Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The thing that makes a wedding gown so special is attention to detail inside as well as out. The Pnina Tornai gown above could pass for a piece of soft sculpture. A wedding gown well made is indeed a work of art. While a bodice and skirt may look pretty straight-forward from the outside, there's a complex life of inner linings, facings, crinolines, slips and shaping materials we never see but sense by the way the gown holds it’s shape. For instance, the bodice on a typical wedding gown needs an underling to give it that sculpted form in addition to becoming a strong foundation for lace, trim or embroidery. Also, an underlining can hide casements within the bodice for boning, a material used to hold that strapless bodice up. Realize most bodices whether draped or closely fitted to your body, frequently have some kind of foundation of reinforcement beneath. Contemporary bones are available in two forms- flat steel boning and spiral steel boning. Spiral is flat but thicker than flat boning because of the tips required on the ends. Flat boning bends in only one direction, while spiral steel boning bends easily in two directions. Spiral steel boning may be used on curved channeling or in light support areas. Both varieties are rigid lengthwise. Today, manufacturers use nylon or Rigiline bones. Steel is still optimal for 'real deal' corsetry and couture bodices. Nylon boning doesn't have the strength to hold up bodices the same way steel does. Nylon also is coarse and wrecks fabric over time. It is however, inexpensive so manufacturers do use it frequently.

Lela Rose

Above diagram shows the inside workings of a strapless bodice with a dropped waist. Lines shown designate boning points

The skirt is where the most critical movement takes place. It goes into motion once you put one foot in front of the other and make your way down the aisle. And because the skirt is an action piece, it has a certain ‘living quality’ once you start moving around in it. For the gown to to look and move properly the right linings and under structure are necessary.

Amalia Carrera
Your gown won't look finished off without proper lining and/or a slip. For snug sheath and evening gown silhouettes an appropriate lining will suffice. Anything beyond an A-line requires a slip that provides structure. So what is structure? The ball gown above is shaped with a very wide and voluminous slip similar to the photo beside it. Whether you're going for an A-line, princess or full bouffant shape, your slip should be worn separately from your gown (read: yes, as in a whole separate piece). Why? You don't want to add bulk to the waistline. Wedding gowns have enough heavy duty handiwork going on inside, why add more? I know most gowns come with built-ins, but do ask your salon when placing the order to have the designer send your slip as a separate component from the gown.
Right: A-line gown Casablanca Bridal
Below: A-line slip Sweetheart slips

Trains and bustles have allot going on inside as well. Most built in trains double as bustles and are filled inside with layered crinoline or organdy to give shape. Ever wonder how the back extension of a gown glides so beautifully? The secret is horsehair. If you're looking at one of the more voluminous gowns, notice whether or not the skirt (read: skirt, not the under slip) seems to have a structure that can stand on it’s own. It should. This has to do with how it is lined and hemmed. When you pick up the skirt—including the train—and look closely at the hemline, you’re likely to find a 3-6” wide band of horsehair. That’s the clear and meshy edging at the hemline that gives the bottom of the dress some flex as well as firmness. Notice how the skirt and train extension seem to hold that precision shape. It’s the horsehair that keeps the bottom of the skirt in shape and gliding when you move instead of swishing side to side (you’ll find this out once you try on the gown). Typically horsehair is sewn on the inside of the hem. Most designers are bringing the skirt lining over the horsehair edging completely, leaving as clean a finish inside as out.

Paloma Blanco
The bottom of this hem and train lays perfectly flat and will stay even once you begin walking. The secret is a hem reinforced with horsehair

Keep in mind you’ll be walking over surfaces of stones and uneven pavements that might trip you up or get caught up in the horsehair. With clean finishing work inside, when you lift your skirt to walk up stairs, the horsehair stays hidden and show your gown to be as beautifully finished inside as out.


Wendy said...

Great post, Amy!

Cassiopeia said...

wow... great post! love the pictures.


out of the mist said...

wow!!! Beautiful dresses!!!
Now i´m follow your blog...

♥ fashion chalet said...

thank you, wow!! so sweet :)

I love a great gown!


christine@modernromance said...

Great post Amy. Your blog is such a great resource and I always learn something when I am here!