Wedding dress to christening dress
I love sewing garments from scratch but I must admit that refashioning clothes is what I like to do most. Therefore I was thrilled to be asked if I could do a wedding dress makeover for my daughter in-law’s first child. She wanted to have her daughter’s christening dress made from her mom’s old wedding dress. Such an exciting and romantic project and a true refashion pleasure for a sewist. In this wedding dress to christening dress tutorial I will demonstrate how I made some basic pattern alterations to an infant commercial pattern (McCall’s M7307). And explain how I designed and added details for this little girl first custom dress.
Let’s start this wedding dress into baby gown tutorial!
Wedding dress into baby gown
Here is the beautiful bride to be in 1980s. Sitting in her parents living room a few hours before her big event. She proudly told me that the wool spinning wheel we see in the picture is now showcased in her own living room. A beautiful heirloom that once belonged to and was used by her grandmother.
When showing her old wedding dress she said; “There’s some stains on it, I have no idea where they came from”. When I lifted the layer of lace I saw these stains on the lining….
One look at them and I said “Well those stains predicted your future better than any tea cup reading… they tell your life as it has happened! There is the heart predicting a long marriage of love (and she breathed, Oh! yes!) and you had two kids”! She gave a second look at the stains “Yes! I see it!”. We had a good laugh at my fortune telling skills.
The favorite part of her wedding dress was the panel train; a wide inserted panel made of ruffled Chantilly and tulle finished with narrow satin ribbon trimmings. Stunning indeed. In the above picture we see that her dress is made entirely of lace and is fully lined with a thick polyester fabric unsuitable for the christening dress.
I met with the mother to discuss the design of the christening dress. This is the design the mother is looking for; an empire waist, a bow at the center front of the dress and cap ruffled sleeves. We will use the lace from her mom’s wedding dress to layer the dress skirt.
Besides that I was given “carte blanche” to add any details I thought would be suitable. The only request was that I leave enough fabric on the dress for another wedding dress to christening dress transformation in case the mother’s sister would someday want something similar.
When shopping for fabric to make the christening dress my main concern was too choose a fabric that would breathe (and I did right as we had a heat wave with a high humidity index on the actual christening day). I purchased a classic satin fabric made of 100% cotton. The satin finish is lustrous, the little dress will look elegant and chic.
I also purchased this commercial sewing pattern as a base for me to start from.
I will use option B since the design is very close to the dress we want. I only have to make basic pattern alterations for the pattern to resemble what we want to do with this wedding dress makeover.
According to the pattern chart and the baby’s weight, height and age (4 months on the christening day). I chose the pattern size small. I sewed a quick muslin of the bodice only, compared it to a piece of clothing that fitted the baby. The pattern size small was too large and I then went for the size Newborn.
Basic pattern alterations
Here are the simple basic pattern alterations that I have made.
1- The empire waist level will be 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) under the armholes. On the original pattern I made a mark under each arm hole. I joined the marks by drawing a line across the pattern bodice.
2- Now the front dress pattern is in two parts, the top bodice and the bottom skirt. I added seam allowances to the waist of the bodice and the skirt pattern pieces. Both top and bottom parts will be cut on the fold.
1- First I eliminated the back pleat; The center back was marked on the pattern. I simply drew a diagonal line from the center back to the edge of the hemline. It removed the back pleat tapering to nothing at the bottom. I folded the paper pattern on the newly drawn line.
2- I traced the empire waist the same way I did for the front.
3- I added a seam allowance of 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) to the center back of the bodice. I want a larger seam allowance to create a facing. The facing will be folded inside the bodice and the back of the dress will be open up to the empire waist level.
4- I added seam allowance of 5/8 of an inch (1.5 cm) to the center back of the skirt. I could cut the skirt back pattern on the fold but the wedding dress panels are not wide enough.
I had an idea for the sleeves (this is when freedom of actions come in to play). I decided to try using the ribbons from the wedding dress panel train (grandma’s favorite dress part) and use them as trimmings on the sleeves. Hum….. could I make ribbon-edge hem finish on the sleeves?
Here’s my concern. Ruffle cap sleeves do stick out and the way they are hemmed is visually important. Sleeves size Newborn are pretty small reducing the hemming options; a single folded hem showing an over locked edge won’t look nice. A double folded hem will be too heavy making the sleeves very rigid. The commercial pattern proposed to make a small 1/4 rolled hem by folding the fabric twice…… too simple. So let’s try to use the ribbon to hem the sleeves.
It worked perfectly and offered a great finish with only one row of machine stitches visible on the wrong side of the fabric. Below is how to sew a ribbon-edge hem.
1- Finish the sleeve edges with an overlock machine or a zigzag stitch.
2- Line the ribbon up so the edge is just overlapping the edge of the fabric. Machine stitch the right side of the ribbon to the wrong side of fabric. Sew at the very very edge of the ribbon. The ribbons on the dress were woven single faced satin and it was easy to machine stitch along their distinctive woven-edges.
3- Fold the ribbon towards the right side of the fabric.
4- Machine stitched the other side of the ribbon to the right side of the fabric. Again machine stitch on the very edge of the ribbon.
5- Press. Admire a great finish with only one row of machine stitches visible on the wrong side of the fabric.
I then assembled the muslin. Note, as you see in the above image; for muslin’s I use whatever piece of scrap fabric I can find along with any random leftover bobbin of thread I have. Though I did cut and sew the ruffled sleeves in the satin cotton fabric that will be used for the christening dress, I needed to assess if the sleeves were of proper sizes and how they looked.
In passing, I faced difficulties concerning the ribbons. Beside the fact that I had to carefully remove the stitches (the ribbon had a tendency to fray) and iron away the stitching marks. I found that most of the ribbon yardage was still dirty even after I had washed the wedding dress …..someone had a lot of fun wearing the dress that special day!
Little girl first custom dress
Awe…. our little girl’s first custom dress. Popped our heart seams right out! Only the neckline area was in need of adjustments. It was too wide and the shoulders were too far over also.
I modified the pattern by drawing the neckline higher by 1 inch (2.5 cm) and I extended the shoulder seams by 1.5 inches (3.81 cm). I adjusted the shoulder slope by removing 1/2 an inch (1.27 cm) at the neck/shoulder junction, to noting at the shoulder point.
I will decide the bow size and style later on.
The pattern instructions were for set-in sleeves…. Duh! the dress armholes are so small, there is no way I could sew in-the-round sleeves. I had no other choice but to sew the sleeves in flat. Except for this Star shaped baby wrap blanket this is the first time that I’m sewing for a baby (only sewed for toddlers before). Which makes me curious now. Children wear companies must have special sewing machines able to access such small areas ? ….. I have to look into that as I am curious now.
I seam ripped the side seams and sewed the shoulder seams together. I first pinned then sewed the cap sleeves and the bias tape to the armholes. Afterwards, I sewed the side seams and I hand finished the bias binding.
The neckline and the armholes are finished by a double fold bias binding. Bias tapes are ideal for finishing curved edges. You can see in the image above that we see no puckering even in such tight curves.
I had another idea for the dress. I loved the wedding dress waist detail. The satin ribbon was simply machine stitches on one side. A very discrete version of a sash belt. I will add the same detail on the christening dress. My only problem was to find some ribbon parts that hadn’t “partied” too much!
I folded the ribbon edges at the start and I overlapped the ribbon a tiny bit over the dress waist seam. I machine stitched at the very very edge of the ribbon, on the woven-edge. That was not easy to do. I had to prevent the ribbon edge from falling in the ditch of the seam as I wanted the ribbon to remain flat.
Now it was time to think about the bow…
The bow from the commercial pattern was way too big. I then cut and sewed 4 bows of different shapes and sizes before I made the one that suited my fancy.
And here is my final choice. Bow total width 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) with a ribbon detail sewn in it’s center. I used a piece of ribbon to make the loop for the bow center.
Wedding dress into baby gown
The christening day was such a beautiful sunny day. Our granddaughter was christened in the same day ceremony together with her 11 month old cousin (also our granddaughter). Both little girls acted so grown up for their first big life event.
I really enjoyed doing this wedding dress to christening dress project. And I hope that it gave you some ideas to make your own wedding dress makeover.
Thank you for passing by