Two years ago I got married on the coast of North Carolina. I wore a strapless cotton wedding dress that matched perfectly with my sandy feet and with the beautiful sunset we got to enjoy on the beach. The best part about my dress is that I made it myself. I decided that I need to wear something that is truly me and truly unique – a wedding dress that I would feel proud wearing on that day. Don’t get the wrong idea – I am not good at sewing and I did not spend more than four hours working on it. In the end, I paid $100 for a wedding dress that in my mind is priceless. I wanted to share with you my experience and show you that designing your own clothes can be fun, easy, and rewarding.
Early on I realized that spending a small fortune on a dress that looks exactly like all the other wedding dresses in the bridal store will not do – I did not get the “aha” moment when you find the “right dress”. Instead, I decided I will make the right dress myself.
The Basic Model
Initially making my own dress seemed like an overwhelming task, given that I had no sewing experience whatsoever. That is why I decided to buy a simple dress that has “potential” – in other words, it can be altered to my liking fairly easily. I picked a strapless dress based on my figure and preference, but any simple cut summer dress will do. Do not look for anything flashy or unique at this point. The three most important criteria for your dress should be fit, material, and potential. In fact, the simpler the dress, the better, since it will give you more room to customize it later on.
After selecting a comfortable basic model, look for appliques, buttons, beads, pearls, brooches, and other clothing embellishments. Do not limit your search to stores that offer only sewing supplies or to items that you are used to seeing stitched on clothing. You can attach any bead (seriously, from glass beads to a sea shell) on your dress very easily with a sewing machine. If you are a fan of the classical look, there are plenty of beautiful options in neutral colors – pink quartz and pearls being one of my favorite. If you would like to add a bit of color to your dress, there is huge variety of beautiful and unique stones and beads out there. Again, do not limit yourself to buttons, sequins, and appliques – if you find something unique that will look good on your dress, chances are you can sew it on fairly easily. It is a good idea to buy extras of everything you get at this point in case you need it for decorating a veil, another dress, or even some of the party favors you selected.
I suggest using a sewing machine instead of hand sewing the embellishments you picked because of durability and precision. Although many sewing machines look quite intimidating to a newbie, there are plenty of easy-to-use basic models. The time you’ll need to spend working on the dress will depend on the items you’d like to add. In my case, the dress was decorated in about four hours. Even if you have your eye on something more involved, trust me, spending the time to work on your dress will be worth it! Plus, let’s face it, this is nothing compared to the time you have to spend in the fitting rooms trying on dresses. Use pins to attach the appliques and beads you selected to your dress to get an idea of how it will look like. Always try out sewing the appliques on a cloth before starting to work on the dress.
Now that you have saved a lot of money on your dress, you can afford to be more picky about your accessories. Personally I am a big fan of headbands and I chose one that matched the beading I selected for the dress. You can shop around for a veil and add some of your embellishments to it so that the garment looks complete.
The Big Day
Whether you made a dress for your wedding or for another event, the important thing is that you are wearing something that you made yourself. If you have not experienced it before, then trust me, the satisfaction you get from that is overwhelming. It will give you confidence and allow you to express your style. And when all the looks are on you, you will know that you put together the outfit you are wearing on your own.