It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Wedding in the Desert - 26 years ago



Back in the olden days, when we were still (relatively) young and (relatively) carefree, my good friend K was about to get married (coincidentally, to a man I had introduced her to), and we were having a conversation that went something like this:

K - I want him to wear a tux
Me - OK.  And what will you wear?
K - It doesn't matter.  I just want to see him in a tux.
Me - If he wears a tux, you have to wear a wedding dress.  That's how it works.
K - Nooooooooooo.........
Me - Yesssssssssss...........
K - Nooooooooooo......... (have you figured out that K was/is simply not a dress-up sort of person?)

I was still sewing occasionally back then, so you can guess what happened next.   Yup, I made a wedding dress.  I must have had some balls back then!  Either that, or I was just utterly clueless.....  I suspect it was a combination of the two.   Clueless and ballsy.  Frightening.

Fast forward 20 years or so, during which very little sewing happened, and here I am now, at it again and sewing up a storm in a sometimes semi-obsessive manner.   And I've been wanting to get my hands on that dress again....sort of.  A part of me has been terrified of seeing what sins lurked within the seams of that dress, but morbid fascination won out, and finally K delivered the dress for my inspection.

I'm both delighted and horrified.

Back to the beginning.   I started with some sketches.  It's no surprise to me that K actually still HAS the sketches - she's a keep-all-mementos sort of person.


I remember searching for a pattern close to this, and not finding much....I know I bought a pattern that gave me something of a starting point; mostly I remember just draping and fitting on her...why does the thought of doing something like this nowadays seem so far beyond me???   I tell ya, the ballsy cluelessness of youth....

The good news:   It fit her and flattered her, and she was the quintessential radiantly beautiful bride!

 

(yes, that's me hugging the groom - in a RTW dress)

And, by request, one fuzzy pic showing me way back when... I now remember that Kim had her hair done (beautifully!) at a local shop, and she talked me into having them "do" my hair too.  Her hair = perfect.  Mine? An uber-curly disaster.   Oh well.  Her hairs were the important ones!  ;D


The Inspection:

I must admit, the dress really does look pretty well constructed.  On the outside.
Here's the real treasure in this dress.  The lace is pina, or pineapple fiber, from the Phillippines.  K's aunt had a wedding dress made from this lace, which she gave to K.  All I remember about the original dress is yards and yards of gathered skirt!  I used nearly all of it in this dress (some got used in K's daughter's christening gown...which I also have and will blog about).  The cloth is something that needs to be seen and fondled - it's one of the most amazing fabrics I've ever had the pleasure to work with.  Shimmery, fine,  stable, delicate looking but tough as iron - an absolute delight to sew!

 

Apparently I thought that 20 pearl buttons with loops were a better idea than a zipper:

I even added squares of ribbon as backing for each button!  Note that the bodice is fully lined.  :)

All in all, not so bad for someone who really was in way over her head.

Right.  OK.  But...... Are you ready for this?   Wait for it.....

AAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!
Those seams!!!! OMG those SEAMS!!!!!
Silk Charmeuse.  NO seam finishing.  Nothing.  Nada.
Slowly fraying and shredding away.
And check out the shoddy hemming on the right.
Eeep.
:-(
*sigh*

At least I used a triple seaming technique on the armholes.  Not pretty, but I guess you could call it sturdy.


I suppose I could say I was pressed for time?  Considering all of those buttons, carefully lined up and backed, handmade ribbon roses, etc., I don't think that excuse will fly.  Honestly, I knew better.  I swear finished seams were drilled into me by my darling Mumsy when I was a wee one, learning to sew.   Maybe I was going through a rebellion?   But on a WEDDING DRESS?   

*sigh*

The dress is in my hands for the moment, and I'll have to see what I can do to save and preserve those seams. K's daughter is an artist who, to my knowledge, has never been seen in a dress-up dress like this in her entire life (she wore a simple cotton print frock to her H.S. prom), so who knows if this dress will ever be worn again?   But I think I owe it to the sewing and seaming goddesses of the universe to do SOMETHING about those seams....

And I hereby make a promise...out loud...to me and everyone who reads this, that I will never commit such a sewing sin again!

How about you?  Have you had a chance to inspect something you made from eons past?  And what was your reaction when you saw it?  What is your best (or worst!) unfinished seam story?   (please make me feel better!!!)  ;-D

38 comments:

  1. Wonderful dress! I think 'clueless and ballsy' is a very creative combination. Not to be a sewing renegade but no finish on the seams probably gave a smoother appearance on the outside than anything but a hand overcast would have..

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    1. Oh I LIKE that justification! ;-D Except that the skirt is covered with the lace overlay, so I fear I won't get much mileage out of that one either.

      Thanks for trying to make me feel better though ;-)

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  2. Wow, I love this story, this bit of history! That dress is so 80s, isn't it? That's partly what I love about it - it has a lot of character. I think you did a beautiful job on it, despite the seam finishes. Valerie is right, you have to be very careful because some seam finishes would leave ridges on the outside.

    I have been enjoying your sewing journey lately - such diverse and fun projects.

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    1. Awww, thank you! I had nearly always stay-stitched and pinked my seam finishes - that would have been a reasonable option for this fabric. Why oh why did I not do that here???

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  3. I am no help, I am afraid. I have been ridiculously anal about seam finishing from the moment I started sewing. It is a mystery to me why. I am slapdash and carefree about pretty much everything else.

    That dress is lovely. I admire your bravery in having the courage to make it. Even when I was young and stupid (and I WAS stupid), I would never have had the nerve to try a wedding dress. Still don't. I always thought people only sewed wedding dresses either for themselves or people they gave birth to. I didn't wear a gown to my wedding and I haven't given birth.

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    1. Maybe I knew I would never be wearing a wedding dress myself?

      And why in the friggin-fraggin flimmedybobble can't I get my comment avatar to wokr?????????

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  4. Wow, Jilly...what an incredible story! The gown is beautiful...and it's my considered opinion that behind all art is some combination of clueless and ballsy...it reminds me of that quote "what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?"

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  5. That is a great story and a beautiful dress. Let's say you ran out of time so didn't get to finish the seams. Yeah, that's it.

    My only memory of a bad decision was a garment out of an open weave fabric. I did put zigzag stitches on, probably because it was quicker but it didn't take many wearings and washings before the seam allowances had unraveled almost to the seam stitches. It wasn't as important as a wedding dress, however.

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    1. ok. time...yeah.

      Those seam allowances. You'd think we'd learn...

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  6. What a beautiful story, Jilly. What a good friend you are. Sometimes we hold ourselves back out of fear, don't we? So clueless and ballsy is a good combo. Maybe having a clue makes us less ballsy?

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    1. I'm hearing a lot of encouragement here for clueless and ballsy. It may be good food for healthy living.... or at least a more intresting life! ;)

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  7. Love the story and the dress. It really is something that has a timeless quality ... it's 80s, but it's unique. (And I don't see any shoulder pads, thank heavens.(
    My only complaint is that the photo of YOU doesn't show your face. Please show us your happy smile at this wedding. I know there is a photo out there somewhere ...

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    1. OK....since you asked so nicely....I'll add the one pic I have. :)

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  8. Jilly, You did a gorgeous job and since you have the opportunity to right the wrong, I'd give it a perfect! Aren't you glad you did it not matter how it came out? She was a radiant bride. The dress is timeless, and it is a designer original!

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  9. I am the bride and I will have all know I feel so blessed having Jillian as a friend. This is one, and there are many reasons I feel blessed having Jillian as a friend, but definitely one of the reasons I feel blessed is she created my wedding dress. So talented. I also want to say that the dress was comfortable weither dancing, sitting or walking up desert hills. I felt beautiful, relaxed and so abundantly happy. In addition, Jillian was able to bring family history to a new place in time by incorprating my Aunt's dress fabric. I have been lucky to be part of the history of this seamstress/artist.

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    1. :::beam::: So happy you posted here! It was, and is, (and will be for a long time to come) a blessing to have you as a friend :))))

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  10. Great story! Perhaps you will feel much better once you see how I finished bound buttonholes on my cashmere coat. I used to call it my best coat ever.:) http://mycatsew.blogspot.com/2012/02/vogue-7979-out-of-print-cashmere-coat.html

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    1. I remember seeing your beautiful coat post back then! Even your buttonholes looked fine to me. Dang moths :(

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  11. I was like you when I was younger and made my own wedding dress - I probably wouldn't be game now! I must get it out and see how I have finished it...
    Lovely post!

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    1. Oh I do hope you get it out....and post about it!

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  12. What a labour of love! It's so lovely and and generously given, that I think we can absolve you of your seam sins, lol!

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  13. Thanks for sharing this very personal experience with us Jilly. This is what friends do for each other and you may wince over the dress's imperfections, but there is no imperfection in the sentiment behind it. Your friends archiving of the process is proof enough of how well received it was:) I think you should let it be....don't try to improve on history...it is what it is a beautiful act of friendship.

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    1. Awwww thanks :) I'll take your suggestion under consideration, but I think, in the interest of preservation (and you know that anyone who saves sketches is going to want to preserve the dress!) I'll probably do SOMEthing.....

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  14. I too love the story and the dress. Because they are interwoven - story and dress.

    I made my (first) wedding dress in 1970. I haven't looked at it from the inside since I put it away. You are so brave.

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    1. May I encourage you to look at that dress? And then post about it? And then I'll be in good company! (I'll bet your seams look better than mine!)

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  15. I made a wedding dress 17 years ago, and have just recently gotten back into sewing. The dress was for my wedding (at age 40, no spring chicken). As I remember it, making the dress was the best part of planning the wedding, since I could do whatever I wanted. I got it out a while ago and, like you, was pleased and horified. I did not finish the seams, but in my defense, I learned sewing in the late 60's and was never taught to finish any seam other than an occasional pinking. I was under the impression that was why you had 5/8 inch allowances. The dress is lovely and you did a wonderful job.

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  16. Lovely story, lovely dress and lovely bride! And you did a great job, Jillian. I made my own wedding dress 41 years ago but not nearly this elaborate. (A bright polyester floral and the groom had a matching shirt! So '70's. I even had flowers in my hair!) I also made my daughter-in-law's wedding dress and the whole family's worth of medieval garb for my daughter's wedding. Whew. Luckily not her dress though.

    I've been a careful seam-finisher for a very long time. I like my clothes to last! However, I've certainly had a few frustrations with cheap fusible non-woven interfacing that disintegrates in the laundry. Boo.

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    1. Oh yeah. We won't even get into cheap fusible interfacing! I actually still have a stash of it, thinking surely there is something I'll use it for, but really? I should donate it......

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  17. That's a good point about seam finishes not being stressed. I don't know if my mother finished all of her seams, but I do remember that she pinked a lot of them--by hand--as she didn't have pinking shears. Ugh.

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    1. The above was in reply to VictoriaR which I thought would appear under her name---guess not.

      I see that Jilly no longer has that circle but a generic avatar---must mean she's moving up in the world. LOL.

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    2. Pinked BY HAND???? Eeep. I'll just pretend I didn't even read that!

      As far as the avatar; the blank face was achieved only by a lot of extra typing. I'm still trying to figure this glitch out! And trying not to get frustrated by it...... and not succeeding as that well :(

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  18. Been searching Google help, but so far haven't found an answer. I can't even find the place where you could go and tell the problem and it would be answered.

    Yeah, pinking by hand. She would put little tucks in and snip them which had to have taken lots and lots of time.

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  19. Okay, you caught me. I rarely finish seams. (Of course, I might have finished the seams on a wedding dress, if I ever had the nerve to start one.) But I figure, why finish seams on a cotton dress that will be worn maybe two seasons? That's, unfortunately, where my sewing is at the moment. I do have to say, I feel vaguely guilty about not finishing those seams, however. Now you have made me feel even more guilty...but not quite guilty enough...better done than perfect, as one of my friends says.

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  20. What a wonderful story! And the dress is absolutely beautiful -- unfinished seams and all!

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