Q. The sister of a good friend of mine is getting married, and wants to have me make her wedding dress. Since I have never really done this before, I'm not quite sure where to start. She's on a tight budget. Fortunately, the 2 styles that we picked out for the dress are not complicated. The basic structure is a v-neck (possibly sweetheart neckline) tea-length dress with straps, maybe bias cut, maybe with princess seams. The major requirement is that she doesn't want it made of polyester or another synthetic material. So we'll be looking at silks, silk-hemp blends, maybe silk-linen. I sure would love your advice.
A. To keep to her budget, let's start by keeping the cost of fabrics, trims and notions below $100. The two of you should search through the bridal/evening gown section of the Vogue pattern book. Choose the pattern size based on her body measurements for bust, primarily, then waist and hip. Look for the body measurements chart in any American pattern book — they are standard.
Stay away from silk hemp or silk linen. They're more expensive and wrinkle. Go to silk dupioni instead. It’s typically less expensive and easier to sew. Be sure to serge/zigzag the edges to prevent raveling. Stay away from silk charmeuse or silk satin unless you are experienced. It's more expensive too.
Josephines and Fabric Depot have nice silks. But you'll get a better price on the silks at Mill End-Milwaukee. Use your JoAnns coupon to get 25% off your Mill End purchase. Buy an extra yard or two just in case.
Plan for two fittings: One in muslin because you are likely to alter the pattern. One in fashion fabric. Leave one-inch side seams just in case. Add a contingency clause (extra $50) for a second muslin fitting in case there are major changes. The rest goes to your time (cutting, sewing, fitting, consulting, alterations). If you can keep your work to under 20 hours, you can make money.
Want to know more about starting and running an apparel business? Then look for our apparel business classes on www.portlandsewing.com. The next round start in April.
Good luck -- Sharon@portlandsewing.com