DIY Wedding Dress – Toiling and Fitting

In the first blog I showed my design choices and where I sourced my fabrics. Here I’m aiming to show the fitting process and all of the tweaks necessary to get to the fit to be the best it could be (there’s no such thing as perfect). I had originally planned to show construction in this as well, however it has got pretty long!

Resources

A couple of essentials for me which allowed me to diagnose fit issues, redraw things and not lose my marbles were:

  • The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting – Sarah Veblen. This really allowed me to get some ideas of where things were going slightly awry, helping me to identify a short torso, how to fit the sleeves and get a good start on what I needed to do.
  • A see through french curve, to help redraw lines
  • Tracing paper, so I didn’t have to keep buying the pattern repeatedly. As it wasn’t available to buy in PDF format
  • Old bedsheets, calico fabric etc for the toile.
  • Fabric pens to draw balance lines on the toiles
  • Sewing friends with the patience to answer questions and challenge or confirm what I think!
  • The Elisalex Bodice fitting course, I managed to sneak onto this in December 2020 at the New Craft House after it had been lockdown cancelled in November. I had got most of the way, but going on the course helped me to make the final adjustments to make the pattern sing!

Toiles, toiles and more toiles

I’m a big fan of toiles in general, I’m fairly short and (thanks to the wedding dress) now know my neck to boob distance is pretty short. When I make trousers there’s often a quick bedsheet version too to check my rise.

Toile 1

Make the bodice with no edits. The pattern helpfully came with 4 different cup sizes (A,B,C &D). I measured by high bust and my bust, the difference was 5cm so I picked the B cup for the first attempt. From my measurements I also initially went with the size 12, grading to a 14 at the waist.

The issues with this were:

  1. The apex of my bust was significantly higher than it should have been on the pattern. Aka. my nipples were about 1.5 inches higher than the bust line on the pattern.
  2. Similar issues with a large amount of fabric pooling at the back.
  3. My shoulders were not sitting on my shoulders

Toile 2

The shoulder to bust distance was taken out and the armhole was redrafted as well as making a 1.5cm narrow shoulder adjustment. 

  • This wasn’t the most successful of my toiles as I had actually done the correction wrong. You can see how tight the neck is in this toile, what I did was also rotate the pattern piece whilst adjusting the shoulders. This was incorrect as the neckline was not gaping and therefore did not need pivoting, what I should have done and did in future toiles was just decrease the length of the shoulder seam by 1.5cm and then reconstruct the armhole.
  • The darts at the top were incorrect, I had tried to shorten them and was unsuccessful in my attempt.

For a fuller explanation of what I have tried to explain about the narrow shoulder adjustment, I recommend the By Hand London bodice fitting companion.

Toile 3

I re-lengthened the darts, adjusted the shoulders correctly so I wasn’t going to be strangled by the dress and cracked on. At this point I was relatively happy with the fit, despite Matt (my groom) pointing out that my boobs looked incredibly pointy. I will not begrudgingly admit he was right, but as I didn’t know how to fix it yet. I decided to sulk about this and pretend it was how it was meant to look. I also added the sleeves at this point for a bit of proof of concept. This was also the last step in the process he was allowed to see, I felt fairly safe up until this point as he is likely to forget what the dress looked like in concept as he can’t visualise things that well from description.

Putting the sleeves in was also a really helpful practice for me to work with chiffon and get used to the instructions. I have worked a fair amount with tricky fabrics but for my wedding dress I figured it couldn’t be bad to add in some extra practise.

I then added the skirt to allow me to identify what the weight of the skirt was going to do to pull the bodice down and allow it to drop, this may also pull a lot of the wrinkles of the bodice out. Plus, I wanted to see if the pockets included in the pattern were spacious enough. They most definitely were! Also, these cuffs. I LOVE these cuffs.

Overall I liked this toile and the fit of it, however it didn’t quite emphasise my waist as much as I would have liked, it felt like there was too much ease in it in general.

Toile 4

  • Size 10 graded to 12 at the waist.
  • 1.5cm narrow shoulder adjustment
  • Same 1.5 inches (sorry imperial and metric use) out of the top of the bodice
  • Now in funky zebra print fabric, plus lining practise

It is incredibly hard to see here (zebra fabric) but there is still quite a lot of excess at the bust. So, I made the same edits as above to the A cup bodice. It may seem like I was being pedantic here but I knew that I could make these tweaks to get the fit as close to ideal as possible.

Toile 5

I don’t have as many pictures of toile 5 as I do of the rest of them. This is the toile that came to the Elisalex bodice course with me. I’m incredibly glad that I took it as the final pieces of the fitting puzzle were unlocked.

  • A square shoulder adjustment of ½ inch (¼ inch on the front and back pattern piece)
  • Release each dart by ¼ inch to free the apex aka. Resolving the pointy boob problem from toile 3.

Toile 6

The final toile, the toile to end all toiles. (Please, I love this dress but I am nearly at the fudge it, this will do stage). I cut the skirt properly in a 12, (previously I was just bodging the 14 in), the sleeves in a standard poplin in a 10 (see previous bodging in) and then made the final toile. I also tried it on with my wedding bra to check that the fit worked well with it (I’ve been doing this since toile 4). At this point I made the petticoat to check the skirt poofed out correctly and allowed me to make the final length adjustments (with my wedding shoes shoes on)

This blog has turned into a bit of a mammoth one. So I’m going to start the next one for construction. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the process, seeing my ever changing messy bedroom, accidental black pants under toiles and bizarelly angled photos.

A quick summary of the changes

  • Size 10 at the top, A cup, graded to 12 at the waist
  • 1.5 inches taken out between neck and boobs and armhole redrawn
  • 5/8 inch narrow shoulder adjustment
  • 1/2 inch square shoulder adjustment
  • 1/4 inch dart release to de-point my apex.

I really loved making this pattern, the tweaks I made have definitely made it work and I know that I can make it again in different fabrics. Next up, construction!

2 thoughts on “DIY Wedding Dress – Toiling and Fitting

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