The phone call went like this: “Another seamstress in town told me you were the only one to call to deal with this.” Intriguing? Possible blog post? You bet!
It seems this girl is getting married and her grandfather says he has a surprise for her at the back of the closet. After much rooting around, he produces this gem…her grandmother’s wedding dress from 60 years ago. She tells me that it has been stored “badly” since 1956. Badly meaning never cleaned since the ceremony and it looks like a cat got into the closet and did a little damage to the top layer as the lining is showing through at the waist.
The question I ask first is, “are you attached to this dress?” She says she never even knew it existed but now that she has it, she has to wear it even though her grandfather is unable to attend the wedding in a faraway venue.
So, let’s try it on see what has to be done shall we? Obviously women were way smaller back then and busts were higher too. The side zipper gives us no options to enlarge it.
You can see how there is a huge chunk of top layer missing at the waist and the seams are ripped open. This will not be an easy fix nor cheapy cheapy.
For some reason even the shoulder seams did not survive the past 6 decades.
I will add a 2 inch section here to drop the bodice.
Out comes the famous blue grosgrain ribbon to bridge the gap at the zipper to determine the amount needed to add somewhere. Wonderful…only 4 extra inches!
This dress was not bought in a store, it was made by a loving seamstress. There are no tags. Inside, under the lining, there is a petticoat made from waxed open weave fabric that is attached to the waist with a bias strip of lining. It has snaps to keep it closed.
The top layer is badly stained everywhere and shredded beyond repair.
The lace bust cups are intact and see-through…quite racy Grandma!
At the top of the side zipper, each side is shredded and you can see that the bias binding was just hand tacked here and there. The zipper is thick metal as was the style back then. The added bonus of sweat stains never removed makes me wish this dress could be cleaned without shredding away.
The petticoat suffered some damage being pulled away from the bias strip so that is easily repaired.
Now what? The bride and I discussed removing the top shredded layer and using the lining as the dress. Amazingly the seams on the lining were sewn like the dress with the raw edges on the inside so it works well. I cut away all of the top fabric to reveal the almost pristine lining and remove the thick zipper which will now allow me to close the side seam and find another way to enlarge this mess. Fusible interfacing to the rescue, which will be applied before any seaming.
Once the top layer is removed, I decide to soak it to see if any stains will come out. Bizarrely, the water turns dark green and after rinsing and hanging we end up with this:
After pressing it looks so nice, even with the shredded sections. The bride tells me that it had been in the basement so the green may have been mold…nice.
I will use this fabric to make loops…why? Can you feel a corset back coming on? We need 12 inches of loops down the back. Of course, there is no center back seam. The dress is opened up where a center back seam would be and I get to work making the loops. Normally, I use rayon or nylon rattail but that would add bulk so I opt for flat fabric loops cut on grain. But the technique is the same using grosgrain ribbon and folding it in half.
Using my Fasturn tool makes the job easy. The 2 looped strips are basted on for the next try-on.
Second visit shows the 2 inch piece added to the shoulder allows the bodice to drop to fit her bust and the lacing up the back works. This opening will be extended another 3 inches to make it easier to get in and out of. That means making 6 more loops.
The bride will purchase a 3 inch wide strip of grosgrain ribbon to attach at the waist. The coolest part of this outfit is the jacket. Other than needing some fabric inserted into the side seams to she can use the buttons, it looks cute.
Just open the side seams about 8 inches.
Cut a double layer of fabric and serge the edges. Hand baste it to the side seams. Flip up a small hem edge. It will blend in with the bias cut border hem of the jacket.
Machine stitched in and new seams pinned to be tacked down. The finished wedge is looking nice in place and gives an extra 3 inches on each side.
Maybe you would like to see the inside of the dress so far? Both looped strips are lengthened and pinned in place.
Inside the front you can see the fusible patches. Also, you can see that the bias strip that attaches the petticoat to the dress is very uneven with the center being sewn higher. This causes the stiff petticoat to stick out in the front of the skirt. I will re-sew that to be even.
Loops are stitched flat and flipped to the inside and hand basted before the machine stitching.
The finished outfit minus the ribbon lacing and for those of you who like a good story…here is one. I was hand sewing on a 2 inch wide ivory grosgrain ribbon to the waist while the bride waited to carry the dress out and I asked if her own mother had also worn the Grandma’s dress and she said no.
It turns out that her grandmother was just a few weeks pregnant with her mother but no one knew. So the mother decided she had already been “in” the dress once and bought her own. But isn’t a lovely thing that the 3rd generation can wear it with pride?
With the new side wedges, the jacket closes and buttons…hooray!
Just to get an idea of the length and weighing the smallest butternut squash it weighed 2.4 pounds.
The largest weighed 5.2 pounds, the same weight as my firstborn child 41 years ago.
Wishing you all a peaceful weekend in the aftermath of the US elections. With only half of the population voting, the outcome was decided by only 25% of the people…sad.