Exotic Insert

What do you do when you win a dress in a silent auction and it doesn’t fit?

Find a seamstress with a sense of adventure and convince her that it will be fun to “make it work”?

Look at what wandered into my sewing room: P1190547-2

In the first photo, I blurred out the client’s breast since this side seam zipper could not be closed.

The second photo shows how much the center back seam is shifted.

The plan was to make a new center back “dart” that could be slashed open to insert something 4.5 inches wide and 10 inches long to fill a gap and allow the zipper to close. I sent the client to JoAnn’s for samples.

She returned with some nude knit lining and non-knit lace. I made 4 different samples to pin and preview.


As the lace had a slight crosswise stretch and a scalloped edge, it could be used in different ways.P1190756

Once we selected the one she wanted, the dress was prepared. The top section already had a center seam where all the pleats converged. It was very thick.

You can see it is a Sue Wong, the price tag was over $400 and it is silk. First, thread trace the actual center of the back through the outside to the inside. This will be the cutting line down the middle of the new dart. I decided to treat the 2 linings as one as the lace will show everything in the end.


As with most dresses, beads can only be cut apart of the new edges have been secured, so every bead is back stitched on and others removed for the new opening…is this tedious or what?

I hand baste a row of stitching on either side of the original red thread basting before cutting. Taking a deep breath and murmuring a quick Hail Mary helps me slash through 3 layers of silk like I know what I am doing. Have I done this countless times before…ah, no.


Once the panel is hand basted into positioned, we have the try-on. In this photo I was showing the client that she could have her halter straps attached unto the dress to feel more secure while also taking in the lace panel to feel tighter with pinning it down the center. This poor little panel has to do a lot of work!


This photo shows the halter ties with the tassels. She opted for that for now.

OK, for those of you who have spotted the fact that the panel dips way below her waist…yes, you can see through it and she will have to wear nude colored panties. So the question comes up…why did you make the panel so long, Mrs Mole? The front of the dress was also pulling too tight across her tummy and once the zipper could be closed, it would have made the front drape sections pull way apart.


The finished panel with the seam allowances all flipped  away from the lace edges.


The lace panel edges are serged and hand sewn to the top lining. You can see the very bottom of the dart which is pressed flat. Even though there were 2 layers of satin lining, they all managed to lie flat for me.


Last thing to do was hem the top layer, remove the lower beads, hem and replace the beads.


Now you can see why the back panel had to be so log as the front drapes were very dependent on hanging straight. Funny enough the 2 layers of lining were short enough and did not need hemming, just the over skirt. A close -up of the front beading is a little blurred…sorry.


So another happy customer went out the door!

For the reader who asked about more veggie photos…here are some this week:sept-2015-5sept-2015-6

Have a great week of stress-free sewing everyone!

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32 Responses to Exotic Insert

  1. Tia Dia says:

    Wow – such a gorgeous dress and she chose cheap lace for a butt-revealing insert?! I’ve seen some pretty dumb things, but – good grief! – this almost takes the cake. I just don’t understand what people are thinking. I am soooo shaking my head. Seriously?

    And yes, the backstitching of all those annoying beads…. Tell us, Mrs. Mole, what do you do to while away the tedium? Watch TV out of the corner of one eye? Listen to inspiring music or a good book on tape? Get Mr. Mole to read stories?

    Love the garden bounty. I don’t have a veggie garden in my yard (too shady and the gardener is too busy doing other things), but I will be sorry when my local farmers’ market closes for the season.

  2. mrsmole says:

    Well, Tia, I sit under an Ottlight and watch political shows that I have recorded while attaching beads at night or I do this during most nights when the rest of the world is asleep and quiet. Spa music plays throughout the house all day and Mr Mole works in his office. I read books on my Kindle while riding my stationery bike. Even though some tasks are tedious, it makes a person slow right down and enter the meditative state and after days with frantic brides and controlling mothers, I welcome some “alone” time…me and the beads…ha ha Plant some rainbow chard in the borders and it will grow all year…it looks pretty, birds nibble on it and it tastes great!

  3. Karen Lyon says:

    Mrsmole, you must have the patience of a saint. If the dress was too big, refashioning would make sense. Too small, gift it to someone it will fit, or use the fabric for another project. I hope you are very well paid for this. By the way, what are the mottled green pear looking fruit/veg? They do not look familiar. I hate to admit it, but the only things left in our garden are squash, root veg and cabbage types. Our growing season is over so quickly. Take care and have a good week. Karen

    Date: Tue, 6 Oct 2015 15:09:33 +0000 To: grumpykaren@hotmail.com

    • mrsmole says:

      Those green things ARE pears. We have a 5-in-one pear tree so you never know which variety will show up each year…they are ugly but very juicy! There is a back story to this dress that does not allow her to gift it so it was fix it or else! Honestly, I will be glad to see the veggies slow down and become compost. They have all worked so hard with the hottest summer temps ever!

  4. June says:

    That’s more contrast than I would have expected for the new panel, too. But most people will be looking at her front, anyway. What do you tell these clients when you take their photos? Do they ever ask if you are posting them somewhere?

  5. mrsmole says:

    I don’t tell my clients anything except that I will send the photos to them…they must think I need the before and after photos for something. Once in a while I tell one that I share photos with other seamstresses so we can all help each other solve problems. A few brides know I have a blog and want their dress featured but I don’t do that just in case this whole town ends up seeing their dress along with the other 99 each year. Hopefully the added panels will not be seen as much as the front!

  6. Colleen says:

    Thanks for sharing this unique job! I just had to add a side zipper corset to a size 2 bridesmaid dress for a now 7 month pregnant bridesmaid. Luckily the dress had a nice front drape and her breast grew as much as her stomach making a balanced corset….and she was very short so I had hem scraps!! Whew!!!
    I have used your idea of taking photos without their face to record or confirm something that I might have doubts on or a bride that could easily change size. They never do you know…..! One time a bride changed shoes because she did not think it would matter or I would remember…….Thank you taking time to teach others!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Ha ha, Colleen, when a bride asks,”Will it make any difference if I wear 6 inch stilettos or switch to ballet flats?” I just nod and say it sure will especially for the bustle. I have some links to some killer shoes that some Vegas brides have worn and they take your breath away! Pregnant bridesmaids are such a challenge, the longer they wait to be fitted, the harder the job for us! So happy you were able to work some magic on your girl!!!

  7. Paloverde says:

    Well.. you did a good job (as usual!) with fixing this for the client, but I must say it’s an ugly looking insert. It just screams “this dress is too small!” Pity the client didn’t do the right thing and sell or give away the dress to someone more the right size. Just because something *can* be done doesn’t mean it *should* be done.

    • mrsmole says:

      She had her reasons for making this dress fit but I cannot reveal them here. It is enough for me that she was thrilled with the fit and will probably spend the evening sitting in a chair or wearing a bolero jacket so the panel won’t be the feature. She is pretty down to earth and may tell her friends that she came up with the idea anyway, which she did.

  8. SJ Kurtz says:

    The customer is right about the adventure part. That ‘can/should’ consideration would have led me to a different conclusion (like NO) BUT BUT BUT
    The long term relationship with the customer is the most important part. I have friends in customer service that I refer to this blog. You want to learn better customer service skills? Read Mrs Mole.
    I defer to your wisdom.

  9. symondezyn says:

    what an amazing dress – i can see why she was eager to find a solution so she could wear it 🙂 A shame such a lovely dress had to be chopped open and surgically violated by cheap lace, but luckily she had you, the MacGyver of sewing alterations, to help her make her vision come true! ^_^

  10. Trish says:

    Yet another amazing solution Mrs Mole! That adding a dart at the bottom of the opening to create a seam is a great idea.
    I couldn’t work out why it was worth all that work, until I saw the front of the dress.
    How long did the whole job take? It looked like many hours of your time…

  11. robbie says:

    I was reading along with the steps, following the pictures of the dress back, then was stunned when I saw the front. I immediately said to myself, why didn’t she try to match the back insert with the same type of ivory silk in the front inset? Mrs. Mole, you are indeed the ‘dress whisperer’.

  12. Val says:

    Mrs. Mole you rock and I accept that you work with what your clients want. After getting a view of the front – FWIW – and maybe you suggested this — I would like to have liked to trim the patterned fabric at the sides into a curved shape towards the hem to create enough fabric to piece together an insert (or gore) at the center back and new side pieces for the midriff band. Avoid the lace insert all together. I promise you and all other hard working ladies that if H— freezes over and I ever meet a guy and decide he’s worth marrying I will purchase a wedding dress in the right size.

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Val, I gave the client all the options as to colors and layering and this is what she was comfortable with. She did not want a cream background, so using part of the lining was out, she wanted just the lace until I suggested adding the skin tone lining. She was warned that even using the lace and lining would be a lot thinner that the dress and look a little weird/homemade but this is what she wanted. Others have mentioned that I should have beaded the new panel…well finding square rhinestones in that fuchsia color and the rust colored matte finish sequins would have been hard enough let alone the labor for doing it. We all have a number in our heads as to what a service should cost and this was within her budget. Wishing you the best of luck finding a good man…a dress can always be altered…men…not so easily!

  13. Another great job done with limited resources. As long as she doesn’t turn round she looks fabulous. From the back is a little ‘ouch’ but we just follow instructions. Giving the benefit of our experience sometimes helps but not everyone wants to do what we suggest, or wants to spend as much as it will take.
    Well done (again) .

  14. mrsmole says:

    Oh Kim, love your comment, “As long as she doesn’t turn round she looks fabulous.” Yes, you are correct…we can’t MAKE everyone do what we think is right or better…we IS only the seamstress! If this was your own dress, you would have handled it a bit nicer, swapped beads around and done something more creative but in less than 4 hours it had to be back out the door and unto a party.

  15. poppykettle says:

    Wow the silk fabric that makes up that dress is really beautiful – and I also really like the way the front skirt drapes! It’s a gorgeous dress – you’ve done well to save it under your clients’ instructions 🙂

  16. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Poppy. It was a pleasure to hold and stroke. You never know what will show up and what the price tag will say.

  17. maryfunt says:

    The dress is actually pretty from the front but I have to agree with others that that purple lace insert makes the dress SCREAM homemade ( and badly homemade). I know you were complying with her wishes. Too bad you have only JoAnns for a source; absolutely the worst fabrics in the world. Maybe she plans to wear a jacket or wrap and keep it on at all times. A beaded insert on matching cream fabric would have been less obvious, but you were dealing with her wishes and budget. Great fix with what you had at hand.

  18. mrsmole says:

    Before I sent her off fabric shopping, I showed her lots of other options with scraps I had at hand, cream and ivory backgrounds, deep pinks etc and this is what she wanted. I offered to use a double layer of the nude lining but the answer was no. Not my best work but I wanted to share what could be done on the cheaper side. Yes, I hope that she wears something over her back and makes the most of the front where her assets are…ha ha. We do the best we can, Mary!

  19. Martina says:

    It would be nice if the clients just did what you told them would look best! I guess at the end of the day if she’s happy, then all is good. It was a very pretty dress, that silk is gorgeous. And now I’ve procrastinated enough…time to pad out my new dress form!

  20. fabrickated says:

    I must agree with all the others. I didn’t care for the look at the back – it sort of looks like her underwear if showing through. But the front is very nice indeed. My mind was more boggling about the “silent auction” – why someone would donate an elaborate dress, why someone else would bid for something way too small, why she then went for a somewhat unsatisfactory solution. Oh well, as ever, a fascinating read. And wonderful, wonderful produce. I also like reading about how you work Mrs Mole – with the political documentaries and “spa” music. I can really imagine you now…

  21. You did everything you could in the time you had to make this dress ‘wearable’ (she’ll be fine as long as she never shows her back…lol! Shawl, anyone?)…but, O.M.G. I hated to see this beautiful Sue Wong disgraced. I’m hoping someone with good intentions won her this dress and she felt obligated to wear it…otherwise, it would have been SO much better to send it on to another home. GAH!!! You deserve a prize for taking this on and getting it out the door in that little time – and staying sane 🙂 Love the spa music idea! I have several stations of that type that are so very peaceful and restful – perfect after a busy, crazy day!

    As always, I’m enjoying your veggie pics!!

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