Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
Tag Archives: period wedding
February 24, 2012Posted by on
My sister’s 1930s wedding was more “Hollywood glamour” than Depression era style. (Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it.) Of all the items I created in such a short time-frame for her special day, I was the most pleased with how her headpiece turned out. But I also had fun with the details of her bridal gown and the flower-girl’s dress.
I subtly embellished her custom wedding dress with beads and feathers. (Once again, I was disappointed that the photographers didn’t take a lot of full-length shots I was hoping to have for my portfolio).
My sister loves and has studied the Japanese language & culture, so she included a few Japanese touches in her wedding (more about those details in a future post). Because of the popularity of Asian influences in the 1930s and ’40s, the Japanese elements blended well with the overall Art Deco style. Thus, we decided to incorporate this into her dress with a custom hand-beaded appliqué of a Japanese crane that wrapped around the side of her dress.
My favorite part of the wedding gown was the train of feathers. When I suggested the feathers to my sister, I didn’t really expect her let me use them on her dress, so I was delighted when she agreed with the idea. I love that the feathers added something wonderful to the back of the dress for the wedding guests to look at during the ceremony. (Very Ginger Rogers.)
After the ceremony, the photographers captured one of the few full-length shots of the gown as the happy couple descended the stairs.
For the reception that followed the marriage vows, I used a few safety pins to bustle her train to keep it up off the ground (so that she could move among the guests more easily).
As you can see in the next photograph, I also pinned together the points of the double train on my copper bridesmaid dress and looped it over my arm for the reception.
The job of the flower-girl was filled by our cousin Lucy, who was four at the time. Her dress was made from the same fabrics as the bridal gown, along with some left-over fabric from my own wedding dress from two years before.
The sash was of the same copper-colored fabric used for the bridesmaids’ dresses and tied in a knot in the front – the perfect way to secure an active little girl’s sash to avoid constant re-tying!
Lucy wore a few bridal feathers in her hair, and the trim at both the skirt hem and edges of the ruffled sleeves had a feather-like look. (I also used a little of the same trim on the edges of the crane appliqué on the bridal gown).
And nothing else captures the vintage 1930s feel quite like a sepia-toned photograph:
More about the vintage location, how some guests dressed for the theme, and overall retro wedding details in a future post…
January 25, 2012Posted by on
This past Sunday night, I finally got the text I’ve been waiting to receive since I started this blog…
Just two words – “found em”. The CDs of my little sister’s wedding photos had been found! (They had been missing for nearly eight years! Turns out my parents had them and they had been buried in a bag inside a desk.)
So the last couple of days have been spent sorting through all 1200+ pictures from that day back in 2004. Since there is so much to cover, I have decided to divide the wedding into 3 separate posts: The Bridesmaids, The Bride & Flower-girl, and The Retro Details.
Let me explain the back-story – no, there is too much. Let me sum up.
When my sister got engaged, I had promised to design and build the following items around a 1930s theme:
- Custom wedding gown AND headpiece with veil – both with hand-beading
- The necessary bridal undergarments to go with the dress
- Retro dresses for 4 bridesmaids – all different designs
- A flower-girl dress
- The ring-bearer’s pillow
All this was going to be my wedding gift to my sister – she just had to pay for the materials.
My sister and her fiancé decided to move up their wedding date when they learned that the perfect location for their Art Deco style wedding was available much sooner than expected.
I got the bashful phone call from my sister: “Can you still make all the dresses for my wedding…in 2 months?”
Only for my sister.
Looking back, I honestly have no idea how I managed to do everything in such a short timeframe. We had (luckily) already purchased the fabric for all the dresses before the date changed.
I think the only thing I was truly disappointed with was the fact that the wedding photographers didn’t really take any full-length photographs of the dresses – they were too focused on capturing faces. I was able to crop a few things out of crowd shots and use some pictures that my uncle took (specifically for me) to supplement a few really wonderful shots by the photographers. (Word of advice to future brides: make sure you ask your photographer to zoom out and worry about framing & cropping things later!)
Aside from a few minor details not being completely accurate for the time-period, it all turned out rather well in the end. (Of course, every good wedding has a flaw or two.)
Ester’s dress was the easiest to produce. I used a reprinted 1930s pattern that was available in stores at the time. So I was able to buy the pattern in her size and fit a mock-up a couple days later.
Caroline was the youngest bridesmaid. (I believe she was 10 at the time.) Her dress was a combination of 3 different modern patterns that had the elements I was looking for to create a Thirties style dress that would be age appropriate. The godets at the hem were so pretty when she moved.
Courtney’s dress was the most challenging because she did not live in the same state. Amazingly, it all worked out because she came for a weekend visit prior to the wedding, and I was able to fit a mock-up on her. Her dress was a combination of 2 modern patterns – a blouse and a skirt. I kept the patterns as separates to make it easier and mailed the skirt to her un-hemmed. That way, she was able to have it hemmed to the perfect length after she had purchased her shoes but before she came back for the wedding.
Then there’s my dress. Like Ester’s dress, mine was also a reprinted vintage pattern available in stores at the time. Although it wasn’t my first choice in a design for myself, the double-train attached to the back of the skirt made it unique. It was the last dress I made for the wedding, and it was never completely finished on the inside (but at least you can’t tell!).
More to come about the bridal gown and flower-girl’s dress…
October 10, 2011Posted by on
While I wait for my sister to unearth her discs of wedding pictures from almost eight years ago so that I can do a complete post, here’s a bit of a preview – her 1930s style bridal headpiece.
My sister brought me these pictures of vintage headpieces for inspiration:
I created a paper mock-up and we tweaked the curves to be the most flattering shape for her face. Then I made a wired form and covered it with the same fabric used for her wedding gown. Since my build time for the entire wedding was limited by a change of date, I saved some time by using a piece of store-bought lace that had an art deco feel as the background for the beadwork.
Despite the rush, I somehow made time for the hand-sewing with beading (which was echoed on her dress) and I believe I managed to capture the 1930s look pretty well.
And here’s the bride positioning her headpiece & veil on her wedding day:
Stay tuned for the wedding dress & more in a future post! Read more about the bridesmaids’ dresses…
January 22, 2011Posted by on
Last fall, I had the privilege of creating a 1950s retro wedding gown for a friend’s co-worker. Camille, the bride-to-be, had wisely decided to contact me almost a year before the wedding date to begin the process of having her dress custom made. At the initial meeting, she gave me a rough hand-drawn sketch of the style she had in mind, and we discussed elements not included in the sketch (fabric, hair-style, veil, heel height, etc).
I recorded her detailed measurements (a full page worth, not just bust-waist-hips) and she departed with the task of finding the proper undergarments for her dress.
Like most brides, Camille had the goal of losing some weight before her wedding day. Therefore, we postponed a mock-up fitting until it was closer to the actual date. That gave me the time I needed to research the pattern, draft it, and go fabric shopping; and it gave her plenty of time to find the perfect lingerie and shoes.
I started my quest by examining vintage sewing patterns and Fifties style-lines. I narrowed my models down to two vintage pattern envelopes (both from 1957) that best captured the look Camille depicted in her sketch. From those two designs, I was able to thumb through my own collection to find patterns with the same seam-lines, piece together two dress patterns, and draft a sleeve pattern from scratch.
We knew that the dress needed to be a soft white (not bleach white or yellowy ivory), so I hunted for a cotton lace that was soft to the touch and could be tea-dyed to the desired color. After extensive searching, I got lucky when I found a white, vintage-looking cotton lace for sale online. I ordered the lace from the fabric site and a 1950s style petticoat from Petticoat Junction. (Later, when lace was in season in the fabric stores, I did see the exact same lace on the shelf, but at a higher price.)
With the hybrid pattern, I was able to start making a mock-up in the size that would best fit her measurements. I used a cheap bed sheet and some old scraps of lace from a past project to construct a prototype dress with only one sleeve, which allowed Camille to simultaneously see two versions of the dress when she came for her first fitting.
The mock-up fitting gave me the chance to mark the neckline, sleeve & hem, zipper placement, and adjust a few seams so that everything worked with her undergarments. And Camille was able to decide that she liked the ¾ length sleeve for her dress. With the pattern perfected on her actual body, I was ready to cut the dress from the real fabric.
But first, I had to play mad scientist and attempt to dye the lace with tea. I experimented by dyeing some small swatches of the lace to test the time needed in the tea to achieve the desired color. Then I bought a large white plastic trashcan that was big enough to hold the amount of tea needed to submerge all the pre-wet lace at the same time. It took an entire box of “pitcher size” teabags to brew a tea strong enough to achieve the color I needed. When the timer went off, I transferred the dyed lace into my washing machine full of plain water and spun it out before putting it in the dryer. The tea bath had given the lace a wonderful vintage appearance.
I repeated the tea-dyeing process with the tulle for the veil and then bravely took a chance with the store-bought petticoat so that everything would be a matching soft white color. (Fortunately, the satin taffeta fabric I bought to go under the lace was already the perfect color and didn’t need any dyeing.)
Once all the fabric was prepped, I eagerly began cutting out the actual dress for assembly. I cut the lace sleeves and skirt with the finished hem length on the scalloped edge of the material, which eliminated the need for a sewn hem – especially time-saving since the skirt’s hem measured 5½ yards around! The only lace edge I had to “hem” was the neckline, which I finished by adding a section of the scallop onto the edge of the neck.
The satin taffeta underskirt was a different pattern shape, and, therefore, needed to hang for a few days to let the bias stretch with gravity before I could mark a hem to line-up with the lace overskirt and petticoat.
I finished the back of the gown (from waist up) with shanked buttons of vintage shell from my collection of old buttons. During one fitting, it was unanimously decided that the best way to complete the retro dress was to add a handmade matching lace belt with a small silver buckle right at the waistline – a perfect 50’s accessory. The shoulder-length veil and cute round-toed heels in a subtle blush-pink were the perfect complementary details without being distracting.
Camille had her wedding on a perfect autumn night in her own backyard with a small group of family & friends as witnesses. She made her entrance from the stairs of an apartment above her garage and descended to her waiting groom beneath a beautiful old tree. Her soft white dress glowed in the warm light of the decorated backyard. It was wondrously nostalgic – like Audrey Hepburn had stepped out of an old movie.
Wedding photography by Jamie Coupaud.