Once upon a time there was an expectant Mama who had made her own wedding dress, as well as the dresses for all of her bridesmaids, about three years prior to the birth of her first child. She had some fabric leftover, and on the off-chance that the little one growing inside was a girl, she made a a dress out of the left-over fabric from her wedding dress.

I was.

Sorry for the sidetrack, but Mom, I’ve been meaning to ask: if you’d have had a boy, what would he have worn home? Did you have something for that scenario as well, or were you *that sure* I was going to be a girl? Ok, now we can return to the previously scheduled dress talk.

I think Mom pretty much hoped from that day forward that she’d get to make my wedding dress too. I also think she was beginning to wonder if she was ever going to get that opportunity! So, when it was time to finally discuss making a wedding dress for realz, she seemed game for anything. I don’t think either of us quite grasped the challenge it would be to create the dress long-distance! To say it was a labor of love would be an absolute understatement!

The first challenge was figuring out exactly what I wanted. My darling friend Sandra and her daughter took me to a bridal shop to try on dresses and see if we could narrow that down a bit. The wonderful owner let us take pictures, so I could show Mom, which was awfully kind of her. We took pictures of even the truly awful dresses. Part of me was so thankful to go through the motions of trying on dresses, because it helped me realize that not every dress style looks good on every body type (me in a mermaid dress? Such a bad idea!). Because of that, I let my bridesmaids choose their own dresses. I chose the colors, and we kind of jointly decided on taffeta, but they got to choose the style. Why make someone miserable in a style terrible for their body type just so they can be matchy-matchy? Not for me!

I went in fairly sure that I wanted a sweetheart neckline. What surprised me to no end is that my favorite dress was a poofy-poofy ballgown dress, with a sweetheart neckline. I put it on, covered the unnecessary beading around the waist with a much more tactful sash, and got giddy like a little girl. Sandra and her daughter called it the pretty-pretty-princess dress. Not what I ever imagined myself in, but it was truly THE dress–well, with all of our customizations, of course!

I went home and posted the photos on Facebook so Mama, Ashley, and my other best girls could see them. They were quite locked down, and I never deleted them, because the conversation that went on in the comments of a few of the photos are absolutely priceless and precious. So, the plotting began–what color would the sash be? What color fabric did I want? What kind of fabric did I want? What kind of veil and headpiece did I want? I was giddy for days over that. I remember describing my giggling as being just like the 6-year-old twins who described in art class, while giggling, that the most important thing the other kids needed to know about me was that I had a pretty ring and was gettING maaarrrrrieeeeed. Yup, that’s how it all felt. That was early November.

Family Thanksgiving was celebrated at my brother Jon’s new house in Illinois. We all descended upon his house and Mom, Ashley, and I spent the weekend in pure wedding mode. It was the only time we would all be together before the wedding. MUCH had to be done. I don’t usually go shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving–too much insanity. This was different shopping, though. We went to Ashely’s linen provider to check out our options and give Ashely ideas of what to order for the wedding. Then it was off to Evanston to Vogue Fabric Store to choose fabric, which is where Ashley also chose the fabric and lace for her dress eleven years ago. Her Mama made her dress too.

When we arrived, we went straight to the wedding fabric area. I had decided I wanted taffeta, so we started checking out our taffeta options. I actually got pretty discouraged pretty quickly. There was the $7.99 a yard taffeta that, well, felt like it was it was $7.99 a yard. It was awful, truly awful. But, there seemed to be no middle ground. There was either the $7.99 ick taffeta, or the top-shelf (literally–getting it down was quite fun) silk taffeta that ran closer to $90 a yard. Did I mention that my pretty-pretty-princess dress was going to require about 15 yards of fabric? And lining? At one point, I started asking if we needed to just buy the dress I’d tried on and make some customizations to it.

We walked away from the bridal fabric and started to browse the store a bit. The middle of the first room was filled with sale fabric, so I started digging through there. I actually found a fabric for $1.29 a yard that I kind of liked. I started laughing and asked Mom and Ashley if it would be totally crazy to give up the taffeta and make the dress out of the sale fabric? They said it wouldn’t. I grabbed the long roll of fabric and carried it around with me for a while. While heading back to the bridal fabric, there was a bin of dupioni silks that kind of jumped out at me. Well, not the whole bin–one particular fabric. It was this lovely wine color, and I petted it. Ashley walked by me and said, “There’s a whole wall of dupioni’s over there,” as she pointed across the room. I marched across the room, still holding my 55″-long roll of back-up fabric. I set it down on a cutting table and started checking out the wall of dupionis. They were priced at a much more reasonable $15.99 a yard. I knew I didn’t want white, so I skipped right over that and went to the first creamy color. There wasn’t nearly enough fabric on the roll. So, I went to the even more creamy ivory. Still not quite enough. Now I was frustrated. Ashley, in her brilliance, stepped in.

“Who says your dress needs to be white or ivory? Isn’t this the whole reason we’re making it ourselves? Think outside the box.”

15 yards of champagne dupioni silk

So, we moved into the actual colors, and there was this stunning champagne-colored dupioni. We pulled the roll off the shelf, and set it down (and promptly got yelled at for letting the fabric touch the floor; we moved it to the cutting table and took over the space). The color was perfect. It shimmered against my skin, and the texture of the dupioni was just amazing. Even better? There was enough fabric! I looked across the room, and Ashley knew exactly what I was looking it. “I’ll be right back,” she said, and returned with the wine-colored dupioni I’d spotted earlier. The combination of the two were an absolute dream. Mom knew we’d found the fabric when I started asking, “Do you think we could make Lloyd a vest out of this fabric? And a tie? Then he’d match my sash! Oh! And Cooper too! He could have a vest and bow-tie! And Toto! We could make a tie for Toto too!” It was settled.

Edited: Part II and Part III