Bell Street Bridal
something old. something new.

Ali's short polka dot wedding dress

Ali's own wedding dress - 2013

Wedding photography by Mark Kenworthy


The Story:

I have always, always known that I would make my own wedding dress. My mum made her own dress and so did a lot of other women in my family. I thought that's just what people did!

When I was 15, I was op shopping (thrifting) with a friend and found an old roll of cream polka dot tulle under a table of old scarves. There was about eight metres on the roll, and the whole thing was priced at $6. Bargain! But that wasn't why I was excited about it. I was excited because it was the EXACT same fabric that my mother's wedding dress was made from!

I'm not usually very sentimental (I especially wasn't at that age) and apart from knowing that I would eventually make my own wedding dress, I hadn't really thought about what my wedding would eventually look like. But from that moment, I knew that whoever I ended up marrying, wherever we got married, I'd be wearing a polka dot dress.

My obsession with Minnie Mouse may have had something to do with that.

Fast forward ten years to our engagement. I think my mum and I talked on the phone about 30 times in that first weekend (we had a lot of planning to do in very little time!), but I know the first phone call was 'We got engaged!' and the second was 'Hey, can you get that roll of tulle out from under my bed?'. Being vintage, it was a very yellow-y cream, so my mum bleached it until it was a nice creamy ivory.

I got to designing, knowing that I definitely wanted sleeves and a short skirt. I can't find all the sketches as I probably lost a few in the move, but I did find these few final ones.

What I settled on ended up being fairly similar to what my mum wore in 1981, although mine had a much more early sixties vibe with the shorter A-line skirt. We even both had bridesmaids in blue! 


I started as I always do with a calico toile.


I then moved onto a second toile in the real fabric, which was frustratingly re-made over and over again in an effort to get the sleeves right.

Anyone who sews usually has a lot of fabric lying around their studio. I had lots of ivory satin already, so with that and the tulle I'd bought when I was 15, I didn't need to buy any new fabric for my dress. I did want to get something to accentuate the polka dots and continue the pattern onto the solid part of the dress. I wanted something exactly like the little ivory beads on this old t-shirt:

Now, before you think I'm a total cheapskate, I tried to find something similar to buy. I looked in bead shops. I looked online. I found nothing, and decided that I was happy to sacrifice a $4 second hand top for my wedding dress. So I unpicked the beads from the top. If you're keeping count, that's $6 for the tulle fabric and $4 for the beads. Total cost so far: $10.

I got the top finished first, because it had the most hand sewing and it's better to work on the hand sewing parts before you attach the skirt and it all gets too big to handle. I watched a lot of tv while doing this.

From there, it was pretty easy to finish the rest. I used lining fabric I already had, and I found some white silk covered buttons to put down the back. I dunked them in tea to make them ivory. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that I didn't have an ivory invisible zipper to use! I actually had to go out and buy one. It would have been incredibly satisfying to have made my wedding dress entirely out of stuff I had lying around the house, but I suppose only having to buy a $1 zip is ok. At least I bought new shoes!

At the time when I finished my dress, I didn't really know anyone in Manila except James - the one person I couldn't show the dress to! So I took some pictures with my self timer.


I wish I'd taken a picture of the petticoat before I put it in. It was lots of layers of polka dot tulle, all flared rather than gathered, because I didn't want it to be too bulky. It also had some flower cut outs from my grandma's wedding dress sewn on.

It was the perfect dress - comfortable and not too hot and easy to move around in. I had a lot of fun wearing it!