I feel like I learned such a lot during the making of my wedding dress, and not just sewing techniques, so I thought I'd put together a few pointers that I think would be useful to anyone thinking of giving this a go themselves......
1. Planning/Time Management
I'd say start as early as you can. I started to think about the whole thing a year before the day, and actually started the dress 6 months before. I didn't want to feel any sort of time pressures and I wanted there to be enough time to put a plan b into action should it have not worked out how I wanted. I really wanted to make sure I enjoyed the whole process and for me knowing I have more than enough time was really important. Who wants a deadline fast approaching when you're trying to handstitch silk?? erm not me. I didn't plan on loosing or gaining any weight before our wedding either so I didn't need to worry about fit issues or alterations nearer the day.
This also goes for the time and planning you give yourself for the actual make. Don't try to cram too much into one day or evening. I gave myself a cut off time each day as I know I'm prone to making mistakes when I get tired and I had thorough to do lists for each day. It felt nice to tick off each element and have nice bit sized chunks to do after each tea and biscuit break :)
Get on the internet. There are loads of amazing people out there who have done this before and it's so useful to hear how they went about it and found the whole process. Theres also never ending resources when you need to learn new skills. I looked up all sorts from sewing with silk to pattern alteration tips. It's also so nice to have a good nose at other peoples wedding dresses. Two of my favourites are Zoe's stunning blue dress and Dixie's super cute Macaron.
2. Choose a pattern within your comfort zone
I didn't feel that this was a time for me to be trying out skills that I've got no clue about, like boned bodices and fish tail skirts, mind you neither of those were anything I would have ever wanted but my point is I think it's probably best to stay close to your skill level, unless you've got some mega time on your side and you're starting practice dresses maybe a year in advance? I went with Victory Patterns Ava dress , with a few modiciations, it was still something I felt comfortable enough with to not have a melt down about any particular parts. I was outside of my comfort zone with the fabric I was using and that was enough of a challenge without adding in a pattern that melted my mind.
3. Practice makes perfect
Make as many practice run dresses, or parts of the dress, as you need to get it perfect before you cut into you beautiful dress fabric. I made 3 practice runs out of old duvets, drew on them, snipped them, and even tore them. This was so worthwhile as I knew when it came to the actual dress that my pattern pieces were spot on and I could be confident about every snip and stitch.
4. Fabric choice
I'm not sure this is really a tip but I wanted to mention it. I had no idea what fabric I wanted to end up using. I usually make dresses out of cottons, viscose and the odd bit of denim so I had no idea about silks, lace and other fancy things. For me the best option was to go shopping andsee what fabrics I liked the look and feel of and go with that. I did know that I didn't want anything shiny or too slinky, not only would they be nightmares to sew I wasn't really after that sort of look. Once I had chosen my fabrics I then researched how best to use them; how to cut it (who knew you'd add paper layers to cut silk?!) which needles to use and how to treat it. All info found through the wonders of the interweb...as usual, plus a bit of advice from the lovely guy in the fabric shop :)
So I don't think it's necessary to have worked with your chosen fabric before as long as you do your research and make sure you have the right tools for the job.
6. Enjoy the process!
This is my most important tip! Who wants to go through all of this and look back and remember it as being stressful or no fun? In my opinion this should be the most fun you ever have making a dress. You're only going to get one chance to wear it (although I'm trying to think where I can legitimatly wear this dress again....erm can I be invited to a super posh cocktail party please??) I loved making each part of the process it's own little event, a lovely day fabric shopping, a nice little weekend in my 'studio'. I'm glad I took photos as I went and these blog posts are really just for me to remember it all by, but thank you for reading them and I hope they were fun for you to read too?!
If you're thinking of or actually in the process of making youre own wedding dress let me know in the comments, I'd love to see and hear about it!