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Kate | Custom Pink Silk Dupioni Wedding Gown

Concept

When you’re over 6′ tall, it can be pretty difficult to find anything that fits off the rack. If you’re on the hunt for a wedding gown, you’d like to have straps, you don’t want a pouffy princess ballgown, and you don’t even want it to be white, it’s damn near impossible. And that’s why Kate came to see us.

She was looking for something classy and fitted through the torso with a trumpet flare at the bottom. She wanted her dress to have lots of texture to it. Of the design options we presented, Kate’s top choice was our “starburst” design, featuring seamed panels of fabric angling outwards in all directions from a central point of the dress.

Concept Sketch for Kate's Wedding Dress © Crafty Broads

Concept Sketch for Kate’s Wedding Dress © Crafty Broads

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

We often use padding to make a dress form into the same shape as a client so that we can drape our design on it; however there are some limitations. While you can add material to make a dress form wider, there’s no good way to make one taller in any area except the legs. And though many tall people are tall because they have super long legs, Kate is tall in every aspect – long legs, long torso, she is even long from shoulder to bustline. So for this project we chose to use a flat-patterning method – taking Kate’s exact measurements and using a computer and a lot of very specific math to create a paper patter that we could work from. It worked out very well and needed surprisingly little adjustment at our mockup fitting.

Seamed bodice in progress, as seen on a not-quite-proportional dress form! Photo © Crafty Broads

Seamed bodice in progress, as seen on a not-quite-proportional dress form! Photo © Crafty Broads

Finished Garment

We selected silk dupioni for the seamed portion of the dress from the knees up, and a 4-ply silk crepe to create a flowing skirt on the bottom, both in a blushy pink shade. This was our first time working with the silk crepe, and it was delightful to cut and sew. It has a nice medium weight to it, which made the whole garment hang nicely. The seamed dupioni portion of the dress created a lot of visual texture, and turned out beautifully!

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. They are not available for reproduction, redistribution, or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Hayley | Custom 1950s-Style Wedding Dress

Concept

Hayley came to us in search of a full-skirted, fifties-style knee-length dress, and we pretty quickly settle on idea of a structured dress in silk dupioni with a shelf bust in glossy silk charmeuse.

Concept sketch for Hayley's 1950s-style wedding dress

Concept sketch for Hayley’s 1950s-style wedding dress

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

This was our first time making a shelf bust, and we really had a learning curve on it. The charmeuse was fussy and didn’t like to be pleated. We went through a good bit of trial and error to get it just right. Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward garment. Silk dupioni is a dream to work with, and we found a lovely lightweight silk to line it with too!

Final version of the bust shelf! Photo © Crafty Broads

Final version of the bust shelf! Photo © Crafty Broads

Finished Garment

Hayley decided on a gorgeous color for her dress – somewhere in between gold an ivory. The difference in texture between the dupioni (main body of the dress) and the charmeuse (in the ruched bust section) creates a striking contrast, even though the two fabrics are the same color.

Doesn’t Hayley look stunning? We absolutely loved how her dress turned out! Congratulations Hayley and Scott!

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are used with permission. They are not available for reposting or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Julia’s Custom Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets

Julia's Custom Wedding Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets

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Julia brought us 39 exquisite lace amulets that were made by women in a Guatemalan village in 1946 for her grandmother’s wedding. She wanted them to be an integral part of the design of a custom, elbow-length ivory veil, but also needed them to be easily removable for future generations to incorporate into their own weddings one day.

We decided to use their circular shape to create a scallop edging around the bottom and lower sides of the veil. The veil itself was made from soft and ethereal ivory silk chiffon. We think it turned out pretty well!

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I’m sort of at a loss for what else to say about this project. We LOVE period garments, as you know doubt are aware, and working with these little pieces of history was delightful. I am certain they will look as lovely on each woman in Julia’s family who dons them one day as they did on her.

Congratulations Julia and Jon!

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All photos were taken by Ashley Therese Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Sarah’s Custom Silk 1930s-inspired Wedding Dress with Bolero Jacket and Full-Length Custom Winter Coat

Sarah's Custom 1930s Silk Wedding Dress

The time has finally come to tell you all about Sarah’s wedding ensemble. (FINALLY! Seriously, the wedding was in December… sorry.) We are really excited to share this with you, after all those months of working on it, dropping hints, and sneak peeks, so here goes!

[Note: I’m trying out this format for custom clothing posts – Concept, Work-in-Progress/Challenges, and Finished Garment. Let me know what you think in the comments.]

Concept

Sarah came to us with a lot of ideas. She loved the green dress from Atonement, and had a flash drive full of bias-cut, 1930s-style dresses to inspire us. She really wanted something that would accentuate her hips and that had a low back. She was looking for a flared skirt to show off the dance moves she and Jeffrey had been practicing. We came back with four ideas, and she chose her favorite.

The four options we presented for Sarah’s dress.

Sarah also wanted some kind of cover-up in case bare shoulders were to chilly for her December wedding, and she asked if we had any thoughts about a winter coat that wasn’t black or gray to wear with it. We suggested the possibility of making that for her two, and she was game! Here’s Julia’s concept sketch for the full-length, kinda period, kinda military coat we came up with.

Concept Sketch: Winter Coat

We also designed a little bolero from silk organza so she could cover up lightly inside. To be honest, this was obviously not the centerpiece of the ensemble, and it could have ended up fairly boring, but we found the most amazing trim which took it from “that’s nice” to “WOW”. Thank you, Fishman’s Fabrics. (By the way, if you ever need really lovely fabrics for your own projects, and you enjoy excellent customer service, you should check that place out. It’s fabric heaven.)

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

Trial version of the dress

We could sum this up by saying we learned a LOT in this process. For starters, we haven’t made many tailored garments like the coat, so we seriously schooled ourselves on the fabrics and construction techniques required for this. Julia did all the work on this coat, and it turned out splendidly. As in, we both want desperately to make some for ourselves.

The chevrons. They were so much harder to do than I expected. Or rather, I went about it the wrong way. What I should have done was first make the mockup in single panels, get it fit properly, and then mark the position of the chevrons. What I did was make some awesome looking chevrons that fit our dress form perfectly, but didn’t work so well on Sarah. Fortunately, Sarah was an exceptionally patient client, and after many, many hours of work, we got it fitting her properly. (And in case you are wondering – No, we don’t charge our clients for the hours we spend fixing our own mistakes and learning new techniques. We do that on our own time.) I’m happy to say that all the hard work paid off, because when it was finally finished? Well, you can see it below.

Finished Garment

We’re thrilled to show you how it turned out! The photos below are by the lovely Emilia Jane, an APW sponsor, fellow foodie, and all-around delightful person. (Who can stir up a pretty mean cocktail.) You can see more photos of Sarah and Jeffery’s wedding here.

The Finished Dress.

 

Detail of the dress.

 

A little closeup on the bodice.

 

Love the way the skirt twirls!

 

We saved some of the dress fabric to wrap Sarah’s bouquet.

The Winter Coat.

 

I just love this photo so much. It looks so awesomely vintage.

 

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are used with permission. They are not available for reposting or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Maddy in Wonderland | Custom Toddler Halloween Costume

Maddy's Alice in Wonderland costume

Prepare yourself for some serious cuteness. A high school friend asked us if we could make a dress for her daughter’s first birthday party. That’s a fun project to begin with, but it gets better – Maddy turned one right before Halloween, and had an Alice in Wonderland themed costume party – starring her as Alice, of course!

This project was a little bit tricky, since Maddy and her parents don’t live in Chicago. (Ordinarily, we say no to out-of-state projects in order to get the fit right, but little girls don’t have the curves that cause so many issues for adults.) So – we started with a mockup, as we do with all of our projects, and then mailed it off to her.

Mockup of Maddy's Alice in Wonderland costume

Trial fitting with a sleepy little lady. You can see the long sleeve and too-big apron.

With some notes from mom and visual assistance from these pictures, we decided that the waist should be a little lower, the sleeves a little shorter, and the apron was clearly too big around the neck. We set about making the changes to the pattern, cutting the final pieces, and putting the whole thing together.

Here is how it turned out:

Maddy in her finished Alice in Wonderland costume

Love that little smirk, too. Happy First Birthday, Maddy!

So, let’s talk pros and cons of a custom-made vs. store-bought costume. The obvious pro of a ready-made costume is price; you can probably pick up a similar ensemble for less than $20 around Halloween. Some cons are: it’s going to be made from a very lightweight synthetic fabric (polyester), which can be uncomfortable to wear. It will be made in a non-American factory that probably doesn’t have great working conditions. The quality of the construction may be mediocre. Obviously, it won’t be made to fit your child exactly, so it will likely have some fit issues. And, you’ll probably see six other kids wearing the exact same costume. All that said, if your child is just going to wear it once, and you don’t care too much what it feels like or how it fits, you will definitely save money this way.

What about a hand made costume? Well, again, the obvious con is price. With the cost of materials and a fair hourly wage for the person making it (us), this is clearly a pricier option. The other potential drawback is that you can’t just decide at 6pm on October 30th – the process does take a few weeks. So, why bother then? We’d argue that the main reason is quality. Unlike most store-bought costumes, ours is made from 100% cotton – so it’s comfortable and breathable, but you can still throw it right through the washer and dryer on your usual settings. You can rest assured that the workmanship is good – buttons won’t be popping off willy nilly, seams stay closed, you won’t be constantly clipping threads as they start to come loose. In other words, the costume will last until the next year and/or the next child. Of course, it’s going to fit your child perfectly. And because you have input into the design, you may be able to wrangle some non-Halloween wear out of it too – for example, Maddy can wear the apron to help Mom in the kitchen, or rock a bright blue dress at the next family party. With a sash or a sweater, she’ll have a whole new look the she can wear all year long. Finally, and most importantly for some, you get to support a small business and know that you are helping someone earn a decent living doing.

So – we are right back in that same old argument – price vs. value. Sometimes, you’re going to choose price; other times value; with luck or a really good sale, you may end up with both.

And since we went off on such a long tangent, here’s another cute picture of the birthday girl:

Maddy in her Alice in Wonderland costume

Birthday Girl, (almost) walking around with her grandma.

Seriously adorable. And it was a delightful project to work on, too. Perhaps we have a future in toddler couture.

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Photos in this post were taken by Maddy’s family, and are protected by copyright. You may not use or repost these photos.

Jaimelyn | Custom Everyday Corset + Flirty Summer Skirt | Chicago, Illinois

Jaimelyn's Custom Everyday Corset

Today we have another corset project to show you. Jaimelyn wanted a serious corset to accentuate her curves. No frills, no fuss, just lots of function. So this one is very different from the last one we showed you. Here’s how:

Everyday Corsets are still SEXY.


Bones.
Jaimelyn’s corset has a lot more bones. This provides a much greater degree of shaping and cinching. It also takes considerably more time and requires more specific fitting, which is why most commercially made or ready-to-wear corsets don’t have too many bones.

More bones = More pattern pieces = More time


Fabric.
All four layers of this corset are made from 100% cotton, while Cory’s has an embroidered silk on the outside layer. The main reason for this is to save money, although cotton is nice and cozy for more frequent wear. The other advantage is that it’s smooth, so unlike a textured fabric, it won’t show under whatever garment she wants to wear it with. We think it’s important to make corsets (and clothing, in general) from natural fibers – that’s cotton, silk, linen, and some rayons – because they breathe easily and are much nicer to work with. You may recall we ended up purchasing silk instead of using the polyester provided for Maria’s wedding shrug for these same reasons. (Uh, and this is another thing ready-to-wear corsets often do differently. There’s a lot of polyester happening out there. Do yourself a favor and run away from those, because an ill-fitting corset that gets stickier the longer you wear it is not so pleasant. Those are the garments that have given corsets a bad reputation as instruments of torture. In that case? Yeah, they pretty much are.)

She can tighten the laces herself - yay!


Closure.
While both corsets lace in the back, Jaimelyn’s has something that Cory’s doesn’t – a busk. This is what you see on the front of many corsets, and it allows the wearer to put it on herself. (Cory’s, which does not have a busk, requires a second person to help her get in and out.) A busk is basically two metal strips – one with little knobs and one with holes they fit into – which bring the halves together at the front. Jaimelyn can loosen the laces in the back, close the busk, and then tighten the laces herself.

Closeup on the Busk

In addition to the corset, Jaimelyn was also pining for a skirt she’d somehow lost and desperately wanted to replace. She showed us some pictures of what she was looking for, and I sewed up this airy little number for her. This is another cotton garment – it’s made from an embroidered cotton gauze and lined with super-comfy jersey.

Skirt! WIth pockets!

I added my own touch – pockets! In case you’re somehow unaware, I am a pockets girl. I hate carrying purses, and the number one reason I rarely wear a skirt or dress is because I need my pockets! I NEED THEM!! So I add them whenever I can. Including on stuff for other people. I recently made myself a dress with pockets, and it is so awesome. I am plotting to make many, many more. And some skirts. And then I will suddenly be girly and you will wonder what happened to me… speaking of which, where was I? Oh yes: I found some great wooden buttons to keep those pockets closed, too! Which I think were put on after the picture was taken, and so you can’t see them… sorry.

As long as we’re imagining what the finished project looks like… here’s my thought on styling this skirt for fall. Personally, I’d love to see Jaimelyn wear these pieces together, with a bold-colored jacket (leather?) and coordinating knee-high boots. I think that look would be killer.

Cory’s Custom Red Corset and Silk Chiffon Dress

Custom Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt

Time for a step back. We’ve been updating you here and there about what we’re working on now, but we really should have started at the beginning. (It’s a very good place to start.) So we’re going to use the next few posts to catch you up, and we begin with a project we both really wanted to keep for ourselves (even though it wouldn’t fit either one of us…)

Cory was in need of something to wear for the Jeff Awards. She wanted something that looked somewhat period (the nominated show she starred in, Ragtime, is set in the early 1900s) in case she was asked to perform, but she also wanted it to be wearable for any fancy event.

We settled on a design of a corset with off-the-shoulder sleeves and a coordinating silk and silk chiffon skirt in a deep red hue. Since they are separate pieces, Cory can actually wear either the skirt or the corset on its own, as well as together.

Now seems like a good time to talk about the process of making custom garments and corset construction, so here goes. We start by taking a LOT of measurements so that we can create a good pattern that fits well.

Pattern for Cory's Corset

Next, we build a mockup, usually made out of muslin, so that we can test the fit and style before we cut into the more expensive fabric. For a corset, we even put in plastic boning so that our test fit is really accurate. Here’s what Cory’s looked like:

Cory's corset mockup (front)

Once we have this ready, we do the first fitting with our client. We will check various areas to see how it fits as well as get feedback from the client about the style so we can make sure we’re meeting their expectations for the garment. In this case, we needed to shorten the corset around the bottom edge, and Cory asked us to make it a little tighter in the waist. We’ll note the adjustments and then transfer them to the pattern.

Cory's corset mockup (back)

At this fitting, we will usually have a selection of fabric swatches so that our client can help us decide what to buy. Cory wanted a deep red, and we found some really beautiful options, which you’ll see in the pictures below. For the corset, she chose a red fabric embroidered with gold thread. The skirt was made from a rust-colored fabric with a cranberry silk chiffon overlay.

Lining of the Corset and Skirt

The next step is to make those adjustments to our pattern, purchase the fabric if we haven’t already, and put it all together. The skirt is fairly simple – we patterned and then cut a layer of chiffon over a layer of the lining, which are joined together at the waistband.

This is the time consuming part for a corset, because it has multiple layers which all must be cut and sewn together exactly. In the photo above, you can see the lining of the corset. It’s actually two layers – a soft cotton, which is on the inside against the skin, and stiffer canvas fabric that doesn’t stretch at all. This is critical for a corset, as the lack of stretch is what holds you in and supports you! The outer layer of the corset is another layer of the canvas with the “fashion fabric” – that’s the pretty stuff – on the outside. The boning gets sandwiched in between the layers so that it doesn’t poke through or cause any discomfort to the wearer. On the back, we install heavy-duty grommets for the lacing to go through. Finally, we’ll trim the top and bottom edges and apply a bias binding.

Et, voila! Finished corset!

Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt (front)

Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt (back)

Maria’s Custom Silk Shrug & Wedding Dress Alterations

Maria's Custom Silk Wedding Shrug

Maria called us just three weeks before her wedding in need of some alterations to her dress and hoping we’d have enough time to create a little jacket to wear over it. We had just enough time to squeeze it into our schedule, so we said yes.

I swear I didn’t tell her to do jazz hands.

When we met with Maria, we hit it off with her right away. She is so friendly and has a great sense of humor. We found out that we have a lot of acquaintances in common – she works at an accounting firm with her brother, and they do taxes for many Chicago actors. Small world. Anyway, she bought a cute strapless dress at a big chain, but it seemed to have been designed for someone with really serious hips and it just wasn’t fitting her quite right in the bust. We ended up taking the hip area in about four inches and doing a couple little tucks at the bust so that it would fit her well and not fall down!

Julia draping the silk shrug

She also asked us to make her a shrug to wear over the dress. Since it was ruched, we thought we’d mirror that in the sleeves. Maria brought some polyester organza fabric which matched the dress for us to use, but as we worked on draping it, we realized it was really just not the best choice for the project.

Julia fitting the shrug on Maria

So we bought some gorgeous silk chiffon, and it was so worth it. Julia did all the draping on this, and I helped with some of the hand stitching once it was all pinned in place. I got to check out the fascinating construction on the inside of this dress (really unusual lining attachment, if you’re wondering – clearly designed to allow for as much machine stitching as possible) while taking care of the alterations. We made a custom label to replace the big box store label – very cool. Here are some pictures:

Front
Back

Maria asked for some help picking out her earrings. She brought a couple pairs, but had chosen a favorite. And guess what? I completely agreed with her choice. Don’t these earrings go perfectly?

Shoulder Detail

 

Maria and Dan are got married this Sunday – Congratulations!