Sewing Your Own Wedding Gown is an ongoing series of posts that takes our readers through the steps of creating their own wedding gowns from the perspective a newbie sewist. Part 1, Should I Do It?, can be found here.
Once you’ve decided to sew your own gown, the biggest challenge you’ll likely face during this whole process is finding a wedding gown pattern. What’s so difficult about finding a wedding gown pattern? Two things:
- There aren’t many contemporary bridal gown patterns to choose from.
- If you are over a US size 10/12 in street clothes, you’re pretty much screwed.
THE SEARCH FOR THE (ALMOST) PERFECT GOWN PATTERN
Before you begin your gown pattern search, you must know your body’s measurements. Though patterns are sold by clothing size, pattern sizing differs from street clothing sizes. If you’re a size 8 in street clothes, don’t expect a size 8 pattern to work for you. It will likely be too small. Always, always, always buy a pattern based on the following measurements:
Bust: Measure around the fullest part of the bust, making sure the tape measure is straight across your back.
Waist: Measure around your natural waistline.
Low Hip: Measure around the fullest part of your hips. For most people this is 7″ – 9″ below your waist.
When measuring, the measuring tape should be comfortably snug – but never tight – around the body.
These measurements are of the utmost importance when shopping for a pattern. Know them by heart and don’t try to “size down” to a smaller size. You’ll only end up in tears and an ill-fitting dress.
Got that out of the way? Great! Let’s go find some wedding gown patterns.
The Major Wedding Gown Pattern Players
* Not all gowns are offered in all sizes.
You’ll notice that, at this writing, there are only 26 wedding gown patterns on the market from the major pattern houses’ sites. If you fall on the upper-end of pattern sizing, you’ll have even less to choose from. Don’t fret: there are many “evening gown” patterns from these same companies that can easily work as a bridal gown. You’ll find the evening gowns are more current style-wise and have more versatility than most of the bridal gown patterns.
Let’s Talk About Pattern Sizes Again
My biggest what the ever-lovin’-livin’ heck?! moments when learning to sew have involved pattern sizing. Pattern sizes generally never, ever align with street clothes’ sizing. Let’s do some comparisons, shall we?
A size 10 dress from Gap, according to their size chart, will have these measurements:
Bust: 37 1/2″, Waist 29 1/2″
Over at Vogue Patterns, your pattern size will be a size 16.
For plus-size chicas, it’s just as frustrating. If you’re a size 20 in street clothes, and let’s say you’re a perfect Lane Bryant 46 – 40 – 48 with a B/C bra cup (the cup-size most patterns are drafted for), you’ll be pattern size: 26W at McCall’s. Basically, if you’re over a street size 14, there are only 1 or 2 bridal gown patterns on the market that will even fit you. Don’t like those styles? Your options are: look at evening gowns (still only a few styles available in plus-sizes but better than bridal gowns) or find someone who can alter/scale the pattern up for you (often very expensive).
Some Alternative Places To Find Gown Patterns
eBay Mix of vintage, new, and out-of-style patterns. Sizes and prices vary widely.
Etsy Mix of vintage, new, reproduction, and out-of-style patterns. Sizes and prices vary widely.
Mom’s Patterns Mix of vintage, new, reproduction, and out-of-style patterns. Sizes and prices vary widely.
Ruby Lane Mix of vintage and out-of-style patterns. Sizes and prices vary widely.
Sense & Sensibility Reproduction patterns from the Regency era through 1950’s.
So Vintage Vintage evening gowns galore with a few bridal gowns in the mix. Sizes vary. Patterns range from $35.00 to $195.00.
I Don’t Like Any Of The Pattern Options. Now What?
I’m with ya, sister. All is not lost, however. In the next installment, I’m going to show you ways to use an inspiration gown as a means to selecting a pattern (or patterns) to get what you really want.