First Communion Dress (Updated Pictures)

Oh dear friends!  My apologies for the looooooong absence.  I've been sewing away since the last post but clearly none of my industry has made it to this space.  Gosh it's hard to jump back into blogging, but a girl's gotta start somewhere?

My oldest received her First Holy Communion this spring.  Who could resist making a dress for her special day?

Back in February, I bought some really lovely silk organza from Thai Silks.  (I've ordered from them several times and have been pleased. Their prices are excellent.)  My mom and I were going to collaborate on a vintage inspired "heirloom" dress with inset lace and mini-tucks and embroidery.  Then around Easter life got a little overwhelming, as life is apt to do, and I lost interest.  Where would I find the time?  I had a bunch of alterations to do for pay and I didn't FEEL like making a dress.

I sold out and ordered a dress online.  It looked sweet and simple in the stock photo but very blah in real life.  See what I mean?

It was too big and the quality, or lack there of, of the the materials couldn't carry off the simplicity of the style. Perhaps a collar would help?  Some bands of ribbon above the hem?  Nothing seemed right.

Evie tried to help me make it work, to no avail.

With a week and a half to go, I gave up on the store-bought dress and jumped headlong into making one from scratch.

Decisions, decisions!

For the fabric, I knew the silk organza would work splendidly but without my mom's heirloom sewing expertise, I needed to find another way to add a personal, hand-it-down-to-the-next-generation touch.

Inspiration struck!

I had left-over lace from my wedding dress.  Gorgeous, high-end, beaded French Chantilly lace.  Only it was ivory.  Way too dark to pull off on a white dress.  What to do? What to do?

Kids, I bleach it.  Because who doesn't look at a piece of $100 lace and think -- bleach it baby! ?

The lace lightened significantly.  Thank the good Lord!  And since the silk organza wasn't pure white, as a synthetic organza might have been, the color worked.

I underestimated the amount of time it would take to prep the lace for sewing.  Trimming the beading out of the seam allowance, tying off all of the cut strings, and basting it to the organza backing for sewing took more than a few hours!  There were seed beads by the millions.

Choosing a pattern had it's challenges too because I couldn't find one that had all of the elements I was looking for.  Still, this one worked well as a base:

Collar, yes.  Sleeves yes.  Pleats, yes.  Zipper? No.  You see, I wanted to make an entire dress out of the silk organza and then make a completely separate dress out of satin to wear under it.  Old school style.  Have you seen that?  It would require buttons.

The thing about making an unlined dress out of organza is that each and every seam needs to be "perfect" and carefully encased.  Despite their relative simplicity, French seams have never come easily to me.  Instead of using them, I folded the seam allowance in on itself, sometimes trimming it down, and carefully hand-stitched the seams closed on the inside.  (For the collar, I had to cut a piece of lining and bind the seam allowance completely.)

I factored in inch-wide tucks into the skirt length.  And, shhhhhhhhhh, used the selvage edge for the hem.  (Don't worry, it was carefully inspected for holes first.)

The silk organza was rather neat to work with because it wasn't slippery and had a pleasant stiffness to it and memory.  Like tissue paper, only sturdier.  You could open a seem and finger press it easily. It did fray and the delicate fabric didn't take too well to seam ripping of any kind, but overall, i found it a pleasure to work with.

As for the pattern, I was happy with the skirt and bodice (I added a faux sash in the front, did you notice?), but the sleeves left something to be desired.  I'm not sure if I can explain it well, but the arch on the sleeve pattern was much too high which meant that the sleeve poofed straight up where it gathered and came off of the shoulder seam.  Since my Roo has tiny arms, the sleeves were too roomy as well.  Once I figured this out, I didn't have the heart to rip out the sleeves, rework the pattern, and do it all over again so I took a tuck at the openings and covered them up with little beaded bows.

You might have noticed, I also beaded the edge of the collar with the leftover seed beads from the lace.  Honestly, this was to weight down the collar and cover up an uneven curve in the front.

Thankfully after the organza dress was finished, the satin under dress came together quickly.  It was made out of the same pattern, sans sleeves and tie.

I actually stole the skirt lining (with the crinoline in it) from another hand-me-down dress and threw it in there so that I wouldn't have to spend time buying and gather yards of scratchy net!

This next picture shows her wearing the satin dress with a sweater.  On the big day, we brought the organza dress and put it on her right before Mass and then took it off of her before eating at the reception.

More pictures:

How is my baby girl old enough to receive her First Holy Communion?  Wasn't it just yesterday were were doing this?

Congratulations sweet girl!


p.s.  Our parish has a beautiful Corpus Christi procession and Roo got to wear her dress again!  Here she is with her little sister above an image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe:


  1. Oh my gosh, everyone is so big! And adorable! Your brunettes look like twins! So cute! That is a beautiful dress. The details are so delicate and feminine, it's perfect. Congratulations, Roo!

  2. Yikes -- Sorry it took me so long to respond! Thank you! I hope you and your beautiful family are doing well! I need to go visit your blog...

  3. Liz!! This is so beautiful! How special that you were able to use some of your wedding dress fabric. I think you turned out a very fine heirloom garment that your momma will be proud of :-) I adore the sleeves! So much better than if you hadn't had to fix them last minute, I think....
    Congrats ~ Tracy

    1. Thank you for your kind words Tracy! You know how it is making things "for keeps" -- all that time and effort makes it more dear in the end :o). ~ Liz


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