Unique Victorian Bat Wedding Dress - where to start?
May 9, 2016 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I am getting married on Halloween this year and after a few months of trying to find a unique dress for the occasion and kept coming back to one that I love, both for the personal touch (I have always loved bats since my childhood), appropriate for the elaborate-ness I was wanting to go for, and perfect for the vintage Halloween theme I had in mind. Where do I start? Many questions from someone with very little experience in the seamstress / costume industry. The original image that inspires the look is here. More below the fold of what I've found online.

Amazingly, there is a pattern for it here. And several very wonderful examples from that pattern here and here.

I live in Dallas and have until the end of October to have this made.
Who do I start reaching out to? What involvement should I have in the fabric? Are there any online seamstress / costumers that do this if I sent my size? What would a project like this cost (material, labor)? Time?

Any advice on how to get started or tips?
posted by hillabeans to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I had my wedding dress copied from a silent movie still and had a hat made. I called the costume department of the local university theatre department and a couple local theatres and asked if anyone took commissions. I met with a couple women, got some estimates and hired one.

That will be a very expensive commission. I have read a number of stories from costumers who have made that pattern. You're looking at over 25 yards of fabric, corset construction, and five tiers of knife pleats. You need someone with specific experience in boning channels and knife pleating. Those are master skills even with Eva Dress' fine pattern to work from.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Here would be my starter questions on this:

1. Do you want to sew this yourself, or hire someone to do it?

If the latter:

2. Are you looking for this specific pattern sewn as seen in the photos, as a literal Victorian Bat Costume? Or something based on this? This is going to be important in finding a seamstress, since "can make this thing using the pattern provided" and "I want something like this, but a wedding dress" are two totally different tasks.

From that, here are some general thoughts I have as someone who is down the What The Hell To Get Married In rabbit hole, myself:

- Definitely check out Offbeat Bride for both inspiration on exactly where on the bat costume to bat inspired bridal gown spectrum you want to land as well as specific seamstress resources. They have a LOT of Halloween/gothy wedding inspo, a LOT of period/vintage wedding inspo, and maybe some stuff that hits on both.

- What about contacting either of the seamstresses who've already made the dress and ask them to sew it for you to your measurements? Or for referrals to someone in the Dallas area that could do this? The historical costuming world is a pretty small one, and a lot of people who sew this stuff *do* take online orders.

- Looking at the illustration, it seems like sort of a headpiece and cape attached to what would have been a fairly typical party dress of the day. Would you have any interest in wearing a more traditional wedding gown with the headpiece and cape components of this pattern? Not saying you should (as I said I'm going down my own "wtf do you even wear to get married" journey right now), but if you love this and also want a Wedding Dress, you could probably find a compromise. This could also address the expense and complication of having such an elaborate pattern made. There are a lot of Victorian Style wedding gowns out there, lots of corseted options, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Could you find a similar looking corset/dress that you like somewhere and then look for the "wings" separately? This could drastically reduce your cost.
posted by jillithd at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I *love* that dress, and I recently found that pattern as well!

I would make sure that you have a completion date in September (or even before, depending), and also that you have dress fittings. (possibly a muslin first!)

For measurements, you either want the person to take them, or you want to make sure you understand exactly what measurement they are asking for.

I would also ask the seamstress about pre-pleated fabric for the skirt vs. doing all the pleats themselves, unless you're going with a specialty fabric. Pre-pleated fabric will be more expensive, but will save in labor costs.
I haven't looked at the pattern, so it also may require alterations to the pattern, in which case pleating the fabric may be a better option.

In terms of fabric, the pattern recommends fabric types, so I would either go fabric shopping with someone, or maybe have them send you swatches ( a small square or strip of the fabric) so that you can see the actual color/fabric and approve it. Again - it depends on the fabric that you're choosing.

The person making this is going to need to also make a hoop skirt to go under it, make a corset, and then the skirt, etc. So they'll need to be skilled - I wouldn't use someone who had never made a corset/boned bodice before. I would ask for references and pictures of other work. (on preview, what crush-onastick said!) You could absolutely get a corset elsewhere, or wear a similar dress and then have the wings and accessories done, and that would cut down on cost. I would recommend if you do that, making sure that you either get a swatch of the corset fabric or get the corset first, so that when you shop for the other fabric, you have something to compare it to.

If there is a high end bridal fabric store there, they may be able to recommend someone. Also, if you have a theatre there with a costume shop, they may have someone there that does that sort of work on the side.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I can't give you advice for the specific dress, but here is another partly bat-themed wedding I had my eye on over the years for some other ideas. Good luck!!
posted by getawaysticks at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just adore this. Please follow up with photos if you do have this made!!
Have you contacted the owner of Eva Dress? She's the one who designed the pattern from the drawing, and she's made the dress at least once, possibly twice (judging by her pinterest). She lives in Arizona. Maybe she would make it for you or could advise you on someone to contact.
posted by the webmistress at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you come across Firefly Path? I have no experience with them, I've just admired her dresses. Some of her dresses, especially the ones with capes, might suit your tastes, even though they aren't exactly like that bat dress.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2016

As for cost, it's a very fabric-intensive and labor intensive design. The blogger you linked to says it took her 12 hours just to do the knife pleats. So this design might take as much as a full work week (of mostly very skilled work) and 25 yards of wedding-quality fabric, plus a hoop skirt and corset. I would expect to pay thousands of dollars for this dress.

If you like it in black and you're anywhere near the size of the people who've posted about it online, I think you might have more luck asking to buy or rent an already-made one rather than getting someone to make one for you.
posted by mskyle at 2:27 PM on May 9, 2016

Some further inspiration from Magic the Gathering.
posted by Gable Oak at 7:50 AM on May 10, 2016

I really recommend going with a local seamstress -- the fittings are not going to go well if they are not with you in person to check fit and drape and so on. This is a very detailed dress, and poorly fitted Victorian clothing looks awful.

I agree you should buy a ready-made corset unless you are down to spend major double plus dollars on this. However, that particular style is kind of hard to find, so you might want to go with a custom corset from an expert. I would not trust this to a dressmaker who does not specialize in corsetry. Corsets are tricky and time-consuming, especially low-V styles (you don't want that bottom part sticking out or curving too much into your soft bits!).

This gal on Etsy has hand-drafted patterns of a very similar corset style on her Etsy, so I'm sure she would be able to make the corset for you.
posted by ananci at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2016

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