Well Fitted Gown…almost!

Here is a classic wedding gown from Casablanca.49ccfd8cdb7fb34e93e8cf37c0061c2a

So, it makes a seamstress wonder why a dart has to be added to eliminate the excess fabric here:


The bride has plenty of her own breasts and we added push up cups as well and there was still a problem. I have done this alteration before and it is way easier than it looks when this type of lace in involved. Let’s begin:


Thread trace the proposed dart and remove the pins.

Make sure the dart legs are equal in length (3 inches). Measure the dart width (1.5 inches).


Thread trace the final stitching line and remove the lace from the tulle…gently! Peel the lace back to reveal the fabric.


Map out the back side with pins and see that the dart point ends right up against the boning…rats! Pin out the darts and make sure not to catch any lace parts. Trim off any excess.


Before machine stitching, hand baste and double check everything is out of the seam! Remove any excess lace parts.


Once machine stitched, start to flip the lace edges back over the new seam/dart.


Hand tack the inside darts to the lining. I never cut off any fabric as the next seamstress may need it! Finished dart, not invisible but looks like an original design of the dress.


What’s left? Shorten the straps and, of course, the bustle needs some designing and stabilizing as all that heavy lace will not be safe attached to just 2 layers of satin charmeuse. Here is where the engineering hat comes in handy…I needed something long and wide and strong enough to hold a train and 3 buttons and loops….hmmmm


If you stitch 2 lengths of 2 inch wide grosgrain ribbon together and hand sew that to the tail of the zipper and the lining and use backer buttons…it might just work but the bride has to try it on to make sure the new ribbon does not show through.


The ribbon is also hand tacked along the center back seam for security!P1200677  P1200672-2

So, the test shows that even when just pinned into place, the ribbon structure holds and does not show…the only things that show are the 2 ribbons used to hang the train from the plastic hanger…see them under the bustle? They will get tacked up for sure!

This week one bride picks up her dress and 4 new brides arrive for their first fitting. Have to be grateful though, only 6 brides for June with 8 brides for July…more fun and blog posts to come!

Happy sewing everyone…enjoy the weather, sit in the sun and plan your next project!

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

27 Responses to Well Fitted Gown…almost!

  1. Bunny says:

    Beautiful solution to the bustle issue. Gorgeous dress and the side fits her perfectly now. Grab that gin and tonic and enjoy before the onslaught begins!

  2. Elizabeth Harber says:

    Thank you for including the details about bustling!

  3. Lovely dress, top notch alteration. I can never grasp why they don’t just get the dresses made to measure in the first place!

    • dr P says:

      I always wondered that too, surely it can’t be cost effective.

      I’d love it if you could add the cost of the alterations and the time it took you although I totally understand why you might not want to put the cost up

  4. mrsmole says:

    Average dresses I work on cost $1000 and average alteration fees run $200 so I am wondering how anyone can make a dress for $1200 labor and materials included? The thinking is, if they can find a dress for $500 and pay $200 for the alterations, then it is a bargain. Who would make a dress for $700 labor and all materials? How many hours does it take to hand sew on beads and sequins and crystals? How many hours does it take to hand sew lace to tulle? How many hours does it take to gather and sew 4-8 layers of netting to a lining? How many hours does it take to completely bone a bodice, attach bust cups, lining and a zipper and loops and buttons down the back and then the skirt with a 6 foot train…and fabric…hands up…who would do that for $700?

    • I just stopped making wedding dresses this year for that exact reason. You never get paid for all the hours you put into making them.

      • mrsmole says:

        Oh, Maryglenn, you could never keep track of the labor or all the thinking time involved either. Brides like to add and subtract so much as it is…I can’t imagine getting halfway through a custom-made gown and to hear those words, “It’s not exactly what I had envisioned”.

  5. jay says:

    Thanks for the details, again, the dart in the lace and the bustling. Interesting cost breakdown too. It begins to make more sense now.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Jay, if all you did was put in 50 hours of labor what would that come too? Normal seamstress (non-bridal) hourly rate say $30 would add up to $1500 but as good bridal seamstresses get $60 that would bring it to $3000 for labor alone. Toss in some really good fabrics…embroidered laces, beaded laces and linings and netting and boning and satins….could be $500+ for the fabric alone, now we have $3500 at a minimum. Quite a difference from buying a RTW gown and paying a seamstress $200 to make it fit. Gone are the days when a granny made the dress, a slip dress or nightgown type, minimal fabrics and free labor…brides don’t want to settle for that when all their friends are going “whole hog” trying to outdo each other.

  6. I agree with maryglenn. Many people have asked why I don’t do more bridal as ‘ you must make more from bridal’. Anyone reading this blog regularly can see how much work needs to go into the alterations shown, and when making from scratch it’s not unusual to exceed the quoted hours – so you end up working unpaid for that time.
    Sadly in this time of cheap clothing most people are looking to pay as little as possible – even when that little is quite an expensive wedding dress that needs alteration.

  7. mrsmole says:

    Maybe one day when labor costs are higher in developing countries we will return to the days when girls wore simple dress and flowers in their hair (hippie type) as in the 60’s and it was all about love instead of lavish!!! Personally I am sticking by my guns and never agreeing to make a gown from scratch…there are enough long hours and unpaid time involved as it is…you know from experience too, Kim!

  8. The numbers here in the comments look about right. When I sewed a knee-length dress & light coat earlier this year, the bride told me she had been quoted $1,400 by a local dressmaker. Fortunately, her betrothed is a carpenter so she understood the $1,400 was not a ripoff – rather it was a fair price for the amount of work to be done by someone running a business complete with a brick & mortar shop, staff, etc.

    I love your solution to the bustle!

  9. Sharon says:

    Finally, a semi-easy alteration. The lace is the real time saver. A little snip, snip at the connecting threads. and when the new dart is added, a few minutes of hand stitching the lace over the new seam is all it takes! Fabulous camouflage, excellent job Mrs. Mole !

  10. maryfunt says:

    Interesting that we have both come up with using grosgrain ribbon attached to the zipper to support the weight of a heavy train. Most RTW gowns I’ve seen seem to be made for a B cup and anything extra calls for more shaping. The comments regarding pricing confirmed that my starting point for custom is exactly right. I’m looking forward to your June brides.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Mary…yes, we love grosgrain ribbon for all sorts of situations. I also use it to make the base for corset back loops…so strong! June brides…well that brings in more weird stories….stay tuned!

  11. Polly says:

    Thank you for showing the details of this alteration. I have a dress (not a wedding dress) which needs to be made less “baggy” at the side so I may try this myself. I would get it professionally altered but unfortunately I don’t know a Mrs Mole who could do it for me .

    • mrsmole says:

      Maybe if you showed the photos to a seamstress in your area, she might just follow along and do a great job? No matter what, you can remove lace by snipping threads and if you get to the point of not wanting to actually make the dart, just lay the lace back down and attach it and go buy a bolero jacket to cover the whole thing up…LOL.

  12. fabrickated says:

    I totally agree with you about making from scratch. You alterations ensure that a dress the bride likes fits really well, as you show here. Personally I prefer a more relaxed, natural and frankly comfortable look. But body-con is all the rage and I find it fascinating to discover how it is achieved. Thank you for your detailed notes – it is always interesting to read about how it is done.

  13. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Kate, I’m sure there are other ways to tackle this alteration but this is just one of them. I learned many things about production/pattern making/drafting in factories and in college but nothing about altering the finished product…I think many of us learn in the trenches!

  14. prttynpnk says:

    I think this is so pretty. You know I’m not bridey- this is just really hitting it for me. You made that look so effortless too!

  15. Tina Colombo says:

    The dart alteration could have been made virtually invisible by (1) opening up the bodice at the top edge and adding darts to each layer separately instead of sewing all the layers together, and (2) lifting the lace in the dart area rather than sewing it into the darts, then laying it back down smoothly over the darts and hand sewing it in place.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, you are right, Tina, if I could have gotten into the different layers. There were 5 layers in that area alone along with 2 rows of double stitching along the top edge. The bride agreed to have me do this as fast and as cheaply as I could and as the new thick dart actually acted like a horizontal boning to lift her bust, she got what she wanted. Normally I try to lift all lace layers and hand tack them down, some projects just prevent our best intentions. Thanks for your comment.

  16. That dress is beautiful and you did a wonderful job! Thanks for the detailed lesson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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