Christina Briley
seamstress designer writer dancer researcher earthling  



book cover

Inspired by a conversation with a beleaguered fabric store salesclerk, Wedding Gown Wisdom is currently on the back burner while Ruth manages work, life, dance, and this website. The first few chapters have been written, and it seems an ideal project for our book-writing seamstress when time again permits.

There are few books available to help the novice wedding gown seamstress and none with the wry sense of humor and the depth of experience that Ruth Christina offers.

Shown below is a page from a how-to pamphlet that was done for a class and will eventually be part of the book. The full pamphlet can be seen via Ruth's portfolio. Below the pamphlet excerpt is a tentative introduction for Wedding Gown Wisdom.

inside page

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Welcome to my book; nice to meet you.

Now, let's get right to the point: My book, my rules.

Rule #1 (for Brides): The wedding is not all about you, you, you. If there are any brides here who think that then all I have to say to them is: "Please don't let the back cover hit you on your way out." I don't want to work with you; whoever you're drafting to help you with your gown probably doesn't want to work with you, and by the end of the process you won't want to work with you either.

A wedding is a public celebration of a very personal commitment. The guests are, well, guests. The bride and groom, and in many cases the parents, are the hosts. The responsibility of the hosts is to see to the comfort of the guests, not to treat them as minions, supplicants, or ornaments. This means reasonable food at a reasonable location—not, for example, a Valentine's Day wedding on Mt. Washington in zero degrees because it strikes you as wildly romantic (I made the bride a velvet gown with fur trim for that one). Forget the Bridezilla crap. If you want to be queen-for-a-day go build a monarchy, or, at the very least, start a campaign to bring back debutante balls which make no pretense of being anything other than a chance to show off. As for your wedding: be gracious, be reasonable, and keep your eye on the prize: a long, happy partnership with the person you're marrying.

That said, at a wedding people are going to be looking at the bride—a lot. And people are going to be taking lots of photos of the bride. So it would be nice if the gown were perfect.

Rule #2: There is no such thing as perfect.

In my busiest year as an independent contractor for a custom bridal shop, I did about 250 gowns. Making dresses for that salon was my primary occupation for 16 years, and I've done a couple of wedding gowns each year in the decade since I left their employ. Go ahead and do the math. Yet, with all those thousands of gowns, I can't think of one where I couldn't have done something just a little better. You are not me. If you had my experience, you wouldn't have bothered picking up this book. So don't expect perfect. But, with my advice and a little common sense, you should be able to manage lovely. And lovely is a very nice result indeed.

Rule #3: Pick the right spouse. Actually, that should be rules #1-100. Nothing else is really of any great significance, including the gown, if you get that right.

Rule #4: Keep your sense of humor. My motto in life—and it applies double to weddings and funerals—is: "Of all my senses, it's my sense of humor I need most."

Rule #5: Don't get frazzled. If it's less than three months until the wedding I recommend that you put down the book, back away slowly, and no one will get hurt. If you have a fulltime job, make that six months. If you've never made a formal dress before, make it eighteen months and spend the extra year making three or four practice gowns.

Finally, a few more things to keep in mind. A handmade wedding gown, created with love and patience, is a unique and special heirloom. But remember, the author of this guide is not making the wedding gown. I will do my best to advise you and tell you everything I know but you are responsible for the results, not me, so be realistic about your abilities.

Telling you "everything I know" is not the same as everything. I am not my brother, Lawrence; I do not know everything. (In truth, Lawrence doesn't either but he has this way of talking that makes everyone think he does.) For instance, I haven't worked all that much with stretchy fabrics and bias cuts and will only touch on them briefly. So there may be things missing from Wedding Gown Wisdom that you'll have to figure out for yourself or research online. My goal is to offer you a basic plan and lots of useful, juicy tidbits. If I can entertain you along the way with a few relevant stories, so much the better.

Besides, I can't cram 45 years of sewing experience into a book. Even if I believed that I could, my memory isn't any more perfect than your wedding gown is going to be – probably a lot less so.

At least, I certainly hope it's a lot less so.

But I bet I can still teach you a thing or two. So, what do you say we get started?


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