1950s | 1960s | Dresses

My Retro Wedding Dress: A Year Later!!!

September 29, 2013

I always planned on sharing my self-made retro wedding dress with the Sew Retro massive, but I never got round to it. Lame, I know. Well, today is our 1 year anniversary and naturally my thoughts have been taken back to the Big Day, so it seems fitting to finally share it with y’all now if you’d like to see. So here it is! The most important, most photographed and most stressful garment I’ll ever make: my wedding dress!


I was always going for a mid-century retro look and spent a long time gathering images of inspirational vintage an retro garments. By the time I’d narrowed down my research, I was definitely erring towards a wiggle silhouette made from a separate skirt and bodice and lots of shoulder/decolletage on show. Above all else, this dress had to make me feel special, so it didn’t seem like a time to hold back on the sexiness or glamour! My husband’s Best Man told me on the night ‘a bride’s job is to make other men feel sad you’re no longer on the market’! Apparently.


I chose the Burdastyle bustier/bombshell dress pattern as my basis because it had the general wiggle silhouette, waist seam and tight fitting bodice I knew I wanted. I ignored the cups sections and proceeded with toiling the bodice (with frequent fitting help from the ever-amazing Rehanon) again and again until we achieved a really good fit. Instead of the faceted bust of the original pattern, I wanted to recreate a draped, gathered bust effect something like the white Modcloth dress pictured below.

As for the skirt, I was initially going for a draped effect like Gertie’s bombshell version of this pattern, but it kind of, umm, evolved in a different direction. What I mean to say is that the gathered skirt toile didn’t look very good and I felt unsure how to approach getting a nicer effect. Time for completing this dress was getting tight, especially with all the other elements planning a DIY wedding entailed, so I decided to go for a straight wiggle skirt. As soon as I took that headache away, I breathed a sigh of relief and knew I’d done the right thing. I love the sleek, straight skirt in these pictures, and I think it allows the gathered bust design to really stand out.

Fabric and colour:

My mum and I planned to buy the fabric for my dress and my best mate’s bridesmaid dress in one of the fancy fabric purveyors on Berwick Street in London, knowing that if we drew a blank, we still had all of Goldhawk Road to plunder. For my dress I went with an open mind, but knew it needed to have some structure, be a bit special (AKA, shiny or something) and red. I also had one eye out for a nice brocade. In one of the silk shops I was drawn to some fantastic red silk that had a vintage-y embroidered flower motif but it was very narrow and a squillion pounds per metre. The search continued…

In Borovick Fabrics, I found the most perfect red acetate duchess satin stuff (its official name escapes me) at about £30 a metre. Hurrah! I thought. I glanced at the other colours it came in and was instantly drawn to an incredible peacock colour that really shone out. The sales guy was really helpful and pulled a long length of each colour off the rolls and held it up to me so I could see in the mirror which worked best with my colouring. He even dimmed to lights to create for me a night time effect, bless him! Both looked great, so he cut a swatch of each and we went off to have some lunch and a margarita to deliberate. Rather wonderfully, whilst my mum and I were staring at menus in the windows of potential lunch venues, I spotted Kat, the editor of the only wedding website I allowed myself to read: Rock n Roll Bride!

We thought and ate, chatted and drank, and although Mum was on ‘Team Red’ at the beginning of the meal, she’d switched over to ‘Team Peacock’ by the end. Uncharacteristically, I felt pretty relaxed about having to choose between them. I think it was because I thought both were so lovely, I knew whichever I picked would have looked fantastic. The peacock won because it was just so vibrant and special.


My goodness this dress took some work. For example, the bodice is underlined in calico to give extra support and structure, and there was so much hand-stitching, including a belt section that I eventually removed. Following Gertie’s Bombshell Dress class, I added boning to the lining, effectively making an inbuilt corset.

I made the whole thing in secret away from Pat my husband because I didn’t want to see it before our wedding day. I didn’t even want him to know that I’d gone for a different coloured fabric than the red he (and almost everyone else) was expecting. I had planned to make this dress at work, but when the studio I worked in closed down and I lost my job a month before our wedding, I had to make it in our bedroom on my own with the door closed! I wish I had a pound for every time I said to Pat, ‘Don’t go in there’! I repeatedly vacuum the carpets and went around picking up tiny threads because the raw edges fray constantly.

There are more details (about the accessories and stuff) to be found on my blog post here. Thanks for letting me share this dress with you and therefore relive the panics and the highs that contributed to one of the most amazing days of my life!

  1. OMG is that ever Gorgeous!!! What a Lovely Bride you are! The peacock color is just beautiful and the dress design is retro, but still eminently wearable today. Wonderful job and Congratulations on your 1st anniversary and many more.

  2. What a lovely story and a gorgeous dress. I was smiling while reading about the secret dress making, that is the sweetest thing. I’m so glad you had a lovely wedding and your dress turned out so pretty. The color *is* stunning too. It was a great choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.