Still Learning Lessons

When I tell Mr. Mole that one of the advantages of being an introvert allows you to have very deep thoughts and an inner dialog with yourself, he asks me what I have learned?

One thing since early childhood, I have believed that every person that crosses/disturbs your path actually teaches you something. So, when the phone call came in, I knew there would be a blog post coming my way. The voice was direct/insistent and commanding/bossy in her wants and needs for her dress alterations.

She also wrote a check in advance for the alterations which I never have accepted before from any client. I found out along the way that by paying me some money up front, she now had control of how many fittings, the frequency of each fitting she could have and how long they would last.

Here is what the dress started out as Wtoo Vesta:VestaVestaa

and this is what we started with:


First thing to do was pin out one inch (2 inch total) on each bodice side seam and down 12 inches into the skirt. Each of the 3 layers, lace,tulle and satin had to be sewn separately. Then the front waistline seam was taken up 5/8 inch (total 1.25 inches). The center front V was brought together closer and the back raglan yoke on the sleeve was also taken in 1/2 inch (1 inch total).P1180902P1180891. After basting all that and trying it on, the bride wanted more taken in as she decided not to wear a bra. So, I pinned out more and ended up with a total of 3 inches taken out of each side for a total of 6 inches in the bodice.P1180894P1180895P1180893P1180892P1180897

Even with these extra alterations she was not happy as there was so little support in the bodice without a bra so I looked inside and instead of seeing real bust cups…all that was holding her boobs up was a foam structure with some boning below:P1180896

So, then as she kept grabbing at the side seams and complaining that there was too much fabric as I explained I could not take any more out of the side seams, I gave in and offered to just run a dart through all the layers and lining at once to grab even more out of the bust.

Now this goes against all my principles of good sewing but here is what I suggested:P1180890

Here are the new dart legs basted with red thread….let’s take out another 1.5 inches (3 inch total) on each side. Then add boning to the side seam lining.P1180899P1180900P1180901

As you can see this dress had the top edge lace layers sandwiched between the satin and the lining so it showed up/stood up above the solid layers but this dart goes through all of that in one seam and creates a lump but we had run out of options and no one would know what had been done to the dress at this point except us. Once the dart is stitched, it is flipped forward and whip stitched flat. Maybe all those layers will act as a strip of boning too…one can only hope!

Let’s total up what was taken out the bodice side seams shall we?

6 plus 6 inches…delightful, nothing like taking in a bodice 12 inches…can I say…”This ain’t your dress”? We made a soft unstructured bodice into something that could finally contain her ample bosom without her bothering to wear a bra of any sort.

What’s left to do? First, attach the lining waist seam to the bodice waist seam so it will lie flat and not droop on its own


and make a one point bustle, add some thread belt loops so she can wear a belt/sash of her choice. This was an initial photo and I ended up raising the waist from the front all the way to the center back dart to get rid of the drag lines.


Another thing I learned about having the client in charge, she could call and say, “I am distressed, I am worried, I have to have another try-on to make sure we are going in the right direction”. The fact that I was not worried at all seemed irrelevant…what she really wanted/needed to do was bring yet more various styles of shoes to wear and test out and bring head pieces and jewelry to pose with in the mirror. This was another case of a bride not bringing her posse with her (thank goodness) but needing more “mirror time” and photos.

It also proves the point that if your body needs boning and structure, don’t buy a soft flowy nightgown type and expect it to do all you need to look perfect…nightgowns don’t do that…they expect you have the perfect shape to start with.

Before I leave you, recently I asked another seamstress if she even has to do “resentment sewing” for clients who just rub her the wrong way/treat her like a servant. Also asked my chiropractor this question and while both answered, “YES”, it just seems such a negative way to provide a service that we deal with this so often. All we ask is for a little respect for the time and effort that is required to provide what is needed…some days that is a bridge too far for customers.

Happy summer sewing everyone!


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

45 Responses to Still Learning Lessons

  1. sewruth says:

    Honestly, I’d just put the entire thing through the overlocker and let the next seamstress unpick it!

    • sewruth says:

      And….Wtoo Vesta have a special section for “curvy” brides – why didn’t she go there?

      • mrsmole says:

        I have stopped trying to guess why brides buy such dresses…taking 12 inches out of a bodice just boggles the mind and expecting foam cups to support big boobs is asking too much!

    • mrsmole says:

      You are a bad girl, Ruth. All that bulk in the side seams would surely show up and not be approved…have to please the client at all times or no payment at the end.

  2. Mem says:

    Wonder what the groom is like ? Wonder how long it will all last ?

  3. mrsmole says:

    He would have to be the type that does as he is told, don’t you think?

  4. Mandykatt says:

    Just wear a bustier, woman! Good grief. I don’t understand why someone would aim for a figure that doesn’t come naturally but not be willing to wear the garments that make it happen.
    Good lesson for me though; don’t take payment in advance.

  5. erniek3 says:

    Which begs the question: How do you structure your charges? Hourly or by item/action?

    • mrsmole says:

      My fees are hourly so they keep mounting up the more I have to add to the dress like a meter on a taxi. It can be disheartening though, the more and more the bride wants taking in.

  6. Valerie says:

    You did amazing things with the dress Mrs Mole. When I was younger brides automatically went on health and exercise regimes to look good on their wedding days..Um don’t they do that anymore?

    • mrsmole says:

      They ALL tell me they are going to lose 5-10 pounds but they rarely do unless they are a size 0 to start with and those are the ones who you wish would gain a little to fluff up the dress.

  7. prttynpnk says:

    I hope that she realizes how much love and care her dress got that not everyone would have had the pride and skill to give!

  8. mrsmole says:

    In the end you may win over the client if she thinks she looks the best she can…I never see the finished product with jewelry and veil and shoes and flowers so I only hope they do look stunning.

  9. maryglenn says:

    I have thrown out ‘the principals of good sewing’ lots of times over the years while doing alterations. Some dresses are difficult to take apart to get to the seams, so if it looks good on the right side it’s Ok to be creative! Pricing is always an issue, I am working on a wedding dress right now that came from Kleinfeld’s in NY and their alterations start at $750 I believe.

  10. mrsmole says:

    In October, I have a Lazaro wedding gown coming in that needs loads of altering, so I have been told by the bride. We shall see what all this adds up to. I wish you much good luck with your project!!!!

  11. Janee says:

    I’m intrigued by your payment policy – having been burned a few times by not receiving any payment at the start – including a bride not returning for her followup fitting because she’d cancelled the wedding! – I nearly always take a deposit at the first appointment. I appreciate what you’ve said about the client then assuming control, but I’d think your “clock ticking” hourly fees would help to keep that in check. Do you give a firm price or an estimate for the work pinned at the fitting? And then updates to the estimate as they add more to the alterations?

    • mrsmole says:

      Every bride gets a written estimate and a page in a book with everything she wants the first visit. I draw a line under that list and attach a dollar value and labor value to each thing. Then i say, that is what it will be UNLESS she wants extra things like say belts, straps, or extra bustle points and more labor to make the dress tighter and tighter. I steam the dress and veil for free. I have had 3 brides cancel the wedding but as I still have the dress, it is a deposit in a way and since most cost $1200, and it can be sold for $600, more than enough to cover the alterations.

  12. Tee says:

    Yes, your payment policy is odd for me. I collect a consultation fee, a deposit, and final payment before the dress is delivered. No exceptions. I’ve never been burned. I started charging the consultation fee because of consults that didn’t turn into customers…time is money!!!!

    • mrsmole says:

      My thought is, the first 30 minutes are free and if I did charge for the consult, they would get that back if they went with me. So far in 15 years of living here I have never had a bride go elsewhere…even the ones I give crazy high prices to…months later, they return asking for appointments. Mr. Mole says since we live in a rural community, they have fewer options than if we lived back in a big city with more competition. Also the reviews that are left on my Google map page and Yelp are pretty darn nice and word of mouth brings in friends like a magnet…I am blessed that way. The girls tell each other that they would be crazy to go anywhere else.

  13. beansmum says:

    When I was getting my hair cut the other day, my stylist said that the salon is going to have to start asking for a deposit for prom appointments. They had 3 girls that had booked to come in together that morning and do hair, makeup, and mani/pedis that just didn’t show up. No call to cancel, nothing.

    • mrsmole says:

      Now that makes perfect sense!!! Unless they are regular customers and you know they are reliable, money up front when you have nothing like a dress to hold your spot is mandatory!

  14. You amaze me with your talent and patience. I don’t know how you do it. I learn something new with every post.

  15. mrsmole says:

    Funny, I have never had a bride leave with her dress and in fact I give them the option of going anywhere else for a second opinion. Lord knows I wish some of them did for sure and never came back. I tell them I make things simple, no money until the last day, cash or check and they get a paper print-out of everything I have done and photos after every visit. Thankfully I have never been cheated and after working on 100 gowns last year, 43 already this year, if any of them decided to find someone else I would be relieved. You have to make your business work for you, so we all have different policies for the area we live in.

  16. Tia Dia says:

    Yeeeeps. I always tell people who ask me to do a little sewing for them that I only sew a “little bit”, and they may want to go somewhere else! I’d rather just do the sewing for fun. And Kleinfeld’s alteraions start at $750? That’s the cost of another dress! Crazy. I’m glad you have a great system for getting value for your time. Thanks for sharing another crazy story, Mrs. Mole!

  17. Alex in California says:

    Resentment sewing. It begins with the initial conversation. If the person is demanding and generally unpleasant, fall back on “I am unable to fit you into my schedule and suggested you seek help elsewhere.”

    • mrsmole says:

      I do try that Alex and add that my bridal slots are filled until Oct and give them other names of people who might be able to help them. Once you realize that you don’t HAVE to work with just anyone who calls, especially with less than 4 weeks notice, it is indeed calming.

  18. Karen Lyon says:

    Mrs. Mole, I only sew for myself, my sister and the great nieces. People assume that you can do anything with a sewing machine. They can also be very critical, I do not have your patience. When this woman called for those reassuring appointments, I would not let her come when she wanted to, even if it was no inconvenience to me. I would have her come when it suited me, with a time limit “due to previous commitments” and a firm reminder how much it would add to the final total. I would also scour the internet to have some examples of the appropriate garments to achieve the structure the bride thinks she will get by making it tighter. I believe that any bride needs reminding of the cost effectiveness of a suitable undergarment as opposed to constant gown revisions. Unless the lady has the budget from that well known sit-com “Dallas” to play with, she will probably see the light. If she doesn’t, add on a satisfactory sum for driving you to drink. In the meantime, keep your sense of humour, it may help. Regards, Karen

    Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2015 20:25:10 +0000 To:

    • mrsmole says:

      Well Grumpy Karen, you never know at what point the bride will ditch her bra…and with summer temps here in the 100’s, they may decide halfway or the week before the date…they can’t make up their mind about which shoes, jewelry or bras…hope they are more discerning about which groom!

  19. fabrickated says:

    This bride is at least average sized. She is not petite. The idea of going without a bra fills me with horror. The foamy breast pieces don’t seem to have much support so all your alterations seem to be working against the tide. Even though I am much smaller than your customer I like a proper brassiere under my clothes to make every outfit look reasonable. I find it bizarre that she expected you, “her” seamstress, to achieve a sense of uplift and control with just changes to the dress when she probably would have benefited from a long line bra or corset underneath all that fabric.

  20. mrsmole says:

    Again, Kate…these brides order their dresses in Jan when there is snow on the ground and fantasy thoughts in their head…come June and 90-100 degree temps..things change! On this bride, a long-line strapless would have been the ticket!

  21. symondezyn says:

    It took me a really long time to comprehend that even if a garment fits, it isn’t necessarily the right choice for MY particular body (irregardless of weight/fitness level etc etc.) It seems like such a logical thing from the outside that if you don’t have the same build as the model wearing the garment that you won’t look the same in it, but I suspect it’s one of those mental blocks for a lot of people where we assume as long as we like the style, and we buy the right size, it must work, right? LOL. Sewing has taught me so much about what actually suits my body – I wish there was a way for more women to learn to celebrate their original and unique bodies by dressing them appropriately, instead of torturing lovely and talented seamstresses such as your good self, by expecting you to magically create a silhouette they simply don’t possess ^__^ That said, you do manage to do a fair bit of magic!! 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      You are so sweet, Amanda…I’d like to say to each bride, “well, I have never seen this particular type of fitting problem before” but I can’t…you just pretend that what she brings in is normal. And after a while…it IS normal and then you just make that dress as tight as you can, minus deep breaths, and push-up bra pads and tight fitting butt…and voila’ you have the perfect dress for Jessica Rabbit and an average girl transformed for one day. It is magic some days…ha ha.

  22. Val says:

    I like Mr. Mole’s sense of humor — when, (if) you’re done with him point him south and send him down to Los Angeles. (wink)

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Honey, he is a keeper…I waited 30 years for him and he for me. Now after over 20 years together we are still crazy in love…what could be better?

  23. wcdesigns says:

    This is exactly why I don’t do bridal or formal wear!

    • mrsmole says:

      I could not hem pants all day or make curtains or replace zippers in sleeping bags so we all have our niche. My client’s projects are clean and new and most of them are grateful and in the end they do pay me well for my time. Every day a challenge walks into my room whether it be a sad or excited bride or Mr. Mole who has lost something.

  24. Azar Lo says:

    Alteration cost, like everything else, varies geographically. I’m sure as professionals, you are all well aware of the going rates in your area. And, I realize San Francisco prices may be higher than other parts of the country. But, to give you another data point, below are the additional charges my daughter incurred for her gown. The dress was made for her in San Francisco. She wanted two changes made to the sample she had tried on.

    1- the gown had a sewn on belt that ended as a hanging ribbon that tied in the back. To end the belt at the back zipper, eliminating the back bow: $40.
    2- the gown was a simple silk satin sheath dress with a train. To eliminate the train: $350.

    These were not alterations. The seamstress started with fabric and made the dress for her. Both changes meant using less material.

    Bottom line: ladies don’t sell yourselves short. You all have a rare talent and mad skills. The younger generation cannot sew.

    • mrsmole says:

      Part of the cost of removing a train could have been re-drafting the back skirt pattern but even that would have allowed the shop to use LESS fabric. I charge 1/4 hour for sewing the satin belt to the zipper edge when brides don’t opt for the bow in back. So things are way higher in SF area than rural places!

  25. beansmum says:

    I had my first serious request to make someone a (non-wedding) dress. I did not smile, blush, or giggle as I told her “You can’t afford me”. She said she was willing to pay me $20 for my time (she figured it would be 2 hours at minimum wage to do), plus materials. I told her to think closer to $250 for the effort in doing the fitting/pattern adjustments, and subsequent dresses would be cheaper. But if $50 for RTW is ‘too expensive’, then a custom fitted dress is not an option for you my dear!

  26. mrsmole says:

    I don’t know of anything you can make in 2 hours and $20 an hour is peanuts. Why people think that a seamstress making a custom dress would save them money or be below a $50 RTW is just insane. Good for you for standing your ground!

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