Refashioning a wedding dress to a christening gown is a practical, meaningful, and environmentally friendly solution.
It’s one of the best wedding dress upcycling ideas for all the crafty women wondering what to do with an old bridal gown.
Women have been transforming their old wedding dresses into christening gowns for decades, and it’s no wonder – white fabric works perfectly for baptism attires, representing the purity and innocence of the child.
Note that it isn’t the most beginner-friendly wedding dress upcycling project. You must have some sewing experience, as you only get one chance to make everything right.
While the process can sometimes be tricky, the effort is worth it. A christening gown from a wedding dress is a perfect keepsake you can pass on from generation to generation.
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Can Any Dress Be Turned Into a Christening Gown?
First, you need to understand whether your gown is suitable for this DIY wedding dress upcycling project.
Not every wedding dress is ideal for a christening gown. Dresses made from polyester and other synthetic materials make better quilts or cushions than kidswear.
Child skin is sensitive and needs to breathe, so natural fabrics are better for a christening gown.
Thankfully, most wedding dresses are made from a combination of different materials, and you can likely find something to work with.
If your dress contains 100% synthetics, you can still use the fabric for minor details such as sleeves and buy a suitable natural material for the gown base – you won’t need much of it anyway. You may even use old cotton tablecloths.
Use your dress embellishments to adorn the gown. Lace is a perfect decoration for a christening gown.
Beading works well, too, but make sure it’s attached to the dress properly as the child may rip it off and avoid overly heavy embellishments.
Before you start working on your wedding dress upcycling project, you need to gather the necessary tools.
The basic set includes a sewing ripper, pins, scissors, thread, iron, and a pressing cloth. You’ll also need a sewing machine and patterns of your choice.
Dry-clean your gown before deconstructing it if you’re planning to use the remaining fabric for another keepsake. However, note that dry cleaning a wedding dress can be pretty expensive – the average price is about $150.
However, if you’re upcycling a vintage wedding dress, dry cleaning may damage the fabric as it becomes fragile over time. Instead, soak it in the bathtub and dry it flat.
Alternatively, you can deconstruct the wedding dress first and have the christening gown dry-cleaned afterward.
It’s a great way to save money on cleaning, as you’re paying for less fabric. However, the remaining material may become yellowish over time if you store it without cleaning.
Decide on The Gown Design
Come up with the christening gown design before deconstructing your dress to avoid wasting fabric.
Of course, you may let your creativity flow during the process, but in this case, you may cut pieces of fabric of the wrong size.
There’s no need to decide on every detail of your DIY christening gown. However, you should at least understand what the general design will be. Think about the sleeve style, closure, and skirt length.
Note that while you can add most embellishments at the end, some need to be incorporated while you’re constructing the gown.
For instance, if you want to use lace as an overlay, you should decide on it in advance.
If you don’t have extensive sewing experience, avoid overly intricate designs. It’s better to make a simple gown aptly than a sophisticated one poorly.
Remember that the child makes the christening gown beautiful, not the opposite.
Take The Dress Apart
After you’ve decided on the gown design, you can move on to wedding dress deconstruction.
The process is more complex than simply cutting your dress into pieces. You should go in the opposite sequence from how your gown was originally sewn.
Inspect the stitching to determine the initial sequence. Undo the overlapping top thread near the zipper using a sewing ripper. Usually, the zipper is added as the final step, so you should remove it first.
If your dress has buttons, you can cut them off and use them later for the christening gown. With corset dresses, you can move on right to detaching the skirt.
You can detach the skirt from the bodice by cutting it off, but if you use a seam ripper, you’ll get plenty of extra fabric to work with. So, remove the stitching and carefully separate the skit from the bodice.
Then, separate the sleeves from the bodice using the same method. Disassemble the front and the back part of the bodice. Remember to unstitch the final seam first – you should follow the opposite sequence.
The deconstruction is complete, and the next steps depend on your dress and the desired christening gown design. You may remove lace appliques and embellishments or leave them as is.
Make The Pattern
Any sewing project requires a pattern. You can either design it yourself if you have the necessary experience or find a ready-made sewing pattern online or in magazines. You can modify any commercial pattern to your preference.
There are relatively few ready-made sewing patterns for infant wear. However, making a christening gown using a commercial pattern is easier than an adult dress since kids don’t yet have such figure differences as grown-ups.
The most popular christening gown style is empire silhouette with puff sleeves, though you may opt for long sleeves if the baptism takes place in winter.
A sleeveless christening gown is an excellent option for beginners, as puff sleeves require some experience.
Many women wonder how you can make a christening gown more masculine. The easiest and most popular options are adding blue elements, making a shirt-style collar, and replacing puff sleeves with regular short sleeves.
Draw your pattern on paper or print it. Then, transfer it to semi-translucent brown craft paper or plotter paper if you wish to reuse the original pattern later, as you may have to modify the pattern in the process.
If you’re drawing the skirt pattern yourself, note that a flared gathered skirt’s hem should be 1.5-6 times wider than the bodice, depending on the fabric. The more lightweight the material, the higher the ratio.
You may wonder how long a christening gown should be. The length of the skirt depends on your preference and the child’s age.
Traditionally, there are two types of gowns – an heirloom christening gown meant for infants and freely flowing below the baby’s feet, and a christening dress meant for children who can walk and is shorter.
Infant christening gowns usually range from 30 to 40 inches. Ankle-length is practical yet formal if the child is already standing – it should be about 24 inches long for a one-year-old.
Trace The Pattern To Fabric
Once the pattern is complete, trace it to the fabric. Pin the pattern to the material in the seam allowance area, as you want to avoid damaging the fabric with pins.
Start with the skirt, as it’s the largest pattern piece, and you want to be sure you have enough fabric. Place the pattern as close to the edge as possible to avoid wasting material.
If your dress has a narrow skirt, but you want a christening gown with a relatively short but very voluminous skirt, you can place the pattern sideways.
Using your existing dress hemline can save you plenty of time. However, it’s not always possible, so you may need to unstitch the original hemline and stitch it back at the end.
If you want to use lace as an overlay for the bodice, you’ll need eight bodice fabric cut-outs in total – four from the base fabric and four from lace (or two if you only want to decorate the front).
Remember that you’ll need to attach the lace before constructing the bodice. But if you only want to use lace as trim decoration rather than on the entire surface, you can leave it for the end.
Sew The Gown
Finally, it’s time to construct your DIY christening gown according to the pattern guidelines. Make sure to use a pressing cloth when ironing the fabric before sewing, as you can easily damage it.
If you aren’t very experienced in sewing, consider sewing a sample from a toile to ensure you get the instructions correctly. You only have one wedding dress, and you likely don’t want to ruin it.
You may also want to try different stitching types on your dress fabric to see which one works the best in this specific project.
Each material is unique, and the stitching recommended in the pattern instructions may not be the best suitable option for your dress fabric.
In the end, add optional lace trimming or beading to the gown. Some embellishments need to be hand-stitched. Avoid adding any scratchy elements, such as sequins, to areas that may touch the baby’s skin.
The closure is usually the last element of the christening gown. While zippers are popular, they may irritate delicate child’s skin, so many women prefer using buttons.
Image credit: Pixabay