A sustainable wedding dress odyssey (Part 1)

Making your own wedding dress

Heya boys and girls, just a quick, cheeky mid-week post to tell you about something that’s making me really excited at the moment!

You might have heard about me getting married in October in the Caribbean and that I’m mad enough to make my own wedding dress. Daunting, I know, but I did choose something really sensible and hopefully easy to put together, so I will keep my sanity (and by extension, my finance’s). I really have no more excuses to procrastinate – I did get my amazing sewing room a little while ago, so even the feng shui is working in my favour!

Making my wedding dress has been a big dream of mine. In fact I used to say to my fiancé that I mostly want to get married so I can do that (didn’t really go down that well, but hey ho, he still proposed 🙂 ). Initially, we had planned to get hitched in the UK, in a lovely village hall in the Cotswolds, and I had the perfect vintage dress all planned. I even took a pattern cutting class to learn how to make the pattern myself. Which I did and I have a perfectly fitted toile in a cupboard somewhere to prove it! But then we totally bailed out on the wedding prep, family agro and the fact that everything tripled the second you mentioned the ‘W’ word and decided to run off to a small island in the sun.

Vintage dress

And I was back to the drawing board wedding dress-wise, as I just didn’t feel the dress I had planned for a potentially cold and very likely rainy April in the English country side would work for a sunny beach. But thanks to my frenemy, Pinterest, it didn’t take me very long to come up with a new idea. If you fancy looking through the though process, here is my wedding inspiration mood-board. Not revealing anything just yet, to keep you in suspense and my fiancé in the dark!

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New dress

So that was the easy part… But then, being a sustainable girl at heart, I really wanted to incorporate this aspect in this very important day, by using sustainable/ethical fabric. I started researching various options, getting a million samples from as far as Cambodia (peace silk). But then a very wise friend pointed out that actually the best thing I can do is reuse an already existing dress. I didn’t like the idea of getting a second-hand dress for various reasons, and my mum didn’t wear a wedding dress when she got married, so I decided to get an old dress that no-one would want any more and reclaim the fabric. The bigger, the better, with loads of frills and a long long train, but most importantly, made out of really great fabric.

I looked in charity shops and asked around, but in the end, good old eBay was the answer. After a few weeks of looking, bidding, being outbid, I won an auction. It probably wasn’t the ugliest dress I could find, but I loved the fabric and there seemed to be a lot of it, so ticked at least a few of my boxes. Plus I got a ridiculous amount of fabric (albeit having to unpick yards of stitches) for a really good price that would hardly buy me one yard of new silk duchess satin. Win Win Win, I say!

Cut dress

Step one achieved! I now need to start working on the design – I’m mixing and matching a few ideas and I need to start the first toile. I’m a bit excited and apprehensive, but time to bite the bullet and go for it!

If anyone has any own wedding dress making experiences/advices, or even just encouragements, please do let me know, I need all the pep talk I can get :).

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Happy sewing!



  1. 10 July 2015 / 6:13 AM

    Good luck Alex. Looking forward to seeing the final result. I made a fully- lined wedding dress in a weekend once but you have more time so make an early start and don’t be sewing it last minute! Take the time to get the fit right and everything will fall into place. Nee 🐝xxx

    • Alex
      10 July 2015 / 5:12 PM

      Thanks Nee! You know I will come to you and the guys first when I’ll get stuck 🙂

  2. 10 July 2015 / 8:56 AM

    Good luck Alex! I’m currently cutting my wedding dress toile as well. I’m using Offset warehouse peace silk and M7154. Refashioning/using an old dress sounds like so much fun though! It’s a bit daunting, but I’m trying to remind myself that it doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. And I hear you with the ‘W’ word. Man it is hard to keep it small! Everyone seems to think they have something to say about your day. I totally get why you’re running off! Should be a perfect location anyway.

    • Alex
      10 July 2015 / 5:15 PM

      Wow, Lisa, that pattern looks so complicated!! I’d be really terrified of trying something so slinky!! Mine will be much much simpler, and short!
      I love Offset warehouse, they are really nice people. Did you get the fabric yet?

      • 11 July 2015 / 9:49 AM

        It is a bit scary 🙂 I got the bright flowing peace silk. It might be a bit too light for the dress but we’ll see! You can delete that double comment btw, sorry phone was acting up!

  3. 10 July 2015 / 11:23 AM

    I think repurposing an existing dress is probably the most sustainable thing you can do. Your fabric looks gorgeous and I absolutely can’t wait to see the finished photos of the big day. Good luck with the sewing. I hear you about the costs. I finished up having a surprise wedding at home – all our friends thought they were coming for dinner and I greeted them at the door in an apron, then had to rush off and change into my dress (a 1920s original). This wasn’t my first wedding though :)!

    • Alex
      10 July 2015 / 5:29 PM

      Ask me that after I’ve unpicked yards and yards of slinky fabric!! But there is so much of it, plus some really gorgeous satin for the lining! And a petticoat too, which I can save for later.
      Well with a lovely garden like yours, that sounds like a fab option! 🙂

  4. 10 July 2015 / 12:05 PM

    Like Claudia would say: massive luck! 😉

    I think the best thing to do is to plan enough time and material so you can do this peacefully. When I was doing mine last year, I started a good while before the actual date with lots and lots of fabric to cut into. The whole process I was telling myself: just do it and don’t think about it. And if you have enough of everything, you can allow yourself to make mistakes without stressing too much. Plus you won’t have too much pressure on yourself and you’ll do a much better job.

    In the end, I’m so happy I decided to do it myself and I’m really proud of the result. I’m sure you’ll be too! 🙂
    Looking forward to see yours, the fabric looks just divine…

    • Alex
      10 July 2015 / 5:31 PM

      Ha ha, glad I’m not doing this on the Bee!! We’re flying out on the 7th of October, so pretty much 3 months. It’s a simple design, so provided I don’t change my body measurements too much, it will be ok (famous last words or what!!). Because we’re going away, I almost want two dresses, in case something goes wrong. I’d hate to end up getting married in my jersey playsuit or something 🙂

  5. 10 July 2015 / 3:59 PM

    How exciting! What a fun project! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to see the dress!

    • Alex
      10 July 2015 / 5:33 PM

      Trust me, I can’t wait to see the dress 😀 Now I got into that mode where I just want to start playing with the toile and I just can’t get enough time off from work and social commitments.

  6. I made my own wedding dress long ago. The fabric was the most expensive I’ve ever seen. The pattern used was a simple one so sewing it up was not really difficult and the simple dress showed off the lovely fabric even more. It wasn’t like what everyone else was wearing, but it was perfect for me! I did use a 1 inch seam allowance in the sides to make sure it could be adjusted if my waist line or something “grew” before the big day. It wasn’t needed, but just in case! Good Luck on your dress, whatever you choose to do, and Best Wishes on the wedding. If you have more wedding dress sewing news, be sure to let us know!

    • Alex
      11 July 2015 / 7:51 PM

      That is a really good tip, thank you!! I’ll make sure to put the zipper in the back so I can fiddle with the side seams easier! And don’t you worry, there will be plenty of wedding spam!! 😁

  7. ldelgenis
    11 July 2015 / 7:57 PM

    This is so awesome! I’d be glad to join the throng of support for creating new dresses from old dress fodder. I do it all the time! (also? ruching is your friend. You can hide all sorts of sins and seams that way.)

    Can’t wait to see how you do it…and please holler if you hit any snags.

    • ldelgenis
      11 July 2015 / 8:01 PM

      PS – you should pin what you’re doing and tag your pics to be included on the ‘sustainable wedding dress’ board. We don’t have much on there yet and world domination awaits. >;->

      • Alex
        11 July 2015 / 9:27 PM

        Such a great idea! Yes, please do! I actually have another project made out of an old wedding dress, because I thought it would be a different fabric and what arrived wasn’t suitable for my own wedding dress. It’s the culottes jumpsuit.

  8. 14 July 2015 / 12:21 PM

    Both my weddings (ahem) were opportunities to wear nice ordinary dresses. But I think the idea of refashioning is superb and I am so looking forward to seeing what you manage to make. Good luck!

  9. 15 July 2015 / 2:22 PM

    So impressed that you are doing a refashion for your wedding dress!!!!!
    My own wedding is coming up in August – and I have made the dress, albeit not a refashion – so I know that it is a high pressure project but ultimately very fulfilling.
    Best of luck with the project.

    • Alex
      15 July 2015 / 3:27 PM

      Thanks, Sally! And congratulations! Hope the wedding stress is not too bad! I like to think of it as a reclaim more than refashion, as there will be no trace of the original dress left. I will just take it apart and reuse the fabric, which is lush! Are you posting about your dress? How are you keeping it a secret from your partner? We’re sharing the sewing room (he’s studying ATM) and I’m so glad he can’t read a pattern is all I’m saying 😁!

      • 15 July 2015 / 3:39 PM

        I’m going to post about it after the event (it’s top secret until then) and luckily I have been able to cordon off the spare room/sewing room for 3-4 months while I’ve been working on it! Can’t wait to see what you are doing for yours 🙂

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