"You got this. You know what to do, you just have to do it. Homestretch. Buckle down. Follow your heart. Be yourself. Do your best."
I am talking movie-cliché nonsense to myself at 3:09 a.m. on a Friday, staring at Gia's mostly finished wedding dress, which needs to be done by morning, because her wedding is Saturday. No pressure.
I started sewing two years ago after receiving a basic Janome sewing machine from my parents for my 28th birthday. If you'd told me then that I'd be making a wedding dress one day, I probably would have laughed in your face, but it was love at first stitch. I have been a knitter for years, but sewing opened up a world of possibility I hadn't imagined. Being able to dream up a garment (or a bag, or a quilt, etc.) and make it just the way I want it, from the fit to the fabric, is intensely gratifying. And, yes, I do enjoy being able to say "I made it!" when someone comments on my outfit.
I cut fabric on the floor of my apartment and sewed at the kitchen table late into the night. After about a year of putzing around on zippered pouches, simple skirts, and tees, I buckled down and got serious about learning the fundamentals of garment construction. I was determined to make quality ready-to-wear pieces: dresses, pencil skirts, pants, even a rain jacket. Every wearable, well-made addition to my wardrobe fueled my enthusiasm, and I started engaging with the sewing community on Instagram on a daily basis. There's a world of sewists out there making beautiful clothing (search #isew or #memade), sharing tips and tricks, and uncovering fashion-forward patterns by independent designers, and I quickly fell in with the crowd by simply commenting on their posts.
I started to become more confident in my skills, with a never-ending list of projects to take on, but I was not at all prepared for the email that arrived in my inbox with the subject line "a dress" from Gia, my uncle's fiancée, asking if I would make her a dress. Except not just a dress, but THE dress, her wedding dress. I figured she had just asked on a whim, as a backup for a better option, and would surely reconsider. So despite knowing better, I said "yes," but not without giving full disclosure regarding my skill level. I was genuinely surprised when, unfazed by my disclaimer, Gia began discussing design. She was looking for a dress with a V-neck, a banded waist, and kimono sleeves, that hit just above the knee. To be done in six weeks.
"OK, so it's not a gown-gown. You can do this!"I said to myself.
We met right away to talk more about the design and take her measurements. I knew I'd need to make a muslin (essentially a rough draft of the dress made with inexpensive cotton fabric), and I was going to create a pattern mixing patterns from other dresses and making some from scratch. Gia had arranged to get fabric from her friend Kara who owned a boutique in town, so that was our next stop a few days later.
At Kara's dress shop, Gia was instantly drawn to a very lightweight, silky rayon in blush pink, with small navy blossoms and branches printed on it. She also chose an off-white silk-chiffon overlay to slightly diffuse the print and give the dress a more formal feel. After we picked fabrics, Kara pulled out a few photo albums and began flipping through page after page of beautiful gowns she'd designed and sewn for clients in the past. They were all impeccably executed dresses. I felt myself breaking into a cold sweat.