Thursday, April 17, 2008

How to make a wedding dress in one week.

I have been painfully reminded why weddings take so long to plan and why the dresses cost so bloody much. It's because they are expensive (materials) and labor intensive.

The back-story...
I made a tailcoat for this gentleman, and he loved it. He'd told me it was for a wedding in early April, but he didn't say it was his wedding. Good man to lie and give me a date a few weeks ahead of time. Good job! (no, I mean this, ALWAYS lie to your clothing suppliers and tell them the date is sooner than it really is... So then he e-mails me back and says "help! my fiance's dress isn't done and the woman we ordered it from has stopped calling!" I told him to contact the woman and tell her to call you back and let you know if the dress will be there, or if you have to make other arrangements.
A whole week went by and I heard nothing back. Then the fiance e-mails me HELP!

So that's how I came to make a wedding dress in 7 days.
The process normally goes something like this:
Customer orders. I find an historic pattern and whip up a test garment in their size (or mine just to see if it works). I try it on someone of approximately the same size and then make any necessary adjustments. I get fabric, wash, iron, etc. Cut pattern, Sew. Take photos, send off and hope it fits. If it's really complex, (like a wedding dress) I make a sloper and send it to them to make sure I've got the right shape.

This is how THIS dress went:
Day 1 (I've got the flu)
I got a frantic e-mail... didn't hear back... started looking for patterns anyway.
Found 3 great patterns.
Got the e-mail without payment or measurement information (which means no actual order).

Day 2 Start 3:00 pm

Started tracing out the pattern anyway in the original size.
Got the e-mail with payment and measurement information, get phone call with specific info.
Re-sized the pattern and made design changes.
Cut & sewed a test garment, re-cut & sewed a test garment that would fit a human.
Checked measurements and made notes.
End11:20 pm

Day 3 Start 6:40 am
Made new test garment & figured out mechanics of bodice.
Went shopping for fabric ($ from credit hadn't come through yet... Mom paid for it)
Cut "actual" bodice & sewed together
End 3:20 am

Day 4 Start 7:20 am

Re-fit pattern, cut new bodice.
Cut skirt, sew.
Re-work pattern again.
Re-cut (praying I've got enough fabric)
End 9:00 pm

Day 5 Start 7:50 am
Sew skirt, it fits!
Cut overskirt (lace)
Sew that.
LUNCH & shopping for odds & ends.
Sew bodice
Sew sleeves
End 11:00 pm

Day 6 Start 7:30 am
Pin everything together
Re-vamp sleeves.
Sew together.
arrange skirts,
pin, sew, attach.
Hand stitch trim on neckline
finish hooks & eyes at back.
Take pictures, mail the sucker (not 100% finished... but wearable)
End 8:15 pm

Day 7 Start 1:00 pm
Make bow & lower detachable sleeves
End 4:45 pm.

This whole thing cost her $500 + $100 shipping. Holy Cow! I really hope this fits her.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blue Cotehardie

Here is the finished blue linen cotehardie. It's been done for quite some time, but today I got good pictures. The chemise is a 1500's version, and not for this dress. However, when modeling for paintings, historic accuracy often takes a backseat to artistic license. Note the relatively modern spinning wheel and fully modern blinds. I think my coffee cup is in the window sill.

I'm very pleased with this series of photos, and just wish I'd been able to wear the right chemise (see the previous entry on the 1400's cotehardie for the inspiration painting) and my veil. I may re-do the photos for my online gallery, but these will do for now.

This modeling session made me very interested in the process of spinning. After holding that small hank of wool for so many hours, I can see how it would be a meditative past time. It had a very pleasant pull and felt smooth. I think I would really enjoy spinning. This may be something I will look into in the future.

As of right now, I'd like to replace the machine stitched button holes with hand-stitched holes and the commercial ribbon with a 4 strand cord. I'm working on a fairly big order at the moment, getting ready for an event in May and making more test garments, so I really don't have time for these alterations. I may or may not get to them before summer.

I love this dress. It's comfortable, pretty and has a divine power to resist stains of all kinds (including coffee and oil paint). It's not quite as long as an historic gown, the back just touches the ground, but in these modern germ-infested times, who wants to drag your train through the mud? I may add a white linen boarder for length... if I do I will replace the gold edging with white... and drag that through the mud...