Starting from zero: Turning a dressmaking ambition into reality

We wanted the wedding to provide us with opportunities to learn, discover and have fun. Making the bridesmaid dresses was just one of the ways that I wanted to challenge myself. Here are my tips if you too fancy taking on the dressmaking challenge.


Humbelle - handmade bridesmaid dresses

1. Find a local dressmaking course.

There are plenty of sewing courses around now at you local college, fabric shop, and also online tutorials. I chose to do my learning at Ray Stitch in Islington. I joined a group of beginner dressmakers and in 6 weeks ( 3 hours a week plus a little homework), we made a top, a skirt and a dress. I stayed on for a further 2-3 weeks to do some 'freestyle' sessions where I then practiced under supervision one of the patterns I was intending to use for one of my bridesmaids. 

 

2. Choose your patterns wisely

Part of creating a great looking dress is making sure you choose a flattering style. If your girls are of different shapes and proportions then make sure you try and complement that. Lots of patterns have different looks, so you might find enough differences in a couple of patterns rather than buying one for each girl - this will also help with construction as you with be repeating and practicing the process. Many of the indie pattern designers also run sew-alongs on their blog pages where they will support you with handy tips and really useful photos. I used By Hand London's Flora Dress pattern and Christine Haynes' Emery Dress pattern. Both had sew-along's

 

3. Make a muslin 

Pattern makers use sizes consistent with your 'average' woman. You will need to account for all those differences that make us special. This part might take a while but it will be worth it, I promise you. For my 11 year old bridesmaid I took out all of the lumps and bumps. This book called The Perfect Fit helped a lot. It might look a little out dated but the techniques are clear and easy to follow.

 

4. Which fabric do you use.

Choose a fabric you have become familiar with. I used a cotton lawn because I found it super easy to sew with and it provided a nice light cool fabric for the girls to wear on a summers day. Be aware that if you are using a patterned fabric you may need a larger length in order to make sure it all matches up and the pattern is always going in the right direction. Something I made a little mistake with myself. I used the Liberty Tana Lawn - Alexandra (D).

 

5. Planning and time

Plan enough time to make the dresses from start to finish. This is not necessarily easy to judge if you have no prior experience but gauging this should be easier following your dressmaking course. If you don't live near to your bridesmaids you will need to factor in visits. They can help by sending you their measurements so that you can get started on the muslins. Do underestimate how long the prep work can take - making the muslin, adjust the muslin and the pattern, washing and ironing fabric, etc... but this should be fun so don't rush yourself and get in a fluster.

 

6. Create a wedding day sewing kit 

For any last minute tacking in or mishaps. Just gather together tools and supplies you have used most frequently during your dressmaking journey and put them in a tin. I took a tin to my course and just started to buy things that I found useful, this was also the tin that went on the fitting visits to see my bridesmaids.

 

7. Finally!

Tell everyone about your challenge - it'll stop you from chickening out.

 

Use your big day as an amazing excuse to turn your ambitions into reality. What's your ambition...milliner, florist, patissier, jewellery maker, brewer, dancer?!