Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

Hello Readers, Mrs Mole said I could introduce myself; I’m a Maggie Sottero dress and back in 2013, I was featured as a tribute to the British TV series Downton Abbey. I was stunning, heavy, drapey and going to be a bitch to alter. I hung in a shop for 4 years waiting for just the right person to buy me.

Loads of women were attracted to my shiny exterior but none of them desired me enough to take me home. As the years progressed and more and more big-butted gals tried me on and stepped on my train I started to look very “shop worn” in other words “tatty/ratty” until my bride fell in love with me. She came to the shop wanting something simple but then we met and as they say, the rest is history…or in other words…Mrs Mole’s problem. She will describe my issues:


Normally, when brides call me for the first fitting, I ask what brand and style of the dress they have so I can find it online and grab photos of the dress on a model. If they have purchased the dress within a year, it pops right up on Google…well, not this one…I had to really dig around. I finally typed in “Maggie Sottero Nude” and in “images”…there it was.

Now, imagine all those beads being dragged across a sandy beach in Mexico…what? This is NOT a beach wedding dress with 2 layers of thick nude lining. All those scallops are heavy gold embroidered thread and every 1/2 inch there are rows and rows of gold bugle beads and rhinestones…which will have to be removed before any altering happens.

Like with ALL brides…this little critter has to be TIGHT! So I am going to take in both side seams and add push up bust pads too. The sides are pinned and red thread basted to mark the new seam lines and also to guide me where to remove all the beads that are in the way…so glad I record TV shows so I can just sit for hours and remove and save beads for later. I mentioned to the bride that to save money she could do a lot of re-beading to the damaged parts of her dress as there are lots of “bald” areas and threads dangling where beads used to be 4 years ago. Her answer was ,”I’m too busy, I would rather pay you”…so can you hear the labor costs going up?

Let’s have a look at the bodice and the right and left side seams:

You can see the gold embroidered strips were not sewn into the seam and were just butted up against each other…I will sew them both into the seam.

The thread tracing and bead removal:

The above photos show that part of the embroidered sections were overlapped and not sewn into the seam and on every row of gold thread, there was a row of bugle beads now removed from the new seam allowance before sewing.

Even with all the beads removed this hand basted and pinned side seam looks so darn lumpy.

But once stitched, it looks OK. All the removed beads will be re-attached into the curved sections.

Frustrating enough? Oh No…let’s move down to the scalloped hem…a nice thick border of heavy gold metallic edging sewn to delicate one layer of tulle makes a bold statement/me weep. I mark the floor level with red pins and then that will be red thread-traced before I move the edging up. The 2 layers of satin lining are already pinned up. The narrow hemmed edges of the lining and satin layers are so fuzzy from being dragged across the floor for 4 years.

See all the rows of bugle beads from her toes to the hem? Yes, they will all be removed before the edging is moved up. The edging will have to overlap the other gold motifs higher up as well.

Here we have the hand basted edging in place and excess 6 inches of tulle hand basted under:

But wait….look at the train hem…after 4 years, a few girls have stepped on the train and ripped holes near the edging…delightful, no? Can I fix it, too? Sure…it is only labor after all. The edging is now basted in place, higher up and away from the holes. Will this show as being uneven…not if the sand does a good job of clinging to the gold thread.

Stitching top edge with the zipper foot. Notice the joined section and everything to the right will be trimmed away. All bugle beads were removed under the edging and I used a heavy duty needle in my Juki.

Another joined section and also stitching through the bulk of the motif underneath:

So, do you really think anyone will notice the train hem repairs after a couple of margaritas???

How about the bustle??? Can we get all of that off the floor for dancing all night? Yes, we can and with just one bustle point and a 1 inch fancy button it will be done. The bustle is just pinned in the photo as the bride wants to buy her own button.

Β Β 

Once all the seams are trimmed and pressed flat, no one will know what was done to the dress. I spent over 2 hours re-beading all the distressed areas and with a pair of push-up bust cups attached, she is ready!

In this view she reminds me of Mariah Carey.















This week Mr. Mole thought it would be a good idea to whisk me away for a couple days for my birthday but before we toss a suitcase and parkas in the car, this present arrived for me:

It is related to this earlier post…maybe some of you can recognize it.

It is a perfect addition to our garden from my honey!

Happy sewing or sowing!

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59 Responses to Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

  1. mhdwileski says:

    Do you have any hair left after altering that dress? I’m not sure I would! As to your other little challenge, that green thingy looks like it could be a seed starter, or a composter where you can pour water into it and have it come out of the spigot full of composted nutrients! Just a guess! Don’t keep us hanging too long!

    • mrsmole says:

      With such a dress, the thing that drives me on is sharing a blog post with you. The amount of weird stuff that finds me is amazing for a small rural town. The new box is a wormery.

  2. hearthie says:

    A question that occurs to me nearly every time you post… wouldn’t it be cheaper for most of these brides to have something made from scratch??

    • mrsmole says:

      If anyone wants to make this dress from scratch, please let me know! How many hours do you think it involves with 2 linings, interfacing, boning and hem edging and let’s not forget the cost of pre-beaded fabric? If you say maybe 20 hours at minimum wage of $10 = $200 but really let’s say 30 hours at a living wage of $30 = $900 of labor. Now fabrics…7 yards of beaded fabric ($250 yard) and 14 yards of linings ($12 yard), 7 yards of tulle ($2 yard), zipper, thread for an easy total of $2000 and add labor of $900 for a total just under $3000. This bride paid $500 for a shop worn dress and paid me $400 for all the labor. Yes, she could have bought a cheaper dress but she could not have had this dress cheaper from scratch. These days hairdressers, masseuses, estheticians, nail salons work for $60 an hour, Nurses and dental hygienists starting pay is over $45 an hour with full benefits so expecting a seamstress to work for $10 an hour making wedding dresses seems a little disheartening. If a bride can find a seamstresses with skills who can tackle a proper wedding dress, not a hippie wedding nightgown, then I say…go for it, but there are fewer and fewer who can or will be able to do it. If a bride can find a RTW dress close to her dream then adding some labor to tweak it seems the most reasonable as most of my brides’ fees run around $200…the equivalent of 2 massages, 2 facials or 1.5 cut and color hair appointments.

      • hearthie says:

        You are amazingly fast! I asked because I sew from scratch and am allergic to doing adjustments on clothing already purchased … but you’ve answered. πŸ™‚

      • mrsmole says:

        I have heard women tell me that they will not work on any clothes that need altering but I don’t know why? Most things either need taking in or letting out and you have a road map of the original stitching as a guide. It is lucky that I don’t mind either type as making clothes from scratch is so time consuming with the planning and cutting out, I’m glad I have only one custom client that I can sneak in when the bridal gowns have a gap. Good luck with all your projects…hope you are charging enough money for your skills!!!

      • Cheryl Designs says:

        Thank You πŸ™‚ I TOTALLY agree with your opinion πŸ™‚ My bridal average has been $250-$275 for 2016. A few have been $350 plus but that was MAJOR jobs such as THIS one πŸ™‚ There is NO POSSIBLE way I could even ATTEMPT to custom make ANY BRIDAL GOWN for CLOSE to retail cost. I charge $35 per HOUR to sew. If I lived in an area with higher incomes I would charge MORE per hour. Sometimes it AMAZES me when a bride balks at hemming her gown so she won’t TRIP up the aisle 😦 (a simple hem, no lace, a couple of layers..maybe $100-$120 charge) but she will pay $50 to have a manicure. $100 to have her hair done. I LOVE custom work….LOVE IT. I also RARELY do it because it’s EXPENSIVE. As you quoted… Bridal fabrics are EXPENSIVE per yard. Bridals contain massive amounts of yardage, and notions add up FAST πŸ™‚ I have started to quote MINIMUM $1,000 labor for a bridal. THAT keeps the phone conversations short so I can go and SEW my alterations πŸ™‚ My advice to GOOD seamstresses that are sewing for $10 an hour. STOP DOING THAT 😦 We are RARE GEMS and WORTH MORE than that. You can get a retail job or flip burgers for that wage AND receive benefits….. BTW-LOVELY work on that gown πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ She has VERY little invested in a LOVELY GOWN πŸ™‚

  3. Very pretty . . . can’t imagine the patience to replace all those beads, but I imagine you are very quick.

  4. LJ says:

    Another awe inspiring bit of work you did!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, LJ….lots of tedious prep time and lots of tedious finishing time but I can’t send a dress out the door with beads or threads dangling can I? If the bustle button and loop hold up after a whole night of dancing, I will be thrilled!

  5. Carolyn says:

    Okay that shop owner was going “sucker” under his breathe after she paid for the dress and walked out and then sighed with relief that the dress was gone. However, in your capable hands you’ve brought that amazing dress back to life…seriously though she’s wearing that to a beach wedding?!

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes…the beach at Playa del Carmen…have you been there? It is lovely but sand is sand and you know it gets into everything and the weight of the beads, the double layer of lining will certainly keep her extra warm in Mexico. It is a Vegas dress for sure!

  6. It is an exquisite dress, but the model in the first pic has a much much lower cut to the front, seems to wear it better as well… Well done on a very tricky job. What are you watching? Nothing with subtitles I bet, as you have to keep a beady eye on the work.

    • mrsmole says:

      This dress has huge push up bust cups attached so it does not lay as nicely as on the model but again, this bride, like most…wants the boobs up and on show. I record political shows that air at dinner time and watch them later as I sew until 11 pm every night.

  7. Rose in SV says:

    I enjoy reading your blog. I’m impressed by your strong workmanship, writing skills, and all around talent. Thank you for sharing your experiences. And that looks like it might be a composter (a red worm habitat).

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, it is a new red worm habitat/compost factory! We compost everything in 3 huge bins in the garden but this will recycle kitchen waste faster and the harvested “tea” will be great for my indoor plants as well. I hope that be seeing my wacky solutions to sewing problems that they might help anyone else who gets in difficult projects…sharing helps everyone, thank you, Rose.

  8. what a lovely piece to work on!

    • mrsmole says:

      Stunning and heavy and hot but when she walks down the aisle/beachfront the guests will gasp at her beauty…what else could a bride want?

  9. ceci says:

    Ah, so it turned out it IS possible to keep worms in your hot summers! My worm work is more low tech, grandson and I go around with a paper cup and a spatula collecting worms that flee heavy rains on the the sidewalk and dump them in the outside compost pile…..its a wormy spot after a few seasons of worm rescue!


    • mrsmole says:

      If the summer proves too much for them this year, I will move them into the garage, the same goes for the winter temps…if they all roll up into a ball and refuse to eat, they will have a nice winter in the garage with the citrus trees for company. Our normal temps range from 10 F to 110F so they have to be tough local worms…ha ha!

  10. Sandi Benfield says:

    Ooooow! You play with worms? The gown is gorgeous! Good work Mrs. moleπŸ‘πŸ»πŸ€—

    • mrsmole says:

      Worms make a nice diversion from all the gowns and I get to use different muscles in the garden from the sewing room. I can’t have a cat while sewing wedding dresses so the worms have to fill in as pets.

  11. Accordion3 says:

    Nothing quite says “love” like and container full of rotting stuff, worms and worm wee!

    Happy Birthday!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Mr. Mole knows me very well…when the choice is worms versus say diamonds…the worms win out! Having a birthday away from home and having breakfast in a pancake house (the iHop chain) just sounds too wonderful!

  12. Val says:

    Happy, Happy Birthday Mrs. Mole!

  13. Trish says:

    Your patience is astonishing, Mrs Mole. That job makes the difficult ones I’ve had to do look like a walk in the park! Hand sewing is very relaxing, but repairing beading always seems endless.
    The finished product is wonderful though, and the result of that very challenging hem-raising looks amazing. Well done and Happy Birthday! (I’m predicting that your gift was a worm farm, as it looks remarkably like ours).

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Trish…yes you got it right…love those worms and the terrific job they do! So glad that dress is done and now unto the others waiting in line! I counted the gals on the list for the summer and found I had signed up 35 already…but 4 are very vintage from mothers, grandmothers and even a great grandmother’s wedding day so lots of diversity and challenges!

  14. maryfunt says:

    Don’t you just love removing and then replacing all those beads! Good thing you have hours of tapes to watch. It turned out beautifully and you deserve a few days away.

  15. mrsmole says:

    Yes, Mary…these days there are so many great shows to record to watch later in addition to the political shows that beading seems like the perfect thing to do at the same time. Our time away includes a visit to a zoo and a tulip farm and a monastery and 80 acre garden so just the thing to clear the mind for a few days along with eating pancakes and nice dinners before hitting the conveyor belt of whiteness back home.

  16. Krysti says:

    I feel your pain! I had to alter that dress 3 times the couple of years that it was popular. Every time I asked myself “What was Maggie thinking”? One time I had to fill in the netting on the vee neckline and straps with fabric – that was a nightmare. I did learn from a seamstress that was alterations manager at a bridal shop how to set my industrial machine to sew free hand with nylon thread and no presser foot. This allows me to sew over beads without having to remove them. I was able to hem the dress that way and it was so much easier. Good job! I hope we never have to see that dress again. Although there will just be another ridiculous one or two coming – like the ones with the REALLY low back that never fit quite right…….

  17. mrsmole says:

    Kristi, your work is amazing! Your photos in the gallery are beautiful! http://www.behindtheseamsbridal.com/index.html Thank you for sharing your experience with that dress! Knowing other have tackled such a project is very comforting! Let’s not even talk about low backs that never lay flat and gap open…Lord have mercy!

  18. That dress is amazing! I love it! You put a lot of hours into this one but I was very happy it could be saved! (That looks like a composter for your garden – my husband would be envious. Perhaps I should get one for him!)

  19. Monique says:

    Beautiful dress – the sun shining on it will make it even more glam – such a pity about the beach, though!
    I’m looking forward to your new projects/saves! And worm stories…
    Enjoy your birthday, your plans sound lovely.

  20. justine says:

    Beautiful job! What a lot of work. I hope you charged a fortune for it! Too bad most brides have no idea the amount of work and expertise that goes into altering gowns.Enjoy your well deserved vacation.

  21. sewruth says:

    My head hurts just reading about this dress…Enjoy your short break.

  22. mrsmole says:

    Oh Ruth, there are days I wish I was sewing like you…great projects and lovely quilts instead of this chaos!

  23. erniek3 says:

    That’s the Taj Mahal of vermiculture! Dang dang dang. We took a break from worm work a couple of years ago (they drowned due to my inattention and my spouse’s overfeeding), but that could tempt me back.
    That dress is stunning, and $500 is a steal, even with $400 in alterations, which are careful and well considered. But once again: the beach wedding vs a hem. As a guest with an artificial hip: I hate beach weddings. Worse than barn weddings. “Shakes fist: you kids and your crazy…..”

    • mrsmole says:

      The one issue I ask brides about is shade…”are you providing shade for Grandma?” These girls plan outdoor weddings with no consideration for the guests…no shade tents, no trees…just a full view of the bride for sweating guests I tell them that older relatives cannot.take hours of heat in the summer so they had better think about it of have a paramedic on stand-by.

  24. Lesley says:

    The lovely green box is for your wriggly wrigglers = a wormery. Good luck. That dress looks beautiful, even more so once bustled. Another sows ear into a silk purse, Mrs Mole I congratulate you.

  25. JustGail says:

    You deserved every penny (and then some) for the work you did re-building this dress.

    If your garage is anything like ours, it may still be too warm for the worms, What about soaking some old blankets or burlap with water and place over the worm castle?

    • mrsmole says:

      The good thing about our local red wigglers are how tough they are. When I bought a pound of them 4 years ago, they have managed to invade all areas of the garden and make mounds of soil and small stones everywhere along concrete paths and in the lawn. Mr. Moles say if they have to spend the summer in the house…so be it. We shall how well they fare being above ground and I will have some fabric ready to wet and keep them cool.

  26. helenkosings says:

    You have posted so many beautiful dresses on yer blog, but this one is my favorite – hands down! And as per usual, you did an incredible job on your alterations. Thank you so much for keeping on sharing your work with us!

  27. poppykettle says:

    oooh – a worm farm? If it is, I’ve been wanting one of these for a while!
    I think this dress is absolutely stunning – not surprising considering how much I loved watching Downton Abbey. I hope you charged her a fortune to deal with all that beading though! yikes!

  28. Kim says:

    The dress is gorgeous – but on a beach? Oh dear.
    Worm farm! Mine is about two seasons old now and well established. We have more in common than we thought πŸ˜ƒ

  29. mrsmole says:

    Yes, worms…I had a huge wormery when I lived in Southport for 8 years and really miss seeing those little guys working/eating away and the worm “tea”. I’m thinking about all that sand in all those bugle beads….NO!!!

  30. Susan Hart says:

    Hello from a fellow bridal alterations gal from Oregon. I love seeing all your detailed pics from your ‘adventures in wedding gown changes’…. as I used to call my jobs! LOL The beaded gown from DA reminded me of my very first job at a little shop. It was fully beaded with a 3 inch bugle bead hem that I obviously could NOT cut. For one imagine the domino effect and two, it mimicked 2 other 3 inch beaded design bands on the gown, so for my very first ‘adventure’, I taught myself how to use monofilament thread so that I could fold up part of the gown in the front to ‘re-hem’ this dress. I too have also had to add side panels and basically re-design many a dress. Train wrecks is my loving term for them before I use my magic wand! Tee hee!
    Keep up the good work and this terrific blog, you are making my day, week, year etc…. And I certainly know whose brain to pick if I ever need help.
    Susan in Aloha

  31. Hi there!
    I’m curious, what kind of push up bust cups do you use? How do you attach them?

    • mrsmole says:

      I buy the cups from Wawak. I attach them to the lining with a whip stitch.

      • Cheryl Designs says:

        WAWAK is AWESOME πŸ™‚ Pricing is great πŸ™‚ Service is great πŸ™‚ Shipping charge is just $4.95 up to $100 purchase, then FREE after that πŸ™‚ I LOVE THEM πŸ™‚ I can place an order with them and RECEIVE it here at the studio before I have a chance to travel to the nearest fabric store πŸ™‚

  32. Pingback: Bustle, Busts and Birthdays | fit for a queen

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