Luckily, adding structure to my dress was easier than adding structure to my post-lockdown life. Spiral steel boning can be a challenge, but is well worth the effort. I first marked the boning with all of the lengths that I needed, cut them all, and then used a combination of pliers and teflon tape to secure the boning tips.
Throughout the making of this dress, I’ve been referencing the Pink Lace Party Dress instructions in Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book (UDB) because it’s pretty similar in construction. Based on the UDB, I ended up adding boning to the center front of the bust as well as 2 inch horsehair braid to the neckline. I can’t recommend this book enough, because in addition to a bunch of patterns it has a ton of technique instructions that really eased my fear of using “fancy” fabric. I added bra cups to the lining because…if you can avoid a bra on your wedding day, then why not?
I expected the skirt construction to be the easiest part of this project, and with respect to technique it was. But, it was by far the most time consuming part and posed some other challenges. I had to make six layers of tulle, each consisting of six large panels. Cutting out the panels took up most of the useful space of our apartment (apologies to Patrick) and getting the fabric had me literally breaking a sweat.
Once I had finished each of the layers, I hand-basted them together before sewing three rows of machine basting in order to gather.
I would estimate that cutting, sewing, and gathering the tulle/net skirts took at least ten hours across several days. I ended up being short of english net by about six inches, despite having ordered one yard more than the pattern called for, so my plans were interrupted until more was delivered. To add to my frustration, I found that after the skirt was gathered it was more than two panels too big.
I was too scared to cut anything, so instead I put the underskirt together to make sure that the fit was correct. It was also too big by two inches. I’m not sure what happened there, but at least that was an easy fix. I attached the overskirt and then clipped it on my dress form. Before cutting, I hand basted a line from the top of the skirt straight down to where it would naturally fall, if it were the correct size. Then I very carefully took my scissors to the overskirt and sewed a new seam at the back. I basted the skirt to the main fabric of the bodice before attaching it with a straight stitch. At this point, I was sewing through three bodice layers and seven skirt layers. Even though most of the fabric layers were very thin, it was surprisingly difficult to handle all that while keeping the taffeta layers flat. One change from the pattern that I made during this process, is that I folded the bodice center back seam allowance in before attaching the skirt, because I intended to use buttons for the bodice closure. I left the skirt seam allowance free, because I would be attaching an invisible zipper. Only three steps left!! Zipper insertion, buttons/loops, and attaching the bodice lining.
For now I will leave you with a picture of the taffeta skirt in the sun which was almost enough to convince me that this fabric is too beautiful to cover up. While I’m coming up on completion of this project sooner than I anticipated, I’ve got some other plans in mind…and taffeta will be first in line!