Be Careful What You Wish For

A couple weeks ago, I said to Mr. Mole that with all I had stacked up for July, the 8 brides and additional bridesmaids and custom sewing, I could use a whole week to myself with no clients.

Then the universe sent me a mean sore throat which turned into a nasty cold which turned into a gut-wrenching cough that landed me in the Saturday clinic at the hospital. After x-rays and a thorough listening to my lungs the verdict was “acute bronchitis”. At least I now had a reason why I could cough non-stop day and night and not get better. With the 2 prescriptions of steroid tablets and codeine laced cough syrup, things are better.

In the meantime, during this recovery phase, I have been getting inside some complicated bridal gowns to solve problems. Somewhere “up North” there is/are Cambodian dressmaking shops where one goes to be measured and then 7,600 miles away silk is cultivated and cut and made into wedding dresses and formal wear. But somewhere along the way, something happens to the measurements…like they disappear into the mists because the garments then arrive back here and the local shop has to alter them.

My latest bride did not buy her Cambodian silk wedding gown new…she found it in a consignment shop complete with sweat stains up top and water marks on the hem. She did ask a dry cleaners if they would get the stains out and they said they were afraid if they started, the dress would disintegrate…lovely! She decided that what she liked about the dress and then paid someone to change the one thing that didn’t/shouldn’t need changing…the length of the zipper. What started it’s life as a 18-20 inch invisible Swan brand zipper was shortened to a 8 inch length…we are talking center back zipper here…not a fly front crotch one! So the seamstress did what she was told but instead of shortening from the bottom and just sewing the center back seam up higher and letting the zipper dangle inside or secure the bottom teeth with thread and cut it off, she removed it, moved it up and then tucked the entire rest of the zipper under at the top edge leaving a nice lump/speed bump. In moving the zipper up, the matching sides of the bias ruffles had no place to go so she dropped them lower and lower which distorted the butt area and made the remaining ruffles stick out like a point. Now the bride had her tiny zipper but with a sort of butt flag waving in the breeze…delightful!

My job, should I accept it, is to eliminate the flag and make all the butt ruffles minimize her backside…sure easy peasy…NOT! Once the ruffles were lifted up 9-center-backyou could see the problem: it had been sewn at least 1.5 inches too low. Now pinned at the correct original level you can see the cut edge that used to be sewn to the zipper and is the issue. It will be darted to lay flat



Where the arrow is pointing is a 1/2 in folded under rolled hem edge made of shiny rayon thread. In fact the entire dress is made of bias strips folded under 1/4 inch at the top and stitched to a base fabric in a spiral pattern and the lower edge is totally rayon rolled hemmed. You can also see that the center seam line is tilted to the left but even letting out the left side seam did not alter the angle.

Inside the dress you can see it’s history and only imagine what happened once it landed back in the US:3-side-seams-lining Some lining seams serged, some altered and chewed off,4-side-seam-lining

lining side seams so tight they are making holes after one wearing,6-side-seam-lining

some side seams 3 inches wide,7-other-side-seam-liningother seams barely there and uneven,

5-bust-points Bust points 5 inches apart with boning running somewhere between bust points and side seams. Now hands up…how many women do you know with their nipples 5 inches apart? Really, 5 inches is the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky…really, ask any old female x-ray tech how to measure for an object centered on an 8 by 10 inch film…you all know your apex to apex measurement from measuring patterns and yourself by now after seeing me work on Nancy’s patterns and custom clothes.

Other issues include the zipper not closing 3 inches from the top…needing more fabric from somewhere, taking in the side seams more at the hips and beyond to be a mermaid shape, adding bust pads and shortening the hems. Now Cambodian dresses are made fronts and backs all ruffled and then stitched together, be they cocktail length or floor length. This means the side ruffles never match…how can they…they are running diagonally all the time.  Here is the hem(s) that need shortening:12-hem-line-back13-front-hem-line14-side-hem-line So how does one shorten all these bias strips to keep the bride from falling but also dancing until 3 am when their band will be let go and NOT cut anything off? Well, Mrs Mole is sure as Hell NOT going to remove the layers and move them all up…so by making horizontal tucks in the base fabric I will be able to raise every layer to the desired floor length. but not all alterations can be so hidden. Here I let out one side seam 1/2 inch and you can see the previous needle marks and darker sweat stains as the new seam allowance is lighter…15-side-seam

Work continues but you get the vague idea of what I am up against:

P1170573P1170574 Ribbon straps are attached while I use the dress form to help me make all the horizontal tucks in the bottom 3 layers. If you can imagine this same dress made over and over in a little sweat shop and the only variation would be cocktail length (above where the ruffles get much deeper) or floor length…this is my 4th dress like this in the past couple years…none fit no matter what the perfect measurements were.

While I wait for the drugs to take over and let me breath more and cough less, I wish you all healthy and happy sewing this week!

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55 Responses to Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. Good heavens…I don’t know how you do it! I think this dress is a good example of how internet commerce is not always a good thing…people order things without knowing what they’re really getting sometimes! I know it will be lovely when you’re finished with it, but my, oh, my! What a project.

    So sorry you’re sick – bronchitis can be a mean thing! Take care of yourself, be pampered and feel better soon!

  2. mrsmole says:

    Thank you for the kind words…just going to bed to let the healing begin….

  3. Sarah says:

    Get well soon Mrs Mole!

  4. Monique says:

    Get well soon! This doesn’t sound as all like a fun week off.
    And what a train wreck this dress is. A simple, new and CLEAN dress would surely be more appreciated, you’d think, and probably cheaper than all your time doing alterations.
    That said, your health is always more important, so I hope you get better quickly and can enjoy a normal week off.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Monique and I wish you a glorious summer season too…it must be beautiful there in the Netherlands with flowers!

      • Monique says:

        June is a beautiful month with the roses in bloom everywhere, and with luck, smelling nicely too. So colourful! And no extreme temperatures at present, which is something to be grateful for, as heat=humidity here.
        Get well soon.

  5. A gruesome cough and this dress! You really didn’t do anything bad enough to deserve either. Hope you are feeling much better now.

    • mrsmole says:

      Doing penance in advance may be the answer…maybe in the near future I will have the chance to be naughty…one can only hope! ha ha…Won’t be out running like you and your daughter anytime soon!

  6. accordion3 says:

    Get well soon! I’m guessing your recovery would be quicker if you didn’t have to deal with cheap & sweaty Cambodian silk.

  7. theresa says:

    Yikes, I can’t believe she would buy the gown stained and such and what a whole lot of fussy work. Hope the meds get you on the road to recovery easily and quickly. Looks like July is going to be bumpy, or is that ruffly? 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Ruffly and poufy so stay tuned as you visit the East coast. More lace dilemmas and bustle engineering and in another month I’ll be finishing a dress for Nancy, so a short return to normal life. My sense of taste and smell are gone so eating has no pleasure which has allowed my to lose about 5 pounds…Mr Mole says there HAS to be some bright side to this illness!

  8. sewbussted says:

    What a mess of a dress. The sad thing about it is that she will wear this to her wedding, people will tell her how beautiful she looks while any idea of paying for a quality garment flys out the window. I think this is what upsets me the most, that and the fact that you’ve had to work on this monstrosity while being sick. Hope the drugs have kicked in and that you are feeling better.

    • mrsmole says:

      Some days you are asked to do miracles and re-do someone else’s work, some days you find more than one person has been there before you so you can actually “right a wrong” as with this dress. All the seams inside were uneven, chewed up and mangled…well they will be better when I get done and the zipper will zip up. When brides take over as designers they can make mistakes…this girl certainly did with the zipper and ruffles and I imagine the first seamstress did not do it for cheapy cheapy.

  9. Eileensews says:

    I am always amazed at your ability to fix the disasters that come your way.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  10. Please feel better soon! I had acute bronchitis earlier this year and the coughing is no joke!

  11. Rosemary Coole says:

    Inquiring minds want to know…If this dress can’t be cleaned, is the bride planning to wear it ‘as is’? How do you press this baby without further setting in the sweat?
    Mrs. Mole, I hope you feel better soon. I so enjoy your blog and thanks for the many laughs you have given me.
    Regards, Rosemary

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, some brides can only see themselves at a glorious princess and not thinking people might get close enough to see the worn edges and stains. It is not even done to save money. I will avoid the stains and steam and press every ruffle from the wrong side. If the dry cleaners won’t touch it…that is all I can do. Thanks for joining the discussion, Rosemary!

  12. You are very brave. The silk looks like it has been through more than one lifetime already. all the best and get well soon.

    • mrsmole says:

      Never thought about it but as they say maybe it is not it’s “first rodeo” and it was the result of a divorce or cancellation…bad karma and sweat stains…is it worth it?

  13. I hope you feel better soon – that is no fun. Lots of rest if you can manage it. As for this dress, yikes, who would buy a dress with those icky stains on the inside. I have never heard of this style but it sounds frightening! p.s. that description of seams trimmed and “chewed” had me spit-laugh my coffee this morning. Your writing is so entertaining, and you have a LOT of material to work with 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      What a need is break where I can hang out with like-minded gals and enjoy some sun…know any place like that? Beth, the icky stain are on the outside! Even worse!

  14. Alex Carr says:

    I found your blog last week and started reading from the beginning and I am all caught up. I enjoyed the time travel with you.

  15. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Alex, if there is anything I can help you with, just ask…otherwise I hope I can share laughs with you! Welcome!

  16. lisa deering says:

    I have a wonderful money making idea for you! That is a lovely dress—can you hire someone to make a dozen in a large(ish)size, then sell them on EBay to smaller women with the caveat that they come to you for alterations–that they will pay you for? Since you have to alter their dresses anyway, why not sell them dresses with decent seam allowances and extra fabric —and make them very expensive too? You can make money on the dresses and the alterations—and then retire to travel while you give the rest of us fitting classes at lovely resorts.

    • mrsmole says:

      What a fabulous idea, Lisa! I have thought of offering fitting weekends in my home…you bring the patterns and we fit them to you, muslins and all but the brides take over just when the weather is nice enough for visitors. Brides only want dresses with size 2-6 listed inside…they are obsessed with wanting me to think they would never be a size 10 or 12…all brides are the same to me be they size 0 or 24+ and all clients look the same to me in their underwear, that is the ones who wear undies. If only I could go along with the brides to help them purchase something decent and alterable. I am thinking of making up a booklet online that will show what NOT to buy unless they want to spend extra for pricey alterations…like “what to know before you shop” type of thing with photos.

      • Becky McKee says:

        I would come to a fitting weekend even in the rainy season! Sewing time is the antidote for lack of sunshine.

      • birdmommy says:

        oooh, I’d come for a fitting weekend! If I could get a woven sheath dress fitted correctly, then I could make pretty much anything using it as a starting point.

  17. Tracey Greider says:

    I love to read about your adventures in sewing. I learn something new all the time. I’m so sorry to read you’re sick. Get well soon!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Tracey…soon i will be back with my whip and chair taming the brides and their mothers into reality…well that’s the plan anyway!

  18. prttynpnk says:

    God help you, that is too much work on something that is just too Elsa Lanchester for me! Hydrate, rest and lots of complaining- always helps me!

  19. Elle C says:

    Oh you poor dear, I too have suffered from bronchitis. It sucks, big time. I have one warning, if you have to cough, sit up to do it, I once broke a rib coughing while laying down. Bronchitis is bad enough, add a broken rib and it is unbelievably bad. Get Mr Mole to wait on you hand and foot and get better real soon. I recommend Szechuan Hot and Sour soup to help you breathe easier.

    • mrsmole says:

      I found that out the first night…coughing flat leads to chocking…not good! We had curry 2 nights in a row to help burn away the germs and work up crud…but I would love that soup!

  20. Tia Dia says:

    Ugh, Mrs. Mole. That dress on top of bronchitis?!?! That’s enough to make one want to run away for a few weeks. The coughing is absolute hell in bronchitis, and I know the meds are a blessing. Rest, eat well (soup!!) and heal soon.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Tia! Another thing good for recovery is watching sewing shows on TV…when I never makes time for them during the season, now I have to sit still and improve my mind while killing germs!

  21. June says:

    That could have been a beautiful dress… Silk? But the “chewed” insides are a sad and sorry sight.

    So sorry to hear about the bronchitis, and I’m glad you are on the mend. I had a relentless cough in April, though not nearly as bad as yours – I had the codeine syrup for nighttime, but during the day, I had… what was that called… (looking it up) Tessalon perles and an albuterol inhaler. Both helped remarkably. You take good care of yourself, OK?

    I *love* Lisa’s comment above!

    • mrsmole says:

      15 years ago I had this when I lived in the UK…back then it was 2 inhalers and lots of time to wait and gasp for air…pills and syrup are working much faster this time, thank you, June. The body is a healing machine but sometimes it needs a kick in the pants!

  22. Hope you feel better soon! I had bronchitis for a whole month as they wouldn’t give me antibiotics (until the end) because it was a virus. =oP Take care of yourself!!
    I bet that sweatshop only has 3 sizes in their wedding dresses – S, M, and L and that’s why the measurements aren’t right. lol

    • mrsmole says:

      You are probably right but they have the nerve to actually write the ordered measurements inside on a cleaning directions label like they did it to order….go figure.

  23. Becky McKee says:

    OH, get well soon, and may the work go smoothly and quickly when you are better!

  24. EasilyAmewsed says:

    I hope you get better soon. It doesn’t seem right to be ill AND have to deal with hack jobs. < : /
    Hey, your idea for a the check points towards the perfect wedding dress might be really catch on. The trick would be getting non sewing folks to pay attention. Maybe team up with some local wedding planners or something?

    • mrsmole says:

      I think all you, my followers, would be better to help spread the word and even add your own suggestions to the pot if you have even tackled the altering of a ball gown. By the time a wedding planned is involved, the starry-eyes bride already has her dream dress!! Then it is too late…ha ha.

  25. birdmommy says:

    Oh, I remember the codeine cough syrup. My husband had it for his round of bronchitis a few years ago. It should have said ‘Take While Lying Down’ on the side of the bottle! 🙂

  26. Cindy says:

    Hope you are feeling better. At least one of the perks of having bronchitis is that you can’t smell the beautiful aroma of stinky armpits when you hit it with steam. An odor we all love to have to smell upon occasion. The silver lining for your cloud! Rest up and feel better soon!

  27. MIchaelC says:

    Just stumbled on your blog and am so mesmerized I have been reading all your archives till late in the morning. My doggy sure hates it when she can’t get out early cuz I am sleepy. I am in awe how you keep your outward cool when I would have kicked out some of the peeps that come to see you on their ass. I am in awe of your skill. And your witty and funny to boot. will follow fer sure.

  28. So glad you are in recovery mode. Hope you are feeling much better by now! 😉
    That wedding gown is one hot mess. I love it when they seek you out after taking it to the hackers to get a cheap job done, which actually turns out to be not so cheap…mind-blowing!!!

  29. symondezyn says:

    Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear about your sickness – how awful! I hope you are feeling better now – surely no thanks to your beloved brides – ha!
    Just when I think you have posted the very weirdest and most unreasonable clients, you find yet another – or they find you! ^__^ You have the patience of a saint, and I hope they realize how lucky they are to have found you 🙂

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