There is a superstition (which I am convinced was invented by the wedding dress manufacturers) that it is bad luck to make your wedding dress.
Marriage-wise, my own observation would indicate that it is extremely good luck to make your own dress- all the women I know who did have had long and happy marriages.
Perhaps the bad luck is in the making of the dress itself?
I could see that. Making my dress was an unhappy and traumatic experience, and both my mother and mother-in-law suffered unfortunate incidences related to the making of their dresses (one of which involved brand new sewing shears, tripping over the toile, lots and lots of blood, a trip to the emergency room, and a permanent scar).
Still, if that is the price you pay for a successful marriage, bring on the wedding dress making horror stories!
My dress was a case of anything that could go wrong, did. Part of the problem was that in between bouts of dress making, I wrote a thesis, graduated from university, moved from California to NYC, did an internship, moved from NYC to Hawaii via California and New Zealand, planned a wedding, did the immigration application to move to NZ, packed for an international move, and had a major health scare.
Oh, and I went from working in a professional costume shop with access to every machine and mannequin imaginable, to working in a tiny cramped, dark, damp room in Hawaii with only 1 (very average) sewing machine, and no dressforms. And I was no longer surrounded by amazing professional costumers to give advice and help with fittings.
And then there was the ‘wettest autumn in recent memory’ problem in Hawaii, which meant that washed fabrics didn’t dry for days, I couldn’t use an iron as there wasn’t enough solar power, and fabrics mildewed given half a chance.
But somehow, with a lot of help from my Mum and sisters, and a lot of all round general patience, and the occasional willingness to re-cut new pieces of the dress when the original pieces got mildew stains, I persevered.
Part of the problem was me. I can be a terrible perfectionist, and every bit of work that went into the dress was exquisite. Every piece had to look as good on the inside as the outside, ever hem was hand stitched with nearly invisible stitches, and anything that wasn’t immaculately precise had to be done again, and again, and again, and then some.
The bodice was the part that gave me the most trouble. The original pattern wasn’t flattering, and all the alternatives I came up with were very tricky. I ended up cutting and sewing half a dozen different versions, before ending up with one that was acceptable, but which I never loved.
Luckily, I had got a very good deal on the fabric, so I bought ridiculously much more than I thought I would use. Thanks to the re-cutting, I used it all.
In the end, I had a dress which was wonderful to wear on the day (so light and cool and practical), and which I regretted, in a wistful “I missed my chance to wear something ridiculous” way, when I first saw the wedding pictures. Luckily I am growing to love the timeless and understated aesthetic of the dress more and more as the years pass.
Would I do it again if I had the chance? I would, and I wouldn’t. With what I know now (life wisdom, not sewing skills), I would make a dress that was easy to sew, but had much more visual impact. The dress I made was ridiculously difficult, but the result was deceptively simple – a masterpiece that tricked the viewer into thinking they could throw the same thing together with just a few hours work.