The following post has been donated from Camille's blog to mine. Thank You Camille! I enjoyed reading about the dressmaking process through one of my brides, I thought I would share with all of you.
There were three things I cared about for my wedding: 1) the groom 2) the dress 3) the photographer. You guys know how I got the groom. Sherman is the best wedding photographer around. Here is the story of the dress.
I started looking for dresses when I started wanting to marry Alex. I built the file on my computer with dresses that friends and friends of friends have worn. The two that I loved the most were:
(not one of my gowns)
(one of my gowns)
I thought of buying those dresses off those girls. The first one I thought was too summery for a fall wedding and the second the girl was not willing to part with. She got it custom made, so I got the name of her designer. I mulled over Melissa Blackburn's website. I drooled over every dress. Bows! Lace! Ruffles! Sleeves! Dresses that looked like they were meant to be modest! Here were the kinds of dresses I had been looking for.
Oh and does this dress look familiar? Also a Melissa Blackburn creation for you pinterest nuts.
But, I decided that I shouldn't go custom unless I couldn't find something online that I liked. Begin online search. Still couldn't find a dress that had everything I wanted! Then the square dancing idea came around. Maybe I wanted a short dress? I started looking at short dresses.
(Not one of my gowns)
(not one of my drawings)
But I couldn't break up with the idea of a long bridal-looking dress. My mom and I contemplated buying two dresses. I knew that I wouldn't want to switch to the second one if I loved the first though...
I started dress shopping at stores in California. All the modest dresses were hideous! I thought of buying a strapless dress and putting sleeves on it, but the idea did not appeal to me. I wanted a dress that was created to be modest. And I couldn't decide on short or long.
So, after nearly memorizing Melissa Blackburn's blog from looking at it so much, I finally placed the call. I was nervous! I ran the idea of a convertible dress by her, hoping she wouldn't think I was a freak. She didn't. She thought it sounded like a cool challenge! I was so excited. I didn't expect her to be so nice and just as excited as I was! She knew who Betsey Johnson was and she could make my dress in the month I had back at school before I got married.
Note from melissa: I do love a challenge! I always get excited about brides contacting me with something unusual. It is the only reason why I keep doing this, for that crazy concept around the corner.
On her website, she says it is impossible to make something from nothing, and so instructed me to collect some photo inspiration. I decided I wanted a mermaid dress, I wanted it to be convertible, I wanted ruffly and BIG, I wanted a big bow somewhere, and I wanted lace. I also wanted to give a nod to Princess Kate's dress with the lace sleeves.
(Of course the following dresses are not mine)
I kept myself awake trying to remedy all of these things in my head and imagining what it would look like. I learned not to think about my wedding dress when I was going to bed or I couldn't sleep.
Finally, it was time to go back to school. I cried and cried because I had to leave Alex, but was glad I had something to look forward to. Meeting with Melissa Blackburn!
At our first meeting, we looked through the pictures I had gathered of dresses I like. See above. I was kind of star-struck. Is that weird?
She looked at all my pictures and we looked at some that she had gathered and then she drew my exact dress. Oh. That was what I had been trying to create in my head, right there on the paper.
She laid out some lace for me. She pointed to one, a Vera Wang lace, that no bride had ever used because it was so big. I didn't know whether that was a challenge or not, so I chose the daring lace. I am a theater person, I know that only big stuff makes a statement. Plus, it's all white, so who can really see how big or small lace is?
Note from Melissa: I love it when a bride will take a chance. I know in the pictures you couldn't see the big flower of the lace, but in person, it is groovy.
We decided whether to go off-white or stark white. Stark white looked cheaper, so we went with off-white. The Oakland temple is not stark white, so I always think its prettier when brides match the temple. Not that you could see the temple on my wedding day...
The next month was a flurry of fittings. I loved being at Melissa's house. First off, the drive up there was beautiful and therapeutic. She lives up Provo canyon, which is impossibly gorgeous.
Her two little boys would run around and she would listen to me talk about the baby births I had seen that morning and how I missed Alex. She was always so nice and I can't imagine how much crazy wedding talk she has heard during her job.
Note from melissa: Camille is becoming a nurse. I was so amazed at the things she was going through right before coming to fittings. She would tell me about c-sections and natural births she observed. I find it fascinating that we are all doing such different things and have such a variety of talents. I have a great appreciation for anyone working in the medical field. So grateful for them and so overwhelmed by what they do.
I loved watching the dress get made. We began with the short dress. I really wanted both dresses to be equally beautiful so that I wouldn't want to only wear one.
Melissa said she enjoyed working with the lace. I am sure glad she did, because who knows how many hours it took to applique the whole dress. I was almost a little disappointed when she lined the inside because I liked seeing how many stitches it took to get the lace on the bodice. You can still see it in the horsehair bottom however.
Note from Melissa: I loved that she noticed the stitching on the inside. I do get a demented sense of joy out of hand sewing lace. It takes FOREVER but makes me feel so euphoric!
Does this look fun to you? It's fun to her!
The whole time we did our fittings, there was a horsehair bow pinned to the wall. I kept taking the horsehair bow off and putting it different places on my dress. Eventually, we settled with where it ended up.
One of our debates: waist belt or bow?
The bow ended up looking better.
Note from melissa: I am a firm believer that the dress does a lot of the deciding. I like to leave details like bows and belts until the end. That way we can see what the dress wants.
Melissa works with her brides. I would say things like "Can we lower the neckline?" and then I would come in the next time and it was just perfect. I felt like I had a lot of input, but I also had someone keeping me from making an idiot of myself on my wedding day. We don't need a pony costume wedding dress.
After the short version of the dress was just perfect, we started working on the bottom. And by we I mean Melissa. I tried not to lock my knees so I wouldn’t pass out while she flipped and layered and did all sorts of amazing things, all while quizzing her son on his spelling words.
I toyed with the idea of zippers and buttons to attach the bottom half. I also toyed with the idea of Velcro. Alex liked that idea. We ended up using ribbon. Ribbon was perfect because it could remove quickly during the reception, yet wasn’t too difficult to reattach.
You can see the ribbons here.
I would stand there and Melissa would work with the layers. Her favorite word to use is "interesting." She would flip and move the layers of the dress until she deemed it "interesting," which meant it was done. I was continually impressed by how with one small flip, the whole bottom of the dress looked changed. We were trying to stay away from the even looking layers, instead opting for four layers on one side and three on the other. She layered the underside with horsehair and tulle. If I had a spirit fabric, it would be tulle.
Note from melissa: I was taken back when I read the "interesting" thing. I didn't know I said that, but after asking friends, they confirmed it.
The finishing touches were the buttons and the veil. I love how classic the buttons look from the back. When it was finally time for me to decide on a veil, we tried a number of looks including a short veil and cathedral length, but butt-grazing was just the right one. You may not find butt-grazing in your bridal magazine, but you know where it hits!
The thing I liked about watching my dress be made is how a lot of things decided themselves. The dress wanted a bow. It wanted a veil. It wanted some sparkles in the middle of the bow. It wanted those slightly longer sleeves.
I decided by the end, that I will be a dress designer in my next life. No I can’t sew and I don’t have any patience. Yes I wore my dress to my bridal shower and tried it on way too often before the actual wedding day. And yes I showed my husband because I was just too excited... whoops.
In the end, I felt like the ultimate princess on my wedding day. Not only because I was marrying Alex, but every girl knows that if you aren’t wearing the right outfit for the occasion, that's all you can focus on.
Last note from melissa: I love how Camille documented this. I feel it is a great gift to me. The collection of photographs of the process with the corresponding thoughts attached, too great! I always wonder what impression people get of my little family and me. Because I work from home, it is a bit more real, which could be an issue. I know this is naive of me, but I feel like the relationships between my brides and myself are more authentic because they come into our home and meet the boys and the husband. I am grateful for this life I get to live right now. I am grateful for the women that come to my home and let me create new and interesting dresses. Thank you.