Completed: My Maid of Honor Dress

18 Aug

Here’s a fun fact about me: I have never been a bridesmaid before. Never! I would almost say I’ve never been in a wedding at all, but I did get to carry the bride’s train in a wedding when I was really young (I think 8 – it was for my mom’s best friend). Is that a bridesmaid? I don’t know, let’s not get nitpicky here. My point being – I’ve never, as an adult, had a friend get married and ask me to be in their wedding. I think it’s kind of a rite of passage for most women at some point – but I’m not complaining, because I am not keen on spending $$$ on a dress I’ll never wear again!!

Anyway, that’s a moot point now because I was just officially in my first wedding last month! My very best friend in the entire world – my BFF, my life partner, and my favorite person everrrrr – was married in July and asked me to stand with her during the ceremony as her Maid of Honor. The bride, Morgan, is a really laid-back person and wanted a laid-back wedding – so I didn’t need to buy an expensive formal dress, or plan a ~cRaZy~ Bachelorette party (sidenote: did you know Nashville is now officially the #1 destination in the world for bachelorette parties? Yeah. And it’s awful. If you’re thinking about coming here and ~getting wild~, please don’t.) or anything like that. It was a small wedding – the bridal party consisted of me + the best man – held in their backyard, with a short ceremony and lots of food, alcohol, and dancing. There wasn’t even a “theme” or particular colors for this – which meant I had a lot of creative freedom when it came to choosing what I was going to wear. Which, of course, I wanted to be handmade by me!

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

Since the wedding was going to be outdoors in July, this limited me to only looking at natural fibers (y’all can defend polyester all you want, but this sweaty gal is not gonna wear that shit under the July sun in Tennessee at 5p girl bye) – I needed something lightweight and breathable. The only thing Morgan said she cared about design-wise was 1. That the dress was not white (obviously); 2. That it had a light, neutral background; 3. That it had some kind of floral design that wasn’t super bright. Finding a fabric that matched this description was surprisingly hard – most floral designs are either really bright, or on a dark background. Or they were polyester! I probably spent an entire month just combing through every fabric website I could think of, and coming up short and a little desperate.

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

I actually found this fabric at the shop I work at, Craft South! It’s a 100% cotton barkcloth from the Outback Wife collection. We had a ton of colorways, and while I admired them when they came in the shop – I didn’t buy any because florals really are not much my thing these days. I love looking at them, but I don’t really like to wear them. That being said, this particular colorway was perfect for the wedding – the fiber content was right, Morgan loved the colors and florals, and I got that sweet employee discount on it (yay!). I bought the last of the yardage (sorry!), but we still have the dark colorway in stock FYI! And here’s the same colorway I used in some random Etsy shop, too!

This barkcloth is a little stiff on the roll, so I prewashed a swatch to see what would happen. It ended up softening quite a bit and getting a nice little drape, although it is very prone to unraveling. I prewashed the entire yardage (cold wash, regular heat in the dryer) and set it aside while I could locate a pattern.

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress

Finding a pattern also took foreeeever! I didn’t know exactly what I wanted in a dress – since the fabric had some structure to it, it couldn’t be a really swingy/draped design. I wanted a loose skirt (so I could move about freely during the evening) and no sleeves (sun’s out, gun’s out amirite lol). I ended up finding just the thing in Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book – which I had won ages ago in a giveaway and hadn’t actually made anything out of yet! This pattern is the Floral Surplice Dress – which features a crossed over bodice, a separate midriff piece, and a side-pleated skirt. Done and done.

A few notes about this book – the pattern pieces are overlapped all over one another (like a BurdaStyle pattern), which means you have to trace them. The first half of the book goes into detail about fabrics, seam finishes, special techniques, and fitting – and then the patterns themselves have very brief instructions on how to put them together (assuming that you would flip back to the relevant section in the first half to get full instructions if you need them). I like this sort of layout as I don’t need the hand-holding, and appreciate just having a list of ordered steps. Finally, the pieces are all designed to mix and match with one another – so you can swap out the skirt for a different one, or add sleeves, or whatever. I liked the design of this dress, though, so I stuck with the suggested pieces and finishing.

I did make a muslin before cutting into my fabric, as bodices like this tend to gape on me. I’m VERY glad I did this, because there is a big sizing error with the midriff piece! It’s about 2″ too small – even after measuring and walking the pattern pieces. I thought I was going crazy because Google wasn’t pulling up anything, until I saw in a forum where someone briefly mentioned it in passing. So I’m not crazy. And also, if you make this pattern – just know that the midriff piece will need to be adjusted to fit your waist (unless you’re in denial about your size and consistently pretend like your waist is 2″ bigger than it actually is, that’s your prerogative). I cut my muslin to the biggest size, then added 1″ seam allowances, and fiddled around with it until I could get it to fit the bottom edge of the bodice (the bodice is graded and sized correctly, as is the skirt waist. It is just the midriff that is incorrect). After I fit my bodice, I took the pieces apart and used them to make new pattern pieces, then made a second muslin bodice to verify that it all fit correctly.

As far as other adjustments, the only things I did was take a little 1/4″ wedge out of the neckline so it fit closer to my body (using this method), and I also shortened the skirt by about 2″.

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - front

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - back

Right after I cut out the pieces, I realized that the dress was going to look like a total clusterfuck unless I did something to highlight the seamlines. So I tailed it to Textile Fabrics and bought a pink linen/cotton blend to create piping (ideally, I would have loved a darker color that wasn’t pink – but this was the only thing they had that matched, and my options are very limited here in town). I added piping to the top edge of the neckline, and both sides of the waistband. This not only breaks up the seamlines so the dress doesn’t look like a hot mess, but also visually separates that neutral background a bit from my skin (which matches a little too close for comfort, in my opinion).

All that aside, the rest of the sewing was pretty easy and straightforward. I used a serger to finish all the seams, which I pressed open. The piping is topstitched with matching neutral thread, to help it lie flat. The zipper is a simple lapped zipper that is pick-stitched by hand. I also added hooks and eyes at the piping intersections in the back, again, to help them lie flat and stay closed. Didn’t want anyone creeping on my zipper! Finally, the hem is serged and blindstitched by hand.

Now, for the mistakes that I made! At one point, I did sew the midriff upside-down and didn’t realize until after I had finished applying the piping – serged and topstitched and everything. I tried to convince myself that it was ok, but honestly one of my favorite parts of the dress design is how the side seams curve down at the midriff – and it didn’t look right when they were flipped the other way. Oh, and it didn’t fit right, either! It was not fun to unpick that mess and re-sew with teeny serged-off seam allowances, but I’m glad I did it. I also originally inserted an invisible zipper, but it was toooo hard to zip up due to the bulk at the intersecting back seams (with the piping). I had visions of the zipper breaking while I was at the wedding, and didn’t want to put myself through that mess. So I unpicked, and added the lapped zipper – which is much easier to zip and unzip!

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice front

Omg, I’m like nowhere near done with showing pictures. I’m sorry.

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice side

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice back

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - zipper detail

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice flat

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice back flat

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - bodice interior

Gertie Surplice Bodice Floral Dress - hem detail

Whew! So that’s a big ol’ post for a big ol’ project! The dress ended up being perfect for the occasion – I matched the aesthetic of the wedding, I was comfortable, and I had room to eat and dance! I am also pleased with myself for remembering to add pockets – those were super handy for carrying things like my sunglasses and hankies for when we started crying! It was a fabulous wedding and I’m so honored that I was able to stand up there with my best friend and be a part of such an important day.

I am going to leave y’all with some photos from the wedding, if you feel like creeping! All photos were taken by Lilika Strezoska, who is based out of Macedonia but came to the US to shoot this wedding. Lilika did an incredible job capturing everyone in a beautiful and candid way – I have really loved looking through all the photos!

Morgan's Wedding!

The ceremony. That giant cloud of a dog is Bootes, who absolutely had to be nearby.

Morgan's Wedding!

Here we are looking nice and like adults.

Morgan's Wedding!

And here we are jumping. Also, I would like to point out that this shot actually captured my shoe flying off hahaha.

Morgan's Wedding!

With my bestie! ❤ (she had her dress custom made by a seller on Etsy, I am not sure who the seller is though!)

Morgan's Wedding!

Here we are giggling together and having a BFF moment.

Morgan's Wedding!

And, finally, this is me carrying the Marriage Certificate over to be signed! I was so excited!

Ok, that’s all! Thanks for sticking around for this exceptionally long post 🙂


62 Responses to “Completed: My Maid of Honor Dress”

  1. bethnegrey August 18, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    This is just the most beautiful vintage-y fabric! And the perfect pattern. Love the midriff piece even though it was somewhat less than cooperative for you. Your blog posts illustrate so well why you are such a great teacher. I’m all too-familiar with those WTF patterns (currently puzzling over one…) and your instructions and photos are always clear and helpful. Plus the running commentary is crazy fun!

    • LLADYBIRD August 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      Thank you so much!!! I really enjoy teaching, and I really appreciate your kind words about me being good at it 🙂

      • Nilzeitung August 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

        Congratulate your heart on wedding

  2. jdiettrich August 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    Your dress is lovely! That bark cloth adds a nice structure and the piping is the perfect touch. And that wedding dress! Alllllll the heart eyes for that fabric. I think Jenny/Cashmerette just posted that fabric recently. Soooo good.

    • LLADYBIRD August 18, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

      Thank you! I didn’t see her post about it, I will have to look again! I love seeing what people do differently with the same fabric!

  3. pennybiscuitblog August 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    Such a beautiful dress! I loved reading this. I’m not very knowledgable in sewing, but I’ve always loved dress designing and seeing how others created their awesome pieces. The fabric you used is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never seen a pattern like that before, I’m sure it had to have been far more comfortable than a typical bridesmaid dress. I love that you were able to make your own. I plan to do something similar for my future wedding, I want to make the bridesmaid skirts for all of them and let them choose the tops they want.
    I’m curious, do you know what the best pattern would be for a full tulle skirt? I’ve had a rather hard time finding one surprisingly! 🙂 Thanks for the fantasic read! Keep on being creative.

  4. Kit August 18, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Man o man! I haven’t seen barkcloth since the 60’s (born in 60). You totally rocked this! I just love your blog and the fact that you share your mistakes AND you successes. I just decided on a whim to try (operative word here) to match a skirt to the bodice of another dress pattern using a batik Hancock fabric…and well, it didn’t work (New Orleans is great for parties, but not so great for fabric), so I had to to hunt up a coordinating solid and reused the skirt pieces to do a bias hem. It was all inspired by YOU!!! Thank you so much!

    • LLADYBIRD August 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

      Ahh, your dress sounds awesome!! That makes me so happy! And thank you! 🙂

  5. Ann August 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

    Your dress is ultra-gorgeous and it looks like the wedding was so fun!

    Funny, I bought some Outback Wife barkcloth (I got mine online from a store called Urban Spools) and I got it in the hopes of getting a chair reupholstered!! I’ve washed and dried it and since it softened up I’ve been hoping it is sturdy enough for a chair, and now I see you have made a dress out of it…hmmm!!! I hope I’m not making a mistake! Do you have an opinion now that you’ve worked with it? I got the Kristine in blue — I love the giant roses.

    Anywho, fabulous work…thanks for sharing it!

    • LLADYBIRD August 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

      I honestly don’t think it’s sturdy enough for a chair, unless it’s a chair that you don’t plan on sitting in very often! Upholstery fabric is much thicker (to withstand lots of butt action), and this barkcloth is kind of thin. If you do want to use it for your chair, I would back it with an interfacing first to give it some additional support. But you know I am team dress making, so my vote is dress!!!! 🙂

  6. Naia August 18, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    I love this dress you did a great job with it. The piping was a great idea (one I will probably borrow as I have a similar fabric but was nervous about the pale shade and my pallid skin tone.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      Thank you! Yes, piping is a good way to make non-flattering colors work with your skin tone 🙂 It just needs something to visually separate the two!

  7. Robin August 18, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    That was my kind of wedding….sweet and simple is all it needs to be. Your dress was perfect for you and for the setting. Never would have imagined bark cloth though and definitely the piping was the right call. I love the texture of bark cloth. Sounds as though you may have done as much unsewing as you did sewing but I would rather take the time to unstitch something than be unhappy when done.

    The dog was the perfect addition…..looks just like my Great Pyrenees.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:12 am #

      Thank you! Yeah, Bootes is a Great Pyrenees and he is HUGE. I think he’s over 120 lbs at this point and he’s not even a year old yet!

  8. car2ole August 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    This turned out faboo! The piping really makes a difference. I too suffer with neutral-background-color skin and will keep this in mind for the future. Great post.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:12 am #

      I’ve found that as long as you have something to visually separate your skin from the offending color, it works! Piping is a really good way to do that 🙂 And thank you!

  9. faye177 August 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Such a pretty dress for the wedding. I really enjoyed your interview on that Sewing Blab this week.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:12 am #

      Thank you for listening! I enjoyed being on the interview 😀

  10. Meira August 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    I love the texture of that barkcloth! The fabric on the bride’s dress is pretty special, too.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:13 am #

      Yeah, her dress was amazing!

  11. Annie August 18, 2017 at 5:23 pm #

    Fantastic dress, and I just loved reading the details of how you made it. And barkcloth…who’d a thunk? You all looked great ensemble, too. Perfectly elegant casual. But the Pyrenees was the crowning touch, in my book…I have three. The best dogs ever. Obviously your friends are wonderful intelligent people, which is why you are friends, amiright?

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      He is a GREAT dog! He’s still a puppy, so definitely a bit doofy… but he is already doing such a good job at his protector role, and he’s gentle when he needs to be. I love that dog so much haha

  12. Elizabeth H August 18, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    Gorgeous dress and such a lovely wedding. You are one great sewist. Love your posts. Thanks for sharing everything.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you like the posts 🙂

  13. Jackie August 18, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    Lovely wedding and you look gorgeous.

  14. Lisa jones August 18, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    I love the way you write and your” tell it is as it attitude.” Your sewing construction is the bomb.

  15. Elisabeth August 19, 2017 at 1:16 am #

    Beautiful dress!
    I’ve got my hands on some Outback wife fabric too. So pretty!

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      It’s so lovely to sew, you will enjoy working with it!

  16. Lisa Poblenz (patternandbranch) August 19, 2017 at 5:39 am #

    Your dress is beautiful, inside and outside! It’s also great to see this fabric in action since I’ve seen the yardage in person, but not as many garments made from it. I love it! Congratulations to your friend, too!

  17. Marianne August 19, 2017 at 6:54 am #

    What a beautiful dress, as always! I LOVE floral prints! I’m getting married myself today (the same kind of wedding as your friend’s, small and simple, with great food and wine!) and my only regret is that I didn’t have the time to make my dress (been working on a sleeveless Butterick5526 shirt for the last 6 months I think! you totally converted me to that pattern!!). At least, my maid of honor is more reliable and she made her’s!

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:15 am #

      Ooh, I’m a little belated to this but congratulations! I hope your wedding was amazing!!!

  18. Kay August 19, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    Simply Perfect

  19. PsychicSewerKathleen August 19, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    I thought your piping was the BEST ever. Such an amazing colour match to a spot on one of the flowers. I was surprised when you said you would have preferred something less “pink” because this colour grabbed the very best of the coloured flowers in the dress so perfectly, it was delicious to see. With the close ups I could see the nubbiness in the fabric too – all gorgeous. Congratulations to your friend for making this day special for HER 🙂

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:16 am #

      Thank you so much! Funny you say that about the piping… I like that the color matches perfectly, but yeah, I could do with less pink! It worked out pretty perfectly, though, so no complaints here!

  20. Taru August 19, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    Beautiful dress! Love the pink piping.

    I have to ask the hook and eye you used, did you open the eye to be straighter? The eyes I have are more rounded ones and some times those are hard to sew on and still be invisible and work right.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      You can buy hooks and eyes that come with two different types of eyes – there are the round ones and there are also straight ones! I prefer the straight ones, although I have both. So no, you don’t need to straighten them – they should come that way.

  21. Kelly August 19, 2017 at 10:38 am #

    Seeing the first few photos I kind of wondered if your dress might outshine the bride’s, but oh my goodness, I don’t think it’s possible to outshine such a perfect wedding dress!! Anyway, your dress is fantastic too, the piping is really key, and I agree with a comment above that the color matches very well. So glad you found the right fabric! A few years ago I needed a rose print on a light background, which I assumed would be plentiful in JoAnn’s quilting section. Nope. It’s amazing how hard it can be to find a specific fabric!

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:18 am #

      Haha yeah, I was aware of the dress she had gotten and how good she looked in it, so I never worried that I’d outshine her 🙂 She looked perfect!!

      And yes, it boggles my mind how hard it can be to find really specific, not-weird sort of fabric. I don’t feel like flowers on a neutral background is a weird request, but it sure seemed that way when I was combing through endless pages of fabric websites!

  22. Tomasa August 19, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    What a pretty dress. It fit you perfectly and I love the floral motif. Thanks for sharing all of the photos….I loved looking at each one. Both you and your BFF look fabulous!

  23. katiemakesadress August 19, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    So perfect. I’m not into florals but even I couldn’t resist the Outback Wife range (and being an Aussie I love the story behind it). I have it in the mustard. The piping was a stroke of genius and the zip is awesome.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:19 am #

      Ooh, I love the mustard but it didn’t work with the wedding theme. Jealous, whatever you make will be lovely!

  24. New Capel Street: Fabric Division August 20, 2017 at 5:50 am #

    Gorgeous dress! And you totally nailed the breezy backyard wedding aesthetic.

  25. Janene August 20, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    On reading the bride’s criteria for the dress code, I’d have been stumped – defeated, even. But you pulled it off with the most awesome dress. I just love bark cloth. There’s something just real and honest about it. And bride was on point. She knew what she was talking about because you look amazing together!!

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:19 am #

      She did good with that! We coordinated quite well 🙂

  26. Lauren Durr Designs August 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    That shoe flying shot is awesome! What an outstanding wedding and dresses on you both. My first tattoo was in Murfreesboro TN, can’t imagine how wild the bachelorettes get in Nashville. Congrats on adulting rite of passage (in style no less) and your BFF’s nuptials.

    • LLADYBIRD August 23, 2017 at 11:21 am #

      haha oh lord, the bachelorettes are awful here! They are just really loud and obnoxious and no one likes them (there are lots of businesses and tours that have strict “no bachelorettes allowed” policies, including a lot of the AirBNBs here). A good bachelorette party is one that you don’t realize is happening 🙂 And thank you!

  27. Lisa August 25, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

    Excellent job on your dress, as always! I think I am similar to you in size because many of the adjustments you make seem to work for me as well. My bust is 31″ and I wear an A cup. So when you took that 1/4″ wedge out of your bodice was that an alternative to
    doing a SBA? I hate making a SBA and try to avoid them like the plague. Any insight is much appreciated.

    • LLADYBIRD August 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

      My bust is about 32″ but my underbust is 27″, so I’m actually a DD/E cup. I actually need an FBA, but I usually skip them since the smallest measurements make for finished measurements that are bigger than mine (and then adding an FBA makes it too big). Taking a wedge out of the neckline isn’t a substitute for an SBA, since it’s just shortening the neckline – not actually taking width out over your bust. I hope that makes sense!

  28. fionaparker17 August 30, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    Beautiful Lauren! So well made and fitted and I love how the piping makes that print pop. I’m a big fan of Gertie’s patterns for special occasion dresses!

  29. Pam September 2, 2017 at 1:45 am #

    The dress is lovely, you look great. It looks like the best kind of wedding – happy and loving!


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