Rehearsal Dinners should be fun! All of the close family and the wedding party have met and it’s time to relax a little bit before the big day. I think the Bride’s dress for the rehearsal dinner should be comfortable, easy to move in or even dance if she wants, with a special detail to make it fun. About a year ago, I found Vogue 1802 in my sister Janice’s pattern stash, I thought the trapeze styling (exaggerated A-Line) was perfect style for the rehearsal dinner, the unusual collar scarf giving it a little something extra. When I showed the pattern to Lucy, she said, “That looks great, mom, but finish your dress and the flower girls first.”
So, I needed to be organized for a big year of sewing. I had finished the toile (mock-up) of my Mother of the Bride (MOB) jacket, made changes to the pattern so it was ready to go. I had decided on a different skirt than my MOB toile, using the suggested skirt that came with the pattern (Yes, that should have been a no-brainer, but I was being creative.) so I would need to do a knee-length skirt toile to check the fit. I couldn’t start the flower girl dresses until the Fall, as little girls can have sudden growth spurts, but I could buy patterns at the next sale. I had a birthday dress for daughter Sarah in the works (plus a surprise matching dress for her daughter, my granddaughter). I hadn’t sewn a dress for Lucy (the bride) in quite a while, so my next step was a toile for the rehearsal dinner dress.
Vogue 1802 called for stable knits, which are knits with only a moderate amount of stretch, such as the white poplin I found at Hobby Lobby. There was some bright turquoise gabardine in Janice’s stash, a fabric I haven’t seen much since the 80’s and 90’s, mostly used in office wear and usually in dark neutrals. It was the perfect practice fabric for the toile, if we could ignore the color.
I machine basted the turquoise dress together (quick to sew and easy to use the seam ripper, if needed). The turquoise toile went together in a couple of evenings, and I asked Lucy to try it on. I was surprised that she liked the fabric, but the dress was much too large. She put it on wrong side out and we brought out the safety pins, my favorite fitting tool. Trying on again the right way (safety pins don’t stick!), she liked the dress, but thought it a bit too full in the back. We came up with fisheye darts, darts that start below the shoulder blades, go straight down each side of the back ending just below the waist, resulting in a well-fitted back, like a Jackie O. shift dress. We checked the look with safety pins, I made the pattern changes and put pattern and toile away for a while.
So it was late Spring, MOB jacket and rehearsal toiles done, flower girl pattern chosen, and Sarah’s birthday sundress half done (waiting to be fitted). The MOB skirt toile was finished in June, as well as the birthday dresses. The MOB dress in its final fabric was finished over the summer (see previous post) and the flower girl dresses were made in the Fall and early Winter (a future post). I started the rehearsal dinner dress with less than a month before the wedding, but with all the fitting already done with the toile it would be easy, or so I thought.
The first problem I ran into was not quite enough fabric, plenty for the dress front and back, but not enough for the collar/scarf, which was designed as one long piece of fabric. Being short, I often can use a little less fabric than called for, but not this time. I dashed off to Hobby Lobby, my closest fabric store. I figured they wouldn’t still have the original fabric, so I would have to find a contrasting fabric while retaining the all-white color for the rehearsal dinner. I found a sparkly white bridal sheer and purchased a small amount, as I was adding some seaming to the design. The rest of the cutting out went with no problems. I had some additional math to do as I planned the collar portion as one pattern piece with both the white and sheer fabrics, seaming the scarf ends in sheer to the double-fabric collar. I didn’t tell Lucy about the changes, as I was sure she would like the sheer sparkly fabric and I didn’t want her to worry.
After sewing in the fisheye darts to the back piece, I finished the back neckline, sewed the collar pieces together with the scarf ends, using French seaming so the raw edges wouldn’t show through the sheer fabric. I sewed the long collar/scarf to the front neckline, basted the side seams together, and scheduled a last fitting with Lucy. She came to try it on the next day, and loved the sparkly sheer scarf, but thought the trapeze styling in front still had a bit too much swing. So we added more darts, and I just let them end in open soft pleats, unconventional but almost as fitted as a Jackie O shift dress.
So the rehearsal dinner dress was a quick and easy sew, although it looked a bit different from the pattern envelope. I finished it 9 days before the wedding, so I had plenty of time to do all the other things the bride’s mama does the week of the wedding. The rehearsal dinner was a whole lot of fun, with family coming to town, and new family to meet. It was held at the 57th Fighter Group, a unique Atlanta-area restaurant overlooking a small airfield. We had a brief rehearsal on the dance floor beforehand and enjoyed watching the planes, a fun and relaxing night before the very special night.