On November 10th, 2018, I had the honor and privilege of marrying the love my life and Chief AGAIN! I emphasize “again” because in my Nigerian culture (most specifically my Igbo culture), we typically have two weddings: A traditional Igbo wedding ceremony and a church wedding (also known as white wedding or American wedding). In January of 2017, the Chief and I had our traditional marriage ceremony in Nigeria and decided to give ourselves and our families time after to plan for our American wedding. I will get to writing a post (or maybe even a mini wedding series) to give you more details so for now let’s talk about this reception dress.
My husband and I planned to have a second entrance at our reception and change into traditional custom made outfits. It was only a few weeks before the wedding and we were still shopping around for Nigerian tailors that could possibly sew us our outfits at a good rate. One day, we happened to be near a Nigerian tailor and decided to inquire about her prices. She began asking me questions about the event and my role in the event and I could tell the answers to these questions would be used to upcharge me in some way. Just to see where she was going, I said that I was a guest at a 50th birthday party and told her that I wanted to get a basic mermaid dress with a sweetheart top. I didn’t specify any details apart from that.
Could you believe that her mouth twisted to form a cost estimate of over $300?! I was stunned and turned off. Now imagine if I said I was the bride! Listen, I am all for people making their money and I respect what you think you are worth but some things just do not make sense. I could purchase a dress from the department store for less from a higher brand with greater detail and better finishing. I couldn’t bother to inquire any further because I was taken back by the price, so I thanked her for her time, walked out of there and told my husband to take me to Walmart so I can purchase some muslin because I was making my own dress.
Deep down I was nervous from my decision to make my dress because I had less than a month until my wedding but it was masked by the adrenaline I got from hearing that dress quote. I had no experience making a gown or sewing anything fitted or even making a sweetheart top anything but in that moment I thought about all the sewing tutorials I watched up until now and how I can combine the knowledge to make this dress. After we went to Walmart to purchase over 10 yards of cheap broadcloth fabric for me to make a muslin or two, I went home and drafted ideas.
I tried draping and making a pattern of a dress that I saw draped but some how it didn’t feel like THE dress for me to wear at my reception. Some days later when I caught up with my friend Joy, I told her all about how I was making my dress and that I was low-key freaking out because the reality was setting in. She assured me that I could do it and as she kept saying it, I began internalizing that. She insisted that she would be my accountability partner and would always request progress pictures over WhatsApp. I would video chat her in the fabric store and she would send me dress inspiration pictures and even though the entire process became overwhelming, having her assure me that I could do it was the push I needed. I also thank my friend Taylor who also encouraged me to go for it. These two ladies played a key roll in this dress becoming a reality.
I was nervous to tell my mom and mother-in-law because I thought they would think I was crazy to make my own dress a few weeks to my wedding and put myself under so much stress. However, I knew I couldn’t keep it from them that long because they would wonder what I would be wearing. When I told them, they were actually understanding. My mom freaked out a bit but she quickly realized I was capable of making it, especially given my growth in sewing. My mother-in-law went with me to find my fabric and actually gave me the idea of the design for my dress which was a sweetheart top mermaid sequins dress. I was in love!!! We found the perfect reversible black and gold sequins fabric, bought two yards of it and I completed my first muslin that night.
I began cutting out my sequins fabric and realized that the way I was designing my dress was creating too many pieces to sew and if you know anything about working with sequins, it’s that you want the fewest amount of pieces that need to be sewn together because it can get bulky and it will not lay correctly if there are a thousand seams that make up your garment. I had already cut into my fabric when I realized that mistake and I decided to buy another two yards and cut out my new pattern pieces on it.
I got a tip to use leather or denim needles when sewing with sequins and I did. It started working out fine and then one needle broke. Then two needles broke. Then when I began using my third needle I knew it was time to rethink how I was going to sew this. I reached out to the tailor who was making my husband’s reception top and she was kind enough to allow me to use her industrial machine. I never used one of those before that moment but after I did, I knew I would eventually need one in my life. That thing sewed like butter through that sequins and I was able to complete most of my dress at her shop in the two days leading to my wedding.
The night before my wedding I realized that I still didn’t have the bust fitted right and I was so tempted to go to the department store and buy me a dress. In fact, I literally went into Macy’s and started looking through dresses. Then very quickly I sobered up after seeing their prices plus factoring in how much I already spent on my own dress and realized I need to finish what I started and stop being a scaredy cat. The morning of my wedding, I brought my sewing machine with me to the hotel and began adjusting my bust and pinning it. I said a quick prayer before I sewing the sequins on my machine and thankfully it did what I needed it to do without any needles being harmed in the process. I gave it one good try and it fit! It was perfect. My older sister Nelly helped me trim the length of the dress and I was done. I didn’t bother hemming because I didn’t have the time and honestly you couldn’t even tell that it wasn’t hemmed. In the future, I would totally give the edges a better finishing.
I was so excited and could not believe that I actually did it. It didn’t feel real. I was so proud of myself and wondered why I hadn’t tried working on fitted garments sooner. I took a picture and sent it to my friend and got ready to say “I do” to my man.
Although the dress came out gorgeous, I knew there were a few things that I could improve on the next time I choose to make a gown and work with sequins. First is working with the cups. I had no idea what I was doing and I winged it so they weren’t as secure and would shift so I was constantly adjusting and pulling up the top of my dress whenever I danced (I probably didn’t get the right size for myself either). I definitely need to do more research and take my time creating a firm and well structured bodice. The invisible zipper installment needed some work and I should have given myself more ease around the knees and hips for movement because it was a struggle to sit down or even lift my leg up to move up the stairs. Lastly, I would have eliminated the waist seam and princess seams to make the front of the dress one piece and the back of the dress two pieces. Although it gave a nice fit around my bodice, the waist seam was really bulky to sew and would have been impossible to achieve without the industrial machine.
All in all, this dress catapulted my confidence in sewing. I spent a total of $96 dollars because I had to purchase two new yards but if I cut it out correctly and applied the knowledge that I know now, I would have only needed two yards ($48). I’m not sweating it, though, because I plan on using my excess fabric to make a cool outfit this year. It still feels a little unreal that I got to do this and I am overwhelmed by the love I was shown for making it. Now do I do think you should do it? Absolutely! However, let it be something that you want to do and not pressured to do because you sew or like to DIY. Planning a wedding is not easy and the more you can relieve yourself from stressful situations the better. If you have the time and the patience to do it I say go for it. Push past your comfort zone. You will thank yourself later. Are you or someone you know thinking of sewing a wedding dress or reception dress? Comment below! Until next time, loves!