Great Grandma Would Be Proud

Back in 1953, brides wore gloves and covered their shoulders with bolero jackets and gave little thought to who would wear their dresses again.

This dress was tossed into a dress-up box for the grandchildren to use when they played. Sadly the jacket went missing.

Sixty-three years later the great-granddaughter has an idea to wear the dress for her wedding and great grandma approves. Repairs have to be made like replacing a broken zipper, tears in the tulle layers, tears to the center front pleating and evening up the satin hem. Oh, and figuring out how to find more ease in the bodice and what can be done to keep it from falling down.








With push-up bust cups pinned in, we try out different strap options.

Tulle sleeve/straps solve two problems in front and back and still look feminine.

Then we try out a halter style which makes the bride very happy to know that the grosgrain ribbon can be covered with tulle to match her dress and she will feel secure while dancing. The designs on the front are little velvet, yes, velvet appliques with tan beads. The halter angles compliment the front tulle collar “V” section.

Let’s remove the broken zipper:




Even though this was a RTW gown, the previous seamstress took in the side seams unequally and the boning was covered and stitched on by hand. Luckily, I was able to take the side seams back to the original position. The grandmother admitted that this dress was played in and even was worn to climb trees by all the grandchildren through the years never thinking that it would be ever worn again for a wedding. After all, it was not her dress…it was her mother’s.


The fact that all the boning was covered, pinked and stitched into place with long hand stitches really makes sense for alterations! How practical…snip threads, remove, alter a seam and tack it back into place! Now I wish all boning was done this way!!!

When the previous seamstress took in the side seams, she stacked them, flipped them and tacked them both forward leaving a huge ridge inside.

I will take the stitching back to the original line and open the seams and press them flat but not trim them for the next seamstress.

Another victim of the dressing up days is the hem…the original horsehair braid had a drawstring at the top to make it curve but a lot of it has been caught and stretched out and the hem itself is so uneven and droops below the tulle layers. The hem will be leveled to the level of the tulle and netting.

There are also spaces where the braid is frayed away:

One of the holes in the tulle top layer was jagged. Instead of just trying to get both edges together and hope for the best, I used the technique that plastic surgeons use on skin. The top and bottom edges are elongated to make sharp points that will lie flatter after stitching. How do I know this? Well, last July I had a large skin cancer removed from my face and this is how it was done to minimize a scar.

I use invisible poly thread to sew the edges back together by hand. Now the hole is just a line that will blend in with the rest of the skirt…it’s not great but it works.

The other place that needed fixing is the front…it had a 45 degree tear inside and out and I used the same clear thread to repair it.

You can also see the velvet applique pieces up close here:

We add some bust cups and she is ready to walk down the aisle. So far no one has shown the photos of the alterations to great grandma as they are afraid she might cry…they are waiting for the day of the wedding when the bride reveals the dress in person. OH MY…get the tissues ready!

  A final look inside reveals something not quite right…can you see it?

Yes, under all the tulle at center front, it goes unnoticed…the front top of the center satin skirt seam has been caught and makes a pleat/pucker. Who knows how long it has been there…since day one? I will release it so it lays flat.

New center back zipper:


Just before the final day, the bride drops off a darling matching flower girl dress to be hemmed that has buttons down the back and I suggest that we add buttons on her dress too:


Modern additions done and just in time for a change in the weather…from the 50’s a week ago to the 90’s this week…happy squash and tomatoes!




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47 Responses to Great Grandma Would Be Proud

  1. mhdwileski says:

    I’d love to see a follow-up on this dress, after the Great Grandma sees it! I’m sure she will be pleased – and sincerely touched that her granddaughter loved it enough to save it.

  2. Bunny says:

    Fabulous, Mrs. M! You did an amazing job with this antique. Just wow, as usual!

  3. Kathy says:

    What a beautiful way to honor the women who came before you. Great job Mrs. M.

  4. Sandra says:

    Oh, that’s lovely. Such a pretty dress. Great-grandma’s definitely going to need the tissues.

  5. That is the happiest dress I have ever seen you work on. All that playing infusing the dress with good things. May the bride and groom live (and play) happily! Quality.

  6. ParisGrrl says:

    I love it when someone truly wants to wear a family dress, and doesn’t feel pressured into it. The buttons down the back were the perfect touch.

    • mrsmole says:

      Sentimentality wins the day for sure, it also helps if the bride actually fit into something so small! The buttons were really needed to finish it off. Thanks, ParisGrrl!

  7. Rita says:

    This dress is beautiful. It is filled with the “romance” of many generations. Best wishes to the couple. Please include a picture of the bride on her big day.

  8. Lisa Laree says:

    this may be my favorite of all the dresses I’ve read about. What a beautiful dress she has now!

    • mrsmole says:

      The best part was how sweet the bride was and just went along with all my suggestions and steps. If only more brides were like her…I could bitch a lot less…ha ha.

  9. Carolyn says:

    That is soooooo awesome how you fixed a dress given to children to play with into an amazing dress for the bride. Dayum I would be crying too if my grandbaby walked down the aisle in my wedding dress. I’m thinking you liked this bride and I’m happy about that because this is a miraculous transformation.

    • mrsmole says:

      Funny, Carolyn, I didn’t feel particularly attached to this dress in the beginning, but the bride and her family got me to love it and I discovered old sewing techniques like the covered boning that was a joy.

  10. maryfunt says:

    Wonderful remake of a classic dress. The sewing methods used seem like they had alterations in mind, unlike many modern ones.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, that’s true, Mary…nothing was hidden by linings and so accessible for the seamstress. Another vintage dress coming up has more secrets to reveal.

  11. Mary says:

    What a beautiful dress & story; and such a wonderful way to honour the love stories that came before her. You have once again outdone yourself & your respect for the seamstresses before you shines through. Brava Mrs. Mole! (I’m sorry to hear of your skin cancer scare; but very glad you found it & had it treated. Amazing you would come away from that with a new sewing technique!)

    • mrsmole says:

      We all gather wisdom and techniques along the way…skin or tulle…same technique…ha ha! Every dress, especially the vintage ones are a “treasure hunt” once you get inside. My dream job would be to work in the back rooms of a clothing museum to check out old techniques and document them!

  12. That is so sweet. I too, hope they share a follow-up. Great work!

  13. upsew says:

    that is stunning – makes me blush when I think of the bridesmaid dresses we were allowed use in our dress up boxes aged 6………….and yes we probably climbed stone walls in them!

    • mrsmole says:

      Bridesmaids dresses are made for climbing stone walls aren’t they? Lord knows you can never wear one in real life after the wedding no matter what the bride tells you…ha ha.

  14. Mary says:

    You are my hero. A masterpiece of work!

  15. accordion3 says:

    Agreeing with the other comments that you seemed to really enjoy this alteration. Perhaps this was the perfect combination of good thing, courtesy and bride who was open to your ideas & experience.

    Beautiful work!

  16. Tia Dia says:

    What a sweet sweet story for this dress! Like others have commented, all the years of being played in make this an extra special ode to family and fun. I wish the bride all the best.

    And thanks for showing the inside of the dress! Brilliant idea about the boning. I love learning tricks and tips like that.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Tia, now you can get to work covering boning and slap some of it into dresses for your daughters wherever it is needed! That’s my new plan! You know that dress will be the star of the wedding for all the right reasons and not because she spent a fortune on something too over the top or overwhelming for her little body and sweet personality.

      • Tia Dia says:

        DD3 and I are working on her grad dress, and we’ve used this technique for the muslin. She’s pretty happy she doesn’t have to make a million boning channels over and over again!

  17. Connie Turner says:

    Great story about this dress coming back out of the playbox. You did your usual amazing job making it look beautiful again. Creative use of the dermatology technique, we can learn from anything.

    • mrsmole says:

      You never know when your varied skills will come in handy. If I ever find myself in a taxidermy shop, I could sew up a few shotgun holes now, Connie!

  18. Alex in California says:

    Very beautiful. Fun to follow the steps that it took to restore this wedding dress. The bride must have been very pleased. I wonder if a little bit of a petticoat might have added to the silhouette.

  19. Jodi says:

    Best.Story.EVER. Thank you for sharing, it made my day!

  20. This is a great restoration – updating, without ruining the feel of the original. And a testament to how things were ‘built to last’ back then – even if they weren’t built perfectly. Its heartening to see little boo-boos in such old garments.

    • mrsmole says:

      I love old boo-boos! Being a clothes detective is a blast! New clothes are so perfect inside but older one have secrets that I love to find and share!

  21. Jane M says:

    I was just at a family wedding that was over the top this weekend with a dress from Kleinfeld’s….but this is the sweetest, dearest dress imaginable. An admirable bride as well to appreciate the beauty and history of her gown. So glad that you are writing these useful and beautiful posts for us. I’m verklempt.

    • mrsmole says:

      Verklempt…perfect word for the great grandmother when she sees the dress for the first time in 64 years walking down the aisle! Having a dress from Kleinfelds is all about the dress and less about the girl, don’t you think?

  22. Patty says:

    Beautiful work…again! What fun you seem to have had in the restoration of this special dress! Hope to see a pic of the bride and her dress (and Great-Grandma!) on the wedding day 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Me too, Patty! Although when the grandmother came to pick up the dress, she said the bride was in bed with a strep throat on antibiotics, the groom was home with the stomach flu and the little flower girls had Influenza B and home taking Tamiflu…so in 3 days we need a miracle to make sure everyone is feeling better to go ahead with the ceremony!

  23. erniek3 says:

    This reminds me of the dress my MIL offered to me to wear for my wedding. So many dresses in dress up boxes, offered to so many ‘handy’ brides.
    This beautiful dress had something left to mend and restore, and you found its beauty as you always do. The MIL’s did not. Which is good, as my SIL would have killed me if I’d touched it (she skipped our wedding anyway).
    As ever, thanks for sharing. You make me a better seamstress

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh, erniek3, I just share what shows up on my doorstep…make the best of it and smile and of course, cash the check and smile a little more. Thank you for sharing your story too! Too bad we can’t pick our families or our in-laws!

  24. KS Sews says:

    Now that’s just sweet! How awesome that you were able to restore the dress!!

  25. I know I have said it before, but this will be my NEW favourite wedding dress. How lovely that the bride honoured her grandma by wearing her dress, how lovely that the bride didn’t feel she had to follow “fashion” and be squished and popped out of a too tight skimpy dress. How lovely that you were able to give it a new life! Again lovely work!

  26. Celeste Yanisch says:

    I love this dress! The beautiful ivory color, the weight of the fabric, and the good ghosts of the past all combined with your talents made this one a stunner. No corset backs, no super tight fittings, no 52 layers of fluff…just a beautiful dress. Thank you for sharing this.

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