I’m getting married!!! Hurray! I have done it before, but it was 100 years ago, or so it seems. Everything before COVID was 100 years ago, but my first wedding is a distant memory. I remember, though, the moment I decided to make my first wedding dress. I was driving around with my mom (and her giant earrings) and was really tired of hearing about how big my boobs were and why I would have to special order my dress. We had looked at many dresses and the styles weren’t my style. I wanted something, well, different than the Princess Diana dresses that totally didn’t suit my body at all. The first dress I wanted was about $3000 and I knew I couldn’t afford that, even with my parent’s help. So, after looking at about 100 or more dresses, I thought to myself, “You know, it wouldn’t be that difficult to create a wedding dress.”
I sewed. I had made quite a few dresses and had helped others with alterations and other sewing projects. I knew, if I decided to take the plunge and make my dress, I’d be able to make it and I’d make it beautiful and exactly what I wanted. I bought a pattern and made a practice bodice and then sewed the dress of my dreams. This was 1986. I think anyone with a memory can imagine the styles of the age, but looking back, my dress was pretty spectacular.
My marriage ended in 2004. Seventeen years was a pretty good run. Two years later, met Mike. We have been together 14 years. We’ve heard stuff about how we should get married for years, but it has been met with “we’re good.” We are good. Around January of 2020, I started thinking about getting married for real. We didn’t have anything to prove because we’ve survived a lot. We got engaged on February 29, 2020. If you missed the legend, we got engaged because I asked. Legend has it that in the 5th Century, St. Patrick designated the only day women could “propose” was on February 29. I’d planned it for a few weeks and popped the question during a weekend at the beach with my beloved. He said yes. It was great!
Then COVID happened. We have been home, isolated, for weeks on end. We adopted a cat. Sometime in May or June, I don’t remember the exact date, we thought, “Hey, how about August 1, 2021?” That is our wedding date. Here’s why. Around March, we determined we would not be getting married this summer, as we had initially thought. Mike’s family has a family reunion that alternates places between Oregon, Eastern British Columbia, Canada, and Western British Columbia. We were supposed to have the reunion in Portland this summer, but then changed our minds once COVID reared its ugly head. So we said next year. Next year, we are planning to have the reunion the weekend before the first Monday in August. That weekend starts on July 30 and we will get married at the end of the weeknd (Sunday, August 1).
Around the first of July, Mike and I had an argument. It was a wedding argument. He wanted a small ceremony with nothing, not even a photographer. I insisted that we NEEDED a photographer. Anyway, long story short, we decided to go ahead and hire a photographer. So, a few days later, I contacted a photographer we’d used before and she was booked on August 1. So, I talked to someone else and she was also booked. So I went to the first photographer and asked for suggestions. Our first act in planning our wedding was to hire a wedding photographer.
A little while later, I was visiting my daughter and was clicking through about a million wedding dresses on Pinterest. I wanted a Downton Abbey themed dress, but couldn’t really find anything that fit my criteria. I’m 58 and I wanted something fun and pretty and, well, a little bit boho chic. I found dresses that would fit my criteria, but then I would think about how the dress looked in the grand scheme. Mike wanted a simple backyard wedding and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted anything too formal. A lot of the dresses I was looking at seemed too formal and not frivolous. At that point, I thought, “I want to make my dress.” I thought if I made my dress, I could make it look like I wanted. So I started to look at patterns. I didn’t even know if that was a thing. I hadn’t really sewed in a long time.
To back up a bit, I bought a sewing machine at the beginning of the Pandemic. I thought I could make facemasks. I found a pattern and sewed about 10 masks and became bored with making them. A friend later told me she was making masks, but the pleated masks were a pain and took way too long. I agreed. Anyway, I had this great little sewing machine, so decided after receiving some material that I thought would make a great mural or quilt, I decided to tackle that project. I made a quilt of a world map. I was honestly inspired. I didn’t realize my little machine could make such a big impressive wall-hanging.
So, while at my daughter’s, I ordered three patterns. One clearly resembled a dress straight out of the 1980’s, right down to the sleeves and shoulder pads. Another was an evening gown made out of sparkly material. I couldn’t see the picture very well since it was pretty small, but thought I could do something with it. The last was almost costume-like. It looked like a dress from Titanic. Not the look I was going for.
A week later I headed to a fabric store. I’d been at the dentist and my jaw was numb after a crown. I figured I wasn’t eating anything any time soon, so looked at pattern after pattern and spent about an hour and a half poring through books. I picked out three patterns and wrote down the numbers. Then, after I’d exhausted all resources, I went to the drawers and pulled out the pattern envelopes. For some reason, after I looked at the actual patterns, I couldn’t visualize my dress. The third one was a Burda pattern. Burda became popular in the U.S. around the time I got married the first time. They are from Germany and the rumor was that they did not include a seam allowance on their patterns. That probably made me shy away from using a Burda pattern. Come to find out, they don’t. More about that later.
I bought the pattern. I carried the pattern around for a couple days and decided it was the one. Around that same time I started looking again on Pinterest and found the dress that I felt corresponded to the dress. I’d seen it a few weeks before, but wasn’t sure about it. I kept looking. I sent a bunch of pictures to my best friend (and my maid of honor the first time around). She criticized a few and commented on some.
But I didn’t send her the dress.
Then, my daughter came to visit. I was looking around the Macy’s website. I am a sucker for shoes and they were having a big shoe sale. I found a pair of low-heeled slip-ons. They were taupe and really pretty. The picture made them look like a pale rose, which didn’t match the color with the description. I ordered them.
The next day, we went to Joann’s and I showed her some material I liked. It was tulle, but really flowing and soft, not your typical tutu material. I ended up buying about three yards of it. I brought it home and looked at some of my “saves” from Pinterest. I found the dress again and saved every picture and sent them to my best friend again. I told her my plans for the dress and for the material I’d purchased. At that point, I was thinking I’d go with ivory for the dress, but really wanted a pale taupe. I wasn’t sure what that would look like.
I am a teacher and was returning to school the next day. We won’t have students due to COVID (that word again). But, finally, my eternal summer was coming to an end. I cannot tell you what this meant to an extrovert like me. I was excited to see my fellow teachers and be able to talk to humans outside my immediate household. I showed some of these teachers my plan for my wedding dress.
One thing I will say about wedding dresses for a 50-something bride. When I began looking for dresses, I’d look up “2nd wedding gowns” and find a bunch of old, gray-haired ladies on the arm of some young dude. I thought, “Who are these people?” I don’t think of myself as a gray-haired lady, thank you very much. My hair is not gray and Mike is not some young dude. He is the same age as I am. Neither of us feel like 20- or 30-year olds, but we don’t feel like we’re pushing 60 either. We were both optimistic when we got married before and we are optimistic getting married the second time around. For me, the idea of getting married means that I will be around our friends and family and feeling happy. It will be a big deal for everyone. We have three kids between us, my daughter Meagan (24), and Mike’s sons, Adam (22) and Matthew (21). We want them all to be there. We want it to be a party. Planning it, obviously, is fun for me, and probably more of a chore for Mike, but we are both excited about including our friends in this joyful occasion to proclaim our love to people we care about. I don’t have any notions that people will mistake me for a blushing bride of 20-something. But that doesn’t mean I want to look like an old lady in a wedding dress. I want my dress to be beautiful and reflective of my style.
Flash forward to today. I decided I was going to see if I could find material for the dress — not the tulle I found before (and purchased), but the material that would be the background of my dress. I found a light taupe satin material and some lace material for the appliques, which almost perfectly match my vision of my dress. It is, in my mind, perfect. I came home with this proud purchase and laid out my dress and cut it out. I found out later I needed lining material and a zipper and some interfacing. I went back to the store and bought it. Also, I got a delivery today of the shoes I ordered and they match the material perfectly. I also realized Burda does NOT include a seam allowance. I am hopeful that I just didn’t destroy my material with a mis-sized dress, but also, with everyone in my circle going on about intermittent fasting, I may be fine since I am planning to do that myself!
I plan to continue to blog about my experience with making my dress. Hopefully I will be able to encourage others to live their dream dress and make their own if they are so inspired. You can do it. I am proof that you can do it! I did it before and will persevere to do it again. +