Shell’s dress: The skirt

Actually, this post is about the skirt lining of Shell’s dress, because I foolishly neglected to take any photos of the skirt outer in progress.

The skirt lining is cut to the exact same pattern as the skirt outer though, so you’ll get the idea.

The skirt: lots and lots of folds, and a wide train

Because of the width of each of the four back skirt panels, and how narrow my fabric was, I had to put joins in the bottom of each skirt panel.  You can see them in the bottom right of the photo.

They don’t look great on the lining, but I’m confident they will be barely noticeable in the final dress.

Isn't the spread of train gorgeous? And look whose watching...

I’m going to need to trim a lot from the skirt sides.  The train is also longer than it looks:  I have Isabelle the dress form raised to her full height.

I’m in love with the dotted swiss fabric.  It’s such a lovely fabric to work with.  I wish I knew what the fibre makeup was.

Felicity loves it too. It makes a good cat tent

The spotted fabric ads a lovely, fun, touch to the dress.  You’ll just see glimpses of it as you pick up the skirt, and the spots are so subtle that they won’t show through the outer chiffon crepe, or rub against Shell’s skin.

And besides, I firmly believe that lining fabrics should always be as cute as possible.  Even if they can’t compare with having Felicity as part of the dress.

We are teh cute


Shell’s dress: a very historical bustline

While Shell’s dress is a modern wedding dress in most ways, I’m a historical seamstress.  So I’m using historical construction techniques to make the dress.

This is most noticeable in the bust.  To create the perfect shaping, and to make sure that there would be no chance of nipply weather, no matter how cold the day, I corded the bust panels.

Cording fabric for the bust panels

Based on my previous experience with the evilness of cording, I decided to cord full pieces of fabric, and then to cut the bust panels out of those (rather than cording pre-cut panels).

Teeny-tiny, very tight cording channels

Cutting the panel pieces out of full pieces of pre-corded fabric

Shell watched me cord the first piece of fabric, and got quite excited about documenting the process.

Documentation. This is how you do it.

Felicity got excited about the process too.  Felicity loves Shell.  She can literally walk all over her.'s so interesting!

It was fun letting Felicity get involved.  Usually when I sew for clients I lock Felicity out of the room, and she sits outside the French doors and looks sad.  But Shell is a good friend, and loves Felicity, so kitty got to sew with me.

Shell got to sew too.  After I finished the first cording piece, she sewed the second one, to see how it went.  It went well but evil-y.  Now she knows what I went through for her dress.

Her cording wasn’t quite as tight and narrow as mine, but that’s not a problem, as the fine cording went on the inner bust panels, and the wider cording balanced out the outsides.

My tight cording on the right, Shell's looser cording on the left

The technique worked beautifully.  The shaping on the bust turned out perfect, it provided lots of support, no gaping, and it was even strong enough to withstand running bones across the bust without flattening it.

Double-bones across the bust

I used LOTS of bones on the bodice support.  There is nothing worse than seeing a bride hiking up her strapless dress!

There are two bones running up the centre front, half bones ending just under the bust at the side-centre front, two bones running over each bust, a bone just at the side of the bust, and a bone on each side of the side seams.  Plus, there are double bones at the side-back, and bones on either side of the back fastening.

Beautiful bust cording, lots of bones for perfect support

Shell’s wedding dress: construction beginnings

Construction on Shell’s dress began with draping a very basic princess-seamed bodice, and with working out some very complicated sketches for a skirt design that gets fuller as it goes back and is made out of a chiffon fabric that isn’t bias-grain seam friendly.

Princess seam bodice front (with reflection of me & my beautiful view)

Princess seam bodice back (with more awesome reflections)

I know.  Most unexciting drafting photos ever.

The front of the skirt was a bit of a problem, because the fabric was quite narrow, and so drapey that seamlines cut on the bias tended to warp.  I needed to find a way to make the skirt very full at the hem, without minimal seamlines across the bias of the grain, and within the narrow fabric width.

I drew up a few skirt front ideas:

Option 1: 3 very wide panels, the centre front panel with joins at the bottom to make it wide enough.

Option 2: 4 narrower panels, with a centre front seamline

Option 3: lots and lots of narrow panels

I ended up going with an option not show: cutting a narrow-ish centre front panel, and then two wide side panels, which did leave me with two very tricky almost-bias side front seams.

The practical me said I should have gone with a 4th option: a half circle for the front. It wouldn’t have given quite as nice of a transition of fullness from front to back, but it would have given the minimum of seams, with no bias seams at all, which is a beautiful effect in its own right.

Since I did decide to go with evil, tricky, almost bias seams in a drapey, super lightweight crepe (almost chiffon) fabric I had to pull out every trick in the book to get them to lie nicely.  I’ll post some of those tips and tricks on Wednesday.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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