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Category: General Chitchat

  1. A heirloom wedding dress

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    vintage dress

    How many mums have kept their wedding dress up in the attic, with the thought that perhaps one day, one of their daughters or grand daughters might want to wear the dress again? The reality is that in most cases, the dress is completely out of fashion, and also completely the wrong size. If you do really want to wear a heirloom dress, there are many things that can be done to modernise a dress, but there are also some things that you will have to consider as limiting factors: 

    One of the toughest to correct or match is colour and appearance. You might not think it, but there are tons of shades of white and ivory and in a spectrum of texture, softness, sheen and firmness. With age, there is often also slight discolouration of the dress, which, on a positive note, adds to its vintage character. The old dress does dictate the colour of your soon-to-be updated dress - so for example if the dress is a cool white with white embroidery or lace, it may  not look the best to team this with warmer ivories. This is not a big problem if you don't need to purchase any new fabric for the dress, but, if mum's dress is too small or too short, or if you would like to add additional features such as sleeves, or an over layer (e.g. lace or chiffon) on the bodice or skirt, colour and texture matching to the old dress become essential. 

    Size is a big player. Taking a dress in or making it shorter is a lot easier to making a dress one or two sizes bigger or having to lengthen the skirt. It is possible, but you might have to have some design changes and additional matching fabrics - all of which may also work totally in your favour for a modernisation job.

    The state of the dress: if it is grandma's dress, or a very delicate and fragile version of mum's dress, extra care must be taken by the bridal seamstress to not further damage the dress. The fabric and /or the seams might be weakened with age, which is something to be considered not only for the modifications work, but also for when it will be worn, particularly if it is on the fitted/snug side.

    As a future bride considering to wear a heirloom dress, you will have to consider the previous design carefully and what you wish to keep as a feature or design, and what you are willing to give up. Some brides-to-be want to keep the fabrics or most of the fabrics, and have a redesign of the dress in a more modern version. Others want to keep the dress as close to the original design as possible, with only modernisation features. Between these two extremes, there are a range of options, whereby you keep some of the fabric (e.g. the lace, if any) or some of the features (e.g. the skirt style, the bodice front, etc.). It is possible to rebuild the dress completely with any of these combinations, and in the end, in some cases, the new dress might look totally different to the old one, but you know that it came with much historical wealth.

    modernised vintage dress In the two pictures of this blog, the original dress had the big puffy sleeves of the 80's, which while starting to be trendy again, were replaced by more floaty sleeves, shortened to a length that suited the bride. The lace at the front of the bodice was removed and the bodice re-built for a less cluttered, more modern effect but the beautiful princess waistline and the outer layer embroidered lace were kept. The double layer style was simplified into a cleaner cut, lengthened with a matching satin fabric.

    Wearing the dress of someone dear to you at your own wedding is not everyone's cup of tea, but for the sentimentals of us who are considering it, it does not necessarily have to entail wearing the dress exactly as it was, or fitting into it.

    If you are considering it, have a chat with a bridal seamstress to discuss your options, and who knows, you might be surprised with what can be done!



    Blue Lily Magnolia is based in Nantwich, and specialises in wedding dress alterations, style modifications and bespoke wedding dressmaking. If you would like a chat, please contact Sharon directly on 07766766573 or at [email protected]



  2. Why I'm Loving this Winter's Trends

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    sparkly shoes A trip to the shops gives you a pretty much instant idea on the current fashion and accessories trends. Some things are still here from last year: sequins, lots of bling, pleated skirts and animal prints. Last year, I thought that all these sparkly and shiny things were way too much for me, but after a year of it, my eyes have become accustomed to the disco ball look and I am totally embracing it! Animal prints are rather classic, so I will not be surprised if they turn up next autumn winter too. 

    Things that I noticed were new this year: stars, velvet and big sleeves... I'm loving the cute star prints, star jewellery, and luxurious soft velvets on jumpsuits, long dresses, or even trousers, but the big sleeves are my absolute favourite this season. I must admit that the giant shoulders are not quite my thing, being quite petite in height and frame. I don't quite like the look of an inverted triangle, or even a big rectangle or square (if you happen to be a bit more peary in shape). But big sheer sleeves, yes please! Why? Well, for a start, I for once, am a huge fan of 'comfort' winning on style. And in the winter, it's cold! Sleeves are just the thing when going out an evening, without feeling like you will have to cross the tundra before reaching the bar.

    Secondly, my flabby arms are one of the things that I don't like about myself (like many people of course, there are lots of other little niggles that I am unhappy about, but let's not dwell on those!). So sleeves are perfect to hide these little arm imperfections, whether you have bingo wings, big arms, hairy armpits, pasty arms and other arm related issues! And sheer sleeves are even better in my opinion because they give the illusion of having your arms out, without actually revealing much detail. 

    And finally, after years of seeing people's shoulders out - strapless, little straps, complex straps, skinny spaghetti straps, boob tubes and the lot, it's actually lovely to see interesting shapes and textures being added on the arms and shoulders. My favourite is definitely any form of transparent fabric on the arms, whether it's a shape-holding organza for a bit of pouffiness, soft chiffon for boho flow, textured lace for a bit of a more classic look, or pretty embroidered tulle for a bit of quirkiness, I love them all.

    So as a little treat for myself, I made myself a dress for a Christmas party this year. And of course, it included big sleeves (I chose chiffon for a flowy style), velvet, and unsurprisingly for me, it was black. My husband bought me some sparkly shoes to match. And on my Christmas list this year, I've put a cute little star necklace... I'll have to wait and see if it will appear under the tree on Christmas morning!

    For now, wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful new year, and looking forward to seeing you in 2020!

    bespoke black velvet dress front  bespoke black velvet dress back


    Blue Lily Magnolia, Nantwich, Cheshire - makes bespoke dresses and accessories for formal occasions, weddings. For any queries on dress making or alterations, please contact Sharon on 07766766573, or email [email protected].

  3. A day in the life of...

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    Sewing 1Today, I want to share with you a little insight on a day in my work life as a designer, dressmaker, accessories maker, and alterations master! I want to do this now, early in the year, because it's a reasonably quieter time for me, and I actually get to have a little bit of variety in my day! Such as the luxury of writing a blog for example! During the busy pre-wedding seasons, it is often all dominated by a rotation of meeting clients / alterations / accessories making / trips to the post office, but at this time of the year, I actually get to do other things like some 'thinking'!! So today, my blog will actually be about my day yesterday!

    8:55am: My work day always start after I drop my daughter to school. Thankfully, it's only a short trip to school and back home, and generally I am ready to start by 9am with cup of coffee. My first stop is always a look at my diary. Actually, this starts on the evening before, or first thing when I wake up.

    I genuinely cannot function without my paper diary. Sometimes I use Google calendar and other online calendars, but I find myself having to duplicate everything and write things down again, so for the good old fashioned me, a paper diary is an absolute essential! So on my diary yesterday was a reminder to work on my website, working on Lizzy's dress, and meeting with new client Poppy at 10am for a wedding dress alterations. 

    Between 9 and 10, as it's not worth me starting to work on Lizzy's intricate back detailed dress, I work on my website, while listening the news on TV (dominated by the Brexit debates at the moment). At the moment I am trying to populate my shop with some of the accessories that I sell on Etsy. It is a little bit of an experiment to see whether I do get sales direct, or whether Etsy is the best source of online sale for me.

    10:00am: Poppy arrives with her mum, carrying her gorgeous long train dress delicately decorated with laces. She needs the dress taking in and the hems shorten. With 8 layers of fabrics at the hem, the appointment takes over 1 hour. Thankfully mum and daughter are happily chatting away during the fitting, and Poppy's stilettos are not too painful to stand in! I always think that it's lovely when brides come in with their maid of honour, sister, mum, grandma, best friend, or anyone else who can give their views and keep them company in the process. Also, as sometimes some of the alterations affect the back, it's always helpful to have someone you trust give their opinion on what's going on at the back from close up. 

    After the pair leaves, I write down all the client details and alterations required in my work book and in a sheet which goes in with the dress. At the moment I have 4 wedding dresses upstairs, so it would be a bit of a disaster if I mixed them up! Between them leaving and lunch time, again I find that it's not worth me pulling Lizzy's dress out, so I keep on updating the website, and make myself some lunch. 

    12:00pm: Lunch is a good opportunity to catch up on more news on TV (which I stop when my clients are in, or when I need to concentrate on writing something), and to check social media, which I do both for personal and business reasons. For work, I post or share a few things on Pinterest, and check out some groups on Facebook. On other days I might add a photo on Instagram or a post my Facebook page, but I have found that in the last year or so, I have been less active on social media as a business.

    01:20pm: I finally pull out Lizzy's dress, which requires some delicate work on the lace and net part of the gorgeous back. I spend a couple of hours working on this, with the odd breaks on my phone or tablet. I find out that one of the queries I had on Etsy is not leading to an order as the colours that I have in stock do not match the dress. (Last week I had sent small samples of fabrics to this lady, so that she could compare the material I have with her dress colours.) This is a shame, but as this would have resulted in a custom order made to a specific size, it is practically non-refundable, so I much prefer the client to take this approach than purchase and then be disappointed.

    2:50pm: I find that when I'm working, whether I am doing some work on a computer or physically making or altering something, time does go really fast. It almost feels like working between 9am to 3pm is not enough to do everything that needs to be done. I normally stop at 3pm to have a general tidy up, since I work from home, and get ready to pick up my daughter back from school.

    3:30pm: We are back from the school run and my daughter always has something to eat when she's back. We have a little natter then, and I often have a little snack with her too. Children often don't want to talk about their day at school when questioned. So I have learned to not specifically ask. I find that sometimes she'll just tell me things without prompting and I can probe more into it, more naturally, than if I try to question. I try to use the snack time to also cover her reading or spelling homework from school. Even though she's only 5, I find that there is always homework to do, even 5-10minutes at a time!

    For the rest of the day, I'm on and off checking emails and social media, responding where needed. Sometimes I have clients who come after school or after work, but generally I tend to limit these.

    5:50pm: Time to make dinner, and for today, nothing else is planned. Except the occasional email and social media check!

    This was a really tiny little insight on one of the day in the life of a designer / maker / dressmaker in Nantwich! Today will probably be quite a different day and tomorrow will be different too. As with most jobs, no two days are the same. The best thing that I love about my job (other than the ability to work flexibly around my family life), is that I get to meet so many interesting people. I find that everyone has a story, no matter how ordinary they think their life is, they almost always have interesting bits to talk about. For me, it is always lovely to hear these stories - they make me appreciate the variety and richness of life, and let's face it, most people love a good love story!


    Sharon is the designer and maker for Blue Lily Magnolia dresses and accessories, and also does alterations for wedding dresses, other formal dresses and even everyday clothes. She is based in Stapeley in Nantwich. For a quick chat, call 07766766573.