My customer had bought a lovely simple fishtail silhouette dress but she had always envisioned having a cape to compliment the look and give it a real vintage Hollywood feel. She came to me with some ideas. The front of her dress was plain so she wanted a dense lace to give it some interest but the back was low and had a lovely lace edge which she didn’t want to cover so the lace pattern needed to allow the back of the dress to be visible through it.
After much research she settled on Love from Bridal Fabrics. It had certain details which mirrored her dress and the arches of the design were reminiscent of Art Deco.
Where do you start?
There’s two ways to go about working with lace. I could either just cut the panels out from my pattern and seam together as I would any other garment and then attach a lace edging which works well for a busy patterned lace. But when the lace is technically an embellished tulle and bold like Love, its far more successful to be manipulated into shape. This is a bit more time consuming but more couture and worth it in the end.
When the fabric comes as a large flat piece the first thing is to decide where the front of the cape is going to be. I laid it over the mannequin to decide which part of the pattern best suits the centre. I decided I liked this piece as my central point to work from for both centre front and centre back. I cut my pattern in multiples of this pattern repeat so that when the edging was joined the pattern would be flawless, this worked out to be 6 repeats.
Once the pattern was cut, I could work out my lace placement based on the central motif and the edging. First I pinned the edging onto the pattern. The pattern is a curved to hang evenly around the body, so you can see from photo below, the central motif then shoots off the pattern piece.
I need to remove some fullness to make the motif sit back in the centre. Basically I have to work around the pattern, cutting out large bits and little triangles of lace to make the design of the lace flow naturally without any abrupt edges. I also needed to use lace from the top of the panel where it appears more spaced out at the back of the cape to fulfil my customers specification. Its very time consuming playing around with how the pattern will go. This lace is fab for this technique as you have large appliques and all the lines to disguise the shaping.
Stitching and finishing
Once the overall shape is roughly cut and pinned I could stitch the various overlaps. I did this with a variety of straight and zig zag stitches, depending on the style of the lace line. There is a nerve wracking moment when you cut away close to the stitch lines, hoping that you’ve made the right decision with where you cut!
Once all the threads and excess fabric has been trimmed away, it needs a major press and steam to make it all sit beautifully as one piece. The neck opening at the back and neck edging is then finished. I chose a line from the scraps which I trimmed closely to use to stitch around neck and opening. The top of the neck is fastened with a little pearl button and ribbon loop.
A little money can have a big impact
Making accessories such as capes, boleros, etc or little customisations (like adding appliques) to dresses can really change the overall look of a wedding dress and they don’t cost the earth either. You can easily buy a cheap simple dress and have something added or a beautiful accessory made and the whole ensemble could cost under £500 easily. I do enjoy making capes and working with lace, its intricate work and very satisfying. Once the customer has got married, I hope she’ll send some photos so I can share the whole look. She’s sent me photos of fittings and the cape looks brilliant with the dress.
Hope you enjoyed reading