Adding a Little Something

Another one of my three emergency November brides that was never booked ahead bought her dress at David’s for $99. I was given 2 weeks to make some magic happen.

The dress needed to be “temple ready” meaning long sleeves and the back completely covered. As you have seen in the past, I have done this sort of conversion with laces but working with smooth satin, it will be a challenge.


First, a sleeve pattern is used and marked on the muslin. I added height to the sleeve cap as you can see the straps do not actually end at her shoulder. The muslin will have small puckers and be hand basted to the strap.

Once it was basted, I could see that the grainlines did not fall parallel with the floor, so I slashed the sleeve to allow the fabric to drop to the right level and then added a patch of fusible interfacing. Time was of the essence!


The exact gap that was needed and the fusible interfacing used as the patch.


Now, I had the basic shape and just needed to cut a second one.

Then a second sleeve was cut from an old muslin, not perfect but it will do as a sample.


The muslin sleeves were used as the pattern to cut the satin fabric….oh, I forgot to mention the extra fabric. The bride ordered “white” satin from David’s and when it arrived, it was ivory. They could not get anything whiter so a trip to JoAnn’s produced the LAST 1.5 yards of white satin in the store!

The new satin was 95% poly and 5 % spandex and although the bride was thrilled with the stretch the sleeves and back panel would have, it does add some puckers in some areas. Lesson learned…don’t expect to find white satin in November at JoAnn’s!

The back panel was placed in the vacant back and measured up 9 inches to the drawn finished neckline. There will be a separating zipper used for this separate piece. I know some of you will think I should have been able to rip open the existing top edge of the bodice and make all this in one piece…yes, maybe if I had a load of time and an unlimited budget but this will have to work. Notice the neck darts to help contour the neckline into the body.


The trial panel is a bit off center so let’s re-center it later.


Hand baste everything muslin and do the try-on…the bride likes everything but says she would not mind some small gathers at the sleeve cap…okey dokey!


Still have to move the zipper over to the right a bit:


Let’s guess at how much to enlarge the sleeve cap for gathers…1/2 inch to 1 inch? Machine gather the satin cap and pin in place:


Move the zipper over 1/2 inch to center and use as a pattern to cut 2 double layer satin panels. I chose double layers so I could have a nice clean folded edge for each zipper side insertion. Double layers were also needed to conceal the garment beneath. Choose one of two zippers, both separating but with different thickness of teeth and tips.


Right side panel with zipper pinned and then top stitched. Inside view shows the zipper tape.


Lapped Left side is pinned first and tested. Then it is sewn from the wrong side for perfect placement. The folded edge will just remain on the wrong side.


To attach the sleeves without any stitching showing on the right side, I stitch the gathered cap right along the very edge of the armhole on the wrong side…holding my breath.


The finished panel is in place and pinned. The panel will be stitched exactly like the sleeves and then trimmed and all the excess removed.


All the sleeve edges are pinked and the back panel is serged to within one inch for the curved neckline seam and then hand stitched to the lining.


From the front, things are looking like she wants and her undergarment is covered.


The back with all the hand basting is done and the 3-point bustle just pinned:


I did not get any final, final photos taken with the rush of the date approaching so please imagine way less puckers and more smiles.

Some days I feel like the fairy godmother in Cinderella…singing BibbidiBobbidiBoo and hoping for the best!

I see men in the neighborhood hanging their Christmas lights already…how did this year go so fast? Going through my files, I see I have passed the 80+ mark for gowns finished but still have more to go before New Year’s Eve…the final bride. As snow flurries return to the US, I wish you toasty times sewing indoors and finishing up those Christmas gifts for family!

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33 Responses to Adding a Little Something

  1. Sandi says:

    Mrs Mole that is beautiful! Was this the one you told me about on Wednesday?

  2. Mary says:

    Pretty amazing. I can’t even begin to imagine your solutions, and they always turn out looking like the gown was meant to be that way.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well thank you, Mary…that is what I aim for all the time…to not let any of the guests know I have been messsin’ with the dress! I tell the girls that “no one will know that you didn’t buy the dress the way” by the way it looks in the end. Ha ha…only my readers know the truth!

  3. birdmommy says:

    Such an interesting contrast to the ‘make it tight! Tight!! TIGHTER!!’ brides you often get. 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      That’s true, birdmommy…at this time in the year I am truly fed up with the bridezillas who want that Jessica Rabbit look. It is refreshing to just want to look like herself only covered. As a married woman, from now one she will have to remain covered in all her clothes so at least on her wedding day she can look radiant.

  4. ParisGrrl says:

    I think we were all holding our breath with you. Wonderful solutions!

  5. Carol says:

    You are truly a miracle worker. This is my first post…I’m a lurker and always enjoy your fixes. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Carol…these days the magic wand is just about out of power and probably could do with a long time recharging in January. My Thanksgivings are normally just another work day with some turkey at the end…this year was the same but I can count so many more blessings this year as I have had a dear friend going through chemo. She is constantly on my mind and in prayers.

  6. Helen says:

    It would have been smarter for the bride to just have bought a dress that was not low cut and had sleeves.

    • racurac2 says:

      exactly my thoughts!

    • mrsmole says:

      Her budget was $99 so I imagine she could not get exactly what was needed for that price. With the alterations, it was still cheaper than buying one ready made from a religious bridal salon that caters to this sort of job. I don’t mind working with girls who stick to a budget instead of the crazy ones who have no limits and want more and more stuff added the closer the date comes. Finding a pure white long sleeved, floor length, high neckline dress in November might be harder than we think and still look bridal for under $300.

  7. You did a lovely job considering what you were given. It seems odd that the bride didn’t buy a long sleeve dress from the get-go and bought this one for a reason, seems to me a bolero jacket (which could’ve been removed later) would’ve given her both dresses in one.

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Sunny, what I did not realize was that once the wedding dress is converted to “temple ready”, it can be worn to services every week until the bride grows out of it. So this will get many wearings which seems very thrifty and smart. If she went with a bolero, it could never be removed as it would reveal her special undergarment beneath so the additions have to be permanent. I do agree that a bolero would have been perfect…but not this time.

      • How very interesting different religions are! That’s very cool then that she could get more than one use out of it.

        When I was working for an apparel manufacturer, a couple of girls came in and asked us to make a line of modest wear for them. They wanted to use beautiful expensive fabric to make these old-fashioned (and not very flattering) dress styles, which seemed odd to me because their own personal style was modest and stylish. I didn’t know why they didn’t just model their dress-line after their own fashion sense. I think there’s a demand for more modest stylish clothes that isn’t being addressed in the marketplace.

      • mrsmole says:

        There are bridal salons that specialize in making RTW gowns into temple ready but the prices can be quite high. I have seen readymade temple ready dresses online for other religions as well. and

        Maybe the princess in each girl really wants the glamor and drama but has to settle for what her church requires? The first step is to at least get girls to want straps/cap sleeves and covered backs instead of wanting to show it all. Although having a hot summer wedding would really be sweaty with long sleeves and high neckline while standing in a field or vineyard with no shade. I always ask the girls, “will you have some shade for grandma?” as older folks cannot sit out in the sun for very long. It is amazing that many say they never thought about their grandparents’ needs.

  8. John Yingling says:

    Great work in such a short time! An alternate sleeve cap design could be giving her more shoulder by darting the cap enough to clear the shoulder point then allowing the rest of the cap to fall just beyond the arm. But your solution looked like it was meant to be in the first place. The bride was lucky to have you as her chief alterationist!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, John…once you get into a project like this, I hear that voice inside my head yelling, “Time’s a wastin'” and just try to NOT get all fancy and relieved that gathers were good enough and actually added to the sweetness. When a bride says that I have made her wedding day just right…I hug her and tell her that I wish her WHOLE day turns out perfect…not just the dress.

  9. So nice to see a modest dress. It’s nice to see something different – a “temple” dress – sometimes. Nice work again. You saved the day!

  10. karen says:

    Mrs. Mole, Happy Thanksgiving from Canada!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Grumpy Karen! I remember cooking the October Thanksgiving /Harvest dinners for my Canadian husband when we lived in Vancouver and thinking…this seems too early for turkey…ha ha Hope you are all ready for some Winter weather!

  11. Shams says:

    Ugh! So, tell me, do you ever get to alter a gorgeous dress, made from quality fabric and using quality techniques? This cheap stuff is so painful!

    • mrsmole says:

      It really depends on what the alteration is…cheaper dresses are faster as they have less layers and things to rip open and remove. Hems are faster too but working on more expensive dresses like most of the ones I get in the $1200+ range make them a learning experience. From the outside all the bride sees is the “princess” but once you get inside the dress, you (I) can see that there are trends in techniques and some are better than other for the second seamstress to tackle. So, working on a David’s $99 special is not so hard IF you can find fabric to match. Do I wish I could buy and work on luscious wools and exotic fabrics like you and your bay area friends …you bet, but for now this volume of satins and tulle earns me the money I need. Do I crave color in this sea of ivory…you bet! Your latest collection of Paris photos are so darn wonderful! The window displays are drool-worthy!

  12. erniek3 says:

    I can understand why she’d choose this dress: the price and the skirt and simple bow in the back are lovely. This dress shows off her figure probably more than anything with plunging this and scooped up that. Such good work.
    It took me a few minutes to work out why a separating zipper. Ah. She might want to get out of it entirely…..

    • mrsmole says:

      Luckily for me, I can buy different weights of those zippers from Wawak as my local JoAnn’s carries only one metal one. If anyone wants to see a real nightmare of work, they should visit your sewing blog: Your unique solutions to altering and hemming 50 identical choir dresses brings tears to my eyes! Hems up, hems down, adding gussets and taking in skirts…Lordie, you have to do it all, Stephanie!

  13. Monique says:

    Lovely! And I agree, it’s as if the dress was always (meant to be) that way.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Monique. I hope the weather has not been too severe in your part of the world with winter closing in!

      • Monique says:

        Thanks for asking. Apparently last night was the coldest Autumn night since 1998… Now, at 9.40 a.m., we have sun and frost. Things could be so much worse 🙂
        Enjoy your day.

  14. It’s lovely to see a demure bride. Pardon my ignorance, but what religion is this dress going to be used for?

  15. mrsmole says:

    LDS better known as Mormon. I have done 2 others in the past but both had lace which can hide more wrinkles. Quite the contrast to the Gypsy brides in the North isn’t it, Kim?

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