Make My Dream Dress

Can one turn a $299 David’s Bridal gown into a $5,400 Monique Lhuillier designer gown with a keyhole back and cap sleeves?

Here is what the bride started with, flat lace and 1/2 inch wide lace edging:keyhole back 4keyhole back 5

and here is what she wanted:

keyhole back 1keyhole back 2

All the while she kept telling me that she wanted a modest gown.

I was told ALL I had to do was cut off the short train and make sure all the narrow flat lace edging was used to make it look like the designer dress with embroidered  lace scallops and drop the top of the zipper down 10 inches to her butt crack and add buttons. Supposedly, this alteration was done for her friend’s and sister’s and it only cost $200.

So can you tell she was setting the limits? It must be that simple, right?

You have the Pinterest photos, you have a dress and voila’ the seamstress can do it for your set price, right?

Well, I said that I could not fit it into my summer August schedule and suggested she seek help elsewhere. If she can find someone who will do all that and make her happy, then I wish her luck!

Meanwhile I have been working on a MOB dress. Here is how I shortened the hem 5 1/2 inches.

First, open a side seam in the lining and fish out the entire hem and lining edge, replace the line of pins with red thread and then chalk a straight line.


The hem drops off dramatically as the MOB wanted to keep the short train.


As you can see in the photo, the lining is cut the same length as the satin but shifted 1/2 inch away in the factory so it pulls the satin to the inside when hanging.purple-seams

Next on the outside there were vertical ruffles…don’t we love those, that had to be shortened 8 inches….the MOB suggested I just tack the ruffles up so, looking inside, I managed to use the French seams to do just that. After tacking up about 8 of these seams, the ruffles cleared the floor and she can dance. Sorry I did not get a finished photo but it is the inside that counts isn’t it?

Another dress, this time a bridesmaid one was bought way too big because, “the seamstress can make it fit” story.

Let’s take in some side seams on a dress that was partially cut onbias.P1180722P1180718


Simple alteration, take in side seams in satin and lining 6 inches all around, re-attach bodices to skirt sections. Hem the skirt 4 inches by hand.


To reduce bulk, pink the bodice side seams, serge the skirt side seams and press either open or flip flat depending on the original.

P1180729 This polyester fabric raveled like crazy no matter whether is was cut on-bias or straight of grain…weird.

This week besides sewing and sowing in the garden we harvested a lovely fennel bulb that was planted from seed back in Oct in the raised beds and grew over the winter under cover.P1190076P1190074 Sliced up and fried to accompany some Pacific wild salmon makes a tasty dinner!

Wishing all of you a great successful week of sewing…remember to measure you, measure the paper pattern and add ease!

This week, Mary Funt has a great blog where she is starting to create a wedding gown from scratch if you want to see the process:

This entry was posted in challenges and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Make My Dream Dress

  1. Roseana Auten says:

    I would have had a hard time not talking the bride into something that’s less tarty than, well, either of those gowns . . .

    • mrsmole says:

      Tarty…isn’t that what weddings are all about these days??? too tight, too revealing and something they could not possibly sit down in…there we have it…modern wedding gowns…whew!

  2. symondezyn says:

    I suppose it’s modest compared to some of the stuff we’ve seen, but I’d hardly call a backless and deep-v neckline “modest” – I’d say it’s “saucy”, at best! ^__^ LOL

    why, oh why do people insist on wearing polyester to summer weddings? I don’t envy you having to alter those seams, but your pinked edges are lovely (call me crazy, I love pinking! ^_^)

    Your fennel looks wonderful! I like the idea of frying it up… yum! 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Most gowns are layers of polyester unless they have a silk one custom made…so wearing another layer of a bra and Spanx just makes the sweating start early in the day. “Saucy” another nice word for hoochie mama on parade…thank you, Amanda!

  3. denise m says:

    Since she claimed her sister and a friend already had that alteration done by someone… why didn’t she get hers done by the same seamstress? $ 200? Wishes can come true I suppose! Maybe if the toothfairy isn’t too busy. This is an example of how out of touch with reality people are about sewing in general, and RTW cheapness perpetuates that unrealistic view!

    • mrsmole says:

      I wanted to say, “well then, call that seamstress for Pete’s sake!” but I just said i was full up…which I was. If you want cheesy, but cheesy but don’t ask your seamstress to drop the back to the butt crack…she will not be too happy.

  4. erniek3 says:

    I guess the Toothfairy is doing alterations now, concurring with Denise’s comment. I love that you pinked that bodice seam edge – the interlining and the fashion fabric will hang together on that seam so nicely. Pretty!

    • mrsmole says:

      Pinking is so nice and flat without the ridge you get with serging/overlocking. I’m old fashioned and have been using the same pinking shears since the 70’s…

      • denise m says:

        Where do you get your scissors and pinking shears re-sharpened? You use yours much more than a hobby sewist would so I assume you get regular sharpening service to them?

      • mrsmole says:

        Hi Denise, I send some of my Ginghers back to the factory to be sharpened but also have my sewing machine repairman do some along with my kitchen knives as he has a faster turnaround. My Gingher thread snips really do most of the work as I have one at every machine (4) and one on the ironing board and one on my side table for hand sewing at night. They are so pointed that they can do lots of ripping out when I’m not using a scalpel.

  5. selina says:

    Always roast fennel. Going to try frying it now. Thanks for the idea Mrs Mole.

    • mrsmole says:

      Sliced thin up and down or crosswise after the core is removed…delicious…sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning or just salt…5-7 minutes and eat!

  6. maryfunt says:

    You were very wise to send the first bride elsewhere for her version of the Monique Huillier. I would have charged her at least twice what she spent for her dress and cautioned her that the altered dress still wouldn’t look like the designer version. Having had my hands on the designer version, the lace is exquisite and cheap polyester lace will never duplicate the look.
    I sympathize with you on alterations to polyester bridesmaid dresses. They are the WORST. Horrible fabrics, no seam allowances, terrible designs, etc, etc. Your stories are the best.
    Thanks for the reference to my blog. Fortunately this bride and her mom understand the importance of top notch fabrics and workmanship and don’t mind paying.

  7. sewruth says:

    Ha ha! Isn’t that what we all try to do – buy cheap and try to make it look like $1000 – LOL

  8. Dara says:

    You are my”Poster Child” to never do alterations! It is “amazing” what people expect you to do in a short amount of time .You are a genus! I always enjoy posts and a good laugh, too!

  9. Azar Lo says:

    Love the color coordinated bridesmaid dress and nail polish. I can’t see your hands in the pictures of the MOB dress to see if you change your nail polish with every project you are working on.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Dear, Azar…I WISH I could change my colors to suit the dress or my mood! But polish lasts a week after so much pinning and hand sewing so I avoid too many colors so they don’t look ratty immediately!

  10. Asia says:

    As a fellow bridal seamstress I know all to well the expectations to be able to re create a new dress, there are limits people! I would never do that for $200 either. Also what is wrong with people who buy bridesmaid dresses way too big??? ‘It was on sale but they only had size 16’s’ well the alteration cost will be more than the sale price. We have WAY too much in common.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, we do and isn’t it nice we can read about each others trial and successes? Otherwise, I may have to leave the room and scream in the backyard and scare my neighbor’s dogs and chickens!

  11. Janee Connor says:

    Smart to avoid getting tangled with the bridal restyle. It never ceases to amaze me that people can make such requests and truly expect us to do this kind of work for that kind of ridiculous price! I’m working hard to reinforce my saying “NO!” skills, after having poured countless extra (unpaid) hours into two alterations jobs that I should have refused from the outset, this bridal and prom season. Yesterday, I was able to tell a particularly insistent client that I was completely booked, and wouldn’t be able to alter her MOG gown at the last minute – with the wedding June 20th, she wanted to know when I would need to have it, as she’s in the process of losing weight “under a doctor’s care”. She didn’t seem to see the reasoning behind my insistence that NOW is when I need to have it – or she could forget about having me do the work. Maybe the other alterationist in town, whose name I passed along, will have room in her schedule for this!

  12. mrsmole says:

    I have been swamped with gals wanting me to fix their dress in 3 weeks or less after having brides booked in for June since Feb….like I am going to toss them aside and work on a poor last minute planning bride…I don’t think so! Saying “NO” is so hard but getting easier as I go along. I wish you more good luck weeding out the easy from the difficult and late from the early…it can get messy, Janee!

  13. I never know how much to ask for. I am not a pro! I do favours for friends. I don’t know how you do it (miracles for free!!??). I was very happy though when a size XL friend asked me one day … So if I buy $20 of fabric for a skirt I guess you would charge me half?? $10 to make the skirt so my skirt would cost $30?? so I should just buy it on line for $20? Umm, yes.

  14. mrsmole says:

    I didn’t know what to charge 14 years ago when I moved here so I called a few dry cleaners to get an idea of rates for things to be altered. I matched their rates in the beginning and then gradually raised my hourly rate for regular clothes and bridal. While I am still well under the going rate say for alterations at chain bridal salons at $60 an hour, I am comfortable charging a fair price. Once I knew my dental hygienist made $48 an hour to start after 18 months training, that number suited me just fine. Think about what your hairdresser or facial girl charges in an hour…probably $50-60 an hour (US) What about massage therapists? All these people have less than 2 years training and start off with good wages…what about you? You have experience and turn out a professional product!

  15. girl in the stix says:

    I always love it when people who have no clue about sewing tell me how long something will take and how much it should cost. Or want to cut costs because they have “helped” me by pinning up the hem (always uneven, old hem not picked out, etc.). Glad you were able to send her on.

  16. mrsmole says:

    When women ask if they can “help me” by say taking out miles of serged or double stitched hems to reduce the cost…I hand them a seam ripper and send them home…I think after an hour or so, they realize it is no fun doing that part and the sewing may take 15 minutes. They rarely come back with the same request…I always tell them, “De-construction is always more time consuming that construction”. I have seen many pinned up hems with old safety pins, tiny nasty pins from shirt packaging, bobby pins, duct tape, two way tape and super glue…you name it…they use it.

  17. Martina says:

    I love beet, orange and fennel salad…yum, yum!

  18. Rosemary Coole says:

    Please Mrs. Mole, make me a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. You are the best! I love your insights. Thanks. regards, Rosemary

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Rosemary…I’d need an extra room to store all those silk purses from all the sow’s ears that find their way here….ha ha.

  19. fabrickated says:

    What an interesting post and such great comments too! I was thinking – yuk polyester! It is not even that hot here, but I wouldn’t want something sweaty myself. I did read however that it was only with the advent of man made and synthetic fabrics that really white wedding gowns became possible – before then it was cream or coloured silk for the bride.

    I am glad you use the pinking shears – I often think I am cheating a bit, and my favourite implement is also the tiny snippers – they are so satisfying to use and the best way to reduce bulk, in my view.

    And I love fennel (what a big one!) cut very finely and eaten raw with a lime and olive oil dressing. My husband often makes a fennel seed encrusted bread to go with it too. And I agree with you that it is splendid with salmon.

  20. Tee says:

    I met with a potential client earlier this week. She was seven months pregnant. She came with a picture of Heidi Klum in a beautiful Marchesa gown.
    To top it off her wedding is July 25. After measuring her and showing her fabric samples I gave her a price of $950. She was taken aback! She said her budget was only $300. I politely collected my $50 consultation fee and told her to get back to me after she gave it some thought. She contacted me the next day to ask for a copy of her measurements. I said sure they cost $15. She said “I’ll pass.” Some people!!!!!

  21. mrsmole says:

    Good girl, Tee!!! Who leaves the making of a gown to a little over a month before the wedding with a growing belly? Insane! She had better get herself to David’s and she what they have in the bridesmaid section so she can cover her bump with lots of chiffon for $300 because she will never wear that dress again.

  22. Linda Craig says:

    Love the modest bride story. Did she tell you how to create the fabric for the sleeves & across the neck?

    Fennel is beautiful!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s