Neverending Vintage Remake

Six months ago a sweet young bride came to me with a project…to make a wedding dress from her recent purchases on Ebay and Craigslist. She explained she was “artistic” and had a “vision” and didn’t know if I could fulfill her dream. Then she pulled out 3 different garments and pieces of garments she had already harvested/attacked from her bag. First up was a beautiful lace coat from 1950:2-coat3-back-coat Lovely all on it’s own but all she wanted to use was the vest section at the top. The bodice would be this raggedy limp pearl encrusted rayon camisole:4-top and eventually attached to those would be a skirt section she slashed from another dress:1-skirt then to top everything off is a beaded collar she made from a collection of old earrings:5-necklace

You may be wondering what all these things have in common…nothing…and that is what makes someone call themselves an artist, I think. So here we go…down the rabbit hole of ultra shabby chic…re-used, re-purposed, recycled, re-claimed bits and pieces all whipped into the dream dress for a 20 year old with a head full of ideas.

To make this journey a quick one I have created a Pinterest board of all 68 techniques/steps I used to make this dress. I could not include all of them with descriptions here on this one posting so if you have the time, feel free to check them out HERE.

Every 2 weeks she would show up to try on the garment in progress and add or subtract or totally change her mind, then I would pin and baste again and wait for her evaluation of my interpretation. The dress remained on a mannequin in my sewing room and no matter who came by, they just shook their head and asked, “what is she like?” and all I could say was that she was a part-time waitress/artist.10-basted-parts11-basted-back16-side-view12-back-pinned13-back-pinned29-under-lining25-tapes37-center-back-waist28-doiuble-stitching23-mark-to-cut46-back-revised

Every try-on day we discovered more things that could not be adapted or changed or modified but it challenged my mind and sewing skills for sure. Making a flimsy rayon top into a structured top that would support a floor length skirt required adding boning and under lining and bust cups and almost totally done by hand, ripped out, moved and re-sewn by hand. As the skirt was added and lined it was apparent that the scalloped embroidered hem had to be shortened from the top and more and more was pinned out and trimmed from the top and then of course being more A-line the more I removed from the top, the more darts and tucks would have to be added.

The rayon top would only be used for the front section with the back being cut away almost completely except for a thin strip above the waistline seam of the skirt. The rayon top had a dropped V front which had to be highlighted and the skirt after being lined itself was to be cut away and attached by hand along the edges. The lower edge of the skirt would have the old lining cut away to reveal the new shiny lining:55-trim-lining

Just as we were getting to the deadline of the wedding date, a week before, the bride came for her final fitting and it had been a 4 week gap between fittings and the dress looked awful…all baggy and I was shocked…what had happened? Well, she says, I joined a gym and lost 20 pounds…great! As you can see from the first photos she was thin to start with and now the dress hung like a rag and everything had to be taken in and up one inch and during this time she decided that she wanted the entire front bodice covered with the remains of the scalloped lace. 53-all-attached54-back-attachedNever mind that the lace vest edges had already been sewn down, this latest fancy was to have all that lifted, ripped open and the new bit added and the lace edges folded back down and re-stitched by hand. OK…it is doable and after taking in the lower side seams of the skirt to be more tapered she added that she wanted a peplum too so those pieces were whipped together to form a back peplum and again all added by hand…are we done yet?58-back-ruffle-zipper-side59-back-ruffle-right-side

Not quite…remember she had a piece left over from the coat? Well, well, it re-appeared and she wanted an over-skirt now UNDER the peplum that had been attached and stitched down at the side seams and zipper. 63-overskirt65-back-apron-skirt66-front-apron-skirtSure…let’s keep adding more shit…and as she said…”we have a whole week to add more stuff”…let’s do it! Over-skirt added, peplum re-attached…invoice presented…but wait…next would be the beaded collar added again all by hand and the announcement that she would be totally covering the front bodice, already encrusted with pearls under the new lace layer with more huge earring jewels especially at the bottom of the front V…so leave that uncovered…sure, everyone needs a beaded feature right over their lady parts. OK…6 months of labor and we are done right?

Last try-on, wearing a grey tank top instead of bra-less…in she walks with sleeves cut from the last little bit of scalloped lace…she says she is going to hand sew them to the dress and add a hug sash cut from the remaining lining because it just “needs more at the waist”…I smile and nod and take her cash and say goodbye.67-front-sleeves68-back-sleeves

Lesson learned…after last year and the pageant princess ball gown re-make and this re-creation vision dress…my fingers are crossed to never attempt this sort of thing again…but the whole time taking 68 photos for you I was smiling about the day I could finally post them and share them. Have a look at the Pinterest page to see all what went into this wedding gown.

May all your sewing be less complicated and drawn out and you have time to enjoy the full flush of Spring (or Autumn)!

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70 Responses to Neverending Vintage Remake

  1. ParisGrrl says:

    Whatever you charge, it isn’t enough.
    Am I the only one who thinks the original lace coat would have looked stunning over a simple slip dress? Oh well, to each their own vision; she’ll certainly be one of a kind.

  2. mrsmole says:

    You are correct ParisGrrl…but she could not stop herself…ha ha!

    • Monique says:

      My idea exactly. I LOVE the coat. And who’s the visionary here, I may add? The bride-to-be could have learned to sew during all this time, and had total freedom to be artistic.
      Have you soundproofed your car yet? I can imagine needing a scream regularly.
      Compliments to you, Mrs Mole!

      • mrsmole says:

        When the photos started piling up I knew I was in deep shit. I have a nice back yard with many birds and plants and a thoughtful husband who sits with me and listens and tells me everything will be OK. Yes, Monique she could have learned to sew in 6 months but never carried off this transformation….ha ha. I kept explaining why things would work or not since she had no idea and was like a child asking all the time for things to be flipped or attached and not knowing really what the end product would like like.

    • robindrush says:

      Bride Train Wreck.

  3. sewbussted says:

    Oh Lord! What a disaster. Although I had nothing to do with this, I feel that someone needs to say, I’m sorry. What a shame that the beautiful lace overcoat was cut apart, wait…butchered. Not by you but her silly idea for this dress. What a beautiful wedding ensemble that coat could have been a part of. It just breaks my heart.

  4. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, sewbusted, I see your kitty is even feeling bad about it too! One day maybe a daughter will inherit this dress and think it is wonderful…who knows?

  5. prttynpnk says:

    Doesn’t every artist need an eraser or at least a good critic? You did an amazing job making these cohesive- another crown for you!

  6. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Anne…what I needed was a “delete or backspace” button instead of hitting the “enter” button.

  7. Helen says:

    How could you bear to cut into that beautiful coat? What a silly girl!

    • mrsmole says:

      It was really hard, Helen, but I used the serger to keep the cut edges together and neat. The coat was two layers of tulle and netting.

  8. Tia Dia says:

    Wow. I hope you charged her 6 months for thinking about it, never mind labour. Sheesh. That said, the last pics have actually come together to make some sort of sense – a testament to your skill, for sure. It’s actually interesting and presentable and with all the extras, not too bad for a nightmare. And as an artist, she’ll be super happy to have a one-of-a-kind dress! I really hope you made your money on this one!

  9. Oh, my…I’ll bet it actually HURT to cut into that lovely lace coat! Beautiful itself…what a tortured process to piece all those bits together! I must say I’m glad she had you add that lace overskirt…but wow. I’m thinking this required an overload of patience to get through ;) You’re a rock star!!

  10. birdmommy says:

    You managed to create a beautiful dress for her! I think the part that would annoy me is that she’s going to tell everyone that she ‘created’ this dress – like a bunch of half a$$ed ideas is a fraction of all the real creative work you had to do to pull this together!
    This is why I only sew for myself – I would have done her some sort of grievous bodily harm, and then just told everyone she choked on a vintage earring or something. :)

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh birdmommy…I laughed so hard…choked on an earring!!!! She did try to bring in a silver belt buckle from her great grandmother attached to a leather strap and I said NO. It looked like an old nasty dog collar.

  11. The skills shown in tackling this, ahem, project are amazing and your patience even more so. But to Miss Artiste, all I have to say is , Why would you?

    While this young lady may call herself an artist she doesn’t have a clue or appreciation for a real work of art, rhat exquisite lace coat . What a shameful waste!

    • mrsmole says:

      Bunny, I imagine you can appreciate fine lace and lacework….this was criminal but the value of these things were like $100 on the online vendors so she could easily hack away. If one had lived through the 50′s as I did and seen women wear these gorgeoius garments along with hats and gloves and proper undergarments maybe they would appreciate the older times and finery?

  12. I gave up on this kind of work because it just would have cost me too much in therapy (or vodka! ) It is just so hard when someone has a vision of what they want but no technical know-how to communicate it so it becomes a trial and error. You have such patience:)

    • mrsmole says:

      Isn’t that the truth…it would be like be designing a new kitchen with no knowledge of the components other than magazine photos or Pinterest. Or asking a hairdresser to create a hair-do from a magazine with no knowledge of what the hair would do later.

  13. Cindy says:

    I was drooling when I first saw that lace coat. Lovely! Such a shame to take it apart, however I think the final dress has a certain vintage charm. I do wish she would have left off the earring baubles….. You did an amazing job on this one.

  14. Colleen says:

    I would agree with the requirement of patience overload. You are a saint as well as an excellent and knowledgable seamstress. This would have kept me awake at night. It is almost best to turn these projects down because they are never happy. Did this bride leave happy with her result?? They don’t understand when the vision is not the same as the result. They usually do this to save money because they expect you to sew for nothing. The new show on TLC which is totally amazing of doing the wedding dress remakes will probably make more request like this. You are amazing and thanks for sharing.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, I agree with you Colleen, saving money was part of it, but she could never see herself in a normal gown. When her family sees her they will probably think SHE created a masterpiece…oh well.

  15. Lynda says:

    All I can saw is WOW! You did a great job despite another wacky client. And I definitely with the above comments that the coat was lovely on it’s own, and if she’d let you create her dress on your own, it would have been the perfect compliment. It’s lovely, but a little odd…

  16. I can imagine the comments from others as that “creation” sat on the dress form. What I don’t understand is the shades of white are clashing (at least to my eyes). Can I say you did a great job and that is it also hideous? too harsh? yikes, I don’t know how you do it. Solid black and solid white sewing are both my nemesis… Keep the stories coming – I think your blog is one of the MOST entertaining (as well as informative)!

  17. robindrush says:

    The money these young ladies and their families are willing to invest in ‘re-doing, re-vamping’ existing clothing is ridiculous. I’m guessing this is why they come to you–the miracle-worker. You certainly worked a miracle on that monstrous ‘vision’. Many kudos to you, your skills, and your patience. Whatever they are paying you could not come even close to your valuable service. It is your gift to many. You are worth more than precious jewels.

    • gabriela1914 says:

      Agreed–instead of looking and for a nice dress and paying a reasonable amount (say, at David’s Bridal), people are more willing to pay for vintage pieces and chop them up. WHY?!

      • mrsmole says:

        Some brides want to look distinct and maybe telling their friends that they have a custom dress makes them feel special and adds to that anticipation before the princess walks down the aisle…Lord knows I have no idea after all these years with so may wacky requests. Thanks for dropping by Gabriela.

  18. Have you ever seen the Signe Chanel documentary (it’s on youtube), basically Karl Lagerfield draws vague pictures of what he wants to see and the women in his workroom come up with beautiful designs. Yet he gets all the credit. You worked wonders considering what you were asked to do.

    I just cannot fathom cutting up that beautiful lace coat to sew it onto a cheap rayon top, I’m sure the designer of it would be horrified. lol

    • mrsmole says:

      I will have to check out that Signe Chanel…Love Karl Lagerfeld and his gloves!

      • Monique says:

        It’s wonderful, so I hope you can see it. I finally got it on DVD for a few euros, as the youtube channel I found didn’t have everything.

  19. Rachel says:

    Wow, the final article is quite lovely. I applaud your many skills (patience and technical amongst many) and (to some degree) her ability to visualise all the different pieces together. I’d have kept the lace dress as was, for the morning after. No vision, no skill! Six months in the making though, how on earth do you stay motivated?! Rachel ☺

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, Rachel, once you start a project like this, no matter how much you wish it just plain disappeared, you have to see it through to the end…my reputation rest on finishing it. Word of mouth fuels my business.

  20. sdamot says:

    Wow, it’s remarkable how you transformed the original pieces. Regardless of how I feel about the style of the garment (not to my taste) seeing how well it flatters the bride-to-be, and how you transformed all the pieces into a cohesive whole, it make the finished product so much more than the sum of its parts. It really is impressive. It may not have been fun for you, but what a great example of what good dressmaking and tailoring skills can do.

    • mrsmole says:

      Blood, sweat and tears you mean???? Lots of teeth grinding and jaw clenching, so much so, my dentist says I should wear my night guard on my teeth during the daytime…Lordie! Maybe a rum and diet Pepsi should be my breakfast choice?

  21. Heidi says:

    I love the back of the dress, I think it is really pretty, but that rayon camisole on the front is completely the wrong colour.

    • Heidi says:

      I mean the skirt is the wrong colour, actually. The top of the front is quite beautiful too.

      • mrsmole says:

        Ha ha…Oh Heidi, nothing quite matched but in the end everything was covered with the coat remnants and it evolved into one big IVORY…old Ivory and will be covered with more old earrings in orange and pink…a dream dress…or nightmare.

  22. Trish says:

    I agree with all the others that you are a miracle worker, with more patience than I thought humanly possible! It makes my dreaded picky clients seem almost reasonable. Did you ever worry that she would get to the end of the process and decide she didn’t like it after all? You did an amazing job making a wearable dress out of such awful bits and pieces!
    How would the lace gown have been originally worn? I’m asking because it reminds me of a nightgown and negligee set I had for my ‘trousseau ‘ in the early 70′s!

  23. mrsmole says:

    Trish, I never saw the top part of the gown that went with the skirt so I have no idea, The bride cut off the top before i saw it. It could have been quite nice but in a more modest style from the 50′s. The coat was so amazing as it was but it was destined to be slashed and spread around.

  24. TrishB says:

    Sorry, I meant how would the lace coat have been worn?

  25. mrsmole says:

    Sorry Trish, I don’t know that either. It was bought online from a Sorority House in Rhode Island on the East Coast. Maybe the dress beneath it was plain and slinky…we will never know.

  26. theresa says:

    Man, is that one fugly dress. She must be channeling every zombie movie that has been made. Frankensteins bride wouldn’t be caught dead in that. And that lace vest held so much promise….

  27. EasilyAmewsed says:

    You truly have the patience of Job. Agree with the shame of having to mangle that beautiful lace coat.

  28. poppykettle says:

    Wow. That vintage lace coat is absolutely amazing – I pretty much choked when I got to the part you said she wanted to cut it up!! I loved looking through your pinterest board on the evolution of this… creation… and my goodness you created a really beautiful dress in the end!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Poppy, we just do what the clients ask for…whether we like their idea or not…it really isn’t important since they rarely listen to us anyway…ha ha. The coat belonged in a museum, not on Craigslist.

  29. We feel your pain. Every time one of these projects goes out I make a “note to self” to NOT do that again!….. And sometimes the client has film design credits which makes me really wonder.
    -Deb

    • mrsmole says:

      Aren’t the worst clients the ones who announce early in the appointment that they sew or used to sew back in the 70′s? They tell you all about the potholders and table runners and scrap-booking projects they make….and while I am investigating the possibilities for the alterations on the $2000 wedding gown I want to say, “This ain’t scrap-booking”.
      It is like telling my hairdresser that I used to cut my own bangs when I was in high school and that somehow qualifies me along with her…I do not need to have a sewing sisterhood moment with my clients…I have 40+ years of experience and clients who leave great reviews and presents for me so let’s just leave it at that…I will do your dress proud and if you don’t think so…please see someone else and take your chances or do it yourself…your way. Thanks for visiting, Deb, we all appreciate some sympathy for our craft and the difficulties it brings…Bless you!

  30. Caroline B says:

    I hope you got paid enough for a new car out of this because you certainly deserve it! Don’t take this wrong because I mean no disrespect to your skills, but I think her “dream” is more of a nightmare. The finished product doesn’t invoke any oohs or aws from me. I think it’s ugly and a monstrosity.

    • mrsmole says:

      It will probably look better with hair ornaments/veil and lace shoes and jewelry so I am looking forward to that. It is a good thing I don’t have to like or approve of my client’s projects as my own personal preferences and prejudices would create havoc with my business and client reviews. If all were smooth sailing I’d have never have started a blog and it is too much fun sharing the reality of the sewing room with all of you. Hobby sewers never get to see this side of the trade and it is great to share in someone else’s challenges and triumphs! Thank you for dropping by, Caroline.

  31. June says:

    OMG… What a massive undertaking. Incredible. More rum and diet pepsi, please! All the different colors of white and ivory really stood out to me, too.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, June….different eras, different hues, different shapes…but to her eyes…it was perfect…and I was paid and I could get on with the other wedding gowns…Makes you appreciate a simple gown with a bustle!!!!

  32. sewruth says:

    And the winner in the ‘Add some, remove some, add it back again” Category is Mrs Mole!!!! Hurray!

  33. mrsmole says:

    Ha ha…Oh Ruth, each time I called the bride to say…”your dress is ready, your dress is finished”…she would show up with more stuff and ideas for extra things…I did have a few days when I stared at the dress and thought I wish I had never said YES in the beginning. Another lesson learned!

  34. Andrea says:

    Lord, have Mercy!! You have the patience of Job, Mrs. Mole. I hope you charged mightily. ;-)

  35. A fine example of Narcissistic Delusional Dress Disorder, Bohemian Subtype. You have the patience of Job to put up with it. Thanks for pushing on through–and documenting it so thoroughly–so that you can share it with your fascinated blog readers! Elizabeth

  36. CarmencitaB says:

    I’m pretty impressed, as I always am when reading your blog, you managed to make a good dress out of all these ideas and their subsequent changes. In the end, she does have what she wants. But I am even more impressed that you managed to keep your cool up until the end.

  37. mrsmole says:

    Had to have a good drive and a good scream but all I wanted was for it to head out the front door…it seemed to take forever to get to that point! Thanks for your comments, Carmencita!

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