Battle of the Bulge

A little advice to future brides: NEVER buy your dress a year in advance.

Here is why…

1. The groom backs out…you are stuck with the dress

2. The groom makes you pregnant…you cannot fit into the dress and delay the wedding for a year

3. You failed to lose the baby weight…you cannot get back into the dress

4. You celebrate with your girlfriends for 11 months and then try to zip up the dress…you gained 11 pounds and cannot get into the dress

5. Something magical (not in a good way) happens while the dress hangs in the garment bag…garment bags are notorious for shrinking bridal gowns

Then it is up to the seamstress to make some magic with the wedding date a month away.

The first thing that can be done is open the seam allowances all the way and then take in where needed.P1180687 Here I was able to let out the side seams a total of 4 inches all around and then mark where we needed to take it in and do the final machine stitching. On this dress, letting out the center back zipper area was not an option with embroidery and a huge bow at the waist.

Up next is the dress you saw 2 weeks ago when I shortened the one shoulder strap. In the month between fittings, the bride was going to go for trail runs and drop 5 pounds but when she returned the scale must have gone in the other direction as the side zipper would barely slide up. Pinning up bustle points to her lining I realized that under all that English netting, the 3 layers of linings were screaming and I could barely get a pin into the fabric as it was stretched so tight across her butt. Sitting down would not be an option for her on her special day. So I suggested that I open the side zipper area and try to get as much as I could and slide the folded under netting over to meet at the invisible zipper.

She fought me all the way and said she did not want her dress altered but in the end she agreed I could do whatever I could.P1180807 P1180808

Since the other side was embroidered over the belt and it was not possible to let it out, this was the only choice. All the linings have been let out as much as possible too just so she can sit down.

P1180809 Now these 2 dresses are ready and waiting for the next try-on appointments  and I can finish them.

Along with these two brides I also had one that bought her dress way early and also grew out of it. It was a standard floor length bridesmaid dress that needed lots of work to make it a high-low. I spent over an hour pinning/pleating up the long chiffon layers unto her hips and waist to cover a highly decorated lace corset beneath. The zipper would not zip up so I managed to get the zipper moved over 1.5 inches along with letting out the back darts (another 1/2 inch) to gain some ease. The darts had boning sewn through them so that was removed as well so she could breath and dance. The straps were repositioned closer to center back so they would not fall down.

With all this letting out, when the bride showed up 2 weeks later…the dress was just as tight as before but she did have breathing room in the back…wrinkles too as her hips had expanded to prevent the dress from sliding down and relaxing…but the front is fine and on a beach in Hawaii with the wind blowing…she will be happy to expose her legs and dance in the sand. P1180730-2P1180731-2 P1180740

After gaining almost 2 inches of ease in the back you can barely see any difference in the before and after photos except the boning is gone and the hem is finished. The hip area is much tighter and causing the wrinkles higher up…really sad.


More challenges to come next time!

If you missed viewing the ASG sewing video last time, please check it out so these great ladies can win the cash prize to buy supplies for their charity sewing. In the past they have made over 800 quilts for returning veterans and continue to make clothes for children who have little to wear to attend schools, pillowcase bags for filled with essentials for homeless teens and seniors:

Hope everyone had some good Easter sewing time!

Thank you for dropping by!

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32 Responses to Battle of the Bulge

  1. Again. You are the miracle maker. I wonder what these girls would do if you weren’t able to alter these gowns.

    One year, I had one of my Central City Opera debutantes that had just finished a semester in France when we took measurements. First fitting I took everything in and when she came for a final fitting 2 weeks before opening night she had lost more weight since she had started golfing and had a nanny job for 3 year old twins. I had to almost remake the whole dress.
    Good luck on the next ones.

  2. mrsmole says:

    OH MY! Yes, it seems to be one or the other…too tight, too loose…we have real challenges! And in turn we get to meet the most interesting people like your client!

  3. sewruth says:

    So it’s the garment bags that shrink clothes and not cheescake! So glad I know that now otherwise I’d be shipping off 1,000 garments for you to work your magic on. You don’t paid enough

  4. sewruth says:

    Sorry, meant to say – you don’t get paid enough! For some reason I lapsed into an unknown version of English

    • mrsmole says:

      You are so funny…cheesecake puts on pounds? What about key lime pie…surely it is a health food made with fruit juice? Yes, stay away from plastic garment bags…they are a killer!

  5. Susie says:

    Please let me add a corollary to your rules: a great bargain may be found in the classifieds under “wedding gown, never been worn”. I loved to read those back in the day when classified ads were popular. Of course I know you’ve seen some well-worn never-been-worn dresses! The groom’s corollary is that bargains on never-worn engagement rings are plentiful, as well!

    • mrsmole says:

      Check out Craigslist for slightly-worn-for-an-hour wedding dresses with veil and petticoat too! I sold a wedding dress for a client who had been divorced…sold it in a day for $60 so if the price is low enough everything can be sold!

  6. Bunny says:

    What is it with these brides who want skin tight hoochee mama dresses? So distasteful and I think it shows a lack of respect for the whole ceremony, up there with gown burnings and running into the ocean with the gown,

  7. mrsmole says:

    One of my early brides this year had a wonderful labor packed altered gown and she was going to Hawaii to lay in the surf on top of her groom…it made me sick to think of the (my) dress being covered in salt water and sand and who knows what. I asked her to re-think the photographs and not catching sand in her nether regions. Tight seems to be the order of the day…no breathing required!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Agree with the other comments! I don’t know how you find so much patience, Mrs. Mole.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well Stephanie…every bride is a potential blog post and the nicer I am, the more referrals I get…I don’t have to like the bride or the dress, just work with them to create their dream dress and hey, they do pay me for my trouble…ha ha.

  9. Cindy says:

    Well my theory is you need something blue so it might as well be the bride, breathing is highly over rated. And those huge wrinkles around their waist and hips are so very appealing. I always love when they start with I haven’t gained any weight and the dress fit me perfectly “whenever”. Now I know that the garment bag caused it to shrink and the bride truly had not gained an ounce, I am truly remorseful for all the times I thought evil thoughts about the bride.

    • mrsmole says:

      Brides that have bought the dress in advance and can zip it up for the first fitting go off after swearing they will drop 5 pounds and return with an extra 5 pounds…it is like they have given themselves permission to celebrate…go figure…but you know a wedding dress does not accommodate an extra 5 pounds or more…it ain’t Lycra baby!

  10. Kathleen says:

    She didn’t want you to alter the dress?? Then why show up? What kind of miracle did she expect you to perform?? Oh, maybe she wanted you to do liposuction or plastic surgery…Good grief!
    And trolloping in the surf with the groom?? In medieval times, the guests would accompany the newly weds to the bridal chamber, and then leave the couple to do their thing. Apparently, this custom has now been extended to allow the guests to witness the entire consummation of the wedding union….probably with video cameras in hand…..while munching on popcorn….

    • mrsmole says:

      I think she thought I would let her slide another 6 weeks until the date…well it is TOO late by then! So, I have written to her and told her that SHE should decide when to come back for the final fitting…it is on her shoulders now…I’m done preaching and letting out the one and only seam at the zipper. I don’t know if she thought she was fooling me but the dress does not lie…formal wear is unforgiving!

  11. I once got a jacket tailored by a professional tailor, partly for the experience. The salesman did the fitting and the tailor did the stitching. It took so many fittings – seven or eight, and the salesman found my body very challenging (I was somewhat exacting – I wasn’t going to be palmed off with a less than perfect fit. It was expensive and I knew a lot more about fitting my body than the salesman did). Well the jacket was not right on the sixth occasion and the cheeky salesman looked quizzical and said condescendingly “have you put on some weight?”. I absolutely had not, so it infuriated me. Not in your workshop I know but not all alterations are down to yo-yo dieting clients.

    • mrsmole says:

      The funny thing I have to share is we used to have a bathroom scale in our entryway mainly because it was digital and only worked on a very flat surface, not tile. Some brides would look down at it and wonder if i was going to make them step on it and record their weight for the first fitting and the last…scary thought for some of them! It must have been agonizing watching people fuss with your jacket knowing they were not actually going to turn up with the perfect fit! Once they finished it, were you happy and did you wear it a lot? My brides get 3 fittings or more since we are not having to fiddle with sleeves and I take many photos with each session so there is no forgetting what we did each time. Most of the time the diet is only one “yo” in the wrong direction. Thanks for sharing you custom made story, Kate.

  12. I didn’t love that jacket and I passed up on having a matching skirt made(£400 I ask you!), but I wore it quite a lot because it does fit well. I just think it needed a smidgen more in the bust. In the end I got sick of going to his stinky little shop quite a way from home so I took the jacket, paid the bill and left. We did have an argument about the cost over email. Not a good experience.

  13. birdmommy says:

    Eating junk food (“We had to try samples of 15 different wedding cakes…”) and drinking lots of ‘girly’ drinks leading up to your wedding, and them wondering why your dress doesn’t fit? I think that’s called #YOLO dieting!

  14. mrsmole says:

    Exactly…thank you, birdmommy! And let’s not forget the girl’s night out/bridal shower and pre-wedding brunch with the grandmothers and family…it all adds up to a very tight zipper!

  15. symondezyn says:

    LOL sounds like the solution in all scenarios is to get rid of the groom – it’s all his fault! LOL that’s it… I’m blaming my man for all current and future weight woes 😛

    Shame about the last gal, the fit of the dress looked better in the before pics; is it really possible for one’s hips to grow 2″ in two weeks?? You did a wonderful job on the hem, though 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      It could be that the first fitting she had on some tighter underpants…I don’t always ask about their underwear…unless I am prescribing a Spanx-like undergarment to smooth down bulges in the dress or the wearer…one has to be tactful instead of saying they look like 10 pounds of flour in a 5 pound sack.

  16. You have given me a wonderful idea – wrap myself in garment bags and maybe I will shrink and fit into my jeans without having to lie down on the bed to do them up! 🙂 You are very talented to be able to find the needed inches in something that is already sewn up!

    • mrsmole says:

      It’s true Linda…remember when you could go to a spa and be wrapped in plastic wrap and sweat under a hot blanket before a big event and emerge 2-3 inches smaller…same goes for the dress…heat a wedding gown in a plastic bag and it too emerges 2-3 inches smaller…like magic!

  17. JustGail says:

    I’m not sure if I approve or disapprove of the trashing the dress photos. I guess it depends on the dress. Cheap poly & plastic (quality not price), why not. High quality silks and lace trashed makes me cringe, even though it could probably be cleaned and repurposed afterward. As far as lack of respect for the ceremony, I’d wager that trashing the dress may well be one of the least disrespectful things that’s done in the drive to outdo everyone else and get their own way.

    That’s funny about the scale, although you do have measurements from the first fitting as evidence should they fuss that “no I have not gained”. Have you ever had calls from brides on the day of the ceremony due to dress emergency from their insisting the dress be so tight and something letting go? Not due to your work, I mean zippers, original seam stitching or the fabric itself giving up.

  18. mrsmole says:

    No, Gail, I have never had an emergency call like that although I have replaced and repaired and re-sewn broken zippers for bridal salons on sample dresses. Those poor sample dresses take a lot of abuse!
    Not only is the fad of trashing your dress sad but it is also fatal. A year ago a Canadian woman was going to trash her dress in a river while her new husband filmed it from the other side. She went in and the weight of a wet dress dragged her under and down the river. She died doing a very stupid thing on her wedding day.

  19. Shams says:

    Like I said… you have the patience of a saint!

    • mrsmole says:

      Ahhh, shucks, Sham…thank you but you know working with fabrics or clients you have to bite your tongue sometimes and just get on with the job. I certainly enjoy following along with your sewing adventures!!!!

  20. erniek3 says:

    It’s all the magic of customer service! You’re either a witch or a saint to the clients.
    I have found myself in the practice of working with a girl’s choir, letting out and taking up the hems on about forty-five dresses each fall. Because these are 9-10 year old girls, the skirts can have very deep or shallow hems from year to year, and there’s some taking in and letting out. It seems that one year they are all waaaaaay too short, and the next they’ve grown a foot and the hems are all very very tiny. I love reading your stories, and am grateful that my clientele is….less picky (one style of dress for seventy girls). Thanks thanks thanks!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh ErnieK, I’d go nuts if I had to do forty five matching garments! It’s enough if I have to work on 4-5 bridesmaids that match. I have worked on identical long black polyester dresses for a high school orchestra and it is a bonus to find extra fabric in hems and seams left by the last seamstress. That is one thing we can do is leave plenty for the next poor seamstress when the dress/uniform gets passed on to the younger girls. It gives me comfort to think that one day, 30 years from now, when I am gone some seamstress will open my bridal seams and smile. Thank you so much for sharing!

  21. Fashionista says:

    As usual your stories are priceless. I have just finished altering my daughter’s formal frock where I had to take it in, and I left the excess in the seam for a future seamstress. She unintentionally dropped a little bit of weight in between the alteration and the event but it was all good. And I REALLY hate alterations so I don’t know how you do it! And with your sense of humour intact!

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