Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bringing It All Back Home

Here's a post about a wedding dress I made a little over a year ago for my cousin Scott's then-fiancee (now wife) Emily (they were wedded in August 2008).

Scott and Emily live in Oregon and I live in Massachusetts, so the fittings were conducted by mail. First Emily emailed me some photos of dresses she liked. Based on these, I sent some sketches of dress ideas to Emily and she told me which ones she liked the best, or which parts of which dresses she liked best. Here are a couple of the preliminary sketches (sorry these are so faint):

From this collaboration we came up with the final idea for the dress, which would be a halter-style dress with an empire waist, asymmetrical floral embroidery on the bodice, piping under the bust, and lacing up the back (see sketches below).

Once the design had been decided upon, it was off to try to find a pattern to adapt, get fabric swatches for Emily to choose from, and make a mock-up from muslin for fitting purposes. Emily wanted the dress to have orange accents, as orange is one of her favorite colors. Orange is a vivid, vibrant color, but I was afraid that the contrast of orange with white or ivory might be too stark or harsh against Emily's soft, pale complexion. Here are the fabric swatches I was able to gather to send to Emily to pick from, gathered from the fabric shops in Chinatown:

I was searching for inspiration on how to incorporate orange into the embroidery on the dress in an elegant and subtle way when one day I was on one of my favorite shopping sites, Buy Olympia, and just by chance, I found this book: "Plants and Their Application to Ornament: A Design Primer", a reprint of an antique book featuring floral illustrations by Art Nouveau illustrator Eugene Grasset.

I thought the illustration of nasturtiums from the cover was perfect--Art Nouveau meets botanical illustration! Since Emily is a biologist, I thought this was very fitting and hoped that she would like the idea for the embroidery piece. She did, so I bought the book posthaste and used it to create the pattern for the embroidery on the empire bodice. I'd never done a big hand-embroidered piece before, so I was a bit intimidated. But I really enjoyed doing it, and was pleased with how it came out. Here is the embroidery in stages:

And here is the finished dress:

Below are some beautiful wedding photos that were taken by Emily's brother. These nicely capture Emily in the dress. Here's the happy bride and groom:

Here's Emily with Scott's dad, my uncle Gary:

And here's a great photo of Emily with her bridesmaids. This was taken near the wedding site:

Here are some great views of the back of the dress. Doing that long lacing gave me the devil's own time, but I think the results were well worth the effort:

Nasturtiums are an edible flower, so the wedding cake had nasturtiums on it, too.

And Fimo cake toppers of the bride, the groom, and their pets (dog, cat, and rat):

And here are some gorgeous potted nasturtiums that decorated the bride's parents' house at the rehearsal dinner, so you can see the genuine article:


Tricia said...

Absolutely beautiful, Arwen! I had always wanted you to make mine, and now I really wish I had made you do it! =) love lov love the orange accents - what a perfect way to incorporate color!

Chris said...

This is really amazing, Arwen. Your ideas for incorporating color and flowers into the dress are fabulous, and the artistry is obvious. ...And of course saffron was the traditional color for wedding gowns in antiquity! You simply must start your own shop. There has to be a lot of demand for a boutique-style customized approach to wedding dresses. Well, maybe that would be too exhausting with all the awful brides out there. But you have real talent. Bravo.