Before I share this story of the princess bride I will apologize in advance to those women who have lived through the business of beauty pageants and beauty competitions and emerged unscathed…this girl didn’t.
I should have seen the red flags…there were plenty…first I was sent over 20 photos of “dream gowns” all with different features she wanted for her dream dress. Some had huge poofy skirts of floating tulle, lace and beaded bodices, deep V fronts, deep plunging backs, barely there side straps and all tight, tight, tight. When asked what she actually wanted in her dress so we could narrow it down her answer was “ALL of it!”
This client was given a white pageant gown circa 2009 from a friend that was made by a famous man in the area who specializes in pageant gowns. Supposedly the first pageant princess, her friend, paid $10,000 for it. Only one word for it, RIP-OFF. Once I agreed to help this girl attain her dream dress and incorporate all the features and fitting we pinned and pinned and discussed…she did not know the word “compromise”.
Here is what we started with: then I took the whole thing apart and found this: a hula hoop of wire in the netting hem and this: an old strapless bra sewn with the cups edges together and this: a center front wad of fabric and this: jagged edged netting with pieces hanging off from this petticoat and all of this smelled bad and was dirty which was strange since I was told it had never been worn. So I hand washed every section and found the wash water to be very brown…also strange but at least the color was brighter and fresher and I could flatten out every piece and start out right.
The nasty weird bra was removed, the hula hoop removed and lower partial satin flounce skirt was turfed. I got down to basics of just getting the bodice fitting right. Hand baste every new seam to start and do a try-on. Adding a new diagonal bust dart to flatten out the center front bulge and then we got closer: You can see what we have is something like a skin tight swim suit with a skirt lining…I cut patches for the side gaps, a new lining and added 20 yards of 72 inch wide folded and mini pleated tulle to the skirt lining. Still we grappled/
argued about straps. Her boyfriend did not want straps but I insisted that this garment even with all new boning would not stand up on it’s own and what she had was essentially an apron…a front and a skirt. She bought beaded embroidered lace ($129 a yard) and beaded embroidered flowers on organza straps as a solution.
Here I am mini pleating 20 yards of tulle: Now for the fun job…wrap and stitch yards of this to the lining. Her hips measure 36 inches/one yard so imagine 20 yards wrapped in 4 layers to create the magical poof she wants: So far it looks like one of the photos she gave me…fingers crossed she likes it!
But at the next try-on…bad news…we need more poof so she trots off to buy 9 more yards and this time it has to be folded so that we have instead of 4 layers pleated, it has to be 9 layers all mini pleated and stitched exactly 8 inches below the last layer of tulle to give a more horizontal poof…of course, how silly of me! So back to the machine and crank out 9 layers of folded tulle for her majesty. and we get this: Along the way the side patches were attached and zigzagged down and all new longer boning installed and all seams pinked and a new invisible zipper put in.
Patches in place, reshaped top bodice, and stitched flat they would all be covered with the lace: The straps have been moved to the very edge of the bodice so that they really do not hold up the dress, merely remain decorative. Mr Mole wandered into the sewing room and said, “Even though I am just a man, even I can see that those straps are not going to hold the dress up for a whole wedding.” But at this point after months or trying to convince the bride she needs real straps in a real good position…she says no.
The center back zipper has the lace all hand stitched to the edges and not included in the seam. The lower center back seam is a larger motif lapped over and stitched down to match all the rest and not look like it was machined like the rest.
In fact, every 2 inches the entire lace panel has been attached to the satin bodice underneath because she could not even expect to wear a dress with a lace overlay with any sort of bulge or drape or ease….so inside I hand attached like tailoring catch/pad stitches to a lapel every bit of that lace from top to bottom in a grid-like pattern and then attached the lace scalloped edge to the top of the tulle skirt as she requested so it never rides up…hell it has no place to go anyway!
Here we are, lined, understitched and strap attached to 3/8 inch wide grosgrain ribbon for strength then attached to the dress as far from the center as possible…almost front and back straps are joined together in her armpit!
Today is the day for pick-up and payment! I have had this dress since April when she had not even been engaged and held unto to it unto August when he finally asked and gave her a ring, then we had one month to create this dream dress for a princess. Along the way I was told to smooth down every layer of tulle to make sure she needed more and more poof, and was spoken to like I was her personal slave seamstress. Her mother was no help and she only could say, “give her whatever she wants”…this being the phrase uttered for the past 25 years I’m sure. Every fitting included more and more special spectators who would fuss her and tell her she was the most beautiful bride they had ever seen. This bride got everything she wanted in the end and says she is going to find a huge beaded belt with a huge bow to slap on this dress as well since it needs MORE! The shoes for this dainty dress will be very well used brown suede camping knee high boots…yes crappy camp boots…go figure.
At the last fitting she told me that I should have felt privileged because she GAVE me the opportunity to work on a masterpiece. OH LORDIE! Being pressed for time as I still had 2 more late September brides to finish I asked her if she would give me an extra week to get them done and finish her dress after theirs since her wedding was not for 3 weeks and her answer was NO….”It would be too stressful for me as it will take 2 weeks alone just to pick out what jewelery to wear with my dress”. Ahhh pageant princesses are a different breed raised in a different culture where they have adoring fans, great prizes and trophies, crowns and sashes to fill their rooms.
One side story to this is that because this bride decided on a custom dress she missed “the experience” of emerging from the salon dressing room to a cheering crowd of her bridesmaids and family telling her how gorgeous each dress was and how beautiful she would look in each dress she booked herself into try-on sessions at all the local salons with no intention of buying any of them. In fact, she even told one salon owner that I was making her a dress and she needed to have her experience…so the shop owner booked her appointment and let her try on every dress…insane really…again I have only one word for the groom…RUN!
For those of you who may be asked to do something similar… a word of warning….this dress took at least 30 hours of labor, not all of it can be charged and the amount of stress is just not worth it as a bride with this history of high expectations will never really be happy. It is sad but you may decide to say, “I’ll pass, thank you.”