FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER John Michaels
DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER Correna Starbuck
MODEL Bella LaGosi
DRESS, ACCESSORIES, HAIR & MAKE-UP Starbuck Sister Collaboration
For many brides-to-be, picking their wedding garb is an intense process. What a woman wears to begin her new life can say a lot about her, but quite often finding the right wedding gear is nearly impossible. Many dresses lack originality and fail to describe the brides that will be wearing them. And when one actually finds a dress that does express something of oneself, it usually costs far more then any reasonable bride would spend. Much of the wedding industry counts on the likelihood that brides will be utterly unreasonable.
This was the dilemma that this young woman faced. In the end, she decided to make her own dress and asked for advice on how to go about doing it. Hers was going to be a beach wedding, so she wanted her dress to be comfortable, and not so tailored or formal. But this is a Lady of Luxury, and polish, so casual was not going to cut it either.
First step: INSPIRATION. She began to collect ideas, pulling magazine pages, searching for heroines that she identified herself with, and finding scraps of fabric for colors and textures that she liked. After weeks of gathering images and materials, she finally landed on her inspiration from a rather surprising source: Jessica Lang as the Bride of King Kong.
Not typical by any means, but she liked the tribal styling of the gorgeous, revealing gown. We also thought this look was achievable because it allowed us to approach the design in a Paul Poiret way: simple in form, with the fabric, color and embellishment being the main emphasis (coincidentally, Poiret - like my sister - claimed that he could not sew well). She ended up choosing champagne colored silk charmeuse for the base with a matching silk gauze for the accent to add a light and airy effect.
Next came the construction. For years, I've kept long wide panels of silk on hand as main accessories; they could be turned into turbans, sashes, and even halters when necessary. I decided we could start with the easy-to-sew sash structure to create the base for the drape of her dress. I instructed her to buy 6 yards of wide fabric, cut it directly down the center, length wise, and make doubled tubular panels out of each half. This gave us 2 sashes to work with that were about 1.5' x 6 yards in dimension.
To drape it, we put one sash over each shoulder, extending them evenly down her front to the floor. Then we made knots at the high point of each shoulder to make the panels narrower through the bust. From there we decided to attach the two panels together at the front from the waist to the floor so that the skirt would be closed down the center front.
At the back of the dress, we criss-crossed the panels under her shoulder blades and wrapped them in opposite directions around her waist, creating a sash and a trim waist. While wrapping her waist, we made sure to leave enough fabric for her train to be at the desired length. We tied a knot at her center back, tucking and overlapping the two panels into the sash to make the appearance of one center back panel. The knots all played a crucial role in anchoring the dress and keeping it from shifting while allowing us to avoid extra sewing, zippers or other closures.
This drape left us with a loin cloth effect at the skirt, and we decided to use the silk gauze to create hip panels. We attached the silk gauze to a shell-beaded belt, to go over the skirt of our dress and cover her hips in a feminine, flattering way. The end result was a skirt with four full panels that overlapped enough so that the dress was demure when she was standing still in the ceremony, but would move and give flashes of her legs when she danced at her reception.
The last details were the accessories. She decided that a feathered headdress would best suit her style. I offered to make this part of her wardrobe, since headdresses happen to be a passion of mine. With purple being her favorite color, we decided to incorporate purple into the braiding of the headband, and felt that albino peacock feathers would be a good replacement for a white veil. To complete her look for the actual wedding, she incorporated the sea theme by adding shell bracelets and a long strand of black fresh water pearls clustered around her neck.
I hope this gives viewers an idea of how it's possible to create your own vision, even with a normal budget and minimal sewing skills. All it takes is inspiration, a small amount of know-how (or the advice of someone with it), and the determination to see your project through. If you have any questions about how-to or any other examples of home made dresses, please add them to the comments. Bella completed her dress in one month's time. Not bad for someone who's about to get married!