The most dramatic elements of Tiffany’s custom wedding dress design are the gorgeous collar and neckline. Once the shoulder seams and cut-in-one sleeves were finished, it was time to get started creating them!
Much of what makes a couture dress beautiful (and expensive) is hidden deep inside the layers. I love sharing “behind the seams” peeks into how flat fabric can be transformed. Thanks for following along!
As you may remember from Tiffany’s sketches and/or mockups, a dramatic collar and open neckline will frame Tiffany’s gorgeous face and neck. In order to determine the right methods to achieve this, I worked through some experiments and samples.
If you’ve ever checked out my Bridal Portfolio, you may remember the dramatic collar of Lila Rose’s hot pink wedding dress. If you’ve been following my blog for a long time, you may even remember that I used “wiggle bones” to create Lila Rose’s pleated stand-up collar. I thought using this fun notion was really effective for Lila Rose, so I wanted to give it a try for Tiffany.
“Wiggle Bones” (also known as “Zig Zag Wires” or “Serpentine Supports”) are a specialty item that I remember from when I was earning my MFA in Costume Production. These light and flexible “bones” were originally used primarily for supporting ladies high neck collars in Edwardian times, but are now near impossible to find. The only place I know that sells them is Farthingales in Canada.
Want in on the fun? Grab yourself some!
My first collar creation experiments were playing around with wiggle bones on Tiffany’s mockup dress. As I played with different methods and placements, I got excited about how they could offer the lightweight structure I was looking for!
So next I explored different construction techniques and materials to make them disappear inside the collar for a crisp clean finish.
Creating the Collar
My experiments eventually led me to use my custom pattern to mark and cut the collar from the cotton underlining and fusible tailor’s canvas.
Once fused together, I strategically placed my wiggle bones…
…and hand stitched them securely in place.
This was really fun! Since I had not yet added the silk layer, it was totally fine if the hand stitches looked wonky or went all the way through. If I do things right, nothing on the inside will be seen from the outside of the dress.
Here’s a secret peek inside the wiggle bone layout. Leaving a little space where horizontal-becomes-vertical allowed for a nice “break” to create the beautiful shape.
Once the wiggle bones were permanently in place, I added the collar piece to the silk…
…for cutting and underlining.
I also created another collar piece as the facing and machine stitched the two together along the outer curved edge.
When allowances are turned inward on a curve, this creates ripples. These would need to be controlled for a clean finish.
So the first layer was trimmed and all the little bubbles were clipped away before the allowance fabric was hand stitched smoothly over the metal.
Then each consecutive layer was also turned, trimmed, and clipped…
…until each underlining layer and each silk layer was smooth and secure.
With a strategic press, it was a flat success!
I was able to turn the collar right-side-out and drape it across the shoulders of the dress form to check my work.
I was really happy with the buttery smooth finish! The curves and the silk looked just delicious. Wiggle bones and careful construction For The WIN!
Next up: the Neckline! The collar covers most of the neckline edge, but the lower décolletage of the bodice needed to be finished before it could be added. I’d use the same custom made bias tape as the cut-in-one sleeve finish.
I used my custom drafted pattern to shape the tape…
…to match the lower neckline curves…
…which I machine stitched in place.
Once permanently stitched, I trimmed the allowances…
…and turned the tape to the inside for a clean press on my tailor’s ham.
With the armholes shoulders and lower neckline finished, it was finally time to add the collar!
I love seeing my dresses in parts and pieces as much as I love seeing the finished look. How about you?
Next, I carefully pinned the inner collar in place around the neck…
…before carefully machine stitching it in place.
I then trimmed the collar allowance and hand stitched it in place.
I did not trim the allowances of the bodice layer at this time. The collar (and other parts of the design) were changed many times throughout the custom process of Tiffany’s dress. Leaving this allowance would leave me the ability to make some changes after the final fitting, if the bride wasn’t thrilled (though it would mean creating and attaching an entirely new collar.)
For these reasons, I also merely basted the rest of the bias tape that would be used for finishing, until I was confident it was really finished.
Ta da! Tiffany’s custom collar and neckline were ready for the final fitting and I was really happy with how it turned out!
And now you know some of the secrets hidden inside!
With the top of the bodice ready, it was finally time to attach the skirt and midriff and combine all the little parts and pieces into one beautiful wedding dress. So exciting!
Have you ever made a complicated collar or played with “wiggle bones” (or some other obscure notion)? I’d love to hear more about it!
NEXT POST: The rest of the dress is assembled and Tiffany tries it on!
ALSO: There’s only a few opportunities each year to become one of my students and this weekend is one of them! My online course SKIRT SKILLS (aka Couture for Beginners) opens for registration this Saturday Aug 8, 2020! A FREE PREVIEW offer is also available for a few more days! Learn more at www.SkirtSkills.com!