Bridesmaid dresses

My youngest daughter is getting married in three weeks at St Patrick’s cathedral in Melbourne, pictured above. She lives in Melbourne and has organised the whole wedding, down to every tiny detail, all by herself. All I have to do is turn up. Well, that was the plan, anyway. She bought her dress on special – fell in love with it and it fitted, and it was on sale, so way to go. The bridesmaids were a bit trickier. Finding a dress which suits very different figure shapes, and in the colour way the bride has her heart set on is no easy feat.

She saw this dress and decided it was just the thing, only she wanted the dress in navy and the sash in cream. No, I don’t know why the model is draped painfully backwards over a big brown box, nor what the hell she is made up like a vampire for – maybe trying out for a role in that Twilight movie?

Anyway, the deal at the dress shop is that they have one example of each style, you try it on, and try and guess which is the actual size that would fit you, then you order it in your colour-way, wait three months, pick it up, having parted with a large amount of money, then, no doubt, pay out a whole lot more to have the thing altered, because of course, it isn’t going to be a perfect fit.
Well, I decided that was not going to work, so I would make them (okay, it seemed like a good idea at the time). As it happens, I am a perfectly competent dress maker and can knock out a boned, strapless bodice with the best of them. However, the tricky bit is a) adapting the pattern to fit the different figure types, and b) fitting it perfectly to each girl.

The dress shown was perfect for one of the girls – tall, athletic, long body, fine waist – it looks great on her. One of the others is a similar shape (well, they are sisters, after all) but will be six months pregnant by the date of the wedding – there goes the fine waist, and the third is unrelated and a competely different shape, and let’s just say the chosen design would not be flattering.

I got a basic pattern for a fitted bodice with a gathered skirt and proceeded to turn it into an empire line bodice with a fitted band around the middle for bridesmaid number 1 and a basic empire line with skirt falling from under the bust for the other two – with generous baby bump allowance where needed.

The bride had provided samples of the fabrics she wanted – nothing too complicated, and readily available at our local fabric store, Lincraft (don’t get me going on the way that store has slid into poor service, crappy merchandise and shabby presentation – since Home Yardage closed there isn’t much to choose from in Canberra – and as I live on the north side, a trip to Spotlight involves a packed lunch and a compass, and chances are they won’t have what I want, assuming I can manage to shift the huge piles of rolls of fabric haphazardly piled on top of each other, with no rhyme and reason about what is where) close brackets, end of rant about poor choice of fabric stores in the National Capital.

I managed to get what I needed by a combination of ordering online and ringing around other Lincraft stores in the Sydney area and they mailed it to me. Navy (I think they call it Ink, or Midnight, or something) satin backed something for the underskirt and bodice, with the same colour georgette for the shirred outer bodice and overskirt. Cream georgette for the sashes.
I will skim over the weeks of measuring, making, fitting remaking and hair tearing to the point where the dresses are done and now all they need is hemming. I do have to add here that I got through those weeks with my sanity intact despite having a stress fracture in my back and being sleep deprived as I couldn’t lie down and had to sleep sitting up for about six weeks, entirely due to my wonderful neighbour who is a qualified dressmaking and pattern making teacher who is quite brilliant and who regularly came down to cast her eye over the various versions and show me how to fix the problems and get a perfect fit. Thank you Maree, you are a saint.
Now all I have to do is the hems. I don’t know about you, but crawling around on the floor to level a hem (well, two actually for each dress, as I have to do the underskirt, then the georgette), is not my idea of fun, and downright impossible with a bung back.
So, my brilliant idea – well, my husband’s actually – use a laser light to get the level! He got me one of those little hand held laser pointers from somewhere or other, to use with my domestic home quilter – I tape it to the stylus and it is great for following pantograph patterns. Of course that was before they banned them because idiots started pointing them at aircraft trying to blind the pilot – (the lasers, I mean, not the stylus on home quilting machines) I am not sure my little one is powerful enough to do that, and have no intention of trying to find out – it is strictly for textile applications only.

Just a couple of hooks and eyes and some carrier loops to hold the sashes in place at the sides and back and I am done. Having observed the stress and trauma of the whole thing, one of my other daughters declared that she didn’t think she would bother getting married – I said that was fine – just elope to Fiji and send me a postcard.

4 thoughts on “Bridesmaid dresses”

  1. Well done Hilary and I bet it is all done for love too.Oh and don’t get me started on Lincraft and Spotlight -well even if you do find the fabric you want-trying to buy it could take a week of queing up.

  2. phew Im exhausted reading all this with laughing and almost crying for you ~ alot of hard work is the understatement of the year!! If my girls marry and Australian Ill send them to you for dresses šŸ™‚ only joking. Theyre off to Melbourne in 28 days I must tell them to look out for this cathedral it looks amazing. Wishing your daughter and you all the very best for a wonderful day ~ Judy

  3. Bet you’re to have that out of the way. šŸ™‚ In a good way. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting – glad to hear my list of shame can do some good – luckily for me I have had at least one person tell me hers is MUCH LONGER than mine, which makes me feel better…

  4. oops I meant to say “an Australian” also the reason I was laughing was your description of Spotlight inside and your means of getting there. Its the same in Brisbane ~ they seem to put them in hard to reach and obscure places ~ when I went in 2006 to stay with my son ~ I had to use public transport and had to travel an hour into a very dubious part of town to get a connection which would take me another hour-ish to get to a major road which I had to cross to get to the retail park where Spotlight was. That was the longest journey ever and I didnt have a clue where I was!!! But dodging the rolls of fabric was it worth it ~ oh yeah:)

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