Tiers Not Tears

Can you picture this Allure dress worn with a 12 foot long veil edged in lace? Can you picture it bustled?

Now can you picture it being worn on a short girl and not a 6 foot tall model?


Here is my bride striking the same pose:P1200478-2P1200482

Maybe you can see the ridge created by the too-long boning strips across her tummy. Maybe you can see the front lace scalloped hem is hanging over the edge of the platform and will surely drag on the ground…not a good sign.

So let’s list the alterations: bust pads, take in top of the hip area, shorten 9 boning strips, move zipper to tighten, shorten lining, shorten the satin layer, trim all netting, 5 point bustle, shorten a beaded belt, hand tack lining to top edge of bodice, and remove the 4 inch wide lace edging and move up…my personal favorite.

The zipper and bust pads you have seen a zillion times but shortening boning by 2 inches when it is securely sewn to the lining…let’s get started.P1200487

The stitching was removed and the little binding squares saved for the lower edge of each bone. Easy right? Cut off excess with paper scissors and then attach the squares, but how?


You can’t get that area under the presser foot so what else is available? How about fabric glue? Yes, it works to hold the ends together long enough to hand sew them back unto the lining.


The lace bordered hem was 1.5 inches too long so that was removed and re-attached higher up. The crummy part was instead of just being attached with a straight stitch at the top of each motif, it was also sewn all along the scalloped hem edge too…double the labor and half the fun.


Then the edging was hand basted into position and machine stitched top and bottom edge and the extra tulle trimmed away.


Of course, the beaded belt was 1/5 inches too long so all the beads were removed at the end and Velcro re-positioned and hand stitched down. Adding 2 snaps helps keep the underside secure.


Bustle time…how to get all those layers to look nice and play nice…maybe having all the buttons up under the top “apron” will work and it will cover the whole bunched up mess…finger’s crossed!


The loops will be at these positions to pull everything up off the ground…did I mention that this train weighs a ton? The top apron in the photo is flipped up to show the numbered .safety pins


In the meantime, the bride has been losing weight so from one visit to the next, the bodice is getting looser and her boobs have been disappearing so the bust pads have been doubled and the zipper and corset moved over twice.P1200591P1200586

Hand stitch and machine stitch the binding to both sides.


Machine stitch the zipper from the wrong side and add the buttons back on.

Hopefully when this bride comes on Thursday to pick up her dress, the top will be as snug as she wants and she won’t be able to take a deep breath like she asked for. When I mention to her that with a wedding starting at 2 pm and reception following until 2 am…it will be a long day to be in such restrictive dress, but she says this is exactly what she wants.

Another bride came to pick up her dress and related to me that she is so worried about the size of the zipper tab that she has stopped eating completely and would I be able to replace the factory zipper with a smaller tabbed one. If I had refused, she said she doubted whether she could go through with the wedding…REALLY?

So, I did replace it, otherwise I would have never been paid! She also has been losing weight and I have moved her zipper over of a total of 2.5 inches in 2 weeks and she says she cannot guarantee that she will not lose more before the June date…HOLD ON…my alterations do not come with a lifetime warranty. She has insisted on making 5 visits when all my other brides get 3…she has brought in her granny, her granny’s friend and sent the photos to her whole family asking over and over what they think every step of the way. She even sent me a YouTube video of how to bustle a lace train like I had never done it before. You may have ascertained that this has not been a good week in the sewing room.


What I really need is more time to sit in the patio and listen to the birds and the fountain with Mr. Mole.P1200562  P1200559

If your seasonal allergies allow…enjoy the blossom-filled week!

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62 Responses to Tiers Not Tears

  1. you are amazingly patient and some of the brides sound absolutely bonkers! Who is going to look at the size of the zipper tab? they seem to fixate on details that are ridiculous. But your talent always saves them. your garden looks lovely, enjoy your R & R time 🙂

  2. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Beth… what I would love to do is sit in your garden and escape all this madness!

  3. Christine says:

    You have the patience of a saint, what a nightmare some of the dresses and brides turn out to be. I hope you get paid well, you deserve it.

    • mrsmole says:

      I do alright and my clients are pleased with the fees as well. At least I only have to deal with them once, not like a hairdresser who sees them every month!

  4. robbie says:

    Your garden is beautiful — enjoy…

  5. jay says:

    You’ve performed a miracle again. What planet do these young women come from, that they expect any size of dress to shrink or grow any amount in a trice?

  6. SJ Kurtz says:

    Um, you remove the zipper tab and replace it with …something pretty! ? I mean, it’s her money, but apparently it’s all just about the dress. That’s pretty sad.

    The glue is a great thing, but I like it done NOW. Wondertape. Or it’s friend, Peel’n Stick Fabric Fuse. Just keep it out of the stitching part on the edge. Will it hold weight? I’m not going to weight test it with a wedding dress, but it will certainly work for the moment. Also, no leak through or show through.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks SJ, I knew I could not get an iron or presser foot near those little binding squares so the glue saved the day this time…next time I may get to use those products!

  7. MIchaelC says:

    Love these tales from the atelier. I hope you charge these lassies for every fix. Love your garden

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Michael…everything is written into a book and every bride has a page where I draw a line under every entry for every visit…want more stuff done, fine, let’s write it down and add a labor cost to it…stuff adds up!

  8. Colleen says:

    Awesome! I learn so much from your sharing. I am glad to see your technique for shortening the boning. I have a question. How do you determine at what length to shortening the boning? I hope your next several dresses are a breeze!! Thanks for taking the time to post!

    • mrsmole says:

      When the dress was on her I just pinned to the level where they should stop which was about the waist anyway. Once the dress was off, it measured 2 inches so they all got whacked off the same. There were more in the back but they didn’t cause any problems.

  9. Karen Lyon says:

    mrsmole, sometimes, don’t you think it would take less time and effort for you to sew the bridal dresses from scratch? I am not saying that you would get less flak from bridezillas, just that it might be less frazzling for your peace of mind.

    Enjoy your backyard sanctuary as much as possible. It helps alleviate some of the stress.



    Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2016 15:38:59 +0000 To: grumpykaren@hotmail.com

    • mrsmole says:

      The amount of space to spread out yards and yards of layer of tulle and lace and satin would require a drapery table and a much larger room than I have. The fitting would still require lots of time and as you say, they can still be critical except if it didn’t fit just right we could not blame the designer…it would be me…yikes! Thanks, Grumpy Karen!

  10. Sandy in MO says:

    I’m new to your blog. I also do alterations. Just wondering, do you charge extra when a bride changes size after your alterations? I always say that if they are planning on losing much weight to wait until about 3 weeks before the wedding before I do anything.

    • mrsmole says:

      I see brides 4 weeks before the event and even though they swear they are not dieting, they drop weight like crazy so I baste everything until 2 weeks before and cross my fingers that I can get everything tight tight enough. If after I have machine sewn the zipper in and have to do it again…I charge the normal rate to remove and tighten.

  11. I agree with Karen- I’d far rather make from scratch than do all these faffy alterations. What are they thinking when they buy them? I’d never have the patience, your halo must be dazzling!

  12. mrsmole says:

    I would rather alter the 80 dresses than make 80 from scratch. The volume is constant and I have even given away brides this year to keep the numbers manageable. Even with 80 in 10 months, that is a lot of altering that could never be made from scratch. Maybe I am slow but how many dresses could be made from start to finish without ending up a basket case? I sew during the night, most nights as it is, doing custom dresses would never allow me to stop! The fact is…many brides are NOT thinking when they buy the gown…then it is my problem to make it right.

    • Carolyn says:

      You’re definitely right, making 80 dresses a year would drive you insane because at least with alterations the brides have already found the dress of their dreams. It just needs a little work. With a dress from scratch, there are 100 or more decisions to fret over and bother the seamstress about.

      I’m getting ready to make my daughter’s wedding dress and it’s taken three months or more to decide on what dress to make. We haven’t been fabric shopping yet or made the muslin…so you’re right about the sewing from scratch.

      I hope you get some quality time in that beautiful garden!

      • mrsmole says:

        Hey Carolyn, how about keeping track of the hours you spend on this wedding dress…I have seen 200 hours is just a start once you actually get the fabric and make the muslin. So many dresses have a fence of boning strips on the lining and the satin along with underling and interfacing in the bodice before they start with the linings and gathered nettings for the skirt and train. If I have 200 hours to spend, I’d rather spend them on 40 dresses than just one…but we don’t always get that choice…ha ha. I wish you much good luck and to cherish the mother-daughter time during this project!!!

  13. They will never ever be that thin again! (unless they marry again, perhaps…) They can start eating after the reception when people are no longer looking quite so hard.

    • mrsmole says:

      It must be a huge relief to get to that point! Being the star of the show is demanding…just ask the Kardashians…they claim they are the hardest working people on the planet. Starving yourself, then stuffing yourself into a crazy tight dress with no breathing room and then expected to dance and entertain folks for 12 hours…where is the fun in that?

  14. Gina LM says:

    Mrs. Mole,
    I also had a week with difficult brides at my bridal salon. There must be something in the air (and I live on the East coast!). Oh well, 15 brides in April and another 15 brides already booked for May–I call it job security.

    • mrsmole says:

      It”s true, Gina…while other service professions wonder where their next client is coming from…we have a steady stream every year and to those who tell me, “well the season will be over in August” have no idea that this chaos runs from Feb-Jan…11 months of drama! I am lucky to have other seamstresses in the area to send my non-bridal clients to during this time. Even living in a small rural community 80-100 brides a year is a challenge to manage and recover from. They used to say you could predict craziness when the full moon was out…but in our profession it can last for weeks! Fingers crossed we might get some nice appreciative brides soon!

  15. Oh my gosh! I certainly hope you enjoy your down time as you certainly deserve it!

  16. dr P says:

    You must be a killer card shark mrs mole……that poker face!

  17. sewruth says:

    I don’t think your second bride should get married at all, you were being unkind to her future husband by replacing that zip! Despite reading your blog for years now I still wouldn’t have a clue where to start when altering one of these wedding dresses – give yourself a bonus!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Honey, my bonus is having people who I can share all this craziness with and they keep coming back for more stories. Being a solo seamstress with high volume leaves you little time for friends so you are all my friends and I love hearing your stories too. Just wish I had more time to troll the internet and comment regularly on your blogs too…I’m sorry I can’t. To start a wedding gown, I ask the bride, “what do you think you want” and then the list begins…she tells me…I do it…ha ha

  18. Sarah says:

    I wonder if there is a negative correlation between the amount of drama over the dress and the length of the marriage.

    • mrsmole says:

      I hate to think that half my brides will not last 5-7 years but that is the statistic we are working against. It is almost more comforting to work with a bride who has lived with her man for 5 years already, had a child or two and secure and happy in their relationship than to get a 20 yr old who does not have a clue and just wants to be the princess and stomps her cowboy boots and demands the world revolve around her.

  19. Connie says:

    I’m obviously of the wrong generation, so can someone explain what the belt adds to the dress. Perhaps it’s not supposed to “add” anything. In any case, I’m mystified why she’s adding a belt to a dress that’s all-over lace.

    • mrsmole says:

      This has been a trend for about 4 years, slap a beaded belt on any dress and call it trendy. The bridal salons sell belts from $100-over $500 so they are really pushing brides to do it. If you watch any TV shows about brides, they do the same thing. Many of my brides feel naked without their belt and hundreds of people are selling them on Etsy to make money…some skip wearing a veil but the belt stays…for now.

      • Connie says:

        Thanks. Even with an explanation, I simply don’t get it. I haven’t been to a wedding in years so I’ve missed this trend.

  20. Bunny says:

    That back yard is so beautiful I can’t imagine how you stay inside with your gowns. What a lovely respite after a day of bridezillas. All you need is a big icy G&T.

    • mrsmole says:

      Brown drinks are preferred…Diet Pepsi and Rum or Guinness and diet 7-up on a hot day…all super-sized!!! Wish you could join me here, Bunny , I think we might just laugh ourselves silly and pee our pants!

  21. Tia Dia says:

    Such a gorgeous dress, and so much altering! Smart, though, basting, re-basting, and re-basting again before stitching it up!

  22. maryfunt says:

    Beautiful job on the bustling! I do hope you charge for each redo from weight loss. It definitely does sometimes take SO much longer to unpick than to do the fix. Changing the zipper for that little of a difference? You are right; bridezilla has arrived.

    • mrsmole says:

      I knew you would get a kick out of that, Mary. When I mentioned this story to another seamstress friend of mine, about the zipper being on this Australian dress and the tab being “unacceptable”, she answered back…”Why, was it shaped like a kangaroo ?” Sometimes we just have to find the funny side of this chaos!

  23. Kathy Rockey says:

    I have often marveled at the amount of intensity and the details that go into current weddings. Your descriptions just fascinate me. I got married in 1977, made my dress from a commercial pattern with my Mother’s help. Satin with sheer sleeves, (yes, wedding dresses used to have sleeves!) lace overlay on the sleeves, bodice and lower skirt, and hand beading. Made my headpiece and veil. Made Mother’s dress, (polyester knit) and 2 of my bridesmaids, the others made their own (also polyester). A friend did the cake and another the flowers, church ladies helped with the reception in the church basement. Punch, cake nuts, mints. We borrowed some tablecloths and had one flower arrangement on the altar and some candles and ivy from our flowerbed on the pews. I had 4 months from engagement to wedding and we made it all work. Still married to the same guy, will be 39 years this year.
    Keep on sharing your stories, I am a nurse and cannot talk about what happens at work, but you couldn’t make this stuff up it you tried.

    • Connie says:

      I, too, made my wedding dress from a Simplicity or McCalls pattern. It was cotton ottoman, also with long sleeves. Current brides would be amazed to hear it cost me less than $25 for pattern, fabric, lace, and zipper, but it was 1967.

      • mrsmole says:

        That’s right Kathy and Connie, back in the good old days, weddings did not cost a fortune and we were not out to impress. My first wedding was arranged in 4 days, I wore a purple velvet dress, a matching bow in my hair, a friend made finger sandwiches, a small cake was made and a couple bottles of cheap champagne to drink in my parents family room and then off for a weekend of camping in the desert…the whole shebang cost under $100 back in 1971.

  24. JustGail says:

    I had asked a while back about making from scratch vs. altering, and I’m going to agree that altering is probably hugely less expensive. Especially considering the current fashion of laces, sequins, beads, crystals to a fare-thee-well and beyond.

    My mom made my dress (wow – 39 years ago!?!?!?!) but the only lace was the sleeves, and the only beading was small ones around the neckline. And still, her nerves were shot – the living room emptied of coffee table and footstools, clean sheets on the floor to cut out, and all of us under penalty of death if we touched it without washing our hands first. There *may* have been a requirement to have showered if we just came in from working outside. I imagine she’d have had some mighty fine words if I asked her to use fancy fabric! 🙂

    • JustGail says:

      By less expensive, I mean not only for the bride, but also for the dressmaker’s mental state and finances. There’s probably very few brides willing to pay what it would cost to make from scratch, without adding “I’m already paying you $$$$, what’s the big deal about making these changes the day before the wedding?!”. And yes, there’s the space requirement, which unless you have a clean unused area already, would cost $$$ in rent and/or remodeling.

      • mrsmole says:

        Just considering the chance you could have a picky bride standing over you for 200 hours and she having hundreds of options as to bodices and skirts and fabrics and beading is enough to make me sweat! If the average seamstress is charging $40 an hour, that would surely be more expensive than a RTW even if you went to Kleinfeld’s in NY like on the TV show, “Say Yes to the Dress”.

  25. Kate says:

    Hi Mrs mole, been a regular visitor to your blog for the past 6 months and just wondering..what would you do after the 1st fitting, the bride lost another 10 lbs and the dress no longer fit on second fitting? Or she wears a different under garments on 1st fitting and the dress is too tight or loose on second fitting?

    • mrsmole says:

      After pulling my hair out…I’d ask the bride if more weight was going to fall off and let the dress rest until the final week. If the bride is changing underwear, you have to write down what she is wearing and stick to it. I take photos at every visit and write on a page in a book what I did and what I am going to do and add labor costs when the bride goes way off gaining or losing weight. The issue is never with your sewing, it is with the changing sizes of the bride. I used to have a scale in my entryway, not to weight the brides but because it was the only non-carpeted surface in my home but just seeing the scale, some brides got plenty nervous!!!!

  26. fabrickated says:

    Great post, and great replies. I love what you have done with the first dress – the way the apron works over the bustling is very attractive and solves the short girl/long dress issue perfectly. I think the main issue with designing and making dresses to fit is that few brides understand enough about their own figures, what really suits them, how fabrics behave, how long it takes to make a custom dress, what all the options are – to specify well requires both imagination and understanding, and trust. At least with off the peg they choose something they like and then Mrs Mole does a good job of getting it to fit well. Even with my nearest and dearest I find designing is filled with anxiety and trepidation in case they won’t like the design or fabric or fit or details when I have worked forever to complete it.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Kate, it is a slippery slope to get the right fit and please the customer…what looks right to you and fits right may not be what they had in mind…aka Jessica Rabbit. If a bride can just find a dress close to her dream dress, we can usually make it work by incorporating 4-8 hours of labor.

  27. Another reminder to refuse bridal – I just couldn’t have been polite about the zipper comment (although I wouldn’t have used that original if making myself). It all seems to be about the wedding – or indeed just the bride for a day – rather than the start of a lifelong commitment. I feel very sorry for the groom – and for the person paying for the most expensive party imaginable for what will probably be a short marriage. Phew.
    Enjoy your run and coke. You have certainly earned it!

    • mrsmole says:

      It is as though they are not even doing a wedding but more a commercial event worthy of the media coverage for a celebrity wedding or cover of Hello magazine. They try to outdo their girlfriend’s wedding and go bigger and bigger and adding more bling and things to the dress and get the most expensive photographer in the valley and custom designed cocktails for the reception and photo booths…you name it!

  28. craftycreeky says:

    You have the patience of a saint!! I’ve made several wedding dresses over the years but only once been asked to alter one, the week before the wedding she realised she’d put on weight and could no longer zip up the dress! I had to let each side out by 2″!! That’s when I discovered the generous seams in RTW!!

  29. mrsmole says:

    What joy those wide RTW seam allowances bring!!!!! Trying to squeeze a gal into her dress is just so heartbreaking and scary thinking about the zipper ripping open or a side seam gaping! I see that the coming trend is to have tops and skirts as separates for wedding gowns…now won’t that be interesting?

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