So perhaps you’ve thought about what I said in a previous post about having an expensive dress for a fraction of the cost and now it needs details? Or maybe you’ve bought a lovely but simple dress and need some ideas on how to make it a bit more you, a bit more special.
This post is to give you ideas on how YOU (not me or any other seamstress) can make a dress unique or even quirky. I’m not saying that anyone can do the complex stuff and with the stress of weddings, unless you are a experienced seamstress, don’t try to attempt big alterations. But I am saying that some of these simple ideas could be applied by an amateur.
Big impact details
If you want to make an impact and possibly add some colour why not add appliques? An appliques is an ornamental piece of needlework, they can be a lace motif or a crystal/beaded shape.
Something such as the appliques above can be used to lift a simple dress and make them something special like the dresses below. To attach, your stitches don’t have to be amazingly neat, a simple small running stitch is fine, the design will hide your stitches unless someone looks really closely.
The dress on the right is achieved with lots of lace appliques arranged around the bodice. I’d only go down this route if you’ve got lots of patience as you’ll be there sewing for a while!
Belts are great at creating a cinched waist effect and adding detail to a simple dress.
Add texture with lace trims the same colour as the dress, choose beaded trims for some sparkle. Or go all out and create an impact with a beaded/crystal trim. Trims can be stitched directly onto the dress with a small running stitch. Flowers or plain sashes tied in oversized bows in contrast colours are great for adding fun and matching your colour scheme. Wide ribbons can be embellished by hand sewing flowers on. Use double thread and make sure you stitch through a meaty bit. Like the flowers on the pink belt. Get in touch and I’ll make you some.
If you want to make a sash, these are made by cutting a long piece of fabric double the width of your desired finished width. This is folded in half and stitched down the length. Turn the sash inside out and hand sew the raw edges in. If you’re not sure how long to make your sash or belt, tie a tape measure around your waist to give you a rough idea. The purple sash above is 2 metres long and wrapped around the body twice.
By adding sparkle, you are only really going to add a little scattering so that it twinkles (anything more and you should’ve bought a sparkly dress). By adding a scattering it will catch the light when you move. But where do you put the sparkle and what do you use?
Sequins and beads
If you’re unsure and don’t want to do anything permanent without seeing how it looks first, stitching beads and sequins on is the way to go. If you don’t like what you do, you can unpick them and the dress will be back to how it was.
Personally, I think it’s best to use a cup sequin, it has multiple facets so will catch the light more. A flat sequin is lovely but as theres less facets it won’t sparkle as much. If you dress is ivory, champagne, white, pale pink, etc go for a crystal colour (which is clear). Use iridescent ones if you want more shimmer. I’d recommend a bead as well. By adding beads with your sequins it makes the job quicker and adds a bit more sparkle. You only have to do one stitch through the sequin rather than multiple stitches around the sequin to hold it in place. A silver lined or pearl seed bead is great to combine with sequins as they are so dainty. Personally I prefer a silver lined bead as it catches the light.
To attach, tie a knot in end of your thread and stitch from underneath to front of top layer, insert needle through sequin and then bead. Then pull thread back through sequin and fabric to original knot. The bead holds the sequin in place. Over sew 3 or 4 times to secure thread and snip.
Hot fix gems
If you just want to throw sparkles at a dress and quickly, then hot fix gems are the way to go. Crystals are more silvery and obvious than sequins. I’d highly recommend Swarovski crystals, they are more expensive but the quality of the gem and the sparkle are worth the cost.
They are applied with a special tool, these cost around a tenner on Amazon so not much at all. The tool heats up the set glue on the back then you use a pin to slide the gem off the tool. Just beware of the fumes from doing it for prolonged periods.
I used 500 crystals of varying sizes on my wedding dress (photo above) to give you idea of how far they go. I love sparkles, my dress had the twist detail at the front, so it was quite simple and I wanted to emphasise the twist with sparkles.
Final word on sparkles
Keep your sparkles a similar colour to your dress. It may be tempting to add lots of colours but from a distance, it will look like mud splats on your dress! Trust me, I’ve made that mistake….
I can’t finish this post without telling you how to easily recreate my signature petticoats.
Most dresses use a whole 25 metre roll of bias binding. To attach, fold the binding over the hem of the net petticoat and stitch using a sewing machine.
If your dress doesn’t have a petticoat and you want one, no worries, get in touch. I’ve made petticoats and shipped them all over the place for customers to wear as they are or to get their seamstress to sew into their dress.
I hope this post has given you confidence to have a go at customising your own dress. If you give it a go and it doesn’t go to plan, don’t fret. As long as you haven’t cut anything off the original dress, it’ll all be fine, you can just take it off. If you start but realise that its too big of a task, thats fine too. Contact a seamstress and I’m sure they’ll be happy to complete your vision.
Thanks for reading.