Unless you’re making art, “trashing the dress” is wasteful and I demand that we trash trashing dresses. Let’s positively move toward alterations, yeah? If you’ve never owned a wedding gown, altering a vintage gown or even a prom dress would be a unique, cost effective alternative. A capital idea, especially for a vow renewal! I never ever envisioned I had the skill or desire to alter my wedding gown, but when my 10th wedding anniversary approached, having both come through our relationship positively renewed and very much different people for the better, I felt it symbolically necessary to celebrate the change. And look! All my cumulative piddly sewing knowledge paid off! (Add wedding alterations to the resumé?)
Being in the wedding industry I see a lot of DIY, and I hear a lot of stories about how stressful it is to need a budget wedding and have to make and do all this stuff yourself. Buzzfeed asked me once for my top wedding planning advice, and the rep responded to this as if this was something revelational. To me it’s obvious, but here’s what I told them:
“There are two keys to self-funding and budgeting your wedding: Prioritization and Creativity. Creativity comes in two forms: resourcefulness as well as craftiness, including networking and finding vendors who meet your vision. Craftiness should sincerely only go as far as your abilities; pushing that will end in stress. If you’re stressed, reassess your priority list and keep the list short. Being open enough to reset expectations is a virtue… overcome that while planning a wedding and you can take that with you the rest of your life.“
What’s your DIY-Power? If you’re not crafty, DO NOT feel like you need to paper-fold all the invitations or build everyone’s bouquets. Use your strengths, assess your time, cut out the rest or keep it stupid simple. Do NOT feel pressured by Pinterest! Oh my gosh! If it’s not a priority to you, do not spend your time on it.
We had a super small budget for our vow renewal: $500 for the whole excursion. Photography and location (St. Augustine, FL) were toppest on my list, so that’s where all of that went to, but fashion is a priority to me too. My DIY-Power is seamstressing (it’s a hobby). I spent $0 doing the alteration, and about $40 in materials to add to my dress and enhance accessories I already had.
If you want to learn how I altered my own wedding dress, pick up some gown-cleaning techniques, or get great ideas if you now have unique alterations in mind, this will win your internet today!
The original gown as worn on my wedding day in 2007. Photo credit to St. Louis Color Photo and Video. First, I knew for sure I wanted a short dress. I obviously love the original, but I wasn’t going to drag that train around again. I love pencil skirts, and magically the fit-and-flare just worked right into that.Some mysteries of formal alterations aren’t so daunting when you get up close. I discovered the stitches along the border where the trim was originally re-attached to the hem. Pop those right out, save trim for the new hem! Depending on the complexity of your hem, it really is as simple as that.Love this scalloped trim! I had enough of this to create my new hem trim, plus some exciting new dress features! But first, trim needed a bath. It had vintage 2007 dirt in it. I never had my gown cleaned — the only thing, ever, I think I’ve ever procrastinated on.These products, add enough water to submerge, soak for a few hours. If you clean your dress right after your wedding, it will clean better. I’d say about 50% of my vintage dirt came out. I don’t recommend cleaning your dress yourself, just get it professionally cleaned, and don’t be like me and wait 10 years. (I should resign from the Anti-Procrastinators club for that.) I had excess trim to experiment with, so I had to try cleaning it because it was moving up to more visible areas.Making the cut! (That’ll be my 20th anniversary cape, maybe?) After soaking, brush dirty spots with a soft bristled brush in a careful circular motion. Then lay out flat and let it air dry completely. (If you want to clean your dress hem while it’s still attached to the gown, you can soak just the hem by hanging your gown in a shower area with just a few inches of water in a tub. Do not ever soak an entire gown.)Improvement, I think! Dirt came out in the bath, proof positive.Re-stitching trim to my newly shortened dress.DESIGN! My favorite part. I just love fashion design. I came up with these concept sketches to lay over the basic shape of my new dress to try them out. How fun this was! I considered a cape or a waist cape, and went for the latter, feeling it suited my adventurous personality best. Fell in love with this foil-embroidered green floral lace from Joann. The scalloped edging would land along my front, leaving a window to reveal the dress underneath and the new short hem.Isn’t it the best?!Shoe time. I’ve always loved these heels, but the color never quite seemed right for anything. They call the color “Bunny”. *scratching head* Okay.Toe tip tops! (Frugal bride’s guide: If you seriously just need some tiny little accents, scrounge the floor under the silk flower displays at craft stores. Why do you need a whole $7 bunch when you’re just working with tiny remnants?)Sea foam spray paint and BAM. “New” shoes! Never underestimate spray paint!I really wanted a slightly different neckline, the original was a tad low for my taste. Extra trim went there, strategically placed according to the shape of the lace.Made a sweet little window for my emerald pendant to fall into :). Did not plan that, it was destiny.Ta daaa!The skirt was slightly re-designed from a dress pattern I had previously made. It had sweet pleats it it, which gave a fuller look. I love the pencil-skirt-under-full-skirt concept, and I just left out the front panel and attached the skirt to a simple white belt covered with more of that trim to visually blend the top of the skirt into the bodice. It’s a dream! Turned out exactly the way I wanted it! See those sweet epaulettes? Wedding epaulettes made out of trim! LOVE IT SO HARD! I felt so much more myself, expressively and internally, on our anniversary than I did on my wedding day, having incorporated all these little me-ish details and handmade creativity. We both know ourselves individually and together so much better than we did then, and that is something to celebrate! Vow renewal coverage by Chn Vision. My son and I LOVE Michael Jackson. (Man In the Mirror was playing, his request.) We had to do it. You make me feel like a superhero!
I always jump on a creative challenge, but what I wholeheartedly love most about sewing, fashion and photography is enabling people to be and to express themselves. Truly, that’s ALL I’m about. I love it so much I push for it. I encourage you to be yourself and forget mainstream. If you live in the Orlando area and want some sweet personalized wedding alteration creativity, I would LOVE to talk with you about your ideas!
This project kick started my veil and cape-making confidence. Shortly after, I opened my Etsy shop of cinematic-inspired fashion. More unique alterations, hats, cloaks and jewelry coming soon.