Gorgeous Wedding Gowns transformed to Heirloom Christening Gowns
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Erika Mills of Petite Parfait. She specializes in transforming wedding gowns into custom christening gowns, baptism gowns, or couture baptism outfits. I've been married for almost 43 years, and my wedding gown has moved from attic or basement to attic or basement every time we moved, and there have been many moves. I can't part with it, but I often wonder what good it's doing in a box. I have a grandchild coming in July, so Erika really got me thinking. Her wedding dress conversions are equisite, and each one would surely become a family heirloom to treasure always.
I asked Erika to answer some of the questions that puzzled me about how she goes about such a challenging task. Imagine the courage it takes to CUT your wedding gown--and even more courage to cut someone else's! It was a fascinating conversation that I know you'll enjoy. Here are the questions I asked.
How do you decide what style gown to make?
A wedding gown conversion often takes on a life of its own. Once I receive the gown by mail, I contact the customer to discuss possibilities, and we work together to achieve the final result. I make sure I explain the process clearly without using technical sewing terminology. I ask lots of questions such as: Do you want a gender specific gown? How formal do you want the gown to be? Would you like any color added to your gown? Is there anything you don't want? What is the most important end result for you? The outcome largely depends upon the drape and cut of the original gown as well as the prominent features and fabrics we want to showcase.
Do you start with a standard pattern and adapt it, or do you design each gown from scratch?
I have four different pattern sizes for the chest and sleeve that are well tested. I help the parents choose the size based on the weight of their baby. The only fitted part of the gown is through the chest and around the arm, so, fit is relatively easy. The rest of the gown is made without patterns; they would be too restrictive for custom garments. I use bias stripping and some of my own fabrics to complete the gown if needed. I rely heavily on instinct (and my trusty measuring tape).
Do you start by cutting up the wedding gown so that all of the pieces are flat, or do you plan while the dress is still whole?
There are a few steps:
A. I look over the gown and get a sense of how the dress will come apart. If there is a strong feature I can incorporate into the new gown, I will plan to use it on the skirt, bodice, and bonnet to ensure unity and flow. Giving the dress a theme is very important. The goal is to end with a product that is stunning on its own and doesn't require sentimental explanation to enhance its beauty.
B. I cut out the skirt. While the dress is whole and hanging from my ceiling, I examine the drape and pin the area I plan to cut.