Moving swiftly along to the outfit itself…This spans the full spectrum from purely RTW (shawl) to partly pre-stitched (skirt) to purely me-made (top).
The skirt completion / alteration turned out to be more involved than I anticipated… Partly because I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to customise & do some unnecessarily tidying of the invisible innards!
Lehenga skirts seem to be mostly panel / umbrella skirts. So originally I thought I just need to remove panels to reduce the circumference & shorten the length to fit, then sew up that last side seam & I’ll be done.
Well it turned out the top lace layer of this skirt is made from 34 panels which are each quite narrow from the top to the thigh, then spread out below that. Even if I remove some panels to fit my hip, this would still leave the top too wide for my waist (actually high hip, since many are worn lower down than the natural waist). Many lehenga designs simply use the tasselled cord to tighten the waistband to fit. But I didn’t like this haphazardly pleated waistline look, especially as the waistband can be quite stiff & bulky.
I ended up removing one panel, then pleated the extra width into 4 pleats at the front & back princess lines. This is then sewn to the smooth & more fitted waistband. The weight of the skirt actually pulls the pleats apart & along with the textured embroidery you can hardly see the pleating in the end. But I got the more fitted waistband I wanted. Well, almost.
The weight of the skirt still pulled the waistline down too much. To keep the skirt from sweeping the floor I had to tie the waist cord tighter, which brought back the dreaded bulky pleated waistband look. I tried to fix this by adding waistband elastic, which kind of spoils the neat waistline finish I took ages to make. Boo.
The inner layers were simpler to alter width-wise, though again I ended up doing this differently than planned. Because the hems of the inner layer weren’t as wide as my free spirit would like, I decided not remove any panel. Instead I resew each panel side seams & tapered more at the waist. Thankfully there are only 6 panels for each inner layer.
Length alteration was done at the top for a more A-line / circle skirt result. Considering that I basically resewn the hem border, I could have shortened from the hem. But I wanted more swish, so it made sense to cut off the more fitted length at the top rather than the flared length at the bottom.
Mug Shots vs Original Design vs Pre-altered Skirt
Out of the box the skirt weighs a ton & could stand on its own! In addition to the lace, the shiny underlay, and the lining, there was stiff netting attached to the hem of the lining. The lining itself also has wide hem that’s stiffened with the sort of heavy fusible interfacing that you might find in men’s formal shirt collars. It felt formal, ceremonial, claustrophobic, which I suppose is what a wedding ceremony calls for. Most of the other bridal lehenga outfit I saw also look really formal & restrictive.
But it wasn’t what I attracted me to this outfit. The original design photos look bohemian. The model looked like she’s free to dance & twirl. I wanted a bit more of that romance. So off came the netting (fed to the Stash for some future petticoat of course!). The stiff lining hem interfacing had to go as well. The skirt still weighs just a touch under a ton, but at least I can twirl a bit better.
The more streamlined waistband, princess line pleats, & A-line silhouette I already mentioned above.
The only other change I made was to replace the tasselled waist cord so that I can have a matching one for the Choli Blouse. I did like the original cord & tassels design, so tried to look for similar material. But it’s amazingly difficult to find the exact same type of material. Part of the problem is not knowing what the bits are called – eg the type of cord that was used. I did eventually find the same type of cord at jewellerymaker.com which they called “zari ropes”. No luck with the beads, so I ended up getting my beads from firemountaingems.com & also had to get some Montana Gold spray paint in Gold Chrome colour to ‘correct’ the brassy colours of the filigree beads. I followed the threading pattern of the original tassels, but replace some beads with red acrylic ones to tie in the red from the shawl. And paranoid about washability, I made the tassels detachable – hooked on to the cord with carabiner catches.
What can I say, I have sewing OCD }:-)
- All 33 panel seams on the lace top layer had the seam allowances re-overlocked to an even & narrower width so that the shiny underlay show through more.
- All 8+ yds of the hem border interfacing were replaced & tidied up (with Pro-Sheer Elegance Light Fusible Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply that I had in the Stash), and the border facing darted uniformly to match the 33 panel side seams. Before this fix there were some excess folds in the interfacing & the facing dart shaping were done more haphazardly. Although neither problem really affected the look, I. Just. Could. Not. Help. It!
- Added plackets to the waist opening / waistband with hook & bar closures for extra security against gapnosis.
- But there one thing that I didn’t bother to fix which perhaps I should have, and that is to replace the plastic bead trim at the hem with metallic beads. It’s all too easy to crush these beads when you’re a klutz like me. My sewing room / photo studio is now strewn with bead carcasses. I predict by the end of the wedding day I’ll have 5 beads left. So why didn’t my OCD extend to this fix? Because the skirt already weigh too much. And there’s 8+ yds of zig-zag beads. And they would all have to be replaced one by one as there is of course no ready-made trim that fits the bill. I think I’ve done my time with the blouse embroidery.
All this for much less than one day
Love the skirt, missing beads notwithstanding.
But my lifestyle just doesn’t support wearing this again. So I must swish as much as possible on the day. And afterwards, steel my heart & refashion this into something more wearable.
Am I buddhist enough to let go I wonder. How about you? Have you hung on to your wedding dress? Do you have any plans for it?