I don’t really know how to start talking about our wedding day. It was just such a perfect weekend and it seems like yesterday and forever ago all at once! I don’t quite have the words for it all… So I thought I’d start with the dress. This is a style blog after all! (However, the whole day is up on Rock My Wedding if you want to know how it all went down!)
Lace and Tulle Wedding Dress Bridal Portrait

bride walking down the stairs, long tulle train and chapel length veil
lace and tulle wedding dress with button up back

{photos by DB Photography Sussex}

The wedding dress. It is such a huge deal! I actually felt very overwhelmed and conflicted when I first started thinking about dresses. I just could not get my head around the idea of spending a fortune on a dress for one day, no matter how special that day. Especially a fortune we don’t have! So as I started looking at weddings online and on Pinterest, the idea of a second hand dress kept popping up and the journey to a dress began. I had in mind a few things for my dress: I wanted sleeves, I wanted lace and I wanted tulle. Cue lots of Etsy and Ebay searching… until I came across an 80s dress with exactly that, on Etsy, for £35.00 including postage from the USA, in my kind of size! With the thought I could alter it if I wanted, I went ahead and clicked buy! Prepare for a MAMMOTH post after the jump and brace yourselves for the ‘before’ photos!

Before wedding dress alteration
80s lace dress before alterationLace dress from the side
Short, baggy sleeves. High, round neck. Baggy waist. Floor length skirt. Zip up back. Shoulder pads. So far, so 80s…! But, the ingredients were totally right and I felt so excited about turning it into my perfect dress! Step one, rip it all apart. I broke it down into its individual fabric pieces and then looked at how to put it all back together… Cue lots and lots of Pinterest! I fell in love with Reem Acra dresses, with the beautiful flowing skirts and petals of lace, and used them as my main inspiration. Idea in mind, I got started!

Step 1- the skirt
making a tulle skirt
tulle skirt with train handmade DIY tulle bridal skirt
The skirt took so much longer than expected! I didn’t want to to be too poofy, which tulle can easily be and after googling a lot, I found that the expensive dresses use lots of segments of gathered tulle, layered over one another, so it moves and flows without being too heavy and thick around the waist. First I added an extra underskirt so it wasn’t too sheer. Then I cut the original tulle skirt up into segments, and bought about 3 meters extra tulle from Bridal Fabrics UK to make extra layers and longer layers for the train. Those selfies above were a real moment of triumph after a month or so of experimenting!

Step 2 – fitting the bodice.
underbodice being fitted handmade lace and tulle wedding dress
wedding dress fitting wedding dress bodice fitting

I started with the underbodice, and managed to fit myself in it, redoing darts and reshaping the pattern pieces. I also reshaped the whole neckline, making it a wide scoop neck to show my collar bones. I did not want any cleavage showing but a softer neckline made it so much prettier! Then I needed help… My mama came up to visit and helped me fit the lace bodice, snipping away all the excess lace and reshaping the neckline. She was pretty terrified whilst doing it… I sewed the bodice together again and then focused on prettifying the back. The old back had just a zip, which works well for holding everything smoothly but doesn’t look so nice. Solution: Sew the zip to the underbodice, then button the lace overbodice together over the top! Thank goodness for button loop tape… With the buttons on and the zip in, I was able to reattach everything to the skirt. A whole dress again!

Step 3- the sleeves
making a tulle and lace sleeve tulle and lace wedding dress making a sleeve
The original sleeves were both too big and too short. Ending at my bust made me look much heavier and my arms chunkier. I considered leaving them off altogether but I’m not really confident showing my upper arms and didn’t want the stress in photos, plus as April could be freezing, sleeves seemed like a good idea. So, I made a new sleeve out of tulle, and then layered on the original short sleeves, before using cutout segments of lace taken from the excess chopped off the bodice. Making the two symmetrical took much longer than expected!

Step 5 – the lace waistband
pinning lace flowers over the waistband
lace and tulle wedding dress lace pieces flowing down the waist
I knew I wanted the lace to flow down into the skirt, over the hips, to integrate it more (and give a hint of those Reem Acra dresses) so with the last of the lace, I pinned pieces over the tulle, trying to make the prettiest look and ensure everything was symmetrical before sewing them down. I am amazed at how much difference this made to the feel of the whole dress and I am so glad I took the time for it.

Step 6- The finishing touches and the final dress!
delicate beading on a lace and tulle wedding dress{photo by DB Photography Sussex}
The last bits were almost the most time consuming in the end and I was still sewing away just days before the wedding! Over the lace, around the neckline, over the sleeves and on the waistband, I hand sewed hundreds of seed beads in various gold and ivory shades, to add a touch of sparkle texture. It took forever! But goodness it is so pretty. It shows more in person and made me feel like this dress was really something a little special. Then a gentle foldover hem for the tulle sleeves and a tidy up of all the edges and seams, including binding all the inside seams in silk bias binding so they were all soft and comfortable against the skin and it was done! The few days I had to wait before wearing it were terrifying. I had kept the whole thing secret from Charis (for almost a year!), and my family hadn’t seen it in person since the bodice fitting stage and I felt so scared that it would look shoddy and homemade,that people would think I was ridiculous for doing it myself.
But then, it was all so worthwhile. Seeing my mum tear up as I walked out in it, seeing Charis’ face when he saw me for the first time, dancing and laughing with my friends and family, hanging it up after a long and beautiful day. I felt beautiful and now I look back, I feel very proud of what I made from second hand dress, a bit of tulle and beads, and a lot of hours work. I know this dress feels more special to me than anything I could ever have bought, at any price.
Tulle and Lace wedding dress hanging in a window
{photo by DB Photography Sussex}
So there you go. The journey of a wedding dress! All without stepping foot in a wedding dress shop once!


P.S. I have to say a huge thank you to my lovely group of Brighton blogging friends who put up with months of me whatsapping them photos and questions and rants when I needed people to bounce ideas off. They helped keep me sane whilst I made this and so I am sending every single one of them a gigantic kiss! Especially the lovely Skye, who is currently undertaking a similar wedding dress journey that I cannot WAIT to see the outcome of.