But this dress really makes part of our wedding, and I would do it again. 


  1. Oh, Lady! That is sooooo beautiful! I am unable to imagine the wonderful feeling of wearing a dress made with your own hands the big day of your wedding, you have to be very proud of this, It's wonderful!

    1. It was special indeed. I hope one day my daughter could wear it, for a special occasion. Yes, I know, dreams of a mother... :-) (I wore my mother's handmade wedding dress, too, for the registration of our wedding at the community's office). I guess my mother was very proud as well.

  2. Mrs Button, I just love your wedding gown. And I love the way that you threw yourself into making it and worked out the issues as you went. Just like what I do! Congratulations on your dress, and creating beautiful memories :)

    1. Beccie, sadly I read you sweet comment only now, so many months later... Nonetheless, it's much appreciated. I am happy that I love to be challenged by such things. So many people could create and make more than they think, but they don't like new challenges. So, vintage sewing is a huge adventure, I still enjoy it, and I learn from it!

  3. It's not just homemade, it's handcrafted, and people pay exorbitant amounts of money for that kind of thing. This is a stunning gown. I found you through your friend at Sewing Adicta.

    1. Thank you Melanie! Looking back, it was a crazy idea, but I would do it again!

  4. You look gorgeous and radiant! Such an amazing job on this dress - I am speechless. :)

  5. Natalia, thank you so much for your kind words... Currently, I'm trying to get rid of some extra-weight to fit in that dress again (I had several pregnancies and two kids in the man time, so I have a bit of extra-kilos), just to feel again as special as on that very day. :-) And who knows, maybe my daughter would like to have it, one day...?


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