Outlet Find

By now, you all know my feelings about J.Crew clothing. While they are always in need of alterations thus making good money for us seamstresses, they are also a nightmare for the client as they NEVER fit.

Here is the latest example of what looks so great on the website for $3000 and is sold out, this dress in reality bears little resemblance to the fit on the model. On the outside it is all asymmetrical layers of silk organza folded back on itself trying to look light and breezy. But this dress weighs a ton and is weighted down with extra layers and bindings and double zippers that rarely allow a seamstress to alter in the right sequence without removing so many sections just to get to the real problem.

42942_NA6434_mΒ Β  42942_NA6434_b

Inside there is a boned knit corset with the smallest bust cups I have ever seen! Also makes me wonder why adding boning to knit makes any sense at all as it is stretching larger than the woven fabric of the dress and linings? The fabric is silk throughout, mostly organza and relies on copious amounts of 2 inch wide horsehair braid in the hems to give this dress some shape. The skirt has HH (horsehair), each of the 2 layers of petticoat layers has HH over a plain flat lining and then another lining under that. Are you guessing that every single hem has to be shortened? Yes, you are correct. The circumference of all the skirts is 5 yards/meters, yes, 15 feet to hem for every layer.

Pulling this dress out of a clear plastic bag, no hanger, no garment bag, I notice that the entire lower half of the dress is covered in black dog hairs. I ask the bride if this dress used and been worn before and she says, “Oh no, I bought it online at an outlet mall and those are MY dog’s sheddings”… how nice.

She starts by telling me that the top of bust cups hit her right on her nipples as they are designed for a Barbie doll and not a human being…no surprises there…thanks J.Crew.


Her mother who does not know anything about sewing wants every single hemmed edge to be professionally sewn as to have no raw edges or anything to catch on twigs during the ceremony. So, I am thinking that this will be some grand wedding in a garden setting with formal attire and trays of champagne flutes and harp music… more about that later.

The bride also mentions that her groom has a closet full of J. Crew clothes and they fit him well so why does this dress fit so badly? My answer is always the same…women have boobs and these clothes don’t address that.

Let’s get started:P1200739 You know you are in trouble when the label has been swiped with a black marker…why? Because it means it has been tried on by many girls and no one wanted to buy it off the rack. To start with the bride is probably a size 0 with a 30 inch bust. So translated, that means that the circumference in the bodice is 4 inches too large for her. The back princess seams will each be taken in 2 inches and the knit corset as well and linings. The waist stay ribbon will also be shortened by 4 inches all around. P1200740

The knit corset has an edge binding top and bottom that has to be removed to start. There is also a corset zipper that has to left in place. Boning will have to be removed just to take in the 2 inches each side. The top edge of the corset will also be removed from the lining.

P1200750 P1200754P1200755P1210149

After the tuck is made, the binding is re-attached by hand to the top and bottom edges before being hand sewn back to the lining.



Thread tracing shows the back princess seams with the new seam lines.



Even thought the inside bust cups are tiny, the outside bodice needs to be taken in to eliminate one inch of excess each side.


So with bodice sections all taken in 4 inches…of course we have to take in the skirts as well and the linings. The waistline seams are opened up first to manipulate the others. The top skirt involves 5 layers of ruffles which will be again folded back in themselves and most definitely adding to the immense bulk/rooster tail in back. The under skirt will be taken in as well as the lining.P1200746P1200747P1200749

With the new 2 inch tuck in the skirt layers, you can see the waistline seam pinned with everything together…lots of bulk!


With that mess basted, we move unto the hems. All hems had 2 inch wide HH Horsehair braid. The skirt hem was shortened 5 inches and the double ruffled petticoats had their HH turned under twice for a total of 4.5 inches shorter and now nice and thick and stiff.P1210162

With top and bottom basting done, the zipper has to be re-attached for the try-on. Let’s not forget the grosgrain ribbon guard as well.


Then attach the corset to the lining.P1210177

But don’t forget the French tacks that hold the lower edge of the corset to the lining and skirt.P1210178

The second try-on shows that some of the ruffles hang below the new HH hem length and have to be altered. Wouldn’t you know it…to shorten them you have to remove the 1/2 inch wide strip of bias binding.P1210055

Trim off the excess fabric and re-attach the strips by machine…shortening it also as needed…can you spell tedious?


Lordie…are we done yet? Of course not…every bride need a bustle and this dress gets two points, one on either side of the zipper to pull up the remaining train ruffles.P1210216

The final try-onP1210212-2P1210213-2 and the steamed dress is finished and ready for transport to the wedding venue.


Can you get an inkling of where the venue will be? Does the thick leather belt give you a hint? Under the dress the bride will be wearing knee-high leather hiking boots…come on…guess…a barn? a backyard, a winery, some gorgeous outdoor scene with those white gloved waiters with trays? NOPE!

Give up?

This steamed silk dress after all the extensive alterations will be stuffed into a rucksack and backpacked into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to the most inaccessible spot on the West Coast where the happy couple will be saying their vows on a remote cliff in the forest. To complete this scene, the bride will be wearing knee high hiking boots that are required for this monumental backpacking excursion as the terrain includes snakes and bears and cougars along with enough twigs and pine needles to start a bonfire to signal any searchΒ  and rescue teams.

I’ve asked the bride for photos of the wedding…if she remembers, that should be quite something!

This weekend our temps will be heading to 107 F or 41 C so I won’t be spending too much time in the garden picking veggies but here are a couple photos of recent gatherings:Aug-12P1210179

Have a super sewing week!!!

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72 Responses to Outlet Find

  1. Michelle Rogers says:

    That was a beaut! I might have turned it down, but you did a great job. I really enjoy your posts.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Michelle…I should have turned it down too but every weird request brings me more blog posts to share with all of you…where else can you read about this kind of crap?

  2. Lol that’s going to look great after all that silk organza has been squished into a backpack. Not! Some of these youngsters have not the faintest clue…

  3. Trish says:

    I’m amazed you still had the will to live halfway through that epic journey, Mrs Mole. I was exhausted just reading about it! You definitely have the patience of a saint. Those sort of jobs seem endless when you’re doing them, as you well know. That skirt looked like a nightmare. Well done with the finished product: it looked fantastic!

    • mrsmole says:

      That skirt in the end had 10 layers of silk organza all piled up and sewn into the waist seam…just insane! As long as the bride is happy and I am left holding a check I am happy.

  4. Tee says:

    Yes, I was exhausted! LOL Stupendous work as usual!!!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Tee, it was one of those dresses that you think, “I am never going to come to the end of this sucker” and then you do and want to celebrate!

  5. ParisGrrl says:

    I don’t know what you charge…I just know it isn’t enough. πŸ™‚

  6. Rena says:

    Wow stuffed in a backpack! Is the corset power knit? It’s what I use to line stretch tutus. It makes them super tight and they hold up well to the abuse of dancing!

    • mrsmole says:

      It might have been some sort of wimpy power knit but certainly overkill on the inside. Removing the boning was a bitch and a half to start with! Don’t know how much dancing will be done on the edge of the cliff!

      • Rena says:

        Lol! Yes picking stitches out of power knit is a bear! Right up there with a lightning stitch in a knit with matching thread.

  7. Chris says:

    I woke up early because I couldn’t sleep and was grumbling until I read this. Now I have a picture of your backpacking bride clomping along a Sierra trail with her mother scurrying behind juggling champagne flutes. Thanks for starting my day with a laugh!

    • mrsmole says:

      No grumbling, Chris…things could always be worse…you could be encountering a big old bear or a cougar on a trail or a rattlesnake in your sleeping bag…that’s something to really grumble about! Think about the poor mom having to backpack for 2 days and provide the food for the reception…along with the booze!

  8. ketosew says:

    Really, Mrs. Mole, I read you every week and you should be canonized!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, ketosew….I’m working on it along with supporting dear Catholic women who want to be priests…but maybe neither will appear in my lifetime.

  9. Summerflies says:

    Why would you pay so much for a dress that doesn’t fit… then pay way too little to make it fit, then tromp up a mountain… why would they be so fussy re the hem if they are worried about twigs and creatures! Overindulged is all I can say. How you can seem so calm and accomodating.

    • mrsmole says:

      Patience is a gift which I get to use every day whether it be with the brides, Mr. Mole or my aging parents….I’d rather be dancing and eating See’s candy but for now this seems to be my place and time to help brides attain their dream wedding. One day the brides and parents will be gone and Mr. Mole and I WILL be dancing and eating candy and donuts.

  10. Linda Wilson says:

    Why am I thinking this gown would have been easier to create from scratch. Your patience is amazing.

    • mrsmole says:

      Do you remember the beginning of this post…15 feet of fabric for each layer times 3, 15 feet of fabric with Horsehair braid times 3, 5 layers of folded organza times 4,5 layers of folded organza with 1/2 inch bias binding times 4, boned knit corset with ribbon stay and 2 zippers….what would a normal seamstress charge just for cutting all that out before assembly and beyond? I’d say $3000 was a bargain. All I can say is, “I hate J. Crew bridal and may never take one on again”.

      • I agree with you πŸ™‚ $3K=bargain πŸ™‚ For a custom sewn gown like that I would QUOTE $5K labor and UP for an ESTIMATE………Of course, you and I know that the horsehair is USUALLY NOT REQUIRED. Multiple layers support themselves long enough for a freakin’ WEDDING…………..These gowns are NOT investment wardrobe pieces 😦 I hope you charged ENOUGH for this hem….. THIS YEAR I have had some labor-intensive hems…… Priced $150 and HIGHER……….I have to remind myself-NOT MY FAULT-THEIR CHOICE=HIGH alteration fees 😦

  11. Lisa LeFever says:

    I would have turned it down, but my dear, you are a saint……. πŸ™‚

  12. Anya says:

    I have enjoyed your sewing tales for a long time now. Thank you for another good laugh, and thank you for more inspiration of how to tackle some of my own sewing problems! The lack of respect for your craft shown by some of your clients really blows my mind, though… At least you get to bill them for it in a way!

  13. I wonder if the parents are even going to the ceremony? I know my parents couldn’t make that kind of trek.

    If it’s off the (discount) rack and not ordered, you’d think the bride would choose a dress that actual fit. Granted the hem might always be an issue, but it should at least be a proper fit around your circumference.

    • Val says:

      Just what I was thinking! I wonder if there are grandparents who would have loved to attend the ceremony but feel it’s too much for them. Sad if that’s the case. I just don’t get it. If it’s so GD important to be married on a mountain then just go there with an able-bodied ‘wo/man of the cloth’ to do the ceremony and your best friends. Why spend the money on a white dress?

  14. mrsmole says:

    Yes, the whole family is trekking in and traveling from Alaska…imagine! It makes me nuts when brides who are a size 0 just buy any old size of their “dream dress”…quit putting your seamstress under such pressure!!!! Some days your brain hurts just from thinking about solutions!

  15. Tia Dia says:

    I did not know that J. Crew made bridal gowns. Interesting. But that is a beautiful dress – I love silk organza. Interesting to see all the innards and construction details. And what a nightmare for you! Good heavens. And to think it will look like a wrinkled piece of something the cat found and dragged up the Sierra Nevada when she actually wears it. Ugh. She’ll be sorely disappointed in that dress after backpacking it into the wilderness. Can you just see the creases and wrinkles? Ah, well…. people will do whatever they want.

    • mrsmole says:

      It will look like a rumpled piece of tissue for sure. She should have bought simple bridesmaid dress of polyester that could have been even rinsed out in the stream and hung on a tree to shed wrinkles and be fresh for the ceremony…too practical I guess?

      • If the cliff is in anyway exposed, all that organza is going to be floating all over the place in the wind and all the wrinkles will be a blur. Maybe she wants a Wuthering Heights wind-whipped kind of look. lol

  16. Bernadette says:

    Mrs. Mole, your response to Ketosew had me choking on my morning tea! You are already “Beatified” so I know that you will be a Saint before we see a female ordained to the Catholic priesthood!
    A backpacking adventure is surely one way to cut down on an extensive guest list, I suppose. I am sure that neither the bride nor the MOB will be happy with the pics after the gown endures a two day stint in a backpack. Unless of course sherpas were engaged.

    • mrsmole says:

      Sherpas for sure!!!! Wouldn’t that be great…they carry all your crap and make the meals and set up camp and the clean up and haul all your stuff back down the mountain…we may be a little short here on the West Coast for such luxuries!

  17. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    this was one of your best post although I think one of your biggest nightmares to complete. I would love to see the look on your face when these goofy brides tell you the details of their wedding. You must be a good card player πŸ™‚ and whew why do they buy such ridiculously wrong sized dresses?

    • mrsmole says:

      Emotion plays a big part, Beth…they have the princess vision and cannot be swayed unfortunately. We do the best we can to make the dream come true but my magic wand is a little droopy these days!

  18. Wow…you are amazing! You have the patience of a saint for all that work AND to know it was going to be stuffed in a backpack… I don’t know if I could have done that. More power to you, my dear! πŸ˜€

    • mrsmole says:

      I can’t convey the heartbreak of knowing what the final destination and treatment of this dress will be. When you take apart a dress and re-make it, you leave a little of your soul in it and this time, it was sad.

      • I TRULY understand you πŸ™‚ I have spent HOURS on gowns and their fittings. YES, I am PAID for my labor πŸ™‚ When I see a gown STUFFED into an over-loaded trunk and the bride seems to have NO IDEA it will need steamed/pressed before the ceremony…….I just…………………….SIGH :(………………………

  19. MIchaelC says:

    Beautiful job as always. It is a pretty dress as pictured. Things aren’t always what they seem.

    • mrsmole says:

      You know when the client calls and starts reciting her list of to-do alterations…you are sorry that you did not let the answerphone take the call…this was one of those!Thanks, Michael!

  20. Michelle To thill says:

    Thank you for yet another great post.

    I wonder when I read a post about a dress that requires multiple complex alterations, just how much money is saved by buying a discount dress?

    Do any of your brides come to you ahead of time to get advice on what to look for fit wise? Do they check to find out what alterations cost before buying a dress that is too big, too small or too long?

    My own daughter is petite with a natural, huge bust. If she decides to marry, I think custom will be the only way to go. She wears extra small bottoms and a 28G bra.

    I thoroughly enjoy your posts.


    Sent from my iPhone


    • mrsmole says:

      Bridal gowns are now evolving to tops and skirts separate so that might be the way to go. I have had a couple of the Wtoo tops and skirts in my sewing room.
      Unfortunately brides do not consult me before buying. They are told by salespeople that a seamstress can work magic to make the sale. All the responsibility falls to the seamstress to make everything right even when it all started out wrong in size and length.
      Brides that watch bridal TV shows have an imaginary number of what the alterations might be which is somewhere around $500 so anything less than that, they don’t seem to mind. when I get a $60 gown, I shudder and know the alterations list will be longer than the guest list…well almost!

  21. Comes with Horse Hair AND dog hair. Extra special.
    Well done, entertaining as usual!

  22. maryfunt says:

    I know what you mean about J Crew dresses. I’ve only altered one and it was a disaster. The bride had the first round of alterations done by someone J Crew recommended and she botched it big time. The bust darts were mis-shapen making the brides boobs pointy pencils and the lining totally un-useable. I sent mom back to J Crew to demand another dress ( no charge since THEIR seamstress made the dress unwearable) so I had matching fabric to work with. The dress was needed within but 24 hours but she was finally happy. Do you charge extra for rush jobs? Stay cool!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Mary for chiming in on J. Crew dresses. Bridal or bridesmaid…they are not meant to be altered and I do not understand why the designs are so complicated and seams so inaccessible. It is almost to a point where if the client says over the phone that she has a J. Crew dress, I want to refuse to see her. Give me a David’s Bridal BM dress any day…easy in, easy out, and looks good after some steaming. I don’t charge for rush jobs although I should. Maybe I feel rush jobs need me even more and I am building up good Karma…maybe I am delusional….ha ha.

  23. Val says:

    Sainthood: to little a reward for you Mrs. Mole. I gotta say – with tremendous respect because I am unworthy in comparison to you: In a situation like this why not just ditch the ill-fitting corset/bra thing. Tell the stupid bride to go out and get a properly fitting, long-line bra and then work the dress around it instead

    • mrsmole says:

      Great idea but most brides get weird when you suggest to delete parts off of their dream dress…You know those pesky French tacks between the layers at the hem…the first thing I snip to make hemming easier and faster and yet some of the girls go crazy seeing me do that…I’m laughing my butt off trying to imagine trying to convince this bride to have me remove the weird corset for a real bra…but such a great solution! Thanks, Val!

  24. Kim Hood says:

    Can you imagine the future conversations when they are sitting looking at the wedding album? You are so right to say that a brief consultation with you would be useful – but with these divas I doubt it would change much.
    Great veggies, and I hope you will find somewhere cool to enjoy them and a drink this weekend.

  25. mrsmole says:

    Divas…Mr. Mole can see the little honeys walking up the path to the front door and he can spot one before I even meet them for the first time. Attitude can be seen in the walk and the purses they carry before they even open their mouths or unzip the garment bag. Kim, you know that once the dress is bought it is up to you to make all things right no matter what a trainwreck they have purchased. This weekend I will be staying indoors with the A/C on and making soup for the winter with all my squashes. My parents’ house final papers were signed yesterday to close the sale and Mr. Mole took me out for a steak dinner to celebrate…a real treat for both of us!

  26. JustGail says:

    As much as I hate repairing DH & DS’s jeans & work clothes, I can take some comfort that at least I’m not dealing with layer after layer of slippery fabric and fussy brides and MOBs. As long as the mending isn’t too visible from 3 feet away, they’re good with it.

    Mmmmm, squash soup sounds like something I need to add to my soup rotation.

  27. sewruth says:

    Actually, I can’t think of anything better than wearing a perfectly fitting dress in the wilderness with health and safety boots with the one you love. You make dreams happen.

  28. Girl in the Stix says:

    I learn so much reading your blog. Your alterations are amazing!

    • mrsmole says:

      I hope in my sharing of before and after photos that everyone involved in weddings can gain some insight into what is needed to make a dress fit. It must help in the selection of dresses to avoid high labor costs too. I don’t write to humiliate these anonymous brides, only to educate the rest of you ahead of time. As there are so few books written on how to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” , my solutions are mine and there are faster and neater ways to do things, but these work for me and they are free. Thanks, Girl in the Stix!

  29. Paola says:

    Mrs Mole, it would be easy to have you canonised. You would just have to point the folk in Catholic Church who make these decisions to your blog and say ” See, I have been responsible for multiple miracles. And I’ve kept my counsel throughout which proves my forbearance” Case closed. St Mrs Mole, patron saint of seamstresses, and all those who sew.
    It also seems to me that this is one of those projects where you are making the dress smaller, which seems to be far outnumbered by projects on your blogthat require the opposite. Am I right? And which do you find easier, or is it the case that it depends on the construction of the dress? I’d interested to know.

    • mrsmole says:

      You know Paola, these things come in waves…one year it can be making 5-10 corset backs for chubby brides and then it can be 5-10 brides with huge dresses they bought without trying them on. I like making corset backs as they add some much pizazz to the boring back and they will certainly fit on the day and you can sell the dress more easily later but taking in that center back seam/zipper so darn tight that the brides’ eyeballs pop out along with that huge smile on her face…well it is a toss up! Maybe when I retire at 70 I will drop a note to the Pope and let him know about my blog and let him decide…Hey Francis…whadda think?

  30. Sharon says:

    J.Crew ……Cringe !!!!
    Every time a bridal party brings me gowns or dresses with that label, my head starts to throb.
    They seem to be designed for girls barely reaching puberty, certainly not for any woman that can be described as curvaceous ! Even if a TINY bride can wiggle her way into a teensie weensie J.Crew gown, her bridesmaids most often have more womanly shapes. But the brides love, love, love them J.Crew bridesmaid dresses, usually strapless above the knee LITTLE gems! Countless times those poor gals receive their dress only to discover that it fits one of their thighs quite well, but not so great on the entire body, which I assume that’s the look the bride was hoping for. My solution to the dilemma has been to tell the gals to contact J.Crew and have them send matching fabric. Extra yardage will allow me to add a princess line panel to each half of the back portion of the dress. These dresses are far too small across the hips to consider a corset back. Each and every time what the company sends is the bottom portion of a ‘damaged’ dress. No neatly cut 1 yard of fabric, but half a dress that has been chopped off with shears. Imagine handing a six year old a pair of scissors and telling them to have at it. Yup, that’s what would show up leaving me only the panels of the skirt to be salvaged and make do. Time to use those pattern scrunching/fabric skimping skills. Thanks J.Crew……you really know how to keep our sewing rooms busy !!!! Fabulous job Mrs. Mole ,great save and the bustle looks amazing ! But silk organza with a leather belt ?….CRINGE !

  31. mrsmole says:

    Fabulous advice, Sharon! I know you have had WAY more time and experience turning tiny dresses into something wearable. I was reading on another blog that someone said I was hard on J. Crew and what was my beef all about…time after time other seamstresses write to me to bitch about these dresses designed for 12 year olds. You are right about the teeny tiny brides loving their weird tight styles and teeny tiny bust cups but for most healthy eating physically athletic bridesmaids…they are a nightmare! Then you toss in a skimpy yard of skirt fabric chewed off from another dress to patch what you have…NO WONDER we hate the sound of that brand over the phone. Thank you, thank you for sharing your harrowing times making miracles in your sewing business!!!!

  32. MDy says:

    I am just amazed. I love to read your “Tales” – I always learn so much. So thank you for sharing and especially thank you for the photos. It’s just incredible!. And to bring you the dress with dog hair on and then go on and claim it’s her dog. I wonder if the dog is going to the wedding too?

  33. mrsmole says:

    Gosh, I never thought about that…maybe so??? Maybe the dog is large enough to haul stuff up the trail on his back? So glad you like the photos…they do help me see the sequence of events and techniques so you can also follow along.

  34. celestial says:

    Mrs. Mole, time and time again you reassure me of my decision to never sew for others. I don’t know how you manage to not slice up these nightmares into ribbons in front of the idiots that purchased them…I know that is what I would do. I cannot image the amount of work this dress took you…and I can only imagine it being toted up the mountain in a rainfall and ending up in a puddle after the porter takes a fall. You are amazing. Thank you for being you.

    • mrsmole says:

      Since both of my weddings were civil ceremonies, it is really hard to imagine spending $5000-$20,000 on one day never mind $1000-$3000 for a one-wearing dress. I have a couple more brides who are equally as pig-headed coming up…real treats!

  35. jay says:

    I’m speechless reading this saga. So much work, the strange morphology of the J Crew underpinnings, the horsehair extravaganza, the layers bunching into the waist seam, the insanity of buying the wrong size entirely, the dog hair, the hiking boots, rucksack and bears. What can anyone say?

  36. I think you lost me on step three. That was the most complicated alteration I have ever seen! You are talented! As for the temperature, my brain and body shut down at 30 degrees!

  37. mrsmole says:

    You are right, Linda. It was pretty complicated and there wasn’t a section that did not need changing. Buying a dress without trying it on, knowing it is 4 inches too large in circumference and just thinking that some poor seamstress will want to tackle this is sheer dreaming. When the brides tell their friends about their project and all that was done, then I really get into trouble for they do the same thing!

  38. Nakisha says:

    I got married almost 6 years ago and ordered a dress from a local shop that fit beautifully (The SAMPLE fit perfectly)! Just a bit too much room in the cups. I found a fabulous seamstress through a recommendation. By the time my dress came in I had not only gained a few pounds but dress that had been tried on who knows how many times vs new dress and uhmm…

    But there were very, very small seam allowances in that dress and in the end she was thinking she may have to add a corset. I managed to drop a few pounds, she let out where she could and all was well.

    HOWEVER (and how it actually relates…) in searching for seamstresses I will never forget reading a bad review about someone. The bride was not happy.

    She had purchased a dress from a consignment shop that was oh…like a size 16. And she was like a size 4. Too bad that seamstress didn’t turn her away and not waste her time with someone who is obviously crazy! LOL!!!!

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