What happens when you combine the bodice of this dress:

and the skirt of this dress:

You get a Monster! P1190379

The front


The back and train.

The bride custom ordered this from Lazaro and had it custom made but you know what is coming don’t you? Alterations to make it fit…yes indeed. You would think that if a salon charged you over $6000 for a custom made dress it might fit and be the right length?

Let’s start at the top, mostly see-through, no real lining, except for the flower petals and strips of boning.P1190714

First, remove all the beads and flowers so we can take in the bodice zipper 1.5 inches on each side…total of 3 inches…is this custom? Hand baste the invisible zipper and sheer backing and hope it is enough.


On the outside you can see that every flower petal and motif was sewn by hand one at a time:


Here are the leftovers from the bodice:P1190861and the leftovers from the over-skirt:P1190860

Moving down to the satin layer hem with horsehair braid:P1190381

This hem has to be shortened at least 5 inches, maybe more, along with 4 more layers of netting and a lining and a layer of super gathered netting ruffles…all 5 inches shorter.


What about the top layer with rows and rows of bias cut polyester organza ruffles stitched from 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart?P1190380

See the back side of the top layer…beautiful, no? I told the bride that she could wear this skirt inside out as it is a work of art. Every row is stitched in a chevron pattern.


How does one shorten this? Once the hem length is determined, each layer of ruffles will have to be removed until there is just one layer hanging down to cover the hemmed organza base…well, that is the plan anyway. You can’t just cut it off and fold a hem under can you? You can’t toss it in the serger and make a rolled hem can you?P1190742

I planned on not cutting off any of the 5+ inches of the hem and hand sewing that edge up on the wrong side in case this dress was ever sold or given to a taller girl. All of the removed bias ruffles were saved as well so they could be attached as well…so in a way, a versatile skirt.P1190854

First, I tried making 3 over-bustle points for the satin layer below. They were OK, but by making the same points as under-layer bustle points that satin will lay flatter before the ruffled over-skirt falls over it.



Here is the result below, soft folds that can be flattened and way easier to sit on for the meal. You do have to think about the whole event and not just the walking down the aisle or photo sessions. You don’t want your bride to be sitting on her own “tuffet” the whole day.

The bride preferred the ruffled over-skirt to also be bustled under. (The straps in the photo are just to hold this heavy dress on the mannequin). I know, it looks weird…and I preferred the over bustle as the chevrons looked prettier but it is not my dress.


Here is an insider’s view of how I shorten all those lace petticoat layers. I make deep horizontal pleats all around using a long machine basting stitch. If the bride ever sells or gives her dress to a taller girl, these can all be let down.


The red thread basted line below is the new hem edge of the satin layer. The green thread line is the horsehair attachment line. The horsehair braid is attached with a 1/4 inch stitching line down the unmarked edge and flipped to the wrong side and everything trimmed off.


P1190838 P1190839

Quilters will recognize the 1/4 inch foot above…it sure does come in handy!


Here you can see the 1/4 inch folded edge and now after trimming off all the excess beyond the horsehair braid edge, it will be hand sewn to the lining.


On the final day for her fitting, the front was a perfect length, the bodice was tight enough to hold up her bust and no one will know what was done to this custom gown. (Tattoos have been photo-shopped away)P1190863-2

This dress was the most expensive I have ever worked on…was I nervous, overwhelmed, scared shit-less? YOU BET! But with lots of thinking time and working backwards, the puzzle was solved and the bride gave me a tip…that makes 3 this year and I appreciate that!

So, is the bridal season over yet?….ha ha…is it 2016 yet?

More on the horizon and already 8 brides are booked in for next year from one salon.

Thanks for visiting and spending time reading through all this…happy sewing everyone! Hope you still have some leftover Halloween candy!


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42 Responses to Lazaro

  1. Krysti says:

    Nice job! Those ruffly, beaded dresses are a lot of work! Just another bridal shop perspective. The definition of CUSTOM at the bridal shop/designer means custom changes. It NEVER means fit. I don’t know any designers (I don’t know them all of course) that will do custom dresses based on measurements. A few will do “custom” length, or a 3-5 inch shorter/longer hem. Although I have had trouble with the “custom” lengths coming in too short or too long – then we (the bridal shop) had to fix it and often “eat” the cost because after all “they ordered it custom length.” So no matter what custom changes the bride wants done they still have to pick a standard size. Most the time also, the bridal shop does not make money on the changes, only the original dress – so it is the designers that charge the exhorbitant prices for custom. In truth the desingers probably don’t like doing custom work since it requires way more time and atttention than just knocking out the dress. I guess the good news it – we will be in business for a long time! 🙂

    On another note – it sounds like you limit your wedding gowns to a certain number per week -how many do you do? When you met you goal for the week do you turn brides away to another alteration place?

  2. mrsmole says:

    I try to limit myself to 5 brides a month but usually go over to 8 but I have gone to 11. As long as I have 2 months in advance I can accomplish everything before the wedding date. Cranking out almost 100 brides a season can be taxing. If I get last minute brides or just cannot take them much earlier than normal, I do refer them to another seamstress if she wants them. Most of my sewing friends say, “I used to do bridal, now they are all yours”. If I hear a load of children screaming in the background or a baby crying, I do hesitate to give them an appointment as they all expect to bring the children along and even ask if I have a play area for them…I’m not a McDonald’s!

  3. June says:

    Wowee! Amazing, detailed work – both in the original gown and then by you.

    But man, that’s a lot of money for a single wearing. I’m glad she thought to give you a tip!

  4. MIchaelC says:

    Wow. Another job extremely well done. I am glad she tipped you. That shows she appreciated your hard labor. Me thinks most of these brides think alterations are an afterthought that anybody can do. After all ” they can just take in sides and add a dart and it will fit. It won’t take that long”. Ha
    Best to you

  5. mrsmole says:

    You got that right Michael…”It’s a simple fix, it won’t take you that long” is a phrase I hear over the phone a lot.

  6. Sharon says:

    Kuddos to you Mrs. Mole with that hem.
    I wish you were closer. I would gladly hand over
    some of the more challenging brides to you!

  7. fabrickated says:

    I really appreciate your thoughtfulness in providing options for the next seamstress to tackle this dress. For this alone you deserved the tip. I think it is a bit of a monster actually, and although it does fit extremely well (like all your dresses) I am sad about the tattoos – to me there is a culture clash.

    • mrsmole says:

      I did not show the rest of the photos where the tattoos covered the rest of the bride…it seems to be the thing these days and if I get a bride without a visible one…it is a rarity!

  8. celeste says:

    I agree with Fabricated; seeing that lovely white dress worn with tattooed arms just makes me wince. I do not “get it” and I never will. I am awed at the amount of work this took you, Mrs. Mole. You have exceeded expectations, as usual!

  9. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Celeste…this project really forced me to pull up my big girl panties and get it done. I had been sent photos of the dress but never realized the volume and difficulty involved once it showed up. Then I wished I had never said yes. The initial fitting was not exactly nice and friendly but as time went on, we ironed out things…literally and figuratively. There are always issues of trust and skepticism as to the seamstress’ skill level. I’m glad i could make her dream dress fit well and get her down the aisle.

    • SJ Kurtz says:

      This is why I read your posts before anything else. It’s not the alterations (although this one is breathtaking); it’s the personal service. So many people do not care. Thanks for being one of the better ones.

      • mrsmole says:

        You are so sweet, Ernie….I don’t know any other way to be but I know what you mean about lack of service or lack of care…we find it everywhere don’t we? repair people, repair techs, after sales service…we would like to think that they care about us and will do their best but it is not always possible.

  10. Valerie says:

    The final result on this dress looks lovely, which is not what I expected from the first shot.
    I am in awe, Mrs Mole. I think you should post a gallery of ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots in your salon!

  11. mrsmole says:

    Thanks Valerie, photo gallery…just what I need is more encouragement for brides to buy the “wrong” dress and ask me to make it the “right” dress…ha ha! Even with a dress this big, the hidden Jessica Rabbit has to come out and make her final appearance with plumped up boobs and tiny waist…everything below that is just fluff!

  12. fabricfan says:

    I am always shocked and in awe at the challenges you face and how you make all your brides beautiful on their day.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks you fabricfan…I’m in awe of quilters and weavers because i could never do what they do with such passion. It is a gift and until the knees and eyes give out, I guess I will continue snugging up dresses and sewing in bust pads!

  13. I don’t how you managed all that. I just can’t get my head around any of it. But you did a fantastic job – you deserved the tip! (All the candy is gone!)

  14. maryfunt says:

    Spectacular job! What a nightmare dealing with that volume of skirt. The bodice with all the hand applied petals and beading is lovely. I might have considered shortening from the waist but the skirt probably flared out and removing 5-6 inches would have meant needing to take in at the sides ( a bigger nightmare) plus you would have needed to cut off the excess length. Your way of leaving the extra fabric was the best choice, plus she could resell the dress. You probably spent hours mentally taking this dress apart and figuring out what to do! I agree with you that an over bustle would have been better but like you said “it’s her dress.” It resembles an ostrich butt.
    I agree with you on the tattoo. They are becoming so common but I just don’t get the look.

    • mrsmole says:

      Ostrich butt…I named them rooster butts…all the same but we do what we are asked…ha ha. Lots of thinking and planning…like you in your studio…you want a good outcome and smiling client and referrals, you just have to put in the time. Tattoos, I have photos of all my brides and one just gets used to them and almost doesn’t notice them nor have time to read them if they are like a page from a book or list of long-lost lovers. Some of the huge bird ones are eye-popping or snakes up the legs…scary stuff! Some of the brides tell me the veil will cover them, heavy duty make-up or a bolero jacket just so they are not in the photos for the grandchildren to see 40 years from now.

  15. KarenW says:

    Wow, what a project! I see these dresses on TV and often wonder what’s going on under there. Lovely to see photos of all that detail work, especially the bodice and the way the pleats are attached. You did an amazing job, skilled _and_thoughtful, and she will look great.

    I don’t in principle object to tattoos (on others), but that much dress and that much tattoo is Too Much, IMO.

    • mrsmole says:

      At a certain point, people see the tattoos and not the dress…sad really. The inside of this dress was really something…no lining, very little in support and the skirt lining was cheap acetate with a huge opening from the waist to the knees in center back, not even attached to the dress…what is that all about? If it wasn’t for the 4 layers of tulle/netting petticoats, this dress would have just hung there looking pretty droopy…again the main reason for steaming every layer before I got started to see what the main structure was and how much to cut off. Wish I could see inside those dresses on TV too, Karen!

  16. Tanya Maile says:

    Oh my, what a pain! Interesting to see the inside though and your wonderful handwork. It seems that if you order a “custom” gown that it should be made to your measurements and be the right length. The only”custom” part is reflected in the price! I’m glad she gave you a tip!

    • mrsmole says:

      Custom should come a little closer to your bust and waist measurement for $6000. The length is pretty much set unless you order a Casablanca dress where they measure you from “hollow to hem” (neckline to floor). Her tip allowed me to have a much needed sports massage to get the kinks out!

  17. jay says:

    Fantastic job! The style is lovely, but what a lot of work to make it fit well.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Jay, you know how many hours we spend making things work…bridal is just another example of packing hours and hours into something that will be worn half a day and then stuffed back into the garment bag. Sad some times to think of it being used once and never again.

  18. prttynpnk says:

    Oh those tiny little flowers! I want to touch them!!! That hem- how did you figure out how to hem that????

  19. mrsmole says:

    The hem was measured and pinned up under to the wrong side. My famous red thread tracing was done and then everything below the thread was removed strip by strip until I cam to the last 4 inch wide strip that would be the final level. All hand basted and then for the second try-on to doubly make sure it was safe and worked with her shoes. Then the base fabric was permanently folded to the wrong side and hand sewn up into place for the next bride to inherit it. One day the next seamstress will thank me for not cutting anything off!

  20. Robin says:

    I was holding my breath as I read this post! It was certainly a job for a GREAT alterationist, no less would do. You nailed it! I do agree with your thoughts on the outer bustle, but the main thing is making the bride happy. What a dress! She must have a big & confident personality to pull it off. Good for her!

  21. mrsmole says:

    She was larger than life in personality and confidence…you almost have to be to have so many tattoos and an unlimited wedding budget. I did not show all her tattoos, it was too over whelming whether to look at the dress or her skin. Thanks for your kind words, Robin! Everyone should go and see what wedding gown you are working on now…such lovely detail and teeny tiny pearls!

  22. symondezyn says:

    Wow, $6000??? Think of all the beautiful fabric one could buy with that kind of money! LOL ^_^

  23. Carolyn says:

    I can’t believe that she paid $6000 for that dress! Or that she had it custom made! I’m glad she recognized that you deserved a tip for all of your hard work. And yet again I have to give you kudos for this type of work – you definitely make impossible dreams come true!

  24. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Carolyn…the good Lord gives us all talents for a reason!

  25. elbowsofdoom says:

    Wow, you are a miracle worker once again Mrs. Mole. Every time I even mildly think about going into the alterations business I read one of your enlightening posts and I cringe and change my mind. I can’t believe there was nothing under the top layer at all. It also makes my blood pressure rise when only 3 people have thought to tip you this year! Hairdressers routinely get tips and I know how often most people see their hairdresser each year. This is a (hopefully) once in a lifetime event where the bride seems to demand everything must be perfect. I am appalled. You are a saint. Love your veggie garden, wish I lived in a better growing climate.

  26. mrsmole says:

    Thank you so much, Elbows, I have mentioned the tipping issue in previous posts and many of my readers told me to add my own damn tip if I needed one instead of waiting for the bride to toss one in while writing her check. While this seems odd to me, I do just wonder what they are thinking after someone works on your dress for 6-8 hours making everything just perfect as you have directed and then not round up the bill by $5 as a courtesy. Maybe they are thinking that they will never see me again, not like a hairdresser or nail girl who they visit 10 times a year. Before I took on full-time bridal 10 years ago, I did regular altering and it was much less stressful and faster like hemming pants and sleeves and whoosh…out the door with cash in hand!

  27. Pingback: Crying Thighs | fit for a queen

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