Trainwreck to Wearable

Some days I feel like Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone series back in the 1960’s where he opens each program with the statement, “Imagine, if you will…”

So, imagine if you will, a wedding dress created by a seamstress who uses her Disney costume making background as her qualifications to charge $500 for this dress:

5. too many issues6. barely closes

Now, if you have been following me for some time, you know that bust points and princess seams are never 5 inches apart and normal would be 8-10 +. So without a pattern this dress was whipped up without much regard for fitting well.

The unlined sleeves were gathered unto a very high armhole, the hips were too tight, the lining was 2 inches less in circumference than the dress and the lining hung 3 inches below the hem while the hem was 3 inches too short. Bad enough but the bride had asked for a high neck collar and removable lace bustle and tapered skirt. We did mange to zip up the center lapped zipper but the bride could not even take a breath. In the back photo, the original zipper was removed in preparation for an invisible one later.

To start with, outside there was a bump at the end of the zipper, so looking inside this is what caused it:1. lining bubble

You can see that the lining was attached after the zipper was stitched and just laid beside the teeth and double stitched over the first stitching adding lots of puckering. All stitching on this dress was double stitched using a 1.5 stitch length…really nasty to remove and leaving tracks in the satin.4. double stitched zipper69. damaged fabric

Armhole double stitching to be removed and lining tacked to bust points of satin…who does that?

7. armhole double stitching8. bustpoint lining tacked on

Looking inside we find rows of “shark’s teeth” seam allowances in lining and satin. Because the lining restricted the zipper from closing, I compared the circumferences and discovered the lining was over 2 inches smaller so all the vertical seams were let out as much as possible but avoiding more raveling as they were all unfinished.

10. all bust points11. comparing

Once all the layers were equalized, they were basted by hand on all edges before tackling the front panel. Another disturbing feature was the many black pencil marks on the seam lines.

19. neck and shoulder layers

In order to add a patch (to make a new pattern for a new panel) down the center front to widen the bust points to 8 inches, I had to stitch 2 vertical rows before cutting between them with pinking shears:

20. prepare to slash front panel22. front slashed

Let’s add a temporary white poly vertical patch and a new invisible zipper:

23. front patch 24. new invisble zipper basted

The new patch was too wide at the neckline so it was darted, overlapped and pinned and raised up (to accommodate a high collar) before cutting  new fronts of satin and lining fabric.27. cutting new panels 28. new front panels30. new panel

Even though there are tons of wrinkles still in the photo on the mannequin, on a real body they do mostly disappear.

You can see we are getting closer to fitting properly but the issue becomes the hem. A lace strip is proposed along with making the hem edge equal all around first and narrowing the skirt.31. taper side seams The wrinkles in the sleeves and back princess seams are due to the fact that they have not been dropped in the armhole, nor trimmed and pressed.

Did I fail to mention that this stiff satin fabric from JoAnn’s has a very strange vertical stretch like a knit so any vertical stitching causes the fabrics to grow? I believe it was from the Home Dec section and should have been used for drapes, pillows or to cover a headboard. The satin had no crosswise stretch and the poly lining had no stretch at all, so not too compatible to start with!

After measuring the hem and lining, the gathered lace strip was attached by hand:36. equal all around39. pinned front

The other issue was the lace bustle which had to be attached to a self covered 1.5 inch grosgrain ribbon belt:47. hand stitched

First the lace panel was zigzagged to the belt, then flipped and hand stitched on the top and bottom edge.48. zigzag stitched Five large snaps were attached to hold this bustle/back apron together tightly without drooping.

49. flipped and hand tacked51. safety pinned      57. try on53. front of belt

Then at the try-on, the lace bustle was trimmed to floor level.

What next? The high neck collar from a straight strip of the bustle lace. It has to go around a curve so the seam allowance had to be slashed to sit flat and a bias strip of lining attached to the inside seam allowance to cover the raw edges:

54. pinned collar 65. hand sew bias

To keep the 2 edges together at center back I used the hanging snap technique:67. hanging snap closure

Sleeves were repositioned lower in the armhole:56. lower sleeve

After all the seams were pressed flat and trimmed, the seams looked as good as they could and the bride was happy.She decided on the lace hem with no gathers.

Here is a photo of her although with her husband and others hugging her around the waist, it sure made lots of wrinkles. Don’t know what happened to the lace bustle…maybe it was attached later?sarah-2015-2

If you want to see over 60 photos taken during this transformation and 20 hours of labor I have created a Pinterest page to view them: https://www.pinterest.com/surroundedbywhi/trainwreck-to-wearable/

This was my last dress of 2015 before I closed the sewing room for a break.

Thank you for reading through all of this and I wish you happy sewing!

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90 Responses to Trainwreck to Wearable

  1. Michelle says:

    You are a miracle worker.

  2. Kathy says:

    Mrs. Mole, you are a miracle worker! Wishing you much simpler alterations in 2016! Though I do look forward to your entertaining tales and wonderful sense of humor in the New Year!

  3. ParisGrrl says:

    I think that miracle may qualify you for sainthood.

  4. racurac2 says:

    I agree with the other readers: you are a Saint!

  5. lisa g says:

    Wow! It’s nothing short of a miracle that you were able to salvage the dress!

    • mrsmole says:

      Lisa, I got the dress under the phrase, “it needs the hips to be let out” and the rest was a surprise. The bride finally revealed that everything I added was supposed to be done the first time around but wasn’t.

  6. Carolyn says:

    You made an ugly dress beautiful and worthy of a bride! I love how the lace bustle matched the hem of the dress and the neckline. You are amazing!

    • mrsmole says:

      So now you know how to crank up the pizzazz on a boring solid dress, Carolyn…haha Sniff through your stash and find your laces and whip up a new creation! Thanks for your comment!!!

  7. Stephanie says:

    OMG! I would have asked the bride to scrap the dress and start over!! You did such a great job. (But gee, even I am a better seamstress than the person who got paid to make the dress in the first place…)

    • mrsmole says:

      Well Stephanie, you sound like someone that Disney could use…no? I would have started over but I had only one week and very little leftover fabric to whip up a new one.

  8. Bernadette says:

    Saint Mrs. Mole, before I read any other comment I knew that you were destined for beatification, but this is not the first miracle that I have “witnessed” vicariously since discovering your blog. So I am echoing all of the above after all. But when faced with such a mess, why not start over? And did this poor bride get her money back from the swindler who produced the trainwreck?

    • mrsmole says:

      The bride had already spent so much on fabric that it was not an option to just go and buy more. I used what she had left and made it work. She also did not have time as the wedding was a week away. It was a very tight situation and desperate. I only hope that the name of the first seamstress gets shared as someone to avoid. I hope to not have too many more train wrecks in the future…it is way too stressful to have this dropped on your doorstep a week before Christmas.

  9. Erinnb says:

    Like others I must know why you would bother and insist she start fresh. Surely it would have been less time consuming.

    • mrsmole says:

      There was no option of buying more fabric so I did the best I could and like I have said above…I had one week to complete the transformation.My back was up against the wall and the total responsibility was mine.

  10. Tia Dia says:

    I seriously cannot believe it turned out as pretty as it did. Good heavens! You took a complete disaster and turned it into something pretty. Wow. Just wow.

  11. Wouldn’t it be easier for you to be the actual maker/designer of these endless dresses, rather than fixing them up in such major ways? You certainly have the experience. This job is incredible, beginning to end.

    • mrsmole says:

      Spending 4 hours on a dress is the usual requirement and that suits me fine. Spending 20 hours or more on a dress from scratch would not be fun at all. Working on 80 dresses a season and making 80 + brides happy is way more rewarding for some strange reason and I really don’t have enough room for huge cutting tables for all that flat fabric and tulle…you almost need tables like they have where draperies are made for some of those ballgowns. Thank you for the nice comment!

  12. June says:

    OMG, that is amazing. Who knew these kinds of alterations were even possible? I’ve been taking in the waist and hips of a bunch of my work pants, really standard stuff, but I’m sweating bullets over them. The kind of work you describe here seems like stuff made of magical fairy dust and potions!

  13. Mary Glenn says:

    I would have to find the person that made this mess and ban them from sewing forever. It’s so wrong to take advantage of a bride like that.

    • mrsmole says:

      Anyone can say they are a seamstress…there are no rules or regulations, just a city license to pay once a year. When people call to tell me they read my reviews on Yelp and Google, I say you earn every review, good, bad, or ugly and in this small town, word will get around about the first seamstress for sure.

  14. robbie says:

    Whew!!! I feel like some of the others–it would have been easier to just make her a dress. The original was certainly a trainwreck. The Disney costume maker needs to be on a most wanted list for impersonating a seamstress.

  15. mrsmole says:

    That is for sure, Robbie…impersonating a seamstress should be punishable by wearing a Disney costume for a long long time…ha ha

  16. “lining tacked to bust points of satin…who does that?” This literally had me laughing for like 5 minutes. My dad thought I was having a seizure. But seriously, who does do that?

    • mrsmole says:

      Funny, I can understand tacking the lining at the side seams or waist seams depending on the style as that is the norm in wedding gowns but to have a 1/2 inch long stitching line at the nipple through all layers of fabric is just wrong. Guess we were just lucky the seamstress made the bust points only 5 inches apart and it all had to be re-done anyway. I’m glad this post shows so many things NOT to do like draw the seam allowances with black pencil…insane!

  17. Christine says:

    Your blogs are always so informative, helpful and thought provoking. I read them avidly. Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of your bridal “revamps” you obviously have great patience and kindness.

    • mrsmole says:

      Sometimes just having a challenge makes your brain kick into high gear and also taking photos knowing they will be shared makes the job tolerable. I know older women like me do crossword puzzles to keep their brains active but they should come and visit me for a real workout…ha ha! Thanks, Christine.

  18. jay says:

    I always think you have worked a miracle, but this one is a marvellous transformation. When I started reading, I assumed the bride would be a difficult to fit figure and was preparing myself to make excuses for the original ‘seamstress’. The final shot shows that she would be a dream client. I hope the word gets around to save other brides from expensive disappointment.

    • mrsmole says:

      You are right Jay, she was a perfect size so no problem there! I was not given her name so I am not tempted to spread her name myself, I’ll let others do that as a community service to save others from heartache!

  19. Sally says:

    Another fabulous job Mrs Mole, or should I say the wedding dress fairy godmother 😊 Waving your magic wand to perform yet another miracle!
    I’m always intrigued where you find the fabric for the replacement panel… it look like a very good match 😊
    Hope you are enjoying your break

    • mrsmole says:

      This time the bride had enough leftover nasty fabric to cut the new fronts so that was a bonus! I am enjoying the break and have been spending time reading and making a few tops for myself and not answering a phone…another bonus!

  20. Rena Pearson says:

    I’m guessing they didn’t do a muslin fitting!!! Most people don’t realize the skill involved with sewing. You don’t just take a class or two and start sewing for others. Most of us seamstresses have had years and years of experience before we take on sewing for others. And we usually specialize in one area…I don’t do home dec or bridal but I can sew dance costumes! I also alter prom dresses but that’s not my passion. I’m amazed that you took on this nightmare in the first place!!! Drives me crazy when people say oh but I can get that fabric for 40% off with my coupon, why does the dress cost so much??? I sent a customer to the only real fabric store in Atlanta and she was AMAZED at the selection and quality.

    • mrsmole says:

      I’m with you, Rena…having a 40% off coupon is just a false sense of a bargain…like say someone buying cheaper hair dye at Sally’s and then expecting the hairdresser to discount her services as well…really? Do you have any names of qualified bridal seamstresses in Atlanta? I get asked a lot for names and I only know of one in Augusta.

      • Rena Pearson says:

        I know a lady in Peachtree City that is awesome! There used to be a lady that lived down the street from me but I’m not sure she’s still there. She did alterations for Bridals by Lori (Say Yes to the Dress). I’ll see if I can find her contact info. I can do hems/ minor alterations on prom/bridesmaids but don’t have any interest in dealing with the kind of crazy that comes with bridal!!!

      • mrsmole says:

        Thanks, Rena, if you can get a name or two, it would help future brides who write to me.You can send me names to surroundedbywhite@gmail.com

    • Jessica says:

      Which fabric store in Atlanta are you referring to? I recently moved to cartersville and since I have been here I have done ALL my shopping online. Michaels and Hancock have their place in the world but I would love to know of somewhere else.

      • Rena Pearson says:

        Gail K on Cheshire Bridge Rd. It’s a bit of a seedy area but the store is amazing…packed FULL and worth the drive. They get some really high end designer fabrics as well as stuff I can afford! Sew Main Street in Woodstock is a charming little store. Mostly quilt cotton but they carry some knits (Art Gallery Prints, Riley Blake, etc.). They also have lots of notions, threads, ribbons, and interesting bits and pieces (markers, patterns, etc.).

  21. Sarah says:

    A bride who didn’t want all her parts hanging out on her wedding day! What a nice change. You made her modesty an asset.

  22. celeste says:

    Mrs. Mole, you should change your name to Mrs. Magician, because that is what this is, flat out magic achieved by superb workmanship, skill, and intelligence. You are my hero, because that original dress was a wadder, in my opinion.

  23. MIchaelC says:

    That first dress is so horrid, not even a drag queen would wear it. You really make these things nice. And you keep a sense of humour about it. Hope you enjoy your time off. Looking forward to new posts!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Michael, I would think a drag queen would take one look at that dress and run screaming from the room, not plunk down $500.You have to laugh at what shows up…there are probably poor bored seamstresses out there who never see this kind of stuff so they have to follow me for their entertainment. You would never think that so many strange things could come out of a small rural valley…perhaps aliens in space ships drop these things off just to make us nuts…we are a huge experiment?

  24. Nakisha says:

    I’m inclined to think the bride could’ve learned to sew herself and done better than what she paid for with a Lekala pattern or something!

    OUCH.

    I am rarely speechless but the output of that “seamstress” did it.

    • mrsmole says:

      It does make you wonder where the seamstress got the idea for such a weird princess seams. Maybe she just used a Disney costume and made it longer…who knows? Does Lekala produce such crappy patterns?

      • Nakisha says:

        I’ll have to check out the princess’ dresses! Hahaha!

        I think a Lekala pattern plus a sewing machine would’ve yielded something better than the original for even the most novice sewer!!!!

        I’m just…stunned. But, even in my short time on the sewing scene, I’ve seen someone learn to sew and within the year they have “clients” and I think…ah…interesting.

  25. prttynpnk says:

    Jaw drop- I thought when you showed the first pic that it was a Muslin you were going to teach us pattern evil with!

  26. Arted1 says:

    WOW! The customer should have just come to you initially. You are a sewing savant.

  27. Meg says:

    Even a sow’s ear looks better than what you started with….. Very nicely done. I am sure the bride was happy, relieved, and looked beautiful at your hand.

    • mrsmole says:

      Here I was thinking that she would only be able to wear this dress once but I was told her church requires a white dress to be worn every week so she can get a lot more use out of all that labor which makes me so happy.

  28. My goodness. It would have been easier to start with a new piece of fabric all together. How sad to have someone charge that much money for such a mess. I had to redo a skirt and blouse that was for this lady’s daughter’s wedding. The skirt had masking tape for waistband interfacing. It had a side pocket opening which was the pocket seam just left wide open. And the blouse sleeves had been switched right for left so the cuffs opened up backwards and the shoulder dot matched to the yoke seam instead of the shoulder. That was probably 30 years ago and it’s still very memorable.
    I think you will be way past the pearly gates. Hope you had a restful break afterwards. And lots of wine.

    • mrsmole says:

      What a great story! Masking tape in the waistband…now that is resourceful! Only the brave seamstresses attempt to make something like that right again! No fear about the restful break…went for a long walk today and came back to find the wine supply was getting low so we jumped in the car to buy more.

  29. Holy moly what a mess! I take comfort in knowing I am not THAT bad. Jeebus…the insides of the dress are like the rookiest noob to ever start sewing and even they usually try harder to make something nice.
    Clearly there was no fitting involved at all? Yikes!

    • mrsmole says:

      Pretty scary but like most professions…there are the good and the bad…both making the same hourly wage and it is sad to see this person actually get away with this. It was as if she was making costumes so it really didn’t matter too much but I cannot forgive her for making the lining 2 inches too narrow and 3 inches too long…if there was a pattern, she didn’t think she should cut both fabrics with it. Bizarre!

  30. Val says:

    I am left almost wordless at your photos Mrs. Mole. I think the garments I created when I was 13 and in my first year of sewing were vastly more professional than what you started with here. Did a child sew this garment? Did the seamstress have limited eyesight? I could maybe believe the results if “Aunt Susie” had volunteered to make the dress for free as a gift but the person who made this dress should hang their heads in shame that they accepted payment for it.

    • mrsmole says:

      It is always a shock to see garments like this and when I ask the client about who made it, I always say, “don’t tell me her name, just tell others so they don’t make the same mistake”. If I had had more time I would have suggested a complete do over but we had so few days left before the event.

  31. Valerie says:

    You made that bride look beautiful and I can see why you really needed a holiday afterwards.

  32. This is the sort of seamstress that gives us all so much trouble. I do hope the bride didn’t actually pay the $500 for that mess. If she did I hope she added a 0 to the bill she paid you. You pulled the rabbit out of the hat with this transformation!

    • mrsmole says:

      Ha ha…Oh Kim, there were certainly rabbits bouncing around my sewing room!!! The bride did pay over $500 and I think that did not include the fabrics so quite an expensive lesson.

  33. Sharon says:

    Some of these dresses that make it to your doorstep are like stray cats and dogs. Some how they just know there is a kind lady on the other side of the door that will take them in. Have you ever turned anything away due to it being impossible for even you? I can’t imagine how horrid that would look like. Once again, great job Mrs. Mole !

    • mrsmole says:

      Never thought of these poor dresses like homeless animals before…but your are correct, Sharon…they need a lot of TLC!!! I have never turned away anything so pitiful only turned away a bride with a huge ego and a laundry list of all the things she wanted done that were way too much trouble and close to impossible that would have made my hands and brain sore. You know the type!

  34. Cookie says:

    All I can think of is that the original seamstress must have been drinking when she made it.

    • mrsmole says:

      It does make you think…does she think this is worth $500 and is this the best the bride could look? She had a perfect figure so that was not the problem.

  35. sewruth says:

    The original was shocking! Your version is lovely. And so refreshing to see a ‘full’ dress instead of flesh.

  36. symondezyn says:

    wow, lovely job – the dress looks so nice on the bride; what a refreshing change to see a more modest style after all those skintight mermaid butts! ^_^

  37. maryfunt says:

    You are an absolute saint (or insane) for this one! I’m with those who suggested trashing the whole thing and starting over but understand why that wasn’t possible. It was definitely more work to deal with the existing mess! I certainly hope this dressmaker realizes her shortcomings before accepting another job. What she did to the poor bride is just wrong. Anyone being paid to make a bridal gown needs a level of competence which this dressmaker clearly doesn’t have. Once again you saved the day. I hope you had a few stiff ones to celebrate the end of this!

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Mary, after 3 straight days of sewing 8 hours a day non-stop, you bet I had a little reward. Some days just seeing the gown leave the sewing room is reward enough!

  38. Shams says:

    Wow, here is the difference between you and I. Had I been faced with that disaster, I would have declared it a wadder!

    • mrsmole says:

      But then there would have been nothing to share with all of you hungry readers…ha ha!!!
      Every bride that enters my sewing room brings her own problems and challenges that keep my old brain alive and supple!

  39. Well she looks lovely! She certainly wouldn’t have without your assistance. What a mess of a dress it was!

    • mrsmole says:

      Maybe the good Lord knows that I like contrast and the more her sends me, the more I get excited over making things right in fitting and design? There are probably better faster ways for dealing with such dresses but for now, I use my resources to try to make things right. Thanks for your comment, Linda!

  40. fabrickated says:

    I love this post. Firstly for the hilarious Disney dress, and then (magic wand) ping! – a lovely dress appears. This, with all the amazing construction pictures, would make a great little video or short film. Total transformation from joke outfit to elegance. It’s the best kind of makeover. I bet she looked great (even if she ditched the train). Bravo. A truly great save!

  41. Kristine says:

    I can only imagine the stress the bride must’ve felt after receiving THAT wedding dress in THAT form! Thank goodness you were around to save the wedding day – I think you did a fantastic job. I was also entertained reading your storytelling on this dress.

    • mrsmole says:

      She had been ill on the final day and was unable to even pick it up and the gal delivered it rolled up in a bag so it was not quite what she expected. Her friend brought her to me as I have done sewing for her family in the past and trusted me…it worked out the best.

  42. JustGail says:

    Wow. Just no words on this one.

    Have you ever been asked to testify in small-claims court (or asked to use your blog post as evidence) against the shoddy work by others, that you have the “pleasure” (“honor”?) to fix? If ever there was a bride that should file to get her money back, I think this one would be it. You pulled a miracle out on this.

  43. mrsmole says:

    Interesting question, Just Gail….no, not yet, but maybe one day I will have to produce some evidence and I will have it in photos for sure! Sometimes people use friends and relatives or members of their church to do their sewing and just put up with the cost and bad sewing for a reason.

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