It’s a “Simple Hem”

Bridesmaids lie.

They call for an appointment late after having their dress for weeks. “Yes”, they tell the bride…”I will get my dress (from internet Hell) altered in plenty of time for your wedding.” Well, the dresses get ordered 6 months in advance from China, all in the wrong sizes and then a week before the wedding, guess who calls to say all she needs is a simple hem?

This week 2 lovelies showed up with the basic chiffon over polyester dresses and one was 4 months pregnant and the other 6 months pregnant .

One dress had enough fabric in the side seams and zipper area to let out to get 2 inches all around and did not need a patch…good thing since we were not shortening the dress so there would have been no matching fabric.

But the other was shortened and patched.P1170516P1170515


The new side panels were 2 layers of polyester with the chiffon layer over the top. The original 16 inch lapped zipper was replaced with a 20 inch invisible zipper to get more fabric involved to allow the hip area to expand enough. Here the dress was tried on and the top area is to be narrowed to make it tight while allowing the middle to expand.P1170506


Here it is pinned narrower and the finished project:


Luckily the chiffon skirt will cover the lower edge and while many of you may think this does not look so wonderful, it does serve the purpose and the dresses will all look the same from the front for the photos and the bridesmaid will be able to breath and dance without ripping open her zipper or side seams. I believe in making these custom patches just what the girl needs and not do fancy things since it is a wear-once dress.

Other “simple hems” needed this week are 3 lace babes…let’s start with how this works. Scalloped lace hems that cannot be shortened at the top have to be cut and re-attached higher up so first I fold out the fabric and measure the amount in total and that is what the distance is for each motif to move up. Here is one that was folded 1.5 inches for a total of 3 in the end:close-up-hem

Then the lace edge will be cut like this one:lace-cut Then the lace will be overlapped and basted to be tried on later.lace-overlapped The top of the new lace edge will be attached using invisible thread on the top and regular polyester in the bobbin…using a zigzag or straight stitch and embroidery foot. But some lace is so thick I would not dare use the machine.

See this one is more like real thick cotton crocheted lace and I had to remove it like the rest but totally hand sew every single edge before trimming away the back.close-up-hem-2close-up-hem-3

My thumb has been slid under the original lack skirt on the wrong side to show how much I leave behind as a stabilizing technique.

I can’t say thank you enough to the seamstresses who have written to me this week with strange stories about “their” brides and their requests. It makes me realize I am not alone in this crazy world and the constant quotient is the outlandish comments by brides and their mothers…enough to make us want to throw up our hands and shout when they announce they may go and buy a second “back-up” dress when their dream dress does not make them look taller, skinnier and busty enough. Personally, I would add: “And make sure this new one fits!”

As June approaches and those of you settling into a nice Memorial Day of bar-be-ques and outdoor adventures…may all your hems be simple ones….really simple!!!

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40 Responses to It’s a “Simple Hem”

  1. Colleen says:

    I was glad to see your “invention” with changing to an invisible zipper and inset to meet the need. My response to such need has been to put in a corset and remove all or part of the zipper. A recent bridesmaid promised herself to lose 30 lbs before the dress arrived and that did not happen…so she was also a depressed client to work with….! I can generally fix the dress easier than you can fix the self-esteem issues!! Making a corset inset is easier if there are removable straps that are not needed and a color that can be matched. David’s bridal will sell swatches and other companies a yard and charge a fee for rush shipping. With your time schedule that was not possible and I was very impressed but that information might help someone else. This generation that does not sew think you can do magic and in just a few minutes!… However many do see it as “magic” and are very appreciative which keeps us sewing! I love a good finished product! Thanks for sharing….I feel your pain …and eye strain…..with the lace hems…..!! I generally resort to hand sewing because I can not seem to maintain good control with my machine keeping everything flat and skip the “thick” places! Keep sewing and keep sharing! Colleen

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Coleen…I did try to convince the bridesmaid a corset would be better but she just wanted to look like the rest of the girls…really? 6 months pregnant and sticking way out in front? Not all my machine lace hems work out great…and I end up cutting the bobbin threads to let the laces “relax”…then I wish I had just done them by hand in the first place…ha ha…we never learn! If I didn’t have an Ott light and good glasses I would not be able to do any of they tricky hems…some days I feel like doubling the fees just for the hassle…know what I mean?

  2. Marsha says:

    I am amazed that you’ve dealt with brides and bridesmaids for all these years without throttling at least one of them. Or are you as talented in disposing of bodies as you are with sewing?

  3. mrsmole says:

    Oh Marsha…if only I could make them disappear! A funny thing happened this week, remember the pageant queen bride last year that I worked for months getting her pageant dress converted to a wedding gown?
    Well, she went to a sister seamstress in town to ask for some custom work and she said she should come to see me and the bride said…”Oh I’m afraid I gave her too much trouble last year when she was creating my wedding gown…it was perfect but i dare not go back.” I find a rum and Diet Pepsi makes most things tolerable after 5 pm.

    • Monique says:

      Well, she makes for a wonderful review after all your pains! It can be nice, when things come full circle and you can sort of knot that adventure off, so to speak.

      • mrsmole says:

        It was a real hoot to hear she recounts her time as troublesome…looking back at the photos I want to scream….ha ha!

  4. Don’t know how you do what you do! Thank goodness for the genuinely nice, wonderful clients that – hopefully – make up for those clueless ninnies!

    Hope the worst of the bridal season is nearly behind you 😉

    • mrsmole says:

      We are right in the middle of the season as it lasts until Dec. So far I have sewn on 17 bridesmaids/prom dress and 25 brides…way more to come!!!! June, July and Aug are booked solid! Can’t take a breath or day off until at least Nov….can’t complain!

  5. Tee says:

    My sister-in-law ordered a “custom made” gown from China for $200 and $85 to have it rush shipped. Of course she called me when she couldn’t zip the dress past her hips. She called them to complain and they told her to take to to a seamstress. When she finished crying to me, I said why didn’t you just ask me to make the dress. She said “I don’t know why I didn’t think of you.” Oh yeah, but you thought of me to fix this mess!!!!!! The dress was pretty but the materials were so cheap! a polyester taffeta with a tulle over skirt and lace appliques tacked (barely sewn) all over the bodice and skirt. When I inspected the dress, there were at least 3″ of fabric in all of the seams. That made for an easy fix for me. I told her that in the future if she had a dress “custom made” they would need more than 3 measurements!!!!! I didn’t have any other nightmares this year, thank God!!!!!! Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad to know I’m not alone.

  6. mrsmole says:

    Those China dresses can have 3 inches of seams inside…a bonus for us for sure but that fabric they use is “wear once” Even the cleaning instructions say “Don’t wash…Don’t dry clean…spot clean”…and then they might as well say…THROW AWAY! You are not alone, Tee….we are all in this together…ha ha. Thanks for sharing your SIL’s story…live and learn!

  7. ‘ a simple hem’ ! it seems those words are universal to bridesmaids no matter what country you live in …. They rarely are ‘simple’ !!!

    • mrsmole says:

      But as soon as they stand in front of the “magic mirror” they start the grocery list of other things they think they “need”…the hem is the starting point…ha ha!

  8. Lydia says:

    Here is another one: ” just a bit needs taken up under the arms”. How many times have I gone through this?????

    • mrsmole says:

      And no thoughts about all the boning and lining that are attached under there…so simple….that’s why I do adjusting at the zipper…one seam, no boning…

  9. theresa says:

    I hate hemming, no nice way of putting and I am in awe and envy of your hemming and altering expertise! What I just don’t understand is why ugly bridesmaid dresses at all since they are wear once garments. Truly there has got to be a better solution. And thank you for another wonderfully fun and informative post. June (and her friend July), is just around the corner! Oh Joy!

    • mrsmole says:

      Hemming is a drag but in wedding dresses it can be a real art form. Some high end dresses actually have a 2 inch wide strip of scalloped lace as hem tape inside. It is a nice break from the usual horsehair braid and way softer. Hems are nightly hand sewing…things I do in the middle of the night when I can’t run the machines. A wise woman told me once that the hem says many things about a seamstress and much thought has to go into them…I hear her voice when I come to that point in the garment.

  10. accordion3 says:

    My SIL got engaged. I offered to make her dress, she said yes, we went pattern & fabric browsing. She also tried on dresses & bought the standard strapless fluffy piece of cr^£, also made in China. She was sniffy about homemade clothing. The dress was too tight but had a back laced corset so she figured she just “had to lose a few kilos” & it would be OK. Instead of losing 2 kilos she gained 10! (Roughly 2.2 pounds to the kilo).
    6 weeks prior to the wedding, She crash diets & loses 5. The dress shop (sensibly) have an airtight contract that includes measurements & weight taking at he time of ordering. They put in a new super wide gusset behind the laces & open them up to the max. The dress was still incredibly tight but it did stay on. Me? I was asked to do the alterations but stated emphatically that I don’t alter clothes.
    The alterations cost almost as much as the dress, totaling triple what it would have cost me to make it for her.

    • mrsmole says:

      Good for you, Winifred! We really are not here to pick up the pieces and make magic are we? Clever of the store to weigh their clients and take measurements…WOW! Maybe next time dear SIL will change her mind and watch her pennies and ask you in plenty of time???or maybe not…ha ha. If the Chinese ads showed how the dresses REALLY fit no one would buy them…so they have darling models and great photography.

      • Monique says:

        Would it create a commercial international war if someone put up a site with the real thing as you describe them? This is all such a waste! Hard-working people put their energies into making what comes down to unworthy, ugly throw-aways. Surely, they must have professional pride too, and feel frustrated about not having means and opportunity to deliver good work? It makes me sad. The good thing that comes out of all this, is that they hopefully get to eat, and you seamstresses work with them to create something more worthy of everyone’s efforts.

  11. sewbussted says:

    Although I no longer do this, thankfully I might add :), you are by no means alone. Maybe we could have a convention for everyone who has ever dealt with brides and bridesmaids. We could entertain each other with our crazy stories, maybe a contest for the most unbelievable bride!!!

  12. CarmencitaB says:

    I just saw this picture and thought of you. Be warned, copies will show up in your Atelier.

    • mrsmole says:

      Isn’t that just the perfect veil for dragging through the forest for a rural wedding? Reminds me of those beach cleaning screen devices that drag the top of the sand of cigarette butts and wrappers and bottles. Guess this one did the same…butts and rappers…the less we see of these people the better off the world will be.

  13. prttynpnk says:

    Ok, further proof that brides hate their attendants! 2 preggers forced to wear Moby Dick grey chiffon!!!!!

  14. mrsmole says:

    Then they make them wear brown vinyl cowboy boots from Target to go with them…hideous!

    • prttynpnk says:

      By the way, my eventual novel about the seedy underbelly of southern hostesses will be now be called ‘Bridesmaids lie’ ……I will remember you in the deduction!

      • mrsmole says:

        Mr. Mole, who is a professional writer, said I nailed the intro….ha ha…but they do lie on the phone…otherwise they would never get an appointment!!!! Simple hem, my ass.

  15. This all sounded so familiar. I no longer do is ‘rush jobs’. Anyone wanting anything in under 7 days is told that there will be a premium on the fee. That at least means that if I take the job I am suitably rewarded for it. It also has the benefit of ensuring they turn up early for any future jobs to save the extra cost!

    • mrsmole says:

      I wish I had the guts to ask for more money that way….maybe one day and I will remember you said so, Kim!

      • It really has cut down the ‘last minute’ merchants. Their lack of planning is not my crisis unless I make it so. And at least if I take the job I am well rewarded for it. The caller late last night was turned down politely but firmly – a ‘small alteration’ needed on Saturday (which gives 2 days at best) – we all know what they look like!

  16. Valerie says:

    I saw (and touched) a Vera Wang wedding dress once. It was so beautiful I could have wept. How can anyone get married in polyester?????
    Your stories amaze me.

    • mrsmole says:

      The difference in price from a David’s gown and a silk Vera Wang could almost pay for a nice honeymoon…so cost probably rules the day. I have worked on some polyester dresses last year that I swear were silk …slubs and all…great texture and feel and weight…but most are not like that and some even say you can wash them in a machine…imagine!

  17. June says:

    You’re absolutely right that the alteration serves its purpose–and serves it well! The lace hem is amazing, magickal, I swear! And the pageant princess was too ashamed of her behavior to go back to you?!? There is hope in this world yet.

  18. Azar Lo says:

    Mrs. Mole, may I ask you a question about the scalloped edge hem? The bottom part motif that you reattach, do you cut it straight, or, follow the design of the lace? Any additional information you can include will be greatly appreciated. I have to do this for the first time and your post was the only thing I found on the Internet.

    • mrsmole says:

      As you can see in the photos, I cut along the top edge of the lace border so when it is sewn back down higher up, it will just look like the original edge. Most lace borders have a “high point” opposite the scallop below. I just use the high point as my guide. Once the lace border is cut, then I just slide the high point straight up in it’s new position…it can be 4 inches higher or 8 inches higher depending on the bride. I hope your project will be simple enough! Write to me privately for more help or see my Pinterest page.

  19. Mrs Musso says:

    Oh my gosh ladies, all of your comments ring so true!! My current bridezilla wanted her dress shorter as she was afraid she would trip over it. I did it to the length SHE wanted. At the final try-on she was ecstatic. However, she then tried it on at home in front of family and everyone must have commented on how short it was at the front (2 inches off the floor at the center front, HOWEVER that was her request) she then called me in floods of tears wanting it rectified. I have come across this page looking for advice on how add length to the lace hem, the type with a scalloped edge. There really isn’t anything on the dress to let it down by. Luckily I have kept all the off cuts from the hem and train so have been manically researching how to invisibly sew lace. I am panicking and stressing so much about getting enough length back on and crucially that it won’t be visible to the bride (or anyone else) and it is good to know I am not alone, and that people like yourselves are out there to advise how to do this. I was at the point of completely jacking in the wedding dress alterations because sometimes it just feels like it isn’t worth the hassle or stress. Then I read this and realised I am not alone! I now feel I can do this…. Thanks ladies x

  20. Mrs Musso says:

    P.S this is not the only time I have felt like packing it all in due to a bridezilla, nightmare mother in law or bridesmaid. But we fix it in the end. You couldn’t even make it up! The things people say to you when you have only done what they asked. They are horrendous.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Mrs Musso…there are some really crappy days and drama days and then when you come across a bride who asks opinions of 5 different people and gets 5 different answers. So much of my work is making up stuff on the fly…like are there really any decent books out there to deal with insane requests? I say no. Every day you have to make up new solutions and sew all night to get them done and make sure the bride does not gain or lose weight or change shoes to cowboys boots and then back to flats or barefoot…princesses…some days they just need a good slap of “woop-ass”. Thankfully we do get paid for all this chaos!!! And for me there is always a rum and Diet Pepsi waiting! Thanks for wishes for a solution!!!

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