Thinking about making your own wedding dress? I’ve got eleven tips and tricks for you from my own handmade wedding dress experience!

Want to Make Your Own Wedding Dress? Read This First!

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DIY wedding dress
DIY wedding dress

DIY, Sewing

SARAH PETERSON

So you want to make your own wedding dress? I'm glad you've come upon this post because I have a lot of tips to share from making my own wedding dress for our 2020 Blue Moon Halloween wedding.

Custom-making a wedding dress is not for everyone, but in the end, it will feel so special to walk down the aisle wearing something you created with your own two loving hands. I don't regret the many hours I spent hand-making my dress, and neither will you!

11 MUST-KNOW TIPS TO MAKE YOUR OWN WEDDING DRESS

All bridal photos by Lauren Turner Photography.

bride at wayfarers chapel

Give YOURSELF AMPLE TIME TO MAKE YOUR DRESS

Like many creative endeavors, making your wedding dress will take longer than you think it will take. A lot will depend on your sewing level, access to materials, the certainty of your creative vision, and dress style.

I gave myself three months to make my dream dress, all while also working and planning/DIYing the other parts of our wedding. I started in early August for an October 31st wedding. Unfortunately, I experimented with materials and patterns in August, so I only started on the final dress in September.

Looking back, I wish I had started at the beginning of the year. It would have given me ten full months to make my dress.

It would have taken a lot of pressure off, and having the dress complete a month (or even a week) before the wedding would have been such a great gift!

We weren't sure of our wedding plan until the summer (because of COVID), so I was holding off on the dress until I knew where the wedding would be. In hindsight, please don't wait as I did, you know you're going to wear a wedding dress. The sooner you start, the better!

  • Give yourself three to four times the amount of time you think it will take to complete your dress.

DRESS DETAILS THAT TAKE LONGER THAN YOU EXPECT

  • sourcing the perfect fabric(s)
  • perfecting your pattern
  • seam-ripping large areas or other repairs
  • scratching your design and completely starting over
  • hand-sewing details like embellishing or embroidery
  • finishing the inside of the dress
  • hemming an extra long train
  • making additional accessories (veil, clutch, hair combs, etc)
bride and groom hands and rings

Choose HIGH-QUALITY MATERIALS AND FABRICS

A lot of brides make their dresses to save money. I get it; your wedding dress can be one of the most expensive things at your wedding!

A few store-bought dresses that fit me cost around $2,000. (I'm tall and anything below that price point was usually too short on me.) So if I made my dress, I figured it would be a small fraction of that!

And so I first experimented with some (really awful, stiff, cheap) polka dot tulle. I planned to make the design so good that no one would notice the tulle was not the most luxurious option. Wrong!

No matter what I altered or how I styled it, it looked cheap—because it was.

I found my final fabrics at Mood Fabrics in Los Angeles. I spent an average of $150/yard for the lace fabric and the crystal and pearl embellished overlay fabric. It was a lot more than I've ever spent on materials. But in the end, I still paid less than I would have if I had purchased a store-bought dress.

The total fabric cost for my dress was around $1200.

  • Don't waste any time—start with high-quality materials.

REASONS TO CHOOSE NATURAL FABRIC Over SYNTHETIC

  • natural fabrics are more breathable (moisture-wicking capabilities allow ventilation so that you won't feel sweaty on your wedding day)
  • natural fabrics drape better on your body
  • natural fabrics are less apt to cause a rash or skin irritation
  • bonus: natural fabrics are better for the planet
bride and groom first look
bride and groom first look

START WITH AN EXISTING DRESS PATTERN

Unless you have experience in pattern-making, I suggest customizing your wedding dress from an existing pattern.

Creating an original pattern is a project in itself and will add a lot of hours of work to the making of your dress.

Instead, find a pattern with the silhouette and neckline you desire. Then trace it onto some pattern paper and make tweaks or enhancements to the pattern paper.

This way, if you have to start over, you always have the pattern base as a starting point (instead of a roll of blank pattern paper!).

You can buy a pattern based on your specific measurements. Plus, it's easy to lengthen or shorten it if you are not average height. 

I made my dress pattern from scratch. (Shout-out to my post-grad years at the Fashion Institute of Technology). It had been about 15 years since drafting an original pattern, and it added many weeks to the dress project for me. So please don't do what I did; find an existing pattern first!

  • Making tweaks to an existing pattern rather than drafting one from scratch will save you a ton of time.
bride and groom legs and boots

GO with A comfortABLE STYLE FOR YOUR BIG DAY

When you feel good, you look good, so by all means, design a dress that is comfortable to wear!

Pull out all your favorite dresses in your existing wardrobe and note what you love about each one.

Are there many that you own with the same neckline or overall shape? Maybe all your favorites have capped sleeves? If you own zero body-con style dresses, opt not to make your wedding dress in that style, it probably won't be comfortable for you. 

Resist the urge to go with what is trending. Instead, go with what you know looks and feels good, and you won't have any regrets.

  • Incorporate style elements you already love and feel best wearing into your wedding dress design.
bridal hair with flowers

Expect some TOTAL DRESS do-overs

Unless you are a wedding-dress maker or seamstress, chances are you haven't made a lot of wedding dresses before.

You might start with one vision, but the vision might change a little or a lot as you get going. For example, maybe executing your idea is more complicated than expected, or maybe after trying something on, you decide to change the silhouette or fit of the dress. That's OK!

Be open to the fact that you might scrap your initial idea and go in a different direction. (This is why tip #1, give yourself ample time, is so important!)

I had three total do-overs. Each one was stressful, and I don't recommend doing it this way. But I knew each version I abandoned was getting me closer to my dream dress.

Please don't freak out if you have to start your dress over. It's going to be OK.

  • Sew a muslin prototype of your dress before cutting and sewing your high-quality fabric to ensure the style and fit are right for you.
bride and groom walking
bride and groom dancing

Be sure you can walk in your custom WEDDING DRESS

It's an easy mistake to try on your dress to see how it fits but neglect to take a walk in it. Be sure each time you try on the dress, you're wearing the shoes you plan to wear on the big day, and you take a spin around the room.

Embellished fabrics are heavy and much harder to walk in! Longer trains take some adjusting, so practice, practice, practice! Also, when you walk down the aisle, you will likely carry a bouquet, so you should be able to walk in your dress without lifting it with each step.

  • If your design prohibits you from walking (or even moving) easily, make design changes that prioritize walkability and comfort.
bride and groom by fountain

PROTECT THE HANDMADE DRESS AT ALL COSTS

Warning: you'll work with sharp needles, scissors, and pins, so you're bound to poke or cut a finger or two.

I'm guessing you're NOT going for a blood-stained handmade wedding dress look. So be *extra* careful that your dress-making battle wounds don't stain your work.

For the same reason, you'll also want to be sure your space is free of food, drink, pens/markers, or anything that could accidentally leave an unwanted mark on your dress. 

Always ensure your hands are sparkly clean when you begin working on your dress!

Store your dress in a garment bag in between work sessions. Weird things can (and will) happen when you're away. 

  • You won't regret protecting your custom creation from all of life's everyday spills and accidents.

sewing gloves

quilters gloves

garment bag

wedding dress garment bag
bride and groom by pacific ocean

EXPECT SoME DRESS-MAKING TEARS

Hand-making your wedding dress will be an emotional experience. There are highs and lows you'll go through. Expect that you'll feel euphoric at times, and at other times you'll feel overwhelmed.

I burst into tears when I saw my husband at our first look. Of course, a big part of it was I was so happy that we were about to become husband and wife. I know another part of my emotional reaction was seeing him in his wedding suit and tie at the church meant I had completed my dress-making mission.

  • Making your wedding dress will take a lot of life force, but the investment of emotional energy, time, and love is worth it because you'll wear it on one of the most memorable days of your life.
bride and groom by the california coast

Don't be afraid to bring in a SEWING professional

There is no shame in getting to a certain point with your dress and then taking it to a professional sewist to make complex alterations or finish tedious hand-sewn details. Please heed this advice, especially if you're under time constraints.

The most important thing is that you have a finished dress to wear on your wedding day. So do what you have to do to get it done!

Despite being stressed with time, I refused to enlist anyone's help with my dress. Looking back, I could have gotten much more sleep the week of my wedding if I had asked for help. But unfortunately, my DIY pride got in the way. Don't let that happen to you.

  • More important than you completing every stitch of your dress is keeping your stress level to a minimum and getting good rest leading up to the big day.
bride and groom by california coast

Bring DRESS reINFORCEMENT ON THE BIG DAY

You don't know how your dress will behave on your wedding day, so it helps to consider every possible thing that might go astray.

Please don't assume that because you made the dress, it will cooperate when you put it on. Buttons pop off, seams open, undergarments disappoint, and static cling takes over.

Have a backup bag that includes all the emergency items that might save the day.

  • What can go wrong will go wrong, especially on an important day, so expect the best, but prepare for the worst. 

Items for WeDDING dress reinforcement

  • sewing kit (make sure it includes the right color thread to match your dress)
  • safety pins (small, medium, and large)
  • fashion tape
  • dress weights (in case it's windy)
  • stain remover
  • scissors
  • multiple bra options
  • multiple shape-wear options
  • lint roller
  • static guard

SEWING KIT

sewing kit

FASHION TAPE

fashion tape

DRESS WEIGHTS

dress weights

LIMIT THE DIY FOR THE REST OF THE WEDDING

Making your dress will require more time, effort, patience, and persistence than you expect. There were moments when I was making mine that I said to myself it would be the last thing I'd ever make (while shaking my fist!).

If you're considering making your dress, chances are you're the crafty type like me and are excited about all the DIY opportunity that comes with throwing a wedding.

I recommend limiting the other wedding DIY projects you take on in conjunction with making your dream dress. 

While I definitely don't regret DIYing our entire wedding, and I would do it all again the same way, my recommendation to others is always to take on less yourself and outsource more.

  • Choose only one or two other wedding projects to DIY, and leave the rest to your trusty vendors!
bride and groom bougainvillea

This post was all about tips on MAKING A HANDMADE WEDDING DRESS

I hope these tips help you make your own wedding dress a beautiful dream come true.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I'll receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Please read full disclosure here.

LAST UPDATED:

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July 15, 2022

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Hey, I'm Sarah!

Designer, DIYer, & Deep Googler

I've always been infinitely curious on how the things I love are created. Whether it's the recipe of a decadent soap, a beautiful piece of jewelry, or a jaw-drooping, drool-worthy interior... I have an persistent need to figure it out... and do it myself!

Learn more about me

SOLID PERFUME STICKS

LABEL MAKER

"LOVE" ART PRINT

FAUX FUR BLANKET

FLAUNT PHONE CASE

PERFUMIES.COM

amazon

society 6

anthropologie

FLAUNT.COM

Change the way you wear and carry perfume with these perfume sticks that fit in your pocket!

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of radiant orchid pink, and I love the square corners!

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

SHEEPSKIN rug

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

IMITATION Pothos

Bisley FILE CABINET

michaels

etsy

amazon

michaels

container store

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

I love to turn planters  into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give... Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

MICRON black PENS

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

SCARF NECKLACE

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

calLahan ceramics

amazon

shopbop

mignonne gavigan

thred up

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

Tillandsia AIRPLANT

FLORAL Macbook case

Distressed Mirror

GLUE GUN

anthropologie

amazon

etsy

anthropologie

amazon

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

fave white tee

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

e6000 GLUE

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

My favorite white tee. I've bought about 18 of them by now. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

Print a lot of labels and tired of buying ink for your printer? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

Candle Making Pitcher

singer sewing machine

photography backdrops

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

replica surfaces

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

I take this face mist with me while traveling and instantly feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

amazon

I love to turn planters into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give. Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

LABEL MAKER

amazon

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

"LOVE" ART PRINT

society 6

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

FAUX FUR BLANKET

anthropologie

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

FLAUNT PHONE CASE

FLAUNT.COM

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of radiant orchid pink, and I love the square corners!

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

michaels

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

SHEEPSKIN rug

etsy

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

IMITATION Pothos

michaels

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

Bisley FILE CABINET

container store

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

calLahan ceramics

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

MICRON black PENS

amazon

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

SOLID PERFUME STICKS

PERFUMIES.COM

Change the way you wear and carry perfume with these perfume sticks that fit in your pocket!

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

shopbop

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

SCARF NECKLACE

mignonne gavigan

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

thred up

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

anthropologie

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

TILLANDSIA AIRPLANT

AMAZON

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

FLORAL Macbook case

etsy

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

Distressed Mirror

anthropologie

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

GLUE GUN

amazon

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

amazon

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

fave white tee

amazon

My favorite white tee. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

amazon

Print a lot of labels? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

e6000 GLUE

amazon

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

amazon

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

amazon

This face mist instantly will make you feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Candle Making Pitcher

amazon

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

singer sewing machine

amazon

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

photography backdrops

replica surfaces

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.