OK, where was I?
Ah, yes, commence with the pleating!
When we left off, I had finished my under-pinnings and was ready to add the final fashion fabric to the dress. I had always envisioned a pleated wedding dress for myself but had never attempted intricate pleating before. I was lucky enough to find a ThreadsMagazine.com article where a group had actually taken a pleating class with the former head of Madame Gres' couture workroom! AND shared the instructional on the internet!! I was so grateful for the instant (with paid subscription) tutorial, and it was the inspiration for me to also take the time to share what I've learned in this process with YOU.
I discovered that pleating requires A LOT of pins. I always prefer extra-fine glass-head pins; they're gentle on delicate fabric and won't melt if you iron over them. I don't even own steel-head pins because they feel thick going through fabric, I struggle to grasp them and they get lost in my pin cushion. I blew through my glass-head stash quickly and found myself scrounging on the floor for strays to finish the job. You start pleating from the bottom layer (the sides of the bodice) to the top layer (the cups), making it easy to hide raw edges. So, the ends on the right side of the image above just needed to be thinned of their fullness and would soon be hidden.
Once the pleats are pinned in place, now comes the curved needle. You gently fold back each pleat and run long running stitches onto the pleat directly below it. Thus when you return the folded pleat, it will hide the stitching. I put paper in between my dress form and my corset, so that I could hear and feel when I had sewn through all desired layers and NOT caught the fabric of the dress form itself. Oh, the sadness that would've been to do all this beautiful work and not be able to take it off the form!
I found the running stitches were much easier to execute if I could lay the form on its side and be able to work upside down. I initially tried this on my studio table but soon found sweat running down my body (due to maximum summer temperatures and minimal A/C) and, let's be real, sitting on a table is uncomfortable. SO, I hauled my form into the house, put on a long-running stream of Murder, She Wrote, and stitched away!
When I finished with the two side sections, 1) I breathed a sigh of relief, they were the largest sections of pleating! and, 2) hobbled my sweaty, determined, pin-pricked ass back into the studio with the form to set up the pleating in the center of the bodice. The house is more comfortable... but the studio has better lighting...
This area proved more challenging because of symmetry. As all dressmakers know, the front left and front right of a garment typically mirror each other down the center front line. But how do you achieve symmetry if your pleats all go in one direction? Follow me? Each side can't be treated in the same manner because the pleats are folding differently. So, I did my best to make them look the same practice letting go of perfection. I considered reversing the pleats down the center front but ultimately didn't like the look of it. It was worth testing it out though. I also had enough time time that, if I wasn't sure of a design idea, I would allow myself to stop and step away; giving myself time to mull things over.
On the left, Trial A.... just didn't win me over. On the right, the final design for the cups.
When you're in a hurry, it can be desirable to stick with your first idea, but remember the big picture, with an emphasis on the word "picture". These wedding photos will be up in your and your families' homes for perceivably the rest of your life. Make sure you're happy with your dress before your past the point of NO RETURN. hehe
The cups were the most challenging because they involved shaping over a curve. The corset was a blessing because I knew it fit me, so all I had to do was follow their shape make sure to not distort them at all during the process. And since I had all the pleat practice leading up to them, I was the most confident and comfortable as I would ever be!
Once the pleats were done, a lovely bridesmaid came over and helped me play with strap ideas (and convinced me to take the time to clean up the hem with a rotary cutter). I chose this standard strap design because I had gotten pretty badly burned at the beach earlier in the year and decided to match my straps to my tan.... (PROFESSIONAL WEDDING TIP!!!). I sorta made up a little twisty thing with the excess fabric from the back pleats to cover up the zipper teeth. I used a plastic separating jacket zipper that I shortened to attach to the corset. Then the back skirt crossed over the center back opening and got a hook-and-eye closure over near my left side body.
It was a comfortable dress to wear, easy to get in and out of, and thank goodness for those front slits because every time I started getting hot, I was able to stick my leg out and cool myself off!! Seriously, it helped! The only uncomfortable-ness I felt was when a hidden mob of guests bombarded us with uncooked grits flying at our face, which proceeded to get lodged in my cleavage for the rest of the night. Pretty sure they were fully-cooked by the time I took my dress off!!
I also made Adam's linen shirt and jeans. I honestly think working with the linen was harder than my entire dress! The tissue cotton worked beautifully to pleat, thin but stable.
Thanks for following my journey on this most-ambitious project. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and would recommend any enthusiastic sewer to give it a shot! Set manageable goals (in terms of fabric choices and techniques), understand your work ethic and how much time you need, and don't be afraid! Be willing to seek out advice (I'm an open door!) and maybe have a backup plan just incase. If only for the easement of your mother's nerves :)