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While sewing, for me, is mostly a commercial pursuit, I have long associated it with love, not money. I don’t mean that in the sense of I’m not getting rich as a sewist. I mean that the first sewing I was exposed to were the stuffed animals and doll clothes my grandmother made for me and my cousins. My mother sews clothes for my children. My aunts sew quilts for their families. Sewing has always been an expression of love in my family. And though the majority of my sewing goes to items for sale, that doesn’t mean I don’t also sew for love.

The dress I made for my friend Moira is no exception. When she approached me to make her wedding dress, I was so happy and excited to do it. And though my entry here is listed as “client spotlight” and though Moira paid me, that doesn’t negate the love I put into making her gown. I wouldn’t be at her nuptials in body, so my joy and well wishes for her and her beau would travel along in the dress.

The fabric features cartoon renderings of several of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits.

Moira is an artist of the beautifully macabre. This of course means she wasn’t looking for a white satin gown for her wedding. What she came to me with was the idea for a 1960s cocktail dress that she could wear to other events. We took measurements and she went on the hunt for fabric. That fabric happened to be a cotton print by Alexander Henry called Frida Esperanza.

My first order of business was to do a tissue fitting. Moira is a tall, curvy gal which made a couple fittings necessary to make sure everything fit perfectly. I use the method I learned from the book Fit for Real People which involves pinning the tissue pattern together, trying it on, and marking any changes directly onto the paper. For Moira we had to take into account that her bust apex was lower than in the pattern, widening the back and waist, and making sure the kimono cut sleeves allowed her ample movement.

After the tissue fitting I put together a muslin. When you are altering a pattern there are so many adjustments that need to be made, a muslin is the only way to make sure you don’t miss something. And since Moira had brought me just enough of the fabric to make the dress, I didn’t want to make a mistake that would put me in danger of running out.

I have no clever reason for using two different colors of muslin here. I just grabbed what was closest and had enough yardage from my stash.

The muslin fitting brought to light other fit issues. I had dropped the bust darts down, and had made the waist darts in the bodice narrower. I had also added an inch to the center back. Even so, there was still a large gap at the midsection. This seems to be a common problem for those of us with larger busts. Unless we are employing bras that also double as rigging for a sloop, the weight of larger breasts pulls them lower than those of our perkier, smaller busted sisters. This means that the point of largest width ends up lower than patterns take into account. By adding the extra inch to the back, I ended up with a gap that overlapped at the neck, but couldn’t close the rest of the way down.

I marked a bunch of notes right onto the fabric as Moira patiently waited, turning right and left, lifting her arms or sitting as I made my notes. I kept telling her not to suck in, as I wanted the dress to fit her, not try to fit her body to the dress.

Now it was time to commit to cutting out the adjusted pattern from the final fabric. Even here I had to make some more changes. The original pattern calls for cutting the front bodice in two pieces and then sewing the center seam together. Doing that with the print would cause a headache of trying to make sure I didn’t have Franken-Fridas on my friend’s bust. Instead I cut the bodice on the fold. Eliminating the center seam gave me a little extra room, too. I dropped the back waist darts, which gave me the room I needed to make sure the fit was right, and there wasn’t going to be any tightness. For the extra fabric at the top of the bodice, I put a box pleat in each shoulder. This kept my center back straight. Sometimes a tuck or a fold is just what you need to make things fit, then it becomes a design element!

I will be honest that when Moira showed up to pick up the dress I held my breath while I zipped her up into it. I wanted so very much for the dress to fit like a hug from a friend. And it did! She looked so lovely twirling around in my workshop, staid Frida’s looking on in approval.

And here is the bride in her dress at her wedding at a mini-golf course / wedding chapel. I can’t express how much it meant to me that Moira asked me to make her wedding dress. Again, I never thought I would work on bridal gowns, and I really am not. Instead, I am adding my love for my friend to her wedding, helping to amplify the happiness of the day.

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