Turn a Wedding Dress into a Christening Gown

Photo by Simplicity by Christy photography
There are many approaches to making a christening gown, but incorporating parts of a family wedding gown lends a special sentiment to the project. In our newly released March/April White Issue, Patty Smith documented one family's creation of a christening gown that incorporated both the mother's and grandmother's wedding dresses. We'd like to share that article with you now, and be sure to pick up a copy of the White Issue for additional photos from the project plus more sewing inspiration.

When Hunter Candice was born on August 11, 2008, she was named in memory of her uncle Hunter, and also for her grandmother Candice who knew immediately that she wanted to make the most beautiful christening gown ever. 

She had determined years earlier that her daughter Brooke's wedding gown - a fitted, asymmetrical style with little adornment except for gathering on one side and a long train - would lend itself to be made into a christening gown, but she just wasn't quite sure where to start.  Martha Pullen suggested that Candice enlist the help of Patty Smith, and after Brooke selected the coatdress pattern from Martha's Grandmother's Hope Chest book, Patty and Candice began meeting to plan and construct the gown.

One day, early in the planning stages, Candice had the revelation to also include parts of her own wedding ensemble, which had been in storage for 38 years. Over four months, a single, beautiful gown emerged from combining parts of two that symbolized generations of love.

Brooke's deconstructed gown on the left (the skirt and train were already removed) reveals the source of fabric, and Candice's gown and veil on the right reveal the source of heavy lace used on the christening gown.
The design process progressed in stages. Here, the lace shaping on the underdress is pinned in place while Patty and Candice determine the best options for layering new and old laces around the center focus.

Evaluating the Dress by Patty Smith
In evaluating how a wedding dress might be used to make a christening gown, you have to remember that each dress is unique. Most wedding dresses will have enough fabric available to create a christening gown and will probably have some lace that you will want to use. Typically, you will have to purchase some additional laces or trims to complete the look you desire.

Candice wanted to use the fabric from her daughter Brooke's wedding dress as the fabric for the christening gown. They had chosen the coatdress pattern from Grandmother's Hope Chest. The task included these pattern alterations: changed the closing from front to back; increased the fullness in the skirt; altered the lace shaping design in front; and changed the slip pattern to a yoke slip so extra fullness could be incorporated into the slip.

The first step for our project was to evaluate Brooke's wedding dress. The skirt of the dress was very full and had a train. We decided that there was enough fabric in the skirt alone to make the dress and coat. We left the bodice of the dress intact so it could be used during the child's teenage years as part of a debutante gown or as a formal by adding a skirt of another fabric.

We traced off and cut out the skirt pattern pieces and the coat skirt pieces and pinned them on the wedding gown skirt to determine best placement for cutting. Our assessment of the available fabric took precedence over grainline. The back skirt had to be cut with a seam from the dress in it; we simply shifted the pattern piece so the seam would not be in the center back but at the side back. Remember to stay flexible and look for solutions, even if it means altering the pattern slightly.

As the dress plan began to develop, Candice decided to use lace from her own wedding ensemble - a long veil framed with lace and a heavier lace from the bodice of her gown. We added the lace from Candice's veil to the lace edging around the coat. We used the heavy lace from the bodice for the bonnet. We also cut around some of the heavy lace pieces and appliquéd them to the bodice of the coat.

Candice purchased additional lace insertion, edging and entredeux to enhance the dress.

The finished christening gown
The finished bonnet

Tips & Tricks to Consider Before You Cut
1. Evaluate the dress to determine the part/parts of the dress that you really want to, and can use. 

2. Select a pattern that you can imagine a specific part of the dress enhancing, such as the bodice, the skirt, the sleeve, etc. Alter the pattern if needed; the yoke may need to be shorter or longer, the sleeves may need to be changed, the skirt length changed and the fullness altered, etc. Remember, you can sometimes cut a tiny yoke from a deconstructed sleeve or back bodice if all the fabric is in the same condition and color. 

3. Determine exactly how much of the original dress you will use and how many additional supplies you might have to purchase. 

4. Consider that a white dress will probably have yellowed after 25 years of storage, so you will need to take part of the dress with you when you shop to determine how well the purchased fabric and laces will blend with the old.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Kathy and Amelia