Do you remember a couple weeks ago I mentioned a very controlling mother that removed all my pins and proceeded to re-pin the daughter’s dress?
Well, let’s start here…the phone call. The mother calls to tell me that she has a second-hand wedding dress that needs sleeves because her daughter is so modest and can I do such a project. Of course, I say, and the mother says that her daughter has hundreds of photos of what she wants on Pinterest….great. She continues describing the dress and what she wants done and the time frame and on and on and we make the appointment. The one thing the mother doesn’t bother to tell me is…the name of her daughter. Why? Because it is all about the mother and her need to control.
The girl, fresh out of high school, arrives with this heavy strapless dress and the mother tells me to get some fabric from my stash and drape sleeves to cover the front and back and her arms. The front of the additional fabric MUST BE a precise 7 inches wide in front and be very gathered. I tuck some loose satin fabric under the top edge and take the photo for them to have an image to think about. Yes, the mother says…that is what we want, the bride says nothing and shows no emotion. The dress weighs a ton and includes some sort of wacky bustle configuration that involves broken buttons, missing loops and 4 sets of huge 1 inch wide plastic snaps.
Here is the basic shape they ordered…the finished dimensions MUST BE 7 inches in front and 5 inches in back (pleated) and be 24 inches long. So to get enough gathers, I cut the front 12 inches wide and line the straps so that it is 1/2 inch narrower to pull the satin to the backside.
I’m supposed to match the gathers of the dress so no one knows the sleeves were added. I use 3 rows of gathering stitches for the front for stability.
Second fitting allows me to pin the sleeves in front and pleat the back attachment. I stand back and ask the bride to decide if this is her idea of what she envisioned. She says nothing and shows no emotion. The mother removes all my pins and starts to make it her way. I don’t know what to do but step back and almost leave the room. After she is done she says she knows how to sew and what looks best. All I can say to her is, “This is usually what I do”. The bride says nothing nor shows any emotion. The mother then decides that the front gathering is enough but the sleeves are too wide and need to be more like wide straps and tells me to make them 5 inches wide at the shoulder and 4 inches wide at the back…essentially re-cut and remake them. More photos on that later…let’s try to pin a new bustle shall we?
Using different points than the original ones it looks like 5 points will be enough to get the 6 foot long, heavy train up off the floor. At this point the mother grabs my colored safety pins and wants to change what I have done. I step back and tell her, “YOU MUST sit on the sofa and let me do my job”.
She sits down and shakes her leg nervously like a hyperactive teenage boy and tells me that she is OCD and must be involved and cannot sit still. I explain that I have done hundreds of bustles and she will have the final say when I am done pinning. There are 2 huge box pleats in the back skirt which will hide 2 of the 5 buttons and make the fabric lie flat. I turn the bride around in the mirror and show her how nice it is…she says nothing and shows no emotion. You can see the top of the knit tube top that she is planning on wearing under the dress.
End of the second fitting session, the bride has said nothing, showed no emotion nor answered any questions I have asked. Because the mother is so controlling and hints at not believing that I will actually do what SHE wants, I make thread tacks where the pins marked the edges of the new sleeves/now straps and email her the photos for my own protection later.
I also send her the photos of where she placed all the pins for the decreased width of the sleeves/now straps. I tell her that one cannot decrease the width so dramatically to 5 inches and still keep the front gathers at 12 inches. That is when she tells me, “It will be OK, I know how to sew”. (Blood pressure rising)
Her pinning, my thread tracing…keeping it real.
The front coverage is now narrowed to 5.5 inches from 7.
Can you see the weird shape this is taking?
I spread the gathers out to get an idea of the shape. I send more photos to the mother and she says she does not want that shape. Well, she is getting that shape for now until the next fitting. My experience tells me that the very narrow edge of the gathers where it drops off will have to be placed lower inside the dress to sit properly.
Let’s pin and trim and stitch and flip right side out again.
At the first fitting, the mother told me that she did not want me to shorten the separate petticoat 4 inches with a 2 inch horizontal tuck because she knows how to sew and will do it herself. She takes the petticoat home and this is the result:
It would have been nice to let a machine do its job with long, even, secure stitches but Mama knows best and wanted to hand tack here and there and leave gaps.
In the meantime, I send more photos and I get this email back:
“I’m hopeful that next week will bring a smile to my daughter’s face. For someone who is painfully indecisive, and has trouble sharing verbally, it’s hard for her to know, and be able to say what she wants. I help based on small comments she has made over time, but it’s difficult.”
After the second fitting, I am exhausted and very frustrated and wising I had never answered the phone and agreed to take on this project. Mr. Mole reminds me that since I have not even altered or cut into the dress that I can hand it back to them…it is tempting…but I feel so sorry for the bride and want to do right by her.
Third fitting shows how much of the straps have to be dropped inside the dress to sit well.
See the new rows of gathering? Yes, that will be the new attachment line and new shape for the front straps. Mama was not right this time.
The back straps will also be gathered and not pleated (my decision) and are angled as well to sit better. Mama got this wrong too.
Let’s see inside the bodice:
In the beginning, the mother told me to shorten the front skirt hem and to just fold under the front skirt hem and hand sew it to make it a cheap fix. I agreed, but once I got to that section I realized that the skirt was actually two layers of satin and one layer of lining…3 layers plus the horsehair braid. If I had done it her way there would have been a huge wad of 6 layers of fabric all rolled under. So once it was opened up, I shifted the horsehair braid, pinned it, stitched it and did it more like the last person who altered this dress hem. Now, as you can see in the next photos, that person did not do it the right way as the factory so I just continued in that vein.
The lining will be shortened and attached by hand just at the horsehair stitching but the edge looks like the previous seamstress chewed it away:
As I move along the lining edge I see that the previous seamstress made a 2 inch tuck without trying to ease in the fabric…how clever! This will not be done that way this time! Also the hand stitching will not show.
My hand finished hem with no tucks…it can be done if you take some time to do it right.
The final 4th fitting, the mother mentions that the gathered top looks like it needs some fluffing up so I offer the bride some bust pads to slip in and try. For the first time in a month, her eyes light up…I mean really light up and she SMILES!
Call me crazy, but I sense she realizes that for the first time while wearing this used dress that was way too old and heavy for her, she may just carry it off. I tell her that she can dispense with wearing the knit tube top she has been using for each fitting and I will sew the cups securely into the lining.
Without fail, Mama steps in to tell me, “You had better not sew the cups any lower that the horizontal ruffled section”… like I had never done this before nor had it crossed my mind to position them correctly. I take a deep breath and show her to the front door and imagine them handing me a check next time.
The final project (missing the petticoat) is finished and waiting to be picked up for the wedding this Saturday…ahhhhh.
At the end of this project you just have to ponder the words from other clients, “your job is so glamorous” and pour a tall rum and diet Pepsi and sit in the patio and thank the Almighty that this has come to an end before the next catastrophe arrives with the Fall/Winter brides.
Thanks to all my readers for visiting and enduring the chaos and stress. It helps to know you are there to share and understand.