Friday, February 29, 2008

Further Formal Fancies

Here you will see outfits worn by guests at Genevieve and Pete's wedding.

Grace, one of the hair and makeup artists for the Maiden Daughters, presented a dramatic contrast to the ivory-clad maidens.

I love what Amy did with this sundress to create a modest, very pretty outfit. She wore a camisole underneath and a cotton shrug jacket over the top. For front view, see below.
Katie offered another illustration of how to wear a dress that is a bit lacking in bodice – pop a turtleneck underneath.

Below, from left to right: Alison sewed this silky faille dress that almost glowed in the dark; Jessica sewed her cotton blouse and a skirt made classy with a layer of organza; Felicity sewed her cotton blouse and purchased the layered crinkle-cotton skirt.

I first saw Erin outside the church prior to the wedding (while her dress looked freshly pressed and before her hair was mussed by the wind). I was very taken with her elegant charm. She says the dress is a Sense and Sensibility pattern. (See Visit this section for lots of lovely gowns – you’ll even find Genevieve among them!)

Erin accessorized her dress with these cute pearl buttons, pearl necklace and earrings, and dainty white high heeled sandals completed the picture. I think there was also a small white purse hanging from her shoulder. I was delighted to be able to take her picture with these pretty maids who had so obviously taken care with their appearance.

No, this little darling wasn't at the wedding (she lives in an old Butterick pattern book), but she provides a good example of how even a simple fabric like gingham can be pieced together into something femininely delicious. I include her picture, and the one below (these sweethearts were at the wedding), because Erin's young friends reminded me of a friend’s wedding at which I became acquainted with a young mother seated behind me.

I commented on how pretty her 3 daughters looked in matching dresses, and she told me of her belief that weddings are very special and that one should dress in a manner that shows honour and respect for the sacredness of the occasion. She made a big effort to create special clothes for her growing girls, so they were used to getting dressed up, but on this occasion the eldest, aged 12, declined to wear her dress, saying it wasn’t trendy and nobody else would be dressed thus. Her mother explained her reasons, and finally her daughter acquiesced. I thanked her for her persistence, for I certainly appreciated the effect. I have seen so many casual wedding attendees.

As you can see from these illustrations, it’s not difficult to turn a nice garment into something special. Jessica pinned her hair with a sparkly alligator clip (you can’t see that in the photo, but I could see it right from the back of the church), and used organza for her simple skirt pattern. Erin added pearl buttons and dainty sandals.

Shoes are a great help in elevating an outfit. It has been said that a lady can wear an old cotton dress but with pretty high heels everyone will think she is stylishly dressed. This is humourously illustrated by Violet in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” when she responds to a compliment with, ‘What, this old thing? I only wear it when I don’t care how I look!’

I’ve found the shoe trick a good one. My wedding garment was a day dress (100% polyester from Hamilton’s Fabric Barn, cotton lace from Spotlight), made elegant with a matching purse and slingback heels (from Burlace Shuz in Dannevirke).

The weather featured a strong breeze (enough to steal the bride’s veil off her head when she stepped out of the car!) and a hideaway sun, so an embroidered cap (JayJays) and white denim jacket (EziBuy) were helpful additions.

There were many other examples of feminine loveliness at Genevieve and Pete’s reception, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to meet them all or take their picture from a beneficial angle. I’d sure love to hear from this lassie…

Genevieve's Wedding continued

Today Genevieve is getting acquainted with her new home while we continue the review of her wedding. Here, then, is an examination of the virginal garments of Genevieve’s maiden daughters.

They wore delustered satin, a happy choice if you want to avoid the creases for which satin is known. Some of the girls were in cream and others in oyster, because Spotlight didn’t have enough of either colour for all the dresses to be the same shade. You are looking at about 40 meters of fabric.

Genevieve explained to Charmagne the sort of style she wanted for the girls, they drew some pictures together, then Charmagne took the measurements of an unsuspecting young maiden-to-be, drafted the first pattern, and stitched the first dress to test the pattern.

Charmagne says, “Soon after this, Genevieve hosted an afternoon for the 14 girls at which she asked them to be her maiden daughters and showed them the complete maiden dress. You should have heard the squeals of delight and seen the smiles as they lined up to have their measurements taken! Their mothers were already ‘in the know’ and each girl had a mother, aunt, or grandmother who kindly sewed her dress.”

The simplicity of the design was set off by a single row of textured ribbon at the high empire waist, with a neat wee bow at the back. I was amazed at how perfectly the ribbon blended with and yet enhanced the fabric. Charmagne explains, “When we were putting together the trial dress, I looked through the rolls of ribbon and lace which I have collected over time and (God is so good) I found one which matched well and had about 12 meters left on it – JUST enough!”

The 14 Maiden Daughters walked the aisle two by two, formed an honour guard on the dais behind the bridal party, and at the reception worked very hard indeed ensuring the guests were well supplied with drinks and snacks and later keeping the tables cleared of used plates. They looked charming (and uncreased) the whole time, and made quite a traffic stopper when they waltzed about the city together.

Sundress Rises as Skirt

In the Ballentynes Blitz post, I offered suggestions for how to wear a sundress and said I was going to convert this one into a skirt. The dress had a shaped bust, and two rows of encased elastic forming the waistline. Here’s how I transformed it.

Remove the shoulders/bust of the dress, leaving enough extra fabric at the top of the skirt to form a waistband. Chop off the corners. This dress was lined, so it was easy to turn inside the raw edges of the corners and stitch.

Add a strip of interfacing inside each side flap to which will be stitched button or dome fastenings.

Fold under edges of waistband and topstitch. Overlap the side flaps, folding under any bulges, and topstitch, leaving room to get in and out. I topstitched as far as the upper row of elastic (marked by the orange pins; the 2 pins at the top show the amount of overlap required to fit my waist), then stitched each side of the opening separately.

Here is a view of that topstitching from the inside. The seam is on the right side of the pleat of excess fabric running down between the two elastic tracks (what was the bulge). The pleat is 25mm wide at the top.

Dealing with the bulges proved that I had to remove the two rows of elastic before I could topstitch. To do this, I had to cut into the outside of the skirt, because inside the lining formed an extremely secure casing. With the elastic removed, the bulges smoothed out nicely, but I had some unsightly holes in the outer fabric. I secured these with zig-zag stitching. Then…

Satin ribbon can hide a multitude of sins. I ran the ribbon over both of the elastic tracks. Holes hidden. Skirt happy.

My sewing machine is rebelling against buttonholes, so I opted for domes (press fasteners) to secure the flaps, and moved the buttons, now purely decorative, forward a little.

Voila! A skirt prettier than the dress it came from, and in one of my favourite colours!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Finding a Modest Wedding Gown Fit for a Princess

How does one find a modest bridal gown that still makes you feel like a princess?

In brief:
• Don’t be afraid to go international with your modesty search. Browse the online galleries.
• Ask the bridal salon if they are willing to adapt a design to your specifications, such as raising the neckline of styles like these from in Australia.

• If they say no or are too expensive, right click on the picture you like and save it.
• Contact a local designer/seamstress and ask her to bring your picture to life.
• Found a nice pattern in a sewing store? Grab it. Fashions vanish away…it will be gone next season.

In the past 3 weeks I have spent hours surfing online bridal stores in several countries. Mountains of dresses, very few modest gowns. I did find a handful of sites, details of which you will find in the Modest Bridal Collections post, but Boutique Narelle needs someone to do a comprehensive regional search in this high demand area of modest dressing. Would you like to be a Bridal Specialist for Boutique Narelle? Check the application details in the Job Vacancies post.

Another way you can help prospective brides is to share how you found a modest bridal/formal gown. Did you purchase a ready-made gown, buy a pattern and make it yourself, or find a picture and a designer? Send your picture and/or photo of your gown to and tell us about it.

This is Andrea. She lives in Australia. She and her sisters Danielle and Lauren had a huge hassle finding modest bridalwear when they were planning her wedding. They found a lot of the Latter Day Saint bridal stores helpful for ideas, but of course they're in the US. Andrea and Lauren ended up finding a picture of one they loved and then drafting the pattern themselves. It turned out BEAUTIFUL, Danielle says.

Modest Bridal Collections

In America:

A treasure trove of seriously adorable and stunningly beautiful gowns is to be found at

Most of their pictures are copyrighted, so you can’t copy from their website to your Portfolio, but I’m sure once you get there you’ll want to grab a gown, not just a picture!

I’ve been collecting pictures a long time and this was the most colourful and femininely pretty collection I’d seen up till then.
Beautifully Modest's range encompasses bridal, prom, and day dresses, so there’s sure to be something to suit you. Most of these pictures are from the prom collection -- they seem to be more protective of their bridal wear.

I have inquired whether the purchaser may make specifications regarding sleeve length and height of hem and neckline, but haven’t heard back from them yet. The bridal range does include several designs with elbow- and full-length sleeves.
A similar range can be found at (see below). Photos are readily available from this site.

In Australia, I found: (next 2 images)

At A Touch of amongst hundreds of white contortions, I found this treasure:

In New Zealand, I found:

Venus Bridal Venus designs are available globally. Their website provides a store locator. The following 5 images are from Venus. and (next 2 images) offer designs which have possibilities. A little more sleeve, a little more bodice, in a less transparent fabric, and you’d have a lovely gown. See Finding a Modest Wedding Gown for options on how to achieve this.

NZ couturier Robyn Cliffe (below)...

...and USA industry giant (next 2 images) also have some possibilities that could be adapted.

The above information was gleaned from a mere toe dip in the Bridal Sea. Please, if you love bridal window shopping, let visitors to Boutique Narelle benefit from your time/ability – apply for the role of Bridal Specialist.

I have been collecting or reviewing bridal magazines for some years, and have amassed a hugely fat folder of modest gown ideas. Most of those designers no longer offer my favourites in their collection, but one, surprisingly, does. The above design, Cerys, is by UK company Love Couture. They still make it -- happily for our British friends!

Cerys by LoveCouture was the source of the above Concert Gown a seamstress made for my Town Hall soloist debut last March. (More pics at Songuine. Miss Photographer, where are you? These photos don’t do justice to this gown!)

In subsequent posts, I will show other ideas for formal occasions, some thanks to the many beautiful, modest lassies who participated in Genevieve’s wedding celebrations. Until then,
Modestly Yours,
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