While Susan and I have both been sewing for several years, neither one of us has really ventured into fine fabrics. I mostly stick with cotton prints and flannels, although I have used some knits, linens and bottom-weights. But dupioni silk? Not me…
Thus I think that, at first, we were both a bit overwhelmed by the task of selecting fabric for her dress. I felt like I didn’t even know the set of options that we had to choose from, which was unnerving. Luckily, the instructor from one of the online classes I took at www.patternreview.com, Sarah Veblen, graciously gave me advice via email and even sent me a swatch of the silk satin that she used to make her daughter’s wedding dress. (If you want to see an incredible creation, check out the wedding photos on Sarah’s website: http://www.sarahveblen.com.)
There is, of course, lots of good advice on the pattern review web site, including information about online shops for fine fabrics. And for people with a little bit of experience working with fine fabrics, I think that this is probably an excellent option. But in the end, for us, I think that the brick and mortar store experience was a necessity. We needed to see and touch bolts of fabric side by side – to unroll them on a cutting table and overlay bolts of lace – we just didn’t have enough knowledge in our heads to fill in the details that are missing from web site words and pictures and little swatches that come in the mail…
Luckily, there is a great fabric store in Orlando, The Sewing Studio Fabric Superstore (http://www.sewing.net), that has a large bridal section. A friend at work told me about it, and Susan and I visited it last Tuesday night (our usual rock climbing night.) Even that experience would have been overwhelming, if it wasn’t for the assistance of one of the employees, a knowledgeable young man named Scotti. He encouraged us to unroll bolts of fabric and lace on the cutting table and mix and match to our hearts’ content.
Susan had brought the pattern envelope and her cardstock cut-out of the dress outline. Scotti was able to give us advice about the level of firmness of the various fabrics and how well they matched the requirements of our pattern. (For example, too soft of a fabric wouldn’t hold the [horizontal] pleats in the front of the dress.) We used the cardstock cut-out to help visualize the possible combinations of fabrics and laces distributed across the bodice, body and godet. I can’t say enough about how patient, encouraging, and technically helpful he was!
And the evening was a success! We selected a rich, gorgeous, just-off-white silk satin for the dress, a burnished gold satin for the godet, and the most heart-stoppingly beautiful champagne colored lace to overlay the bodice and the godet. The lace has a distinct top and bottom. Along the bottom there are flowered vines growing upwards. The bottom is the most heavily patterned area of the lace, and the embellishments become sparser the higher up you go. I’ll align the bottom of the lace with the bottom of the godet, so that the flowered vines grow up from the bottom of the dress. I’ll use less detailed pieces of lace (from higher up) to overlay the bodice.
We debated using the gold satin for the bodice as well, but recalled my friend Dorothy’s advice, that adding this distinctive horizontal line under the bust might make Susan look shorter. So, Susan decided to leave the bodice in the same fabric as the rest of the dress, but use the lace overlay to connect it with the godet, so that the godet doesn’t jump out like this bit that is out of place from the rest of the dress. The matching lace should tie everything together nicely.
We also debated not using the gold satin at all, and just highlighting the godet (and/or the bodice) with the lace. That would have been beautiful, but perhaps more traditional. The combination that Susan decided on is, I think, uniquely her. While it will still clearly be a wedding dress, her personality and her voice will sing out in this dress. Just wait until you see it! :)
And that, of course, gets us to the question of time and schedule. Originally we had planned to go back and buy the fabric on Saturday. But it turns out that this store has a huge sale on New Year’s Day – EVERYTHING in the store (including the lace) is 40% off! We’re going to keep a close eye on Susan’s selections – stopping in every week in December to make sure that they aren’t running low on anything. (In fact, I’m going tomorrow night.) I’m not going to let these choices slip away from us, but, if everything goes well, I’ll make the purchases on January 1st, 2008.