Sewing your own wedding dress: mad or marvellous?

So there was one other thing I brought back from my Norwegian holiday that I didn’t tell you about.


OMG – me and my boyfriend Alex are getting married! (this card was drawn by my awesome friend Jenny).

I’m so excited and happy about it. He got me a beautiful ring from the lovely Sarah of Rockcakes, who we met at one of Zoe’s Brighton Craftaganza events, so there’s a nice sewing connection there.

So when you tell people that you’re engaged they ask two things. Firstly: ‘Have you got a date?’ and secondly ‘What are you going to wear?’ Well we have a date, and even a venue – next July in Edinburgh – but I have no idea about the second part of the equation.

I’m not keen on the classic strapless a-line behemoth costing the same as a second-hand car. I look terrible in strapless because of my weird bony shoulder blades, and white doesn’t really suit me either. But I’m not sure what I do want. I’m keen on the three S’s: sleeves, sparkle, and swishability (yes that is a word). And I’m thinking either home-made or vintage.

My favourite celebrity wedding dresses are all ridiculous ones from the 60s and 70s, when people seemed a bit less uptight about the whole thing. Check out Cilla Black’s mod-tastic wedding dress:

Surprise surprise!
Surprise surprise!

I’ve seen lots of seamstresses make amazing wedding dresses – Zoe’s emerald extravaganza, this gorgeous layered creation from Moonbeam, and Elisalex’s beautiful Jenny Packham-esque number for a friend.ย  And I’d love to make my own. But I don’t know if my sewing skills are up to it.

Let’s face it, unless you’re a celebrity or commit some kind of hideous crime, your wedding day is going to be the most-photographed, most stared-at occasion of your entire life. So you want to look at least half-decent.

I do have two possible styles in mind. Check out my Pinterest board for lots of little 60s lace numbers, which I love and think would be easy-ish to sew, but I’m not sure if they actually suit the taller pear-shaped lady (that’s me, if you hadn’t guessed).

This photo is from Rock and Roll Bride, by James Melia Photography
This photo is from Rock and Roll Bride, by James Melia Photography

The other dresses I like are the opposite end of the decade – drapey, silk crepe, 70s style. I think this would be deceptively tricky to fit and sew though. I’m no Ossie Clark, that’s for sure.

This photo is from Get Some Vintage-a-Peel (click to view), who is an expert on 70s fashion
This photo is from Get Some Vintage-a-Peel (click to view), who is an expert on 70s fashion

Neither of these would be much good for dancing, which is an important consideration for a Scottish wedding that includes a ceilidh. So the third option would be something with a huge, ballerina style layered skirt.

But where do I start? I’m feeling a bit stuck right now. Have you ever made a wedding dress, or any other important dress with a capital D? How did you do it? And do you fancy playing either Trinny or Susannah and suggesting what might actually suit me?


49 thoughts on “Sewing your own wedding dress: mad or marvellous?

  1. Alice January 13, 2013 / 11:41 PM

    Congratulations to you both (sorry for the late message, by the way)! and thank you for mentioning my wedding dress in your post ๐Ÿ˜€
    Obviously I think it’s a great idea to make your own wedding dress – I cannot tell you how special I felt in it… yes it was a lot of work, but I was excited to take on such a big project, and I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t give it a go (I may have bought a cheap back-up dress :o)
    I love the idea of a colourful dress – I loved Zoe’s dress, and I have no doubt that you could, if you wanted to, create something that be exactly what you wanted, too.
    Also you could always consider making a dress for the evening, and buying one for the day.. ๐Ÿ™‚ Best of luck!

    • yesilikethat January 14, 2013 / 2:28 PM

      Thanks Alice! I have been trying on a few dresses and think I know what I like now, just need to decide whether to take the plunge and make it myself or try and find the perfect vintage/new one… xx

  2. MariaDenmark December 16, 2012 / 5:55 PM

    Congratulations! And you can totally make your own wedding dress. You’ve made plenty of dresses, right?
    I actually had a customer at the fabric store on Wednesday, buying fabric for her wedding dress, that she is going to wear on Thursday (so she only had a week to finish it). She hadn’t even made a muslin yet.. But they had only decided to get married Monday, and she knew she wanted to make her own dress, so she had taken the rest of the week off and was going to sew and sew and sew. I hope she sends me a picture!

  3. gingermakes December 15, 2012 / 5:50 PM

    Yay, congrats!!!! That’s so exciting! I’m so confident that you’ll be able to make something beautiful that really suits you! I got married six years ago before I could sew, and my mom kind of pushed me into one of the standard dresses that you described– puffy, strapless, and totally not my style AT ALL. I didn’t mind that much because I’m not really a wedding person (definitely would’ve eloped if my parents wouldn’t have chopped off my head!), so the whole thing wasn’t really my style, but I spend the day not feeling like myself at all. I would just say that you should give yourself LOTS of time to get it done. You can’t start too early! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Dresser December 15, 2012 / 12:16 PM

    Congratulations ! May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding !!!

    By the way the card is so cute “OMG” ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Chuck December 13, 2012 / 10:53 PM

    Eeeeeeeee! Exciting! I think you should rock the Cilla look – it is amazing. Hope you’re going to be sharing lots. x

  6. nicoleneedles December 13, 2012 / 1:08 AM

    Huge congratulations! Go for a dress with elements you’ll feel comfortable in – there’s nothing worse than seeing someone in a style they’re visibly uncomfortable in. I made my wedding dress, and though I was really pleased with it, I would recommend starting early and not hemming it at 3am the day before! And it was lovely and cheap – approx. ยฃ40. Because it was so cheap, it enabled me to have a second ‘fun’ dress for the dancing part of the wedding. I loved my wedding dress, but no one wants to wear netting all day, and its the brides prerogative to do whatever she wants!

    • yesilikethat December 13, 2012 / 9:55 AM

      Ah I love the idea of having two dresses, one for dancing! I am definitely a 3am hemming type of person unfortunately…

  7. Rehanon December 12, 2012 / 6:08 PM

    Ah massive congratumolations to you and your fella. I love it when great hearts find each other makes the whole world sweeter ๐Ÿ™‚ You are gonna totes rock whatevs you go for but I have to say the style of that red dress at the bottom is singing v loudly to me. With your height and lovely ballerina limbs you’d look Bat for Lashes ethereal IMHO ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

  8. Heather Lou December 12, 2012 / 2:56 PM

    First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! SO exciting. I want to get married solely for the dress. Well, love too I guess, but really the dress. I think you should 100% make it. Those mod little 60’s dresses you have pinned would be so so do-able (it’s not like you want bias cut silk charmeuse or something). Totally manageable by July.

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 3:05 PM

      Thanks for the vote of support! I think marriage is all about love, but the wedding is allowed to be 90% about the dress (and 10% about whether there’s enough booze to go round).

  9. Laura Davis December 12, 2012 / 1:51 PM

    Congratulations! My personal favourite is the ballerina layered skirt idea but that’s probably because i lean towards the 50’s fashions rather than 60’s or 70’s.

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 3:01 PM

      Thanks Laura! I do like the idea of swishing around in a huge skirt and pretending to be Darcy Bussell for the day.

  10. theperfectnose December 12, 2012 / 11:51 AM

    Oh and I forgot to say-if you want something bias/ draped and would like a little pattern-making excitement I bought the Japanese Vionnet book recently (breadcrumbs for Christmas yay) so give me a hoy if you’re into any of those styles and I’ll hand crank the scanner XD.

  11. theperfectnose December 12, 2012 / 11:50 AM

    Congratulations hugs and sparklers!
    Ozzie rocked (prob. still does in some other dimension) and you should totally look through old issues of Burda for suitable stuff (I remember at least 3 with wedding dresses from different eras). They had one they’d based off the divorced American chic that married that royal that gave up his throne to marry a commoner (y’know the one, Collin Firth played his bro’ in the movie-I just can’t remember at the mo’) someone on burdastyle made a version of it. Simple and a pretty sweet fit for pears I reckon ‘cuz it’s got a 70s style straight silhouette from the waist down.. If I remember the issue I’ll get back to you on it-till then Google is your friend XD

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 3:00 PM

      Wallis Simpson! Everyone’s favourite American divorcee royal-seducer. I love her dress, Paul McCartney’s new wife wore a knock-off for their wedding, it’s so chic. Will have to hunt out that Burda! Thanks so much for offering the Vionnet scan, I will investigate the book. I saw the exhibition of her dresses in Paris a few years ago, it was absolutely divine (although no photos allowed, got told off by a scary French security guard).x

    • theperfectnose December 13, 2012 / 8:31 AM

      Ya, that’s exactly what I was referring to. Said wedding issue is 03/2008 and that‘s the gown I was talking about. Although personally I prefer the Mia Farrow and the Bianca Jaeger versions XD

    • yesilikethat December 13, 2012 / 9:56 AM

      Me too, I loved both their wedding outfits and the Burda recreations look really good! Thanks so much for the links.

    • theperfectnose December 13, 2012 / 10:20 AM

      No problems-let me know if you need any help sourcing patterns etc. I have that issue of Burda so I can trace out your size for whichever one you choose. Good luck with the prep!

  12. Kerry December 12, 2012 / 10:41 AM

    Congratulations! Exciting news ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’d say try on a few different styles to see what you like and if you’re going to make it, get it in motion as soon as possible so it doesn’t become stressful if you are sorting out other things closer to the time.
    If you’re thinking vintage style you could have a look in Armstrongs Vintage on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh as they usually have a few wedding dresses.
    I didn’t make my dress as I wasn’t as into sewing at the time (2 1/2 years ago) as I am now. I bought a vintage 50s day dress and wore that and it was perfect for me. Even now, I might still go for the vintage option but then my approach to getting married was small scale and with the least amount of potential stress I could engineer!

    • Maureen February 18, 2013 / 4:51 PM


      I second Armstrongs for a look see if possible purely on the grounds that’s where I found my wedding dress – a pale turquoise early 60’s cocktail dress that set me back a whole ยฃ58 3 years ago. It was the 1st dress I saw and tried on and my whole “shopping for a wedding dress” experience took around 20 mins in Armstrongs, on my own, with a selection of 5 frocks. I knitted a deep scarlet lacey shrug to go with it and finished it off with a pair of surprisingly comfy Irregular choice shoes. It all worked with a teutcher wedding with lots of dancing. Don’t be afraid of colour. If white (and it’s derivatives) don’t suit your skin tone then why wear it. Deep vibrant colours are often far more stunning, especially if that’s what suits you. If you go strapless/halter neck with a fancy shrug then you don’t have to worry about sweaty armpits in the photos but you’ve got something to stop you from shivering in our usual hot summer!

    • yesilikethat February 26, 2013 / 2:26 PM

      Thanks Maureen! I had a look and saw your dress on Offbeat Bride, it was totally beautiful!

  13. prttynpnk December 12, 2012 / 10:10 AM

    Congratulations! I look forward to seeing your dress journey…

  14. Evie December 12, 2012 / 6:38 AM

    Oh congratulations. Making your own dress is marvellously mad…I did it and my skills are definitely not up to scratch. But you know what…no body cares. They all think you’re amazing for being able to sew, that you look absolutely beautiful and that your dress is the most stunning ever seen. It completely adds to the magic of the day.
    But a word to the wise…give yourself plenty of time to do this. Voice of experience! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:10 AM

      You’re right, I think it will be a fun day whatever I wear! I’m not so good with the whole timing issue though… ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Vicki Kate December 12, 2012 / 6:19 AM

    Congratulations! Sewing your dress is a bit mad and marvellous all at once…. I didn’t make mine (9+ years ago now!) but I did hire it, which may be an option?

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:10 AM

      Actually I was thinking about that, you can hire some amazing designer dresses which I’d never be able to afford… Where did you get yours from? What was it like?

  16. befabbecreativeSolii December 12, 2012 / 12:18 AM

    Yey!! Love all the options, I also really like the idea of braking with the traditional white /ivory and going for something like the yellow dress you have on your board. Defiantly think going and trying different dresses on is a great idea then you can take the best bit and make it your own. I think you will look stunning in what ever you choose, you always do! โ€“ Thought I realise that isnโ€™t very helpful so my vote is for some 70โ€™s ozzy clarke esc option with floaty swish-ability and a hint of colour and or patternโ€ฆ Though I would say that!!! Heheโ€ฆ x;o)

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:09 AM

      Aw thanks Solii. We can look at some ideas when you’re down in January maybe! I do really love that yellow dress x

  17. Donna December 12, 2012 / 12:00 AM

    Don’t you worry. You will find a great dress. Knit seems lovely to me. All that draped stuff. By the way, my mother was married in a red dress and hat……in 1940! And she was upset that I was a hippy! Duh!

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:08 AM

      Ha ha! It’s a bit ridiculous how seriously the big white dress is taken now, I can’t imagine spending 5 grand on something I’m only going to wear once…

  18. ParisGrrl December 11, 2012 / 11:41 PM

    I made my wedding dress, and it was both mad and marvelous. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had tried on a vintage gown that almost fit but was a bit small, and when I returned to try it again it was gone. After crying–in public no less–over that dress I took a deep breath and said I was going to make one just like it, but even better. And I did. The pros were I was able to choose the fabrics and pattern and every detail to be just what I wanted, the gown was made to fit me perfectly, and it was a fraction of the commercial cost. The cons were it took months to complete, and even my wedding photographer expressed her uncertainty when she found out I was making my dress. For me, it was the right decision. If you find a pattern you’re in love with, but aren’t sure you’re up to the construction, I suggest you hire a seamstress to make two dresses: a muslin for fitting in inexpensive fabric, and then the real dress for your wedding. Congrats, and have fun deciding on that dress!

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:08 AM

      That’s an amazing story, the idea of taking months to sew something scares me a bit though. Good idea to check out seamstresses. What was your dress like?

    • ParisGrrl December 12, 2012 / 10:53 AM

      My dress took so long because a) I was sandwiching it in between not only wedding planning but also finishing school at the time, and b) it had a Lot of beads on it. The dress itself was a fairly straightforward ivory silk sheath, but the entire bodice had beaded flowers on it and little cascades of bugle beads and flowers formed the sleeves and framed the neckline. Not to speak of the immense detachable train that I just had to have.;-) Some of that makes me smile now in retrospect, but I still love that I had a one-of-a-kind dress that didn’t break the bank. And nearly twenty years later, people still stop when they see the photos and ask where I found the amazing dress. So I say choose what you love, and follow your instincts on what works best for you.

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 2:58 PM

      It sounds BEAUTIFUL! I’m in awe at your patience and hard work. It must have felt amazing wearing it and knowing that you did all that detailing yourself.

  19. Shivani December 11, 2012 / 11:36 PM

    Oooo congratulations! How exciting!

    I agree with Claire – it’s worth trying a bunch on to see what sort of style/shape works. I love your ideas – my dress was a “Seven Year Itch” knock-off, and I’m pear-shaped too. The full skirt was definitely swishsome.

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:07 AM

      That sounds gorgeous, I’d love to see a picture! Bet you looked stunning.

  20. Clare December 11, 2012 / 11:11 PM

    I would suggest going to a vintage bridal dress shop (of which there are several in London) and trying on a bunch of styles to see what sort of things suit you (and you may find ‘the One’ as has happened to a couple of friends of mine!) You’ll at least come away with ideas, including whether you want to buy, make, or pay someone else to make, the dress.
    Style wise I reckon a short 60s number in lace would really suit you and be very practical for dancing but I also think you’d rock a 50s swishy skirt (which would also give some amazing mid-ceilidh photos!
    PS Congrats Suzanne ๐Ÿ™‚ your dress is gorgeous!

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:06 AM

      Yep definitely need to do some trying on. Apparently there’s a great shop in Edinburgh so might try and visit it over Christmas. Buying one ready-made does seem like the least stressful option. Although to be honest nothing else about the wedding is really stressing me out, think it’ll be a fun day and I”m not planning on DIY-ing loads of stuff. So maybe one bit of stress would be fun!

  21. Susanne Everill December 11, 2012 / 10:46 PM

    Congratulations, that’s wonderful!!! I made my wedding dress, which was more of a dress for my wedding than a Wedding Dress. (here is a blurry photo from an awkward angle: Mine isn’t up to the standard of some of the ones you linked to but I was pretty happy with it in the end, even though I was a little limited by my beginner-ish sewing skills (it was my second sewing project since I left home, so no steel boning or hair-canvas interfacing for me!). I had kind of envisioned an ivory or rose color, but it simply didn’t exist at the one good fabric store near me, so I went for the blue. I had also been imagining a wide boat-neck and maybe a V back, but I am so crap at sewing and fitting armholes and shoulders that strapless ended up being easier, plus I didn’t find a pattern that looked right. But you are obviously better at bodices than I am!

    Best of luck if you decide to sew it! Can’t wait to read about what you decide ๐Ÿ™‚

    • yesilikethat December 12, 2012 / 10:05 AM

      Wow!! Susanne that’s gorgeous, I love the colour, it looks amazing with that style. I am also a bit crap at fitting armholes to be honest, that’s partly what scares me! I hope you’re doing okay, have a great Christmas xx

  22. Andi December 11, 2012 / 10:35 PM


  23. Andi December 11, 2012 / 10:34 PM

    I’m currently going through the make or buy debate as well. Like you, the dress of eras past appeal more than current dress offerings. If you do decide to make it, I hope you share it with us!

  24. Claire (aka Seemane) December 11, 2012 / 10:25 PM

    Huge congrats on getting engaged!I’d say try on a bunch of styles even some you think aren’t you and see what tickles your fancy ๐Ÿ™‚

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