1953 was a very good year

In 1953, Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected US president, the polio vaccine was developed, Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on it’s first cover, sugar rationing ended in the UK and Ian Fleming published Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel. Fashions were emerging from the dark days of post war thriftiness.

Weddings were starting to be more celebratory and gowns had trains and veils and short sleeves and gloves were worn.

This photo of my bride’s grandmother captures the mood and simplicity of the time. Little did that bride know back then that her very own granddaughter would be wearing that cotton eyelet dress for her wedding 64 years later…with some minor changes.















Before we go any further, I want to also show you the other feature of this wedding; the bride might also be wearing a slip that her new mother-in-law wore 30 years ago. So the ensemble will certainly be a blending of both families.


The dress had been rolled up in a ball and stored in a garbage bag for 64 years. It was taken to the dry cleaners and came out pure white.

To start with, the collar has to go and be may be replaced with an eyelet lace edging that will resemble a stand-up Mandarin collar in eyelet.


You can see that there was a strip of horsehair braid on the underside of the collar:



Once the neckline is opened up and collars removed, the bias binding will be stitched back down under the front facings.


What else is needed? The front bodice droops down so that will be raised up and the front darts narrowed and shortened to eliminate the gap at center front waist. The cuffed sleeve hems will be dropped as low as possible and the lace edging added there as well. Eventually the bride wants a ribbon belt at the waistline that ties into a bow in the back. You can see the front is pulling where the vertical pin is, so the vertical darts will be narrowed to allow it to hang properly.


Want to see a close-up of a hand made bound buttonhole? Left photo is the right side and right photo is the backside. Can you see the tiny hand stitches?

p1220307  p1220308 

And a covered button:


Once the lace edging is basted on with red thread you can see the daintiness of this dress evolving and, yes, you keen-eyed sewers…the button spacing is not perfect.p1220333

Back in the 50’s fabrics came 35 inches wide so to have a huge skirt they had to use wedges to fill in.p1220302p1220301

What else is different about this dress? Well, the original seamstress must have had to add a strip of fabric to one side of the zipper to get it to close at the side:




So, here we are at the second appointment and the bodice fits well, the sleeves are longer and the lace basted and 3 point bustle pinned up. The front hem needs some shortening and is pinned up as well. Her mother and mother-in-law are happy with the results but then the bride says, “I want sheer lace edging”.


I tell her that she will have to go out and buy her own sheer lace edging as I do not keep a supply and give her the collar pieces so she can find something more to her liking. I remove all the basted lace edgings.

One thing to do in the meantime is the front hem…simple right? It was a narrow rolled hem but when it was opened up…it had been rolled and stitched up 4 times.

Once all the previous stitching lines were removed you can see we have over an inch that was jammed into the 1/4 inch hem. The red thread marks the new hem edge.

On the third fitting appointment, the bride brings a long piece of ribbon with bronze rhinestones she has hot glued unto it. She loves this DIY craft project and I ask how am I supposed to attach this to the dress with a side zipper? The glued-on rhinestones go way past her 27 inch waist and cannot be removed.

I offer to attach any belt, not this one, at the side zipper edge or she can switch to a ribbon with a bow in the back but it would need a couple of thread loops to keep it centered. You may notice that the original slip has been replaced with a nude colored knit slip that just blends in with her skin. Without a lining, the slip is a nice background for the eyelet.


The DIY belt is pinned on and over lapped at the side…nasty.

The bustle buttons will be where the safety pins are and the waist will be raised another 3/4 inch all around. I mention to her that the hem was a bit weird with so many layers rolled up and then she confesses that her grandmother wore the dress for her 20th anniversary and the dress was just hemmed up again and again and the zipper, remember that weird patch inside, well, it was added to get the zipper closed at the waist back in 1973.

The bride decided on no lace edging, and the lapels to be hand-tacked back to make a V-neck opening.

Bustle buttons in place and they are low enough that if the bride changes her mind about a belt, it will sit well. Again, I have offered to make thread loops for a belt but have not heard back.The wedding is in a week so maybe she will just wear the dress as is.

At least with our 90+ degree days, this bride will be cooler than most!

Do you remember all the baby squash plants? Well, here they are producing already.

And another group of caged butternut squash with a small forest of sunflowers growing behind them…can you see Boris among the bird feeders?

Stay cool my friends!


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35 Responses to 1953 was a very good year

  1. Laura Jansen says:

    OMG – magician again. Not in what you do, but the patience you have in doing it.

  2. ceci says:

    What a striking dress, so pretty and unusual. Minus the discordant belt…..


  3. Jenny lark says:

    A lovely dress and thank goodness she ditched the belt. I much prefer this dress to the modern ones which don’t leave much to the imagination.

    • mrsmole says:

      The nice thing is, the dress can be passed down to another bride in the future and if they want to add the winged collar back on, it can be done.

  4. I am pleased she decided against lace trims, the dress looks best with the original collar and plainer sleeves. I love the collar, so crisp and shirtlike.

    • erniek3 says:

      Yup. Just piling on that thought. So elegant, and looks beautiful on her. Not many dresses you can say that about; she’s wearing the dress, not the other way around.

      • mrsmole says:

        Great way of looking at that, Ernie… and queensberry…all I had to do was to flip the lower lapel back and tack to make that nice V neck…easy compared to the rest of the changes.

  5. Elle says:

    A lovely dress–sweet and simple. I have the feeling that another shoe will drop in the next week….

  6. Tia Dia says:

    What a lovely family heirloom for the bride to wear on her wedding day. So sweet. I love the styling of the dress.

    • mrsmole says:

      Would your girls want to wear your wedding dress Tia? Or was yours all fluffy and lacy?

      • Tia Dia says:

        I had a 90’s wedding…. silk brocade Italian dress with huge sphere sleeves, a very full skirt, no train, and a bolero design built into the bodice, outlined by about 11 rows of silver glass bugle beads and pearls. There was a belt to match. My youngest has said she’d love to wear it, but she’s taller than I was…

  7. Cactus says:

    Beautiful dress, but I personally wish she would wear the white slip under it – all those seams and darts are distracting with the nude slip.

  8. jay says:

    What a lovely dress this is, and quite unusual now that so many bridal designs are form fitting and ‘glamourous’.

    • mrsmole says:

      The bride was on a tight budget and lives 5 hours away and had to drive here every month on a Saturday for months. Besides being totally indecisive about laces and belts and lengths, I almost went crazy. Can you imagine watching her stand in front of the mirror for an hour saying, “I just don’t know” and me knowing we would have to go through this again next month with no real progress?

  9. Michael says:

    I had to laugh: I was born in 1953. You work miracles.

    • mrsmole says:

      I beat you by a few years, Michael. But we did live through the Summer of Love/Woodstock times didn’t we? Ever wonder what The Doors would be playing today?

  10. upsew says:

    such a pretty dress – it really is a darling dress – beautiful lines (the hot glue and rhinestone – what can I say………..maybe not……)

    • mrsmole says:

      Crafting ain’t sewing, I’m afraid. Never used a glue gun in my sewing room! The dress would be something women wore to a garden party as well or as we used to have Bridal Showers and not a 3 day Girlie Weekend like they have these days. I remember punch bowls and finger sandwiches and a small cake…those days are gone!

  11. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    for some reason I thought she would have you make it with the mandarin collar and then remove the sleeves which I think would have been a very chic and sophisticated shape and look. And that belt was jarring – good thing she decided against it. the sleeve length looks awkward to me, but the bride is the boss, right? amazing that it dry cleaned so perfectly. and they were wizards back then with the 36″ wide fabrics!

    • mrsmole says:

      It was a treat to see pristine white eyelet like the day it was made! The sleeves ARE an awkward length but it was her choice. Well it took her 5 hour-long visits to decide not to really do anything but get the bustle and bodice fitting better. I remember 35 inch fabrics that you bought at a department store and those funny measuring machines.

  12. sewruth says:

    Nay, 1963 was a much better year. However, another magical transformation (sans rhinestones). What is it with these brides that they think they need something shiney? Magpie-syndrome?

  13. mrsmole says:

    Once the bride has seen her peers with bling…well, she just has to outdo the last wedding donncha know? If one bride rents a photo booth and taped music, the next bride rents 2 photo booths and a live DJ…it snowballs until the last bride of the season is so darn overwhelmed and forced into making her wedding even MORE memorable and expensive. At least the Nov and Dec brides can fly away to Vegas and Hawaii to escape the madness and all that planning.

  14. Martina says:

    I would loved a narrow white grosgrain sash with the bow in the front, but what do I know? You did a fantastic job (as usual), and she’ll have everyone crying on her wedding day at the thought that she’s wearing her grandmother’s dress!

  15. Carolyn says:

    What a pretty dress for a wedding dress! so summery and different, although I have to confess I really loved the collar and those cuffs like they were in the original. I’m so glad she decided against that belt, it is perfect the way it is. I’m imagining it with a posy of daisies and wildflowers.

  16. Such a pretty vintage dress, something to be proud of – not sure how the glue gun and fake stones could fit in.

  17. Susan Hart says:

    Blame the rhinestone belt on Pinterest! LOL
    It’s got all the young gals fired up to DIY their weddings… with some of that ‘fever’ trickling over to their dress.
    I used to get the feeling when I altered bridal gowns that the gals just didn’t really trust my judgement on a particular ‘change’, even though I would sketch it out quickly.
    They just HAD to put their own spin on something….anything. Ha! Ha!
    Too bad we can’t teach about Coco Chanel and her advice to just ‘take one thing off’… less is more

  18. mrsmole says:

    You are so right, Susan! By the time these gals get down the aisle, they are looking more like a Christmas tree than a bride. When they come for their final fitting, nine times out of ten, they have a huge box of jewelry that they start trying on and taking photos. Once they get all the bling on themselves, they ask me if it “too much”. My answer should be “yes” but they have their young heart set on carrying off a movie star look, so I say, “You can get away with it” and leave it at that.

    • Susan Hart says:

      And on a complimentary note… great job on this gown and keeping YOUR cool as well. If we don’t get too caught up with all their changes, it’s actually kind of a great learning process. What does this particular dress say to us about how it wants to look?

  19. Kim says:

    What a lovely dress. I love its simplicity – so glad you seem to have been able to keep it that way 😃

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