An Inside Look At A Custom Dress

From what I’ve heard, the only occasion in which a woman would think to have a custom dress made, would be for something truly epic, like her wedding. And why is that? Because you assume it’s ungodly expensive and out of reach? You don’t know where to go? The idea of having something that fits perfectly sounds amazing but you’re intimidated by the whole process? You’d love to stand out from everyone else in a ‘one of’ but aren’t creative nor want to exert the energy to figure out what you want it to look like?

These are all very legit reasons for swooning over the idea of a custom dress, but not pulling the trigger. Had I not grown up around my grandmother’s sewing business, I would feel the same way–no doubt.

Here, I’m going to show you what’s involved in making a custom dress–from the vision to the finished product. Hopefully, it will make you feel more comfortable about the whole process and maybe even spur you to try the custom route!

Step 1: What’s in your head?

For this example, I wanted a dress to wear to a wedding–wait, make that two. I was invited to 3 weddings held on June 18th and ironically, 2 were at the same hotel! Lately, I’ve been drawn to anything asymmetrical.





Therefore, I was stuck on having the bottom of the dress NOT be one length. Also, I had this criss-cross/halter image in my head for the top. It’s important to note that your ideas need to work well with your body’s features. I have a long neck. Styles that ‘choke up’ on my neck, visually short the appearance of it, which is good because I have the length to spare. I also don’t have a large rack. Ha. So any kind of gathering or detailing on top is ideal in creating more volume/distraction.





Step 2: Picking the material

A lot of factors go into this step. Where do you intend to wear this garment? Will you be at a beach wedding or in a hall? What time of year? If your attending a wedding in December, indoors, the dress will usually be heavier and darker in color. If you’re at a backyard wedding, you’ll want something that moves nicely and is lighter in color. (I.E. Not a black satin dress!)

I picked this turquoise crepe material. Summer is a great time to try bright colors and the event was in a hotel, so I wanted to stay with a darker hue. (We did end up making something out of the yellow material too–more on that later!)


Photo: Lena Piskorowski

Step 3: Measurements & cutting

Tip: wear your better underwear. I’m not speaking about the frilly lacy kind–I just mean whatever pair you won’t mind a dressmaker seeing.

Note the measurement are in Polish so don’t try to guess which is my hips!




Step 4: Start sewing

Plan on trying the dress on at least twice after it has been cut. It needs to be pinned to determine where it should be taken in. Then you need to try it on again to figure out the length. Only after the top has been fitted can you finish the rest of the garment. Think about it, when the top moves up, so too does the length. Tip: try to wear the bra you intend to wear at the fitting. (i.e. not a sports bra). Remember, this is being made for you–don’t be lazy!

I don’t have a picture to aid in the visual, but at the first fitting, I hated the top. I felt so covered up and nun-like. True, we used an old school pattern, but this was not a cool vintage look! SO, I started tugging around at the top–gathering it at some areas, moving it up and down…until voila! I found something that didn’t make me feel claustrophobic. We added a little key hole just to make it more interesting. Ooooh.




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