I can’t believe it has already been 4 months since Drew and I got married! Our wedding day was perfect – as was our wedding reception two weeks later. A little background, Drew and I wanted a more intimate ceremony and we said our vows on the rim of the Grand Canyon! Before Drew and I met, I had wanted to visit the Grand Canyon and when we were planning our first big vacation together, I suggested this as one of our destinations. When we first saw the Grand Canyon, I fell in love. Pictures just don’t do it justice and it is such an incredible location. We spent a day exploring, hiking and taking in all the beauty that surrounded us and it quickly became my favorite place.
I have always wanted a small wedding. I would have happily been married at the courthouse, but after visiting Arizona, I knew that’s where I wanted to get married. I brought the idea up to Drew before we were engaged and he was more than happy to accommodate my request (good guy right there!). But Drew wanted to have a larger celebration so we also planned a reception back in New Jersey with extended family and friends.
Since I taught myself to sew, my dream has been to make my wedding dress- and I was going to make it happen! I wanted something easy enough to walk in at the Canyon, but needed something elegant enough for our reception venue. I started researching gowns and fell hard in love with this silhouette. This was exactly what I wanted and spent weeks searching for patterns to help make this dress a reality. Then I took a pretty long break from wedding dress planning. I thought I had it all figured out. Silhouette was down- patterns found, no fabric but that wouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t need to think about the dress for a few months!
Then June came around and I wanted to start fabric hunting. I knew I didn’t want to upcycle a wedding dress, and my dream was to find reclaimed fabric. Fab Scrap totally came through and I scored three yards of this gorgeous floral mesh. I really wanted beaded fabric, but it is pricey and heavy. This material gave a similar feel of the adornment of beaded fabric, but without the weight and price tag. But I only had three yards to work with. Not one piece extra – and no way to get more. I also picked up a few yards of silk as the underlining for the mesh at Fab Scrap.
Now with the extra motivational kick of having my fabric, I started on my first toile. First round went well, the top needed a few major modifications but pinning it in place on my body looked cute! Then I made another toile and it was miserable. I did the changes I had to make and they did not look good. Panic mode set in. I realized that the bodice silhouette was not meant for me. And I started scrolling through Pinterest non-stop to find something else I loved. A lot of the dresses I started pinning had this gorgeous slim and more modest bodice silhouette, and I loved the vintage vibe it was giving off. (inspiration here and here)
So back to pattern shopping I went! Thankfully it was easy to find a pattern for this, and I got back to work. I loved the skirt in the inspiration photo and built a similar pattern. After a toile of the bodice, I knew I was back on the right track and felt confident in the top. The skirt needed some tweaking. I made roughly three toiles of my dream skirt and perfected the fit. And then I realized that the florals on my fabric were not symmetrical- so I couldn’t properly fit my dream skirt onto the fabric. (I tried for hours to make it work- just it just didn’t). There was NO WAY I was going to get new fabric. SO it was back to the drawing board for my skirt.
The only way I would fit my entire dress in the material would be to make a trumpet style skirt with a seam line above the knees. I had no idea if this style would work on me, but gave it a shot with two more toiles. I needed a little less flare than the pattern was giving me to fit the pattern on my fabric, so I had to tweak the bottom circle skirt multiple times. In total, I made about 10 skirts before feeling comfortable cutting into my real fabric.
To make the final dress, I wanted to make a test dress using fabrics close to what I would be working with. I bought a floral mesh from JoAnns that didn’t break the bank and created my final toile. When I was finished, I went to look in my mirror and started tearing up. It was perfect. The fit, the style, it was everything and more than I could hope for.
Then it was time for the difficult part: cutting out the real fabric. It took two days to cut out my fabric. I would cut one piece, freak out a little, do some more measuring, take a break, and cut another piece. If at any point I got too nervous, I stepped away. There was no room to make a mistake. Here’s the fabric with my pattern pieces on top. The spaces without pattern pieces was where I could fit back pieces.
The last piece I had to cut was the back bodice, and I knew I needed to piece material together, but I needed to figure out where. I was able to make the seam line right where the sweetheart bodice ended in the back, so the seam line wouldn’t be as noticeable.
And here’s what I had leftover!
The dress was coming together beautifully. I had bought some material at Joann’s to make a test lining, and it fit so well I decided to keep that as my final lining (To go under the mesh and silk underlining). Everything was coming together, although time was getting short. I took my time with every aspect of the dress. The zipper gave me some trouble, as it was bubbling a bit. I took out the stitches and hand stitched the zipper in, and it helped with the back bubble. (Here it is before the fix)
The hardest part of sewing my dress was the hem. I had done a lot of research on horse hair braid and knew I wanted to use that to give my dress more flare. The issue with the horse hair braid was that it requires a very small hem, which scared me to death. I had to cut the bottom of the dress almost exactly where I needed it to fall. I had my mom pin the hem for me, but it didn’t come out even, so I had to pin it myself. Thankfully I had a dress form, so I put the height of the form to the height of my body. It took so many hours to get the hem right. It was literally perfect. I did let the dress “rest” before hemming, but it still grew just a little bit by the time I was wearing it for our reception. I finished my dress the night before we left for Arizona, although I had to do a little bit of hand stitching while we were there.
I am so in love with my dress, and am so SO happy I decided to make it. I am a true procrastinator, but every single step I took was the step I needed to take to end up with this beautiful result. I am so proud of this dress.
Pattern info: The bodice is McCall’s 6838, and the skirt is a modified McCall’s 7569. The skirt was a mix of pattern pieces from both of these patterns, I took the pencil skirt from 7569, and mixed both bottoms/tails to get the final skirt. I tried to remove as many seam lines from the skirt to keep it sleek.
(The following four photos are from our New Jersey reception with photographer Jenna Wilde Photography)
Extra Info: I wanted a little more bling and added a belt from David’s Bridal. The belt actually cost more than my fabric! I also wore a pin on my lining that was my Grandma’s. My “something blue” was floral hanger straps I sewed into the dress. My shoes were from DSW, rose gold to match my ring. Yes, I wore heels at the Grand Canyon, I didn’t want to be so short next to my 6’ tall husband!
And one of my favorite parts, feeding each other cheesecake at the Grand Canyon!
Everything was perfect, I’m so happy to finally be married to my best friend!
Grand Canyon Photos from Jane in the Woods Photography.