Lesson Learned

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:frontback-with-straps then I took the whole thing apart and found this:circle-wires a hula hoop of wire in the netting hem and this:cups an old strapless bra sewn with the cups edges together and this:inside-front a center front wad of fabric and this:jagged-edge-netting-hem-2 jagged edged nettingjagged-edge-netting-hem with pieces hanging off from this petticoatloose-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.new-seamlinesnew-back-necklineside-alterations Adding a new diagonal bust dart to flatten out the center front bulge and then we got closer:1-pinned1-pinned-with-lining2-pinned-with-lining-skirt3-pinned-back4-lace-overlay9-area-to-be-added11-side-try-on12-back-try-on13-left-side-try-on 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:pleaterpleats 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:13-with-tulle-skirt-front14-with-tulle-skirt-back 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. 26-lower-tulle-ruffle and we get this:15-all-tulle-front 16-all-tulle-back 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.8-new-extensions9-ready-for-stitching-inter2-side4-trimmed

Patches in place, reshaped top bodice, and stitched flat they would all be covered with the lace: 18-lace-top19-lace-front21-lace-pinned-on22-lace-basted-back 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.28-finished-front29-finished-side 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.

30-center-back-zipper 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!

24-lace-attached-to-bodice- Before the lining25-bust-pads-attached with bust pads in place

31-strap 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!

33-hanging-up And the finished project!!!!

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.”

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77 Responses to Lesson Learned

  1. Tia Dia says:

    Y’know, I’d charge her for all your labour PLUS and stress premium of about 20% because she and her mother need to hear the reality music: you wanted a custom gown, dahling. Well, there’s a price to be paid for one-of-a-kind!!!! HA! The dress is gorgeous – all your work always is! And all that work to put a dud of a dress into good condition…. I’m still muttering “eeeew” at the brownish water….. *shudder*

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Tia! Most of the time I like being a clothes detective but sometimes you find way too many “clues” as to it’s previous life!

  2. Marlene says:

    YOU are an impeccable seamstress! All the steps you take to make such a garment are mind boggling. Beautiful work. I’m so impressed with all the projects I have seen. I also have to mention you must be a saint for tolerating this one.

  3. Sewbussted says:

    I agree on the “run buddy, RUN!!!!!!” this woman is going to be nothing but a nightmare. Here is one more reason why the divorce rate is so high. Man! You reminded me of some of my horror stories when I was doing wedding gowns. Actually, I was lucky with me brides, it was the bridesmaids that drove me crazy. I once told a gal that her title was “bridesmaid” and that the emphasis was on maid not bride.

    • mrsmole says:

      Bridesmaids have become the audience for the bride. She needs people to boost her self esteem and convince her she is marrying the right guy…sometimes bridesmaids lie.

  4. Carolyn says:

    You are a saint! This is the exact reason why I don’t do custom work. However, you made an amazing gown for a totally ungrateful customer! Kudos to you!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks for checking in Carolyn…it is a crazy world sewing for others but you learn a lot and it makes you quite inventive as there are few patterns and even less instructions manuals for this type of work.

  5. theresa says:

    Exhausting, simply exhausting. Isn’t it amazing how some people just suck all joy out of life. I wonder if that guy has a clue yet…. You did amazing things with that rag of a garment and I for one appreciate every stitch, every second spent in logistics to get to a really lovely dress. I certainly hope the remaining brides make up for this one, if that is possible. Big hugs, go have a drink…or two.

    • mrsmole says:

      You can believe that a lot of rum and diet Pepsi were seen at the end of those days. Just discovered Bacardi Oakheart rum that has been aged in oak casks and tastes stronger and richer than cheapy generic rum…a step up!

  6. jrp53 says:

    With your skilled hands it is now truly a $10,000 dress. Too bad she will never understand (or pay for) the true value of your work. But the rest of us are just in awe of your talent. Congratulations on getting it finished and getting her out of your fitting room.

  7. Trish says:

    I’m exhausted just reading about it!
    As the others have said, you have the patience of a saint to put up with such rude ‘princesses’!
    Are you going to charge the $1200 worth of time you have put in and does your time include the washing of the disgusting dirty tulle? Some people are truly amazing (and not in a good way) aren’t they?
    You did a beautiful job on the dress, but I am in awe of the fact that you didn’t deck her in the process! You must have been tempted.
    Keep up the good work: you are an inspiration to us all.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well Trish, I’m not getting quite that much but she is the most expensive client I have ever had and people will be gasping at her wedding if not for the lace and sparkle, at least for the crappy camp boots!

  8. Oh my god!!

    I hope she paid well. I don’t understand why you mentioned that there were many hours spent that can’t be charged… Why not?

    • mrsmole says:

      I don’t charge for fitting times and taking in the same seams over and over. I also do things that suit me like basting in the lining to see if it affects the final project and then remove it and sew it in later. I do steps for me which don’t really seem right to charge for. Otherwise, I write every thing they want in a book and when they say they want more, I write that down too and we both agree on the price and labor charge so there is no shock at the end…some brides don’t want to pay for sewing on decorative buttons up the back and either do it themselves or drop the idea.

  9. It didn’t seem as if that sad little dress could be made to look brilliant, but as usual, you’ve done a wonderful job – one that is not going to be adequately appreciated by this selfish little bride. (She had the dress almost 5 months BEFORE HE PROPOSED?! OMG.)

    You’re saint – you’ve done your one good deed for the next century. Pass on the next one you have bad feelings about and don’t feel the least bit obligated or sorry! Beautiful job…too bad it’s wasted on such a client. (She ALLOWED you to work on this fabulous dress?! OMG #2!)

    Take a vacation…you’ve earned it! Hope the rest of your brides are sweethearts!

    • mrsmole says:

      I am taking a few days off to read and nap since I have not seen the light of day nor had a day off since Feb and the knee surgery…Lord knows I need it! Thanks for including some OMG’s…it is hard to imagine such a scenario.

  10. Carolyn Gazerro says:

    Beautiful job! What patience. You reinforced my reason for not opting to do bridal alterations,. What with mother and bride Godzillas. Reminds me of time when daughter was being fitted for bridesmaid gown. The owner/fitter proceeded to take a scissors and simply remove the tulle underlay without even measuring. Ugh. Took lots of patience not to deck her.

    These articles are a good way of venting and payback.

    Notice your Janome. Which model? Mine is 11000SE. Been reading about the 15000 coming out October 1st. Lots of new features. What do you think?

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Carolyn, I still have an 11000 Janome, passed on the 12000 and doubt that I need the 15000 with my work being just bridal I hardly even need a zigzag and I don’t have time nor desire to quilt. Once I quit this crazy business and get down to “me” sewing I may have a sniff around at fancy machines…once I hit 70.

  11. paisleyapron says:

    What an incredible transformation! You worked some magic with that raggy dress and deserve a hefty payment for your hard labor and for putting up with a grown-up spoiled little girl. The stories you tell….love every word. Much better than the celebrity gossip columns.

    • mrsmole says:

      Do you think we need a gossip sewing magazine??? Can we call it SEW or SEAMS instead of OK or Star? Thank you for your kind remarks!

  12. Marty says:

    Carolyn: The story about the tulle underlay reminded me of seeing Vera Wang lop off the sleeves of one of Michelle Kwan’s skating costumes because Michelle felt constricted! I was a volunteer at Nationals, and Vera just asked us for a pair of scissors and cut them off just before Michelle went to skate. That took cojones!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Funny, I just read an article about the Y generation and how they will never be happy because they’ve been told over and over that they are special.

    • mrsmole says:

      I want to say, “Hey Girlie, there will be no mirrors at your wedding, you are the star and that is enough, after the day is over the reality is you will be washing men’s dirty underwear.” The teller at the back added a little extra to that and she says, “You will never fit in your gown again and the rest of your days you will be covered with baby poop.”

    • Alicia says:

      I do feel the need to speak up here and say not all of us are like that. If anyone I knew behaved like this bride did, I’d be tempted to deck them myself. No matter what we were told as children, there will always be people who think they know best or deserve everything. That doesn’t mean they represent the whole generation! 🙂 I, for one, am a huge fan of Mrs. Mole’s and am constantly astounded at the work she does for these ungrateful people, and I’d like to think most of the people I know would too, if they knew anything about sewing.

      • mrsmole says:

        Hey Alicia, your recent closet clean-out deserves high praise and your sewing ambitions do too! I know plenty of 29 year old brides who do not act like this one so I think the past pageant experiences have made her a bit demanding. We will chalk it up to that and excuse her…maybe wearing all those heavily encrusted diamond tiaras has done something to her cranium…we just can’t begin to imagine.

      • Carolyn Gazerro says:

        Alicia,
        That’s the clue. They have no clue as to what expertise and time goes into sewing a quality piece of clothing.

  14. You are a true professional! People don’t understand what goes into custom clothing. I still want to sew for others, but we have to be on the same page. I used to do everything with verbal contracts, but going forward, I WILL get everything in writing. There will be no endless alterations or extra work without compensation UNLESS I choose to do it. Ungrateful and rude clients just make it bad for everyone. Glad you got through it and I hope you’re well compensated for your gorgeous work!

    • mrsmole says:

      I learned this year to write down everything on each bride’s page in a book. It keeps me on task and then there are no shocks at the end. They can even change their mind and drop some things if the budget gets tight. Thanks, Polyanna for checking in!

  15. June says:

    Wow, just wow. You have done amazing work. I still think you could have incorporated the belt loops into the final design somehow. 😉

  16. Sri says:

    Love your blog.
    Wouldn’t it be much easier for these brides to simply buy loads of fabric and get it made into a dress from scratch, rather than completely taking one apart and creating something completely different altogether?!?!

    • mrsmole says:

      I suggested we start from scratch but OH NO…it had to be that dress for some reason to be the basis for her creation. Just makes it harder for me.

  17. robindrush says:

    Can she sit down in that dress? She’ll probably spend all day trying to keep it in place. BRIDEZILLAS are the worst — too much focus on the wedding and themselves — instead of focusing on the marriage. The groom is just a prop is most cases.

    • mrsmole says:

      I made her sit down and I could hear the zipper teeth screaming and the side seams wail…but she has been warned. her greatest thrill is doing the twist and seeing all 29 yards of tulle go one way while the rest of her dress goes the opposite direction. I told he this will tear her lace scalloped edges from the top of the tulle skirt but she will do what she wants…poor dear!

    • Carolyn Gazerro says:

      My question is with all the hoop la in planning the wedding is “Will it last?. What happened to planning a wedding incorporating the needs of the guests. When my daughter got married 10 years ago she wanted such a wedding and it turned out to be elegant but not stuffy and distance and comfort of guests was very important, A quote from her husband ten years later….” If we ever “consider splitting, I get to keep the wife.”

  18. mrsmole says:

    Yes, June you are RIGHT I could have attached them at the hip so she could have her mirror and cell phone dangling…perfect accoutrements for her special day! You made me laugh!

  19. Monique says:

    Goodness! It went from bad to worse, reading your story. And why not charge for every minute? Lawyers and accountants do. And if it doesn’t work on the day, it’s because SHE designed it and went wrong overriding your technical experience.
    You made the proverbial silk purse with this one!
    She’ll probably get divorced within the year.
    Have fun on the other dresses. 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Funny you should mention divorce, Monique, the bank teller asked if I ever get an inkling into trouble ahead for these brides…yes, all the time! I have to keep my prices competitive so for now I don’t charge for fitting and fussing time…wish I could!

  20. Debbie says:

    Having owned a fine fabric store I know of those people. If you had charged for every minute and the sleep you lost over thinking about dealing with this “princess”, they would have had another story to tell regarding how much they had to pay for that custom made dress. At least they won’t have that pleasure. God bless you for holding your tongue.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Debbie for reminding me that other services are dealt such a harsh blow as well. We always want the customer to have a pleasant experience and 9 times out of 10 they do and they tell their friends.

  21. Sarah says:

    I’d hold onto the dress until the cheque (check) clears into your account! 🙂 I love reading your blog and your work is awesome

  22. Meigan says:

    Mrs. Mole you are a saint and a miracle worker. Have you ever had repeat brides? And if this one were to come back (after the groom takes your advice and runs) would you accept the job?

    You are right, this make a great blog post!

  23. mrsmole says:

    I would never accept this bride knowing what I know now and I hope that my other local sewing sisters would steer clear of her too! I have never had a repeat bride but I have had brides this year doing wedding number 2 and 3…sometimes you don’t find Mr. Right the first or second time around.

  24. You really are so much better at biting your tongue than me. I think I would have put that madam out with half a dress for that attitude. God help the groom.
    Take a bow, and enjoy your few days break – you deserve them.

  25. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Miss Kim…love your finished Islander jacket and the story about the buttonholes and topstitching! http://themateriallady.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/islander-jacket-express-finished/

  26. Valerie says:

    This is a scream. What an entertaining post. I think you should charge for every seam and every minute of work. This Bridezilla obviously thinks you only have to wave your wand and the ball gown, pumpkin coach and courtiers will appear.

  27. sewexhausted says:

    Wow… you have the patience of a SAINT. My hat is off to you! ~Laurie

  28. BeaJay says:

    Wow – great result – got to ask – is it all worth it? I would want to kill!

    • mrsmole says:

      At this time in my life I have to earn a salary and take the bitter with the sweet so thank God most clients are nice and hug me when we are done…not this cookie!

  29. Kat says:

    OMFG. I think you have done a beautiful job creating something to her specifications from such a woeful original dress. But really, I’m just astounded by her demands. And the assumption that you would feel privileged to work on this dress…

    I sewed my own wedding gown (imperfect, but it did the job). I love my photos, my dress didn’t break the bank or my mental health, and only other sewists might notice the imperfections. This woman has spent so much energy on the details that there is no way she’s looking at the big picture of marriage. I feel bad for her husband – if she had the dress before she had a fiance, it’s clear what is most important to her!

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes the groom is just the backdrop for her. She also told me to save every sequin and tiny pearl that had to be removed so that she could string them into a necklace…yeah right. It was weird having a dress without a fiance and I had my fingers crossed that he would not propose this year. But she also said if she got married it could not be in a month with a holiday as it had to be her month alone…bizarre! And she says there are no children allowed at the reception because children have to be taken home early and she will not allow anyone to leave early…controlling? You bet!

      • Valerie says:

        What a megalomaniac. This has the makings of a great movie. Where the groom comes to his senses and dumps her at the last minute for someone more worthy.

  30. eumoronorio says:

    wow, just wow. I went to the salon (only one) to try on dresses. I tried on two, fell in love with the second and sat in the dressing room with a glass of champagne and my dress clipped on while my three bridesmaids tried on tons of dresses trying to agree on a style. They then wanted to drag me to three other shops to look at dresses because they wanted to try on more dresses. Silly me for wanting them to pick a dress they liked. I wanted to keep things simple and stress-free so I could enjoy my wedding with friends rather than feeling like a statue who couldn’t eat her own cake! Three different kinds of cheesecake and a hummingbird cake if you were wondering!

  31. Mr Mole says:

    I witnessed this horrible ordeal and can tell you all that, if anything, it was worse than Mrs Mole has described. My modest role was to share the dread of this client’s next appointment. I see how hard Mrs Mole works every day to make things just right for her brides. Thank goodness the vast majority of them are so appreciative and usually end up throwing their arms around her for a big hug before they leave.

  32. ElleC says:

    Oh my dear sainted Mrs Mole! What torture! I truly don’t know how you do it, not the sewing part, the keeping your mouth shut part. It has only gotten more difficult as I have gotten older to curb my tongue, when I was younger I might have been able to STFU, now no way. You deserve payment for that alone. It is truly unfortunate that this bride will never know or appreciate the work you did, but all of your adoring fans do.

    Is there anyway you could sneak into the reception (incognito, of course) to watch her make an ass of herself and watch her dress fall down or split open or …………? Oh yeah and take pictures.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Elle, the Lord prepared me for a life of sewing for clients by giving me a load of patience so I could STFU when needed. Having my Mr. Mole as a sounding board does help. The wedding reception is an hour away in a forest but the bride says she is sending me photos…any chance to show off and she jumps at it! I feel sorry for the bridesmaids not being able to leave the venue until they are officially released…talk about being taken hostage!

  33. Alethia says:

    Whew, I’m exhausted just reading all you had to do with this gown! I am all too familiar with this kinda bride~uggghhh!! You deserve so much more than what you are getting for this gown. As one other person commented~ it’s custom-made and you gave her everything she wanted, plus some. She will never understand how much you pay close attention to every detail on the inside as well as the outside…all of your fitting time….I can go on and on….I just want to choke her to life ( and her mama, too)~ I’m sorry, FLASHBACK …. lol!
    Now that I got that off my chess, you did a superb job!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you my sewing sistah in Georgia! Looking through a sequence of sewing photos can really give us the feeling of being there and all the thinking that goes into each section and the planning and ripping and re-doing just to make the client happy…they seem to have a weird sense of something being better if you move it 1/8 inch…how does that work? Just the handwork alone tacking tacking and more tacking so that it fit like skin…whew! Then she picks up the dress and announces she is having her reception an hour away from town in a forest…OK so secretly I am wishing for rain in 2 weeks which is very possible and here in the Northwest we get plenty of thunder and lightening as well…you never can predict good weather in Oct can you?

  34. Elizabeth C says:

    Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. There’s nothing I can add here except my diagnosis — Delusional Bridal Gown Disorder, Severe Episode, Narcissistic Subtype, with Incongruous Features (those boots) and Relational Problem (the fiance). Wow. Thanks for sharing!

  35. carmencitabs says:

    I am not surprised the groom took so much time to propose, he had to be coaxed no doubt!

  36. prttynpnk says:

    That man will never be good enough. He’d better realize now that for the rest of his life whatever he brings to the table will just be passé. Because she NEEDS MORE POOF!!!!!

  37. Ruth says:

    It’s not often that I’m rendered speechless, but in this case ” !”
    Firstly, the work you have invested into this and secondly the demands placed upon you. I can’t help feeling a little sanctimonious at this point however, the wedding is for one day only but the marriage is for years. Which is more important?

  38. mrsmole says:

    No question, Ruth….her special day when she can emerge from the forest looking like she is floating on a cloud…don’t all brides want such an entrance…or is it Venus rising from the sea?

  39. Oh dear. I really hope you got paid well in the end

  40. Sewellen says:

    Fabulous work, I really appreciate all the custom detail photos. A BELT?? And Crappy boots?? Oh lordy! I used to do cakes for people, birthdays and weddings, and it’s the same there, too. Some brides really appreciate your work, while others….seesh! I hope you were compensated well!

  41. mrsmole says:

    Did the brides think by adding more roses, frosting etc would add to the deliciousness? And do bakers add for more of everything at the bride’s request or just say, “the hell with it, just do it” and not charge?

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