Butchered Bridal Gown

Just when things were going along smoothly for the Fall season, I got a phone call from a frantic mother.

Her daughter’s dress is being held hostage at another sewing center and the seamstress there is not co-operating with them and they realize this is heading in the wrong direction. They are also running out of time and patience as the wedding is in 9 days. I tell the mom to just go down and demand they release the dress and to be strong as it is HER money and HER dress. I got a little suspicious when it was the mother who was doing all the arranging for her 40+ year old daughter’s second wedding.

The dress and bride arrives and we inspect what has been done already and it is not pretty and barely salvageable. There are still dozens of big old plastic head yellow quilting pins everywhere!

There is excess fabric in the satin side seam (from pin to pin) but I can feel that the lining layer (with boning) is way too tight and the last seamstress stopped at the lower pin and did not continue the seams to the hip and left a lump there…nice. Some seamstresses cannot be bothered to remove beads to continue a seam…sad.

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The other issue is the hem. There is an organza embroidered border strip that can be removed and re-positioned up higher on the satin which has been done in the front but the bride wants most of the train removed as well. I pin up the excess.


The previous gal also cut off the horsehair braid that must have held the lining and satin together but did not leave enough to even do a narrow hem. While I am pinning up the tiny hem, the bride tells me that unlike most dresses that have the satin hem 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than lace to show off the scallops…SHE wants the satin to show exactly 1/8 inch lower than the scallops all the way around. Can you see this may be impossible?

One reason why this dress was altered so poorly could have been that while the owner pinned the dress, her assistant/apprentice may have done the sewing. What clients do not realize is that as we pin, we notice other features that need work and can correct them along the way.


Inside we can see what was done. For some reason the side seams were taken in, but not equally. The front edges were taken in 1 inch and the back were taken in 1/4 inch. Also, you can see when the seamstress ran into some beading at the hip, she just stopped and left a lump. My job will be to smooth all that out.


When side seams are opened out flat, you can see nothing was trimmed away. We have the original seams plus 1.25 excess inches on each side, so 2.5 inches of excess satin fabric under each arm…for what? Absorbing sweat?


The lining is equally untrimmed..nothing like double bulk under the arms. All this will be trimmed. There is a line of damage from opening the seam too.


Other cool features are at the hip , no need to remove the original stitching, just leave it in there to cause puckering. No need to remove beading and make the hip line smoother either, I guess.


The other side seam looks the same:


Letting out by straightening the lining layer side seams and replacing the boning will make the bride more comfortable.


Here is another WTF adjustment. For some reason, the front top edge of the bodice was being pulled to the wrong side and I thought that I could release the top edge of the lining and let it drop back inside but when the bride took off the dress I could see the problem…who does this?

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Inside the top of the side seam there are huge long hand stitches holding the seams together and the top beaded edging. There is no understitching- just a mess.

Let’s flip this to the right side…can you see the edging is badly overlapped and most of the beads are hanging? Who sews like this?


Hold on, it gets better…how about the straps? Attachments held with 2 hand stitches…sure that will do nicely for dancing and tossing the bouquet!


But when I remove the straps for a new position…guess what I found? How can you loose beads on a strap? Were they chewed off?


Another nice feature occurs when you don’t care about side seams in the lining…puckers and pleats…we love them!


Let’s check out what is left of the satin hem and lining hem. In some spots, I have less than 1/8 inch to fold under for either one. Originally the two had been stitched together along with a 1 inch wide strip of horsehair braid…where’s the braid… rolled up in a ball and pinned to the outside of the dress.

I tell the bride and mother (who claims she sews) that the only way to salvage the hem is to put the horsehair braid back unto the satin layer and use a 1/8 inch seam allowance. the bride balks and says, “I want it drapey”…well, honey you can have it drapey and frayed. They agree that I might know what I am talking about.


The finished horsehair braid lies flat on the backside of the satin layer.

The lining will be hemmed separately. How about the previous gal’s attachment of the organza border…surely she used a sewing machine to stitch the swirls down…no? Who sews like this, long hand stitches spanning the curls and leaving gaps? Of course, I will remove this mess and make it right, as from now on, this dress has MY name on it not the first gal’s.p1210655

So, now after all the ripping out and re-sewing…what do we have?

On the mannequin, we can see the hips are smooth and less drag lines at the waist.


On the bride, it feels better and it is the first time I see her smile. With each visit the bride has been murmuring under her breath that she never wanted her second-time wedding dress to be beaded or fancy or shiny…just something simple but her mother had other ideas. Her mother is repeating over and over, “But we got a bargain” and that seems to make everything alright. Once the bride remembers to wear her wedding shoes, stands u straight, the hem will not touch the ground except for a very slight train.

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I never asked what they had to pay for the first alteration but for the second one, they got their money’s worth in corrections in less than a week.

I must apologize for not visiting other bloggers posts for a week or so. For a couple weeks there have been more emergency brides coming to the sewing room…I’m sorry for not leaving comments on your blogs…hopefully this month will allow me more time to sniff around the web and see all your new creations!

I’ll leave you with the Word for the Day from Gratefulness.org

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.

Alice Walker


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46 Responses to Butchered Bridal Gown

  1. Jane M says:

    Yikes, what a total mess for you to repair. Fascinating to see what someone else’s work looks like up close. What sort of questions do you think these brides should ask before they select an alterations and fitting expert?

    • mrsmole says:

      If they have a Yelp or Google page…read the reviews and ask ALL your friends! The clients I have that have had a bad result elsewhere moan about wishing they had been told more before they dropped off their dress. The thing I tell them is to be sure and leave a BAD review so others CAN be informed. You earn every review good or bad.

  2. Wow, that was one big mess. Now I figure if I was making such a mess at sewing, then I shouldn’t be sewing! Another beautiful repair and another beautiful (modest) dress!

  3. Trish says:

    An amazing result as always, Mrs Mole. I agree with Linda: if you really don’t know much about sewing you should leave it to people who do. It saves time in the end.
    I often wonder if our clients realise how much (unnecessary) work is involved in repairing other people’s tacky efforts. Probably not. At least we get the satisfaction of a job well done, which is obviously what keeps us doing it!

    • mrsmole says:

      As you know, I take photos before, during and after and share them with the client…they know for damn sure what went into their garment. They appreciate the sewing lesson I show them and it makes me feel better about spending way more time than I estimated. The money is a small reward as well.

  4. jay says:

    The finished dress looks very elegant. What a mess you had to correct though!

    • mrsmole says:

      As I was sewing this a couple days before Halloween, I was cackling like a witch after finding all the bad seams and knowing that I would be the one to make things right!

  5. Mem says:

    Oh let’s hope it all goes well for from this point in thanks to you m😇let’s also hope that mother has learnt her lesson about pushing her daughter around and that daughter will politely and firmly assert herself from here in .

    • mrsmole says:

      When the daughter came alone to get her dress we had a really nice chat about her life and her new path and it was so nice to have her there one-on-one and to assure her that second weddings can be the best part of your life as you know what you DON’T want before you find what you do want and need.

  6. sewruth says:

    I think you might just know what you’re talking about too…….This dress looks like double the work – unpicking the first alteration and then actually doing the alteration.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, Ruth, some projects just need a little more TLC and after observing the mother-daughter relationship, my heart softens and pushes me to do the right thing as if it were my own daughter’s dress. It also is a hoot to take photos of crappy sewing and add red arrows…call me crazy.

  7. Robin says:

    LOL, I held my breath the whole time I was reading! It really looks good!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Ha ha…Robin, my hubby tells me that people drop by to be taken on a journey and are not here for technical photos, so maybe that is why it was a little tense for you? My reason for trolling blogs is for technical drawings and better techniques so we all must have quite different reasons for reading and following different blogs. But like watching old westerns on TV, there is always a good ending…fingers crossed!

  8. Kim says:

    Another bride looking good courtesy of Mrs Mole, who might know what she’s doing 😂

  9. mrsmole says:

    Sometimes we don’t actually KNOW what we are going to do until we get inside, do we, Kim? Once inside…the mess develops and we know we have bitten off more than we can shew but do it anyway…seamstresses certainly earn the “stress” in our titles.

  10. symondezyn says:

    Beautiful job, and the bride looks so lovely – I hope she can take some joy in how she feels and looks in her dress now that it’s been fixed to fit her properly! ^_^

    • mrsmole says:

      Once free of her mother and settled with her new husband’s family, I am sure she will do well and just blossom! Starting a new life as a new wife at almost 50 can be scary!

  11. MIchaelC says:

    The dress looks lovely. It fits her beautifully. All that bad work corrected. I wonder if that other sewing place was a bargain too. caveat emptor

  12. jrp53 says:

    once again you worked a miracle! I learn so much for your blog. Thanks for sharing it all with us.

    • mrsmole says:

      It sounds stupid but I ALSO learn something new from every dress I work on and open up and photograph. Sharing them helps all my followers and that makes me very happy!

  13. i luv it .i read through your fixes to problems and im like uhha yep nodding my head.it makes me happy to know im doing things correctly and that others feel the same about sewing .im glad that you could fix this dress and make it fit the brides dream as its her day after all.xxx

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, some fixes are universal, some more personal. They never taught alterations in Fashion Design in College, only how to create and produce for factories. Everything I do is learned on-the-job and the more yoiu have to do repeated techniques, the easier they are. What is amazing is the way horsehair braid can be attached and used…so versatile and yet can be a PIA.

      • This year I have had some of the MOST expensive hem charges. It’s because of HORSEHAIR BRAID HEMS and some designers are hemming TULLE Layers along with the multiple ORGANZA layers. WHEW!!!!!! When I have a bride who just NEEDS a 1″ kitten heel shoe to SAVE her a hem fee, I suggest that 🙂 It’s not always possible, but it can SAVE her $170-$220 or so for a hem…..My guess is this brides’ previous seamstress had NO IDEA how to deal with horsehair braid. That could explain the $160 charge. Looking at the required alterations, my charge would have been in the $280-$320 range. BUT……the work would have been PERFECT 🙂 That’s what I DO 🙂

  14. Sharon says:

    How many times do we see this in all aspects of our lives? Just do the job right the first time people !! It saves a lot of time and stress in the long run for everyone concerned. Good save Mrs. Mole and an excellent description of your progress,

    • mrsmole says:

      It was a real clean-up job, Sharon…one you are well aware of and experienced in! At least with clothes and wide seam allowances, we can correct most things…not like being a hairdresser and cutting the bangs too short!

  15. laura says:

    Ya know, they are darned lucky you took that on and made her look wonderful! You are truly a magician with fabric!

    • mrsmole says:

      They have all the photos to prove what had to be done and they left a bad review for the first seamstress to warn others which, if they had read them, would have saved them much grief!

  16. ceci says:

    I get so much out of the photos and technical stuff…..and of course the lessons in human relations!


  17. fabrickated says:

    I held my breath throughout this post – wondering whatever you would find next Mrs Mole. The thing is I do sometimes take short cuts myself especially with finishing seams, and while I would not compromise on fit, my insides are not always that pretty. But, I am not a professional. Nevertheless with your careful clean up operation we now have a dress that looks superb. Given the bride didn’t want shine, beads or fancy it is a triumph!

  18. mrsmole says:

    Insides not so pretty? Thank God we have linings for that! Opening up badly done wedding dresses is like a real treasure hunt! I can salivate just seeing things like on this dress and thinking…”I can fix this”, while some would just want to close up the seam and pretend they never saw it. For my own clothes, things are not always so perfect, that is for sure!!!!

  19. JustGail says:

    The downside of reading your blog is I’ll never again be able to look at a bride and think only “lovely dress” without wondering about the story of its alterations. I wonder if the 1st shop gave them a “bargain” price, or if other shops were already booked up.

    How many such emergency rescues do you do in addition to the gowns already scheduled?

    • mrsmole says:

      My answer to MIchaelC above tells the story…there are very few of us that will work on bridal so they were running oiut of options. I can handle about 6 emergencies a year by sneaking them in between the other 80 gowns that are booked in way in advance from Feb 1 to Jan 1.

  20. Meg says:

    I’m not sure which aspect of this event was the most hysterical – perhaps the horsehair braid pinned to the outside of the dress. Such a travesty how some folks claim to be professional sewists. Thanks for sharing!

  21. mrsmole says:

    The rolled up Horsehair was just pinned to the outside of the skirt like a big old wart…but at least they saved it! ha ha!

  22. maryfunt says:

    Don’t you just love cleaning up other people’s mess! It’s SO much harder than doing it right in the first place. The dress does look good on her and you did another miraculous fix. I hope you get a break from the emergencies soon.

  23. Fat Lady says:

    I can guarantee to be fascinated, amazed, amused and horrified *all at the same time* by your posts.
    Although I consider myself to be a competent dressmaker, I’ve only done bridal work very occasionally – and then only in the direst of emergencies. I don’t have the skill, the fortitude, the patience, the tact or – perhaps most importantly! – *any* understanding of, or sympathy with, current ‘bridal culture’. You deserve a medal!

  24. prttynpnk says:

    I hope they leave an aggressive review or word of mouth for that shop. Disgraceful from people claiming to be professional.

  25. mrsmole says:

    I actually know some people who have worked there calling themselves professional bridal specialists and then quit/were fired for crap work. They later have told me that they never realized how heavy the gowns were…really? What could be heavier than a wedding dress?

  26. poppykettle says:

    Who sews like that? Nobody I know.

  27. mrsmole says:

    Never underestimate the arrogance of people with little knowledge and even less skill promoting themselves as specialists and asking for big bucks!!! From sewing rooms to the Senate…we are surrounded by such people getting away with murder!

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