From the archives: My Prom Dress

While I’m on vacation, I thought I’d pull out some projects from the archives to keep you entertained. (Also in case I can’t get to a computer and show you all the fabric I’ve been buying on holiday – or in case there is in fact no fabric shopping on holiday!?)

After organizing the sewing room spare room, I found tons of old photos! So old they were all taken on film cameras, so I had to scan them in to share them. They’re a little grainy but they work.

Today’s photo is my high school prom dress, where we were gonna party like it’s 1999. Cause it was, literally! This is me at my high school graduation, “Class of 1999,” in my homemade prom dress.

I used to skip my other classes to work on this dress. Yup, I’m that much of a sewing dork. Although, it took me four months to make it. You need that much time when you sew for an hour at a time, and most of that hour is spent setting up and cleaning up afterwards!

I used Vogue 1605 a Bellville Sassoon Designer Original. Rated Advanced, I’m sure. If you like it, it’s still for sale, now as a vintage sewing pattern. (Wow, that makes me feel old! Patterns from my high school era are vintage! Click the image below to buy.)

I was the only girl to wear a short dress, and the only girl to make my own.

Proms in Canada aren’t like they are in the States, from what I’ve learned from watching teen movies.

You don’t have to have a date to go, you aren’t allowed to invite anyone from outside your graduating class, and there is no prom queen or king.

On prom night, we had a buffet dinner (with spaghetti and tomato sauce! With all the white dress shirts and dry-clean-only prom dresses in the room, who planned that out?)

I’ll never forget filling my plate, sitting down at the table and being stabbed by an escaping piece of boning!

It had poked through the ribbon trim and continued to jab me all night long. This dress was definitely designed for standing, not for sitting at the dinner table.

When prom finally arrived, I was just about sick of my dress. I’d looked at it every day in sewing class, had agonized over rows and rows of gathering, fought with inserting the boning, and washed my hands a hundred times so I didn’t stain the work-in-progress. All that work and time spent had taken just a tiny bit of the fun out of the dress.

After making my prom dress, I vowed I’d never make another milestone dress again. I’d BUY my wedding dress, rather than work on it for four months and wish I’d worn something different on the big day.

Of course, that’s the voice of 17-year-old me and she was kind of stubborn and impatient. Not at all like 28-year-old me who is so much wiser and calmer… well, maybe that’s a stretch.

Anyways, despite the stubbornness of my younger self. I believe I would make my wedding dress, should my guy and I decide to tie the knot someday. (No, we’re not married but he’s most definitely the love of my life!)

Have you seen the prices of wedding dresses these days? (Gosh, that sounds so practical of me to say..) As someone who can sew, and a generally thrifty person, I just can’t justify the hefty price tag on something I’ll wear once. Seems wasteful to me, and I’m not a wasteful person.

Oops.. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Back to the topic of prom dresses!

Who else made their high school grad dress? Was it a success? Share links, if you have them!

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30 Responses to From the archives: My Prom Dress

  1. Kristen August 2, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    Wow, your prom dress looks a lot harder than mine was! Very impressive work!

    I made mine in high school sewing class too, and it felt so good to be wearing a one-of-a-kind dress that no one else was wearing… I think we were also the only couple to “rebel” by wearing flip flops and converse. So silly, looking back!

  2. natalli August 2, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    My mom made my wedding dress and I LOVE it more than any dress I could have found. And it only cost $30.!/photo.php?pid=8332281&id=854070506&ref=album&fbid=236526485506

  3. natalli August 2, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    That link doesn’t work. How about this one

  4. Margie August 2, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    My mom made my senior prom dress for me. It turned out very very nice.. I’ll have to try to scan in a picture. I was so proud of it :) I bought my wedding dress though. But, I did get an amazing deal on a designer gown. I got it online for 199….(3500 off!!)

  5. Jaime August 2, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    I made my junior homecoming dress (you’ve inspired me to make a similar post on my blog)…Don’t you just love the days of “ignorance is bliss”? It didn’t occur to me that it is difficult to work with chiffon, I wanted an empire waist dress, long and made of satin, with chiffon sleeves. It didn’t fit me perfectly, but enough to wear for the night without anyone really knowing (at least in my memory! lol). But the corset top on yours – that beats out chiffon any day! Congrats! You looked adorable!

  6. Kelly August 2, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    My mom made my prom dress for me (please forgive the hair – it was 1996)), and she also made my wedding dress (front and back; we made my veil as a joint effort). I couldn’t have been happier with my wedding dress – we designed it together based on a picture of a designer ($$$) gown I saw in a magazine. I got tons of compliments on it, and since we got the fabric at a local warehouse, it cost less than $50 (instead of the $200+ my sister’s cost, which I understand is really cheap for a wedding dress).

    For prom, it was more of an issue of not being able to find an appropriate dress in the stores, since in 1996, short was in fashion, but I have long legs, and I didn’t really want to be indecent. :)

    Of course, having someone else make it is a lot different from making your own, so I didn’t have that “ugh, that thing again!” moment. I’m just now getting to the point of being able to make my own clothing that can be worn in public.

    Natalie – your dress is gorgeous!

  7. Shannon August 2, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    We have something in common. I too made a Belville Sassoon advanced designer dress for my junior prom. I’ll have to dig out a photo. Mine was made with peach taffeta and cream colored lace. It was strapless, mermaid style, and floor length with a lot of lace flowing out the back. After making that dress, which took a lot of time and adjustments, my senior year I opted for much easier dress. Fun to see yours.

  8. ~Sherry~ August 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Adorable – your dress certainly looks like it was a lot of work! I made my school ball dress too – it was emerald taffeta with a boned bodice and a little ruffle on top – and yes the boning poked into me because I didn’t know about end caps or anything in those days! I had stab wounds in eight places around my waist – but I looked good – on the outside! I repaired it and shortened it to tea length to wear to a university ball the next year.
    I made wedding dresses for several years – in fact I just posted about one last night! They are not straight forward but I am sure you have the skills to make your own, and make it fantastic!

  9. Nancy August 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    What a neat post! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t imagine sewing my own prom dress. When I was in high school I wanted everything store bought even though my mother was an awesome seamstress!

    You look so cute in your prom dress. I love it! It really looks cute and hardly dated!

  10. Angela August 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    I can’t believe you made your dress!! You did a fantastic job! I didn’t make my formal prom dress but my best friend and I did make duct tape ones that we actually wore to the dance. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Darci August 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    That’s a cute, cute dress! I’m diggin’ it’s 90s vibe! I know what you mean about going to all that work and then not really enjoying the results. Boning can be SO awful.

    I didn’t sew in high school, but my mom made ALL of my dance dresses ‚Äì I was going thru a velvet phase, so at least one dress a year had to be velvet (we had three formal dances every year). When she wasn’t making my dresses, my girlfriends and I were all so bitty that we could share dresses, and since they went to a different high school than I did, no one was the wiser.

    I think you should TOTALLY make your wedding dress, should the day ever come. I know I’m going to make mine! The only person who can ensure that you look spectacular and don’t pay a MINT is you. It’s one of the fabulous things about sewing. Stressful? Sure. But totally worth it.

  12. Lisette August 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    I wish I could say I’d made mine but at that point I did NOT want anything to do with sewing! I thought it was dorky. Of course, that was only 2006. I did, however, make my Senior Banquet dress for College:

  13. Gail August 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    My daughters will not sew, but they are quite happy for me to sew their formal dresses. The tradeoff is they can buy the shoes they really want (within reason). I had quite a lot of success with my eldest’s graduation formal.
    I’m currently working on my younger daughter’s first formal dress – which will not be so elaborate.
    Your prom dress was a very challenging project for a schoolgirl. You were clearly a prodigy.

  14. Marie August 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    Yeah, I have made a few dresses in my time. I made one for my senior formal (no proms here is Australia). It was a simple lilac satin number that I started about 2 weeks before the event. I had a complicated Burda one but it ended up in the trash.

    One thing I do remember is my Mum handsewed the lining in for me – the lining was for the bodice only. Anyway, when I tried it on, it sat all weird and I thought it was wrecked. I think I ended up pulling out Mum’s work and wearing the dress without it sewn again.

    I have made another two formal dresses for college formals and also my wedding dress. Good times.

  15. Jaime August 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    @Kelly: Your wedding dress was AMAZINGLY beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Steph August 4, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    Whilst I never made a nice dress for a high school prom or formal, I did make my own wedding dress. There were a few stressful moments, but for the most part it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was so proud on my wedding day to walk down the aisle in a dress I had made myself.

    You can find more info on my blog:

  17. amber August 4, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    So impressed that you made your prom dress!

  18. CarmencitaB August 5, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Tasia! Your dress is so “advanced” I am speechless!
    If you want you can take a look at mine here :
    Have a nice vacation.

  19. Red August 5, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Oh, yes! I made my high school prom dress too. It was also quite short in comparison to everyone else’s, but it was tea length in purple with black polka dots. As a matter of fact, I think it may have been my first time working with boning.

    My mom, a much more talented seamstress than me, made my wedding dress and I absolutely loved it. You just can’t buy a dress that transitions from long with a train to short and danceable!

  20. TanitIsis August 6, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    Lovely! I didn’t make my grad dress (class of ’98, btw :) ) but someone else did, my mother. The catch? She made it for her grade 12 grad, in 1970. It was a 4H project. I have a picture of it (also scanned from film) on my blog Naturally I hope one of my daughters will wear it someday, but we’ll see. (It is full length. I didn’t feel like it stood out, but then one of my best friends wore a 17th-century panier-skirt dress costume and another (girl) wore a tux, so we were a pretty stylistically varied bunch to begin with.

    As to wedding dresses… I had fallen in love with one from a designer on Etsy before I really started sewing seriously again (for the low, low price of 2K). Now, I don’t know. But I’m still on the fence over this whole marriage business anyway ;).

  21. Fourth Daughter August 8, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I made my prom dress too except we don’t call it prom over here, it was just our Year 12 Formal (we had one in year 11 too though). We could take anyone we liked (ie outside of school too) but that’s practically a story for a whole other post (involving embarrassing chasing of boys from another school!)
    For my dress, I basically copied something I’d seen in a shop which was a long fitted, straight dress in navy crepey stuff with a very long slit up the side, with which I wore matching hotpants (which I wore as normal shorts for a long time later, although they’ve now gone off to the op shop!) and a fake tattoo and a fake rose in my hair… which all sounds hideous but it was not quite as bad as it sounds. However, I’m still not keen to put up a pic!!

  22. Katy Rose December 20, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    I made my grad dress….and I was sewing the hem of it about an hour before my date picked me up! It was two pieces. The dress itself was an A line halter that was backless and had crisscross lacing up the back. The second part was the skirt which was a bustle inspired thing and boy was it heavy! the dress was eggplant purple polyester shantung and the skirt was eggplant with black lace. I loved that dress and it was part of my portfolio to get into design school. I just recently cut it up and used the fabric for a draped dress I am working on.

  23. Gardenia Girl February 14, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Gorgeous dress! And blogger!

  24. Tracey February 20, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I used that pattern for my wedding dress in 1996! (Or rather, my mum did). I still love it now, and your short version looked great.

  25. Marcy March 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I wanted to sew my wedding dress, for many of the same reasons you mention.

    I tend to be ‘frugal’ and I love doing things myself, and I’m also not that dressy of a person. I also don’t think weddings are the ‘biggest day of your life.’ But when I went dress-shopping for ideas (not being a dress person I had no idea where to start in terms of style), I ended up buying a very expensive dress right on the spot.

    And I definitely don’t regret it. I made my sister’s dresses and that was fun, but I loved my purchased dress and even though today (2 years later) I am still shocked that I bought it, I still don’t regret it.

  26. Sara El-Amin July 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I am Egyptian
    proms are not very often here
    I started sewing less than a year ago
    I really want to make my graduation dress myself I wish by then I would have the skills to rock it
    but for now I have tried to make a lot of dresses but I ruined them all. :(


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