Have you ever wondered why there was a boxed wedding gown in your attic? Why did you keep yours? Was it just for sentimental reasons, or could it be there was a specific reason?
The Project: Over the last three years, three sisters from a Midwest family have become engaged and the last one to marry her sweetheart will do so this fall. It has been an exciting and busy time for all the family, especially the girls' mother, Tracie, who has made the journey frequently from Cape Girardeau to St Louis, Missouri, venue of the weddings; she has planned all the weddings and taken care of the myriad of details. And it may have been while she has been driving that Tracie’s mind moved ahead to the possibility of grandchildren!
So it was that last year, Tracie asked me to take on the task of creating three christening gowns (one for each of her daughters) from two wedding dresses.
Hers: 30 years old
Her Mother’s: 60 years old
The design of each christening gown was left to my creativity. Both of the wedding dresses needed cleaning (including some areas of poorly cleaned red wine stains) and some areas of lace that were torn and needed restoring.
Deconstruction and Cleaning: First, the gowns had to be deconstructed so that the individual components could be cleaned separately. Each grouping of lace, both Chantilly and Guipure, and the silk satin, plain and embroidered, as well as the tulle were left in the cleaning solution overnight. Sometimes this step raises my blood pressure! Next the cleaning solution was carefully rinsed out and the garment or lace pieces were laid to dry over a drying rack. I'm never quite sure how the old/vintage pieces will react in the cleaning solution. (The oldest gown I have cleaned and restored had a date of 1839 on it and fortunately held up well). Once dry the pieces were pressed and then I assessed what was usable and how they could be combined in a pleasing way.
Pattern: I like the variety of styles in the now out-of-date Children's Corner pattern ' Hand Sewing 1'. For this project I chose three different styles.
- A-line dress with an opening down the center back.
- Yoked dress with a full skirt, a lace panel center front, and a lace frill at hem.
- Yoked dress with a full skirt using scalloped, embroidered satin at the hem.
In order to get a pleasing placement of the pattern on the lace and satin pieces, I cut the pattern out of transparent velum. Once cut, the construction was a relatively simple process. Part way through, before I hand-sewed the Guipure lace to the satin, Tracie came and gave her opinion. She also chose the specific dress for each daughter. All the various components of the wedding dresses were used in the gowns:
- Motifs of Guipure lace were hand sewn onto the satin
- Borders of Guipure or Chantilly lace were added at the bottom of two gowns
- Part of a border was used for the ‘bib’ one gown
- Original piping was used around one neckline Chantilly lace was used on one collar
And the resulting garments were very pleasing for me and also for Tracie and her daughters