I always think it’s such a shame that we spend so much money, time and fabric on our wedding dresses, wear it once and then it languishes away in the wardrobe for 20 years before the months eat it and you regretfully throw it away. There’s very little I hate more than waste – except a very pretty dress wasting away in the attic and never being worn.
When I look at wedding dresses I see the potentiality of what that day means for the people involved. I see what the gown goes on to represent – and for so many people that is family and children. With this in mind a Christening gown is the natural upcycling choice for a wedding dress.
As it happens, my own wedding dress wasn’t white – it was gold and purple – so actually wasn’t appropriate to turn into a Christening gown for The Child. Plus we didn’t actually have her Christened. Not even a naming ceremony – sheesh we are BAD PARENTS!
So I bought a wedding dress from PDSA on Portishead High Street. They know me well in there as I bought all my wedding china from them. They spent months and months collecting together all the vintage style china that came in and holding onto it for me. Once a week I’d pop in and they’d show me boxes and boxes of wonderful cups, saucers and plates. I usually bought the lot – they were often superb. And the PDSA staff were supremely awesome time after time.
Anyhow, as usual I digress.
When I told the ladies in the shop that it didn’t matter what the dress looked like or what size it was as I was going to ‘cut it up’, they looked temporarily aghast but dutifully found me one. As it happened the dress was actually my size! What were the chances? So I had a fun little photo shoot in the garden before I took the scissors to it. I really enjoyed trying it on and prancing about in a white gown as I never got to do that on my wedding day. My dress was awesome and I wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China, but it wasn’t white. I found there was something a little bit magical about dancing around the house to Billy Idol singing the lines, ‘It’s a nice day to start again….’ in a white dress. Even if Dog did stand on it once or twice in his mongrel wisdom.
Don’t worry though – I almost definitely won’t try your dress on before I cut it up….
I chose to make a fairly simple Christening gown as I wanted to be able to highlight particular aspects of the original wedding dress, whilst still maintaining a classic look in the Christening gown. In the case of the dress that I bought from PDSA the most striking feature of it was the beadwork across the bodice and the skirt. There was also a lot of bead work on the train.
This – thankfully – gave me plenty of fabric to work with. Which was a very good thing as the christening gown required approximately 1.5m of fabric. This doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re cutting out of another garment it is a tricky quantity. Normally you would cut this strait from the bolt but when upcycling something you have a lot less to play with and have to make decisions about fabric grains and seams that you wouldn’t normally have to contend with.
It’s a dark art and you have to be able to see the finished item clearly in your head before you even put a pin in the original garment. You need to extrapolate each and every pattern piece and how the final gown will echo the original, whilst offering a fresh new feeling all of its own. I’m not a fan of miniaturising adult styles and putting them on children. I didn’t want to make the dress the same but smaller – but wanted to replicate the essence of the original without corrupting the clean lines of the new gown. And part of the reason to make a new gown out of an old one is to evoke the glorious memories of your wedding day, whilst creating new and blissful ones of your child’s Christening day. Not to mention the good feeling you get from recycling!
If you’re going to attempt to do this yourself then I do recommend that you try some easier upcycling projects before you hack up your wedding dress. You can definitely do it but you do need some practice in the art of transformation. I do it day in, day out so have a ton of practice! You should never be afraid to experiment but do it with things that don’t matter too much before you get all Edward Scissorhands on your £2000 wedding dress. Come and join me in my Facebook group – Memory Zoo Sewing Community for lots of ideas, tips and help.
Making up the gorgeous Simplicity pattern 8024 was a joy. Each part of the gown came together with ease and grace. The icing on the cake was the bonnet. Oh the joy the bonnet gave to me! And when I finally popped that cute little bonnet on the little girl who modelled it for me – I nearly cried. Well, ok I didn’t cry. I smiled with absolutely glee. She looked as cute a button and we all wanted to eat her up!
Luckily we didn’t turn into the Portishead Baby Eating Society and just took pictures of her being uber cute in the gown and bonnet.
This gown was, of course, not a gown filled with beautiful memories for me. It was a random gown that I bought from a charity shop on the High Street. But even as I cut into it for purposes of my own I was entirely aware that this gown was special for someone and was the star in the show of someone’s beautiful day. I’m very pleased to say that this gown has escaped the fate of many. There’s no moth balls and darkness for it. This gown will get to play in the sunlight a little longer.
If you’d like to have your wedding dress made into a Christening gown then please go ahead and email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices start at £150.
Of course I also make other keepsakes that you can turn your wedding dress into. I have some blog posts that explain about they types of fabric you can you (basically anything) and a post to help you decide what to have made.