Hand Me Down Rainbow

Another desperate phone call yields this little honey of a dress.

It will be worn at an international film festival as she will be an invited guest.


From a distance it looks…well “quite something” but on closer inspection, it is the thinnest cheapest polyester chiffon known to man and the beads are all just dangling off and it needs a side seam to be taken in and the halter shortened. The hem will drag at least 4 inches but the wearer is not bothered by that fact.

The dress was given to her free of charge as it was originally meant to be worn by a bridesmaid of a now defunct wedding salon and a cancelled wedding. The dress is cut diagonally on bias thus the body hugging appearance but it is lined with a thick gold polyester knit cut on-grain.

So let’s get started on the halter. Since both edges are bound all around and form a lump, I decide to fold back the 3/4 inch on one side only and remove the end binding. If the halter ever needs to be let out, the extra length can be restored. The knot of green thread is the final end of what holds all the beads on, so it is just left there to keep from unraveling.

The back neckline has the gold lining sneaking up over the edge so I decide to tack the whole thing down using the top beads as an anchor and going through them with a running stitch on the back side.

The one side seam needs about an inch removed for 4 inches so the lining is stitched first and trimmed away after the chiffon binding is removed and the seam opened up under the arm.

Using my needle nosed pliers, I break all the beads that will be trapped in the new side seam and hand baste the line before sewing by machine. I hand basted first as this fabric is just so thin and ravely and I was not sure that the needle would not just chew it all up and make holes. This foot allows me to get very close to the seam and it is better than the zipper foot.









With the 2 side seams finished, it was time to match up the 2 fabrics and you all know that when taking in slanted seams, you get the “step-down” effect so all this has to be trimmed to put the green binding back in place. See how thin the chiffon is??? Pink beads attached with green cotton thread?


All of this was hand stitched as I was really afraid the needle would mess all this up with the now added bulk.

 It looks a little ragged but it has to flipped to the inside and will be anchored down using the top edge beads as before.

How about a close-up of the inside? Can you see why the beads are all dangling? Thick cotton thread with no knots to anchor the beads on bias chiffon…precarious!

Speaking of International, ever wonder what it takes to pack a Dior gown for transport to an exhibit in an other country? This fascinating video tracks the experience.

Just when Mother Nature was sending us unusually warm Spring weather and the bee keepers and orchard growers were panicking, 3 inches snow has returned to the valley to make skiers happy while they enjoy over 20 inches of fresh powder.

Hope your sewing week is successful no matter what the project is!!!

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34 Responses to Hand Me Down Rainbow

  1. wedreamaloud says:

    Amazing dress! Thank you for share! 🙂

  2. sewruth says:

    You are the 999 emergency phone number(UK) and should be added to the other services- ambulance, police and fire. So many fashion disasters are avoided because of your skills.
    Can’t help feeling grateful that the original wedding ceremony did not take place…….

    • mrsmole says:

      Ha ha…imagine what the photos would have looked like with 5 or 6 of these dresses draped on all sorts of shaped bridesmaids! Some days I do feel like someone has dialed 999 or 911 and my phone rings, Ruth!

  3. Blimey- the inside is a horror show! You have the patience of a saint- I’m sure I can see the gleam of your halo reflecting off the snow!

  4. Catherine says:

    The dress was so cheaply made and in such poor repair I’m surprised it was worth all that effort. It looks wonderful now! You’re such a magician with these things!

  5. Char says:

    Curious as to what this gown might have cost originally. It’s so striking . . . from a distance. But as you show, the quality is terrible. I would be terrified to wear it, worrying that some of those big stitches would come loose and sequins would start dropping a path like Hansel and Gretel. You always have such great solutions!

  6. Donnalee says:

    What a wild fairytale outfit! As usual, you do a great job.

    • mrsmole says:

      These types of disasters require a lot of lip-biting as I pin away and assure the wearer that everything will be OK imagining her wearing this walking through snow at the film festival.

  7. Laura Jansen says:

    “Fit for a queen” is a misnomer title on your blog. The “Queen who makes it fit” I think is so much more appropriate for what you do. :))

  8. Colleen says:

    Thank you for sharing! My tip to take away today is it break the beads with needle nose pliers rather than run a thread to secure the remaining beads that are removed because you can never catch them all. I find I have to tack more lining down all the time. I remember what you said about cutting fewer sizes of lining and making it work.

    • mrsmole says:

      Holding the bead from hole to hole and not across the middle avoids the shards from cutting the thread that you are trying to preserve. These pink beads were so cheap, they smashed without much pressure…no surprises!

  9. Trish says:

    I’m surprised the dress sat properly with the lining cut on-grain and the chiffon cut on the bias. I suppose as it would probably only last one wear, it doesn’t matter if the outside stretches and the lining doesn’t! You’re so patient putting all that work into such a cheap and nasty dress. I suppose most people aren’t aware of the poor quality: it’s just the final effect they notice and with the perfect fit you’ve created, it will look spectacular. 😊

    • mrsmole says:

      At a film festival, it is all about being seen isn’t it? Well this dress will certainly turn some heads!!! You know, Tris, that we learn something from every dress we work on and sometimes the lesson is to say “NO”.

  10. katosew says:

    thanks for passing on the video! I see so many costume shows but really don’t know much about what it takes to get a show mounted.

    • mrsmole says:

      It makes you have such an appreciation for all the care that is shown a vintage garment. Imagine the unpacking and then the repacking after the event to send it back.

  11. Cheryl Designs says:

    LOVELY WORK as usual 🙂 I read about BREAKING beads on the seam line in THIS book. How To Alter A Bridal Gown by Susan Ormond. First printing was 1994… LONG AFTER I started altering gowns in the mid 80’s… 😦 New version is copyright 2002. Thank you for REMINDING ME about it 🙂 I need to re-read it, you never know what TIPS are in a book that you have FORGOTTEN 🙂

  12. mrsmole says:

    Thanks, Cheryl. I went to Amazon and checked out that book. It seems the reviews have not been good with most saying that the techniques were written for dresses in the 70’s before they even went strapless and yet the book was written in the 90’s. Bizarre? I’m sure there must be a few tips that still pertain to today though. Please share what you discover!

    • Cheryl Designs says:

      The book is first printed 1994 with the newest copyright of 2002. Yes, there is NOTHING in it about strapless gowns. That’s to be expected in 1994, they were relatively rare. I have been altering bridal gowns since the early 1980’s 🙂 It’s a VERY good book, especially for NEW bridal/formalwear alterationists 🙂 The fitting information in it is CLASSIC for ALL types of gowns. I also have BRIDAL COUTURE by SUSAN KHALJE. This book was published in 1997. It contains ALOT of info about strapless bodices. She is a contributor to THREADS magazine. I find her book and articles very informative 🙂 I refer to her book now and then when I encounter an unusual alteration problem 🙂 It is a custom sewing book, not alteration specific. It’s FULL of formal wear sewing tips. I LOVE to make custom bridal/formalwear but it IS very expensive and my area just doesn’t support the cost 😦 Thus I Alter 🙂 Happily Ever After 🙂

  13. Mem says:

    Oh my goodness, there is no accounting for taste . You are such a patient person. I could not have done that to that dress because I just couldn’t have coped with the colours 😝

    • mrsmole says:

      I love colors and knowing that her husband is wearing a vest and tie with these same colors makes me smile! Working on ivory wedding dresses every day makes me crave color!

  14. maryfunt says:

    Don’t you just love how these things are made! You should charge (much) more for having to deal with the mess. I also break beads rather than unravel. It creates a mess but works better than trying to restring everything that breaks loose. Thanks for the link to the Dior dress; it is a classic!

    • mrsmole says:

      When I quote my hourly rates, Mr Mole always asks what the bride is spending on her fancy hair-do, mani-pedi, fake eyelashes, fake spray tan etc…it all adds up to way more than my alterations and none of those things will be around after the wedding…only the dress.

      • Cheryl Designs says:

        Go Mr. MOLE 🙂 I think ALL of us, professional seamstresses, NEED a PERSONAL CHEERLEADER/ACCOUNTANT 🙂 I decided 2018 is MY YEAR to REMEMBER how much my prom and bridal clients SPEND on all of that EXTRA stuff 😦 Their alterations are actually MINIMAL 🙂 OH MY!!! $50 here and $40 there, $100 in JEWELRY, etc…. and they might think $80 to HEM a gown is expensive? GET REAL ladies 😦 I LOVE my customers but I SEW for a LIVING. My income feeds/houses me and the 12 year old Black Lab 😉

  15. Kim says:

    A true horror but I’m sure the owner will feel ‘ the bees Lee’s wearing it now. Well done Moley 😃

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