Doing the Math

This week someone on Facebook sent me a message. It went like this:

Are you still in business? I have a friend who needs a slight alteration to her daughter’s dress in a hurry.

I try not to do prom gowns and bridesmaids dresses when the sewing room is packed with wedding gowns but I said I would see her if she would send a photo. Well, as per usual, she did not send a photo but asked to come over the very next day with the girl and the gown and gave me 3 days to make some magic.

Same old story, “my daughter wanted a one-of-a-kind dress so we ordered one off the internet…and we don’t know what to do as it needs a little something as the zipper stops about 1/2 inch from the top.”

The front has a satin bodice under the beading and sheer knit but the back is completely sheer. Two layers of polyester are topped off with chiffon and all are cut from huge circles. I measured the chiffon hem circumference…10 yards…30 feet of narrow rolled hemming.


OK, any math wizards out there? From the top of the hook and eye to the tab of the reluctant zipper is 10 inches…10 inches, people! There is no way this baby will ever close without a wedge inserted. And where do we get a wedge to match perfectly? I’m going to cut a wedge from the skirt side seams of the 2 layers of satin lining and one layer of the chiffon.

Thinking this was the most perfect solution, I told the bride and mother and the bride started to get all pissy saying, “people will notice”…yeah, right, and they won’t notice that your zipper stops at your hip. The mother tried to settle her down after I showed them that the skirt was cut as a huge circle with volumes of fabric that would never show where a wedge was removed.


While the ribbons measure these amounts, with the sheer knit back, the actual wedge will be narrower for a very snug fit that the girl demanded.







First, one side of the zipper is removed from the knit back.   Then a wedge is cut from the lining and satin from one side. One layer in interfaced with fusible and then the third layer of chiffon is added to the sandwich and stitched as a small curve at the top. Understitiching is done.


Pinned and ready to be run through the serger to neaten the edges:

Panel is hand basted into place:

Machine stitched right side and inside:

                                          The final try-on:

Now, at least, she can get the zipper up and have a good time at the Prom.

Some of you may have done this differently, like evenly adding to both side seams and increased the labor time, but I had 3 days to get this project out the door the cheapest way I could including the hemming of 2 massive layers of satin and one of chiffon ahead of the brides with their own deadlines.

When the mother paid for the dress she said, “we assume from now on we can come back anytime and have you do sewing for us”…that is when I handed her the card of the other seamstress I refer to…rush jobs and prom dresses have no place in my sewing room during the season!!!

Hoping all of your sewing projects this week are fun ones!!! Thank you to all the new followers for dropping by and to the die hard regulars who like photos of challenges!


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53 Responses to Doing the Math

  1. You are a miracle worker, and have the patience of several saints. I would have told her to take a long walk off a short pier…

  2. M says:

    Wow, how entitled! You have an amazing amount of patience, the alteration looks great!

  3. jay says:

    I’m afraid I laughed my head off. “People will notice” – too funny. Don’t they have mirrors in their houses? And then “We assume we can come back anytime”. Yeah right. You performed a miracle as usual.

  4. Kay says:

    That was magic!!! I don’t get the extreme snug fit people want. Um,, wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen, when you take a deep breath?

    I don’t know how you deal with customers demanding you to work magic on their clothes, day in and day out. And I hope you really charge them enough (to compensate for your time and superior skills).

  5. fabrickated says:

    That is such a great, relatively simple fix Mrs Mole. It looks neat and tidy and almost like it supposed to be there. Great work against the clock. She’ll look great at the Prom.

    • mrsmole says:

      I told her that she will wish I had done that to both sides as the beading will rub under her arms all night…she said she never thought of that…duh!

  6. Robin says:

    I know I’m a dinosaur but proms have have come such a long way since I graduated from high school. The gown is beautiful and wearable (thanks to you Mrs. Mole). No one will ever notice the alteration. She’ll wear it for a few hours and it will be shoved in the back of her closet and forgotten about. Oh, to be young, self-centered and frivolous again…a fleeting thought…

    • mrsmole says:

      I was never young and frivolous and never was invited to a Prom or had a white wedding dress…so it is a real treat/entertainment to see all the chaos that swirls around these girls…so glad I never got caught up in it either. Back in the 60’s things were not so intense! The back of the closet is where prom dresses go to die….

  7. K says:

    You make magic, Mrs. Mole! “Zipper stops half inch from the top” my butt! Why are we so in denial of fit in our garments?

    • mrsmole says:

      Lordie, if the mother told me that the zipper didn’t go past the hips, I might have turned her down…haha…but once she got her foot in the door…it was a done deal.

      • erniek3 says:

        I think the sentence she was going to say was “the zipper stops a half inch from the top OF HER BUTT”.
        Once again, thanks for going there, taking pictures, and sharing the results.

  8. Elle says:

    Entitlement indeed. Amazing lack of respect for skilled work. Such patience you have….

  9. Elva says:

    Wow — you should be nominated for saint-hood!! Since I usually run 2 – 3 weeks out, I just laugh at such people. It was a beautiful save. My compliments to you!!

  10. You did an amazing job for this ridiculous girl. I will never understand the current desire to have things skintight…even when this is NOT a good look for them. Mirrors, people…mirrors!

    Had to laugh at their ‘parting’ statement…! One of the nice things about running your own business is the ability (theoretically, anyway) to select your clients 🙂 Hope all of yours coming up are delightful!

    • mrsmole says:

      We can only hope that the nicest brides find us and the rest …well…there are other places who have OK seamstresses but the early bird gets the worm…er…best seamstresses.

  11. The correct answer your clients should give, every time, is ”Whatever you think is best, Oh worshipful Mrs Mole.”

  12. Trish says:

    A beautiful result as always, Mrs Mole. Your patience still astounds me! I can’t believe the rudeness of some people being demanding when you’re doing a rush job for them. You’re a saint. 😇

    • mrsmole says:

      You know how when you call a customer service phone number and the message is that they are recording the conversation for your benefit…wouldn’t it be great to tell the brides the same thing…ha ha

  13. JustGail says:

    Half inch ?! You came up with a good solution, considering the time you had to work it in. I don’t know of too many proms that are so well lit that it would be very noticeable.

    I wonder if the measurements some of your customers tell you are due to their own special measurement reality, or if they fear you’d say No Way In H….!! especially when they want it done in days, not weeks or months. Both? What’s the longest you’ve been given to work on a dress?

    • mrsmole says:

      The longest…I had a dress here for 9 months but I refuse to take them much more than 2 months till the date…who wants to store ball gowns? Prom dresses will be for dancing so I doubt that anyone will notice with all that shaking!!!

  14. Linda Ferris says:

    I am on my third “I bought it on the internet and it doesn’t fit and looks funny and the prom is next week!” I admire your sang froid in these situations. Thanks for the inspiration and many ideas too.

  15. JudyJ says:

    Amazing save – thanks to your professional skills. So funny that they you would become their go to seamstress — nice that you were prepared to pass them along to someone else! Thanks for sharing. Always a joy to see how you make alterations.

  16. Cheryl Designs says:

    🙂 I love you 🙂 I have a VERY tender heart but I would have been forced to say….NADA 😦 I am too BUSY for ANY ‘quickies’ 🙂 I have noticed the calls or messages for a SIMPLE fix, turn into ADDING GUSSETS or taking in a bodice with HEAVY BEADWORK that needs replaced. “OH yes, BY THE WAY, it’s TOO LONG so we need it shortened..JUST A BIT 😦 ” PROM 2017 will go down in my history as the year of the HUGE SKIRT circumferences 😦 I did MASSIVE hems 🙂 $$$$ 🙂 You are ‘THEIR’ seamstress now? What a GIFT to you 😦 I LOVE my customers but I have learned-Never-EVER let them think they can call at the last minute. Some of them will do it CONSISTENTLY as if THEY are your ONLY PRECIOUS customer 😦 Goofy ladies 😦 You make my day lady, I LOVE your blog 🙂 THANK YOU 🙂

  17. You are amazing . . . and thankful I only sew for fun!

  18. Summerflies says:

    I like she wants something unique so buys it off the internet…plus “people will notice”.. ha ha the other option is to buy something that fits! I think the side wedge is genius. I hope you charge like wounded bull.

    • mrsmole says:

      The mom was shocked when I told her that most prom dresses are bought on the internet these days and I work on the same dresses as seamstresses all over this country so her daughter’s dress is not one-of-a-kind.

  19. Tia Dia says:

    You are such a skilled problem solver!!! Kudos to you for not making it into a week long fix trying to make it even on both sides (something I would have been SORELY tempted to do and then gripe about how much work it was!). She will wear it and forget about how awesome it was to get the best seamstress to fix it for her!! Tsk Tsk! Such entitlement and ignorance. RTW is such a bane.

    • mrsmole says:

      If it was for one of my own daughters, I would have made the panels equal but as this is a once-only-dress and given such short notice…this is what she gets. Just hope these girls don’t get into any trouble dressing like grown-ups and being 17.

  20. Rena Pearson says:

    Awesome fix as always! How did you figure how big to make the wedge? Do you worry about the zipper popping when making dresses that tight? I had a girl wanted hers super tight and I put a corset back because I was afraid her zipper would blow out! I fixed lots of internet prom dresses this year..UGH! I also had a 40 ft. chiffon hem. Wishing straight dresses would come back in style!

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, Rena, I just look at the shape that is showing all that skin, measure it and make the panel. It really doesn’t matter where the panels goes as most of the time it will be a wedge of some sort like the lacing shape on the corset back dresses. I don’t think about the zipper if it came with the dress, it’s their problem. If I put one in especially a wedding dress, it usually is a heavy duty one with larger teeth.

  21. My daughter had these beaded jobs for her proms. I would NOT let her order it online. While it was pricy getting it from a local store, I knew I could do the very simple hem they needed. I do not have the skill to fix a dress which doesn’t fit to begin with. On the other hand, said daughter was a bridesmaid last summer and the bride did a great job getting dresses from the Internet. $29 each and since none of the girls will ever wear them again, I just did simple hemming and side seams just sewn up so the bodice was tight enough for all of them. No one was going to peek inside on my home sewer job!

    • mrsmole says:

      In the end it is all about the pictures isn’t it? Good for you to do all those hems and side seams for those bridesmaids.No matter if you charged them or not, they got a good deal! Girls here have no idea what size they are and even if they send in measurements, they must be discarded in the factory and the size label is just sewn unto any dress no matter what size it really is. If a mom buys an online dress for $150 and then spends $100 to a seamstress to make it fit…where is the saving?

  22. Martina says:

    It’s a pretty dress, and the girl looks great in it! I hope she thinks of you in years to come when she looks at the pictures. 🙂

  23. sewruth says:

    So, like, are you still in business?
    I have a box full of half made dresses/trousers/jackets. I sew myself, so you really cannot tell me anything but can you finish these half-made things?
    Oh and I want them by tomorrow!

  24. mrsmole says:

    Yes, I am still in business and so bored just waiting for the phone to ring to drag me away from all the soap operas and talk shows and back to my dusty sewing machine….ha ha. Wouldn’t that be a divine service…take your almost-finished garments to a lovely, kind woman who would finish them up for you and press them ready for wearing? Oh and offer overnight service?

  25. Wow! Was that ever a big mistake! She might have got the dress cheap but you saving her dress added to the cost. And you, as usual, did a lovely job with absolutely no time to spare! We never had proms and all the rest neither. It saved us all the money, stress, embarrassment and trouble for a lot of foolishness (I think).

  26. You are a saint. You made such a smooth job truly no one would notice.

  27. Pingback: How to shorten a jacket cuff…by not shortening a jacket cuff! | make & wear – sewing-knitting-making

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