With a Little Help from my Friend (Mary)

Remember the bride who is being encouraged/pushed into wearing her soon-to-be Mother in law’s dress from the 80’s?

Well, here is where we left off last time. All the lace and sequins and pearls have been removed and saved (by order of the MIL).

Since the bride and her whole family did not buy plain lace fabric, I have had to completely take apart the dress, all of the pieces and cut them separate from the new scalloped lace netting they did buy. Hoping that lace fabric would be 60-72 inches wide, what I got was 52 inches wide minus the two scalloped selvedges of at least 6 inches deep.

Once all the darts and tucks were opened up and pressed flat along with the linings, it was easier to see what had to be done and in what sequence.

The bodice back lining:

The bodice back satin:

No hope of adding ease to the side seams:

Slide pleat to the side seam at the hip:

Front lower skirt with lace edging pinned under:

After all the edging is removed along with the old zipper:

Wondering what’s inside the front bodice? Look here…a facing band over the lining!

Every possible seams is let out to 1/4 inch or less for the try-on:

The sheer sections will be filled in before adding the lace layer:

What looked like princess seams on the outside are really just one long dart in satin and lining:

Once opened up and pressed flat, not much hope in adding anything to this piece either:

Back bodice satin and lining pieces pressed flat:

Bodice top and straps and lower center back panels. Safety pins mark where the bustle points may be later:


Center front lower panel:

Front skirt panel removed…how is that curve going to be used with a straight scalloped lace selvedge? The panel is folded in half with a center fold just for the photo:

How about the back skirt…how do you get that curve to be straight? There are 2 of these to be cut out. Again safety pins mark the possible bustle points:

Mary of Cloning Couture was able to help me be brave and innovate to make the skirt pieces work. You can see that I used the front skirt panel as a pattern and used some Do-Sew pattern tracing material.

You could also use tracing paper or anything else but this was handy. To get the curved edge to be straight, I cut random lines to spread out the hem edge:

Once the cuts were made and spread apart, they arranged themselves into equal spacing with either 9 or 11 inches between the sections. Yes, each section will be sewn to the adjacent section and have vertical seams but ending at the scalloped edging/hem.

Then it was time to make the back skirt do the same AND fit all this on 52 inch wide lace. Center back seam has to be 48 inches long and the side seam has to be 36 inches to match the front skirt side seam.

This time, the wedges worked out to having a spread of 13 and 36 inches to be straight. Then all I had to do was to cut 2 of those so the center back had a seam. Again, the sections will be sewn to each other and have vertical seams to close the gaps.

Here we are, all the pieces except one more back skirt panel to be cut from the remainder of lace.

I managed to get all the pieces cut out of the narrow lace and Mr. Mole thought I should include a “fed-up” photo after wrestling with these pattern pieces all day on the living room carpet.


Now the dress has been totally hand basted back together and ready for the next try-on. A huge Thank You to Mary for holding my hand along the way!!!!

BUT…the big BUT…every bead and pearl and flower and sequin had to be removed from the new seams even before I could hand baste and definitely before the machine would be used to finish. OH, and yes, I have to SAVE EVERY ONE for the MIL.

Everything is saved and bagged up. The buttons that were originally on the sleeves will be used along the new zipper down the center back.

So, dear readers, the days are shorter, the nights are longer and colder but the dresses just keep rolling in and I want to have this puppy done before Jan 1, 2019!!!!

Thank you all for following along and I wish I could share with you these delicious homemade sugar free raspberry scones that Mr. Mole has made for me:

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82 Responses to With a Little Help from my Friend (Mary)

  1. I’ve got carpet burns on my chin, my jaw dropped so far. What an INSANE demand, how do you keep your patience? A brand new dress from scratch would be nearly finished by now…

  2. Mary says:

    I agree–there is a special place in heaven for you. I wonder how the marriage will go if the MIL won’t even let the poor bride choose her own dress.

  3. mrsmole says:

    No worries, Elaine, I have had this darn dress living here since the Spring along with a couple of others who asked for crazy alterations and custom work. It has allowed me to learn about skirt alterations and of course, the crazier, the better for a good blog post!!! ha ha!

  4. Donnalee says:

    Charge by the minute! Poor possibly-bride, and poor everybody–it reminds me why I made my first wedding dress myself and still have it upstairs somewhere, and then my later weddings were pretty much wear-what-I-put-on-that-day…

    • mrsmole says:

      For both of my marriages, I wore a dress that was homemade and I still have the last one from 24 years ago hanging in the back of my closet too…black cotton dress with red flowers…it worked just as well as a white satin concoction.

  5. Nancy Figur says:

    Hopefully this girl grows a spine before this wedding. Any woman who would go to these lengths to make someone wear her gown has issues. You, on the other hand, are amazing. I hope you get paid in increments because this whole thing could blow up at any time.

  6. Laura says:

    Uh no, no, no. Just no. If you didn’t get quite a few thousand dollars for what you did – oh my.

    • mrsmole says:

      Ha ha, Laura, I’m not done with it yet and it will certainly cost way more than any dress they could have bought at David’s and started a new tradition instead of re-hashing an old one.

  7. Colleen says:

    Does the bride appear to like the dress….or stand there in silence! I know you are great at what you do…..but you are the Queen in this scenario!!

  8. JustGail says:

    Wow, this is the dress that just keeps on giving! Giving you headaches, giving me back, knee & hip aches just looking at all that work done on the floor, and giving all your readers WTH thoughts about bride, dress & MIL. Why do I think the best thing that will come out of this marriage is reading your posts about how you’re dealing with it and the reader comments?

  9. Taja says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. As everyone has noted, beginning with a new dress closer in fit and preferred style would be less expensive–and less of a headache! Some of the decorative motifs and a custom memory label commemorating MIL-to-be’s special daycould have been incorporated into the new gown. Why do I have the feeling that many weddings lack common sense planning? Clients!

    Hope the bride and groom take control of their lives and marriage quickly.

    Your skill and patience are incredible, Mrs. Mole! If anyone can complete this gown and nudge it out the door by the end of the year, it is you.


  10. Kat says:

    The work you have put in is absolutely amazing and I agree with everyone who has commented that you should receive much compensation for your vast and bottomless patience! This goes beyond any bride-zilla & MIL stories I have ever heard. You are amazing Mrs Mole!!!!

  11. Donna says:

    Did you charge double? Undoing and redoing.

  12. Donna says:

    You are amazing!!!!!

    • mrsmole says:

      If the bride and her MIL had mentioned that they wanted me to completely remake and cover this dress 7 months ago, I would have said no…it has just evolved into a real mess.

      • JustGailj says:

        Have you ever had a client and dress that got so far past or off the original scope, that you handed them their dress and fabric and sent them on their way? Sort of like I suspect you’d do with this one if you were dealing with only the future MIL…

  13. Suzanne says:

    WOW! What a huge project! Best of luck on this one!

  14. Sandra says:

    That’s incredible work, and an almost unbelievable request. Hope the next fitting goes well and the bride’s happy.
    Well done, Mrs Mole.

  15. Oh my. You took it apart and then put it back together again! And if this keeps up I think you are going to need more floor space!

  16. thanderina says:

    You are a wizard of epic proportions. But that MIL is awful and immature for trying to relive her youth through this poor girl. I hope you charge for every single second spent on this project.

  17. upsew says:

    The new dress looks amazing! and you really are a wonder woman! and how lovely to have scones waiting for you.

  18. maryfunt says:

    This one is definitely a challenge!!! It was fun tossing around ideas with you on how to make this work. So much to deal with: using the original gown, the fabric they brought you to use and the MIL’s insane demands. I’m happy I wasn’t the one crawling around on the carpet an entire day getting this cut. You could have made two dresses in the time it took to get this one done. Great job. I hope the bride and family appreciate your talent.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Mary, imagine us together on our knees having a laugh…we could have met some where in the middle of the country instead of working on this on each coast! At least it is a lesson learned for both of us!!!

  19. ivygirl2112 says:

    I feel ill, just as a spectator to this car crash of a dress. I know it will be a limousine by the time you finish it though. Must be a well heeled customer for all that work. I know we sometimes joke about taking it apart and starting again, but you really have!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Ivy, it was never my intention to go this far but what can you do when they buy the wrong fabric? Mary told me after the fact that I should never let my clients fabric shop…she was so right!

  20. Wow! I have learned so much from reading your blog over the last few years. I was able to do some minor alterations to my DILS matron of honor dress from what I learned, including using a binding to pull in the bust line and other minor alterations to the sleeves and bodice. I have sewn for years but would never have attempted to alter anything before learning from you. THANK YOU!❤️ Sent from my iPad


  21. Ellen says:

    Just amazing… your work, the MIL, etc. Your work and your blog sharing the ups and downs (and knee creakings) encourage us all to dream bigger. Thanks so much for sharing your patience, persistence and devotion!

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, Ellen, it is really a matter of…no one else would have taken on such a project and now I just have to bite my tongue and finish it! Creaking knees…got them!

  22. Elaine says:

    Mrs. Mole, you are incredibly kind, and talented and you are doing great work for this bride on more than one level. I’ve learned so much from you. Thanks for all that you share with us.

  23. maliw says:

    I stand in awe of your talent but your patience with this really is something else. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  24. Sandi says:

    Oh my Mrs. Mole! You are amazing and so good at what you do. I am sure you deserve much more than you normally charge. She could have probably had a new dress for less and certainly would not have put you through this. I know you added much to your expertise but this was over the moon!

    • mrsmole says:

      I am finally charging close to what the labor charge really are! She is still getting a bargain as I told her that I did not know another seamstress in this valley who would have tackled this project!

  25. Susan Hart says:

    Hi friend,
    All I can say is….WOW!!
    You are definitely my hero in the world of alterations.
    I’ve certainly done my share of gussets, extending lower backs, hems, shortening trains, making veils, fashioning boleros, and plenty of new construction, let alone repairing some minor train wrecks of other alterations gone awry…..but this is definitely one I wouldn’t want to try.
    (Insert Applause here)👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
    I’ve had to use my LR floor also for when I used to make colorguard flags for the highschoolers.
    My knees and back just got a twitch reading your blog. LOL
    Hopefully your wedding season will be winding up soon and you can rest and enjoy the holidays

  26. Kim says:

    If ever anyone had earned her scone it’s you Moley. The comments already say exactly what I was thinking – most expensive free dress on the planet and the MIL from shell. I hope they are planning to settle a long way away from her…..
    Thanks for sharing all of this madness and make sure you charge like a wounded rhino!

    • mrsmole says:

      The weird thing is…the family doesn’t have a date for this wedding…maybe next summer, maybe not…it is the weirdest thing to sew with no date but I am determined to get it out of my house by Jan 1 or else!

  27. shoes15 says:

    Wow. The next time I am grousing about some sewing challenge, I will remember this and remind myself that some things could be worse. You are making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, for sure!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Honey, things could ALWAYS be worse…ha ha. Last week I was embroidering Christmas gifts and the bobbin went spinning up and out of it’s case, the needle went right through the bobbin case and jammed everything…then I had to trot it down to the repairman’s house and whine a little.

  28. Connie says:

    Does the MIL know precisely how many beads and pearls were on the dress? If not, how can she be sure she gets all of them back? What on earth does she plan to do with them anyhow? Is it time to invent the MIL-zilla? This one sure qualifies.

    • mrsmole says:

      She has no idea how many beads there are but it is all about control…nothing gets past her without her approval. But I have saved every last bead in a bag for her. I told the bride if she ever gets married, she can decorate her veil with the beads and pearls…who knows?

  29. And I thought my beaded bodice was a challenge!!!

  30. erniek3 says:

    And then it dawns on me: the MIL is going to put those gegaws on the MOG dress she’s wearing.

    This does beg a question: you get a deposit up front, right? Because leaving you with the dress is surely never payment for the work already done. Also where I would consider putting in a time clock. I mean, if the Road Runner and the sheep dog clock in and out….
    This is truly better than rereading Valley of the Dolls for observing weird and obsessive behavior. Bless you.

    • mrsmole says:

      Only once I got a deposit and do yoiu know what happened? The bride was from Brazil and insisted on giving me money up front. Not wanting to insult her, I took the money and then from that day on, she demanded that I make over 6 appointments (instead of my usual 3) for her to come and stand in front of the mirror for an hour. Some days she just stood there and tried on necklaces, another day was for a headpiece, another day was for different shoes and every time I had to lace her up in her corset back dress….NEVER AGAIN!

  31. John Yingling says:

    I can totally empathize with your situation, trying to do the best job you can ( because you are a professional and your reputation is on line) while also giving your client what she wants (she is writing the check after all). Okay, the time spent has exceeded the original cost estimate, but you still need to give them what they want! Some of us have been there…But wait, that hand basted first try on is looking pretty good?!? Despite all the pain, the end result might just be pretty fabulous! Hope the fitting is a success!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, John…so much thinking time and basting time and shaking my head time has gone into this project! My name is one every dress that leaves here…not literally but you know what I mean. When the phone rings and a new brides says, “my friend said you are the ONLY one to touch my dress”…you get an idea of your value.

  32. Mem says:

    Malignant narcissism is my diagnosis . A lot of it about but OMG in your mother in law it would be too too much I would just live to know the back story . I am fascinated

    • mrsmole says:

      Something so familiar in dealing with this MIL as dealing with my own mother aged 93. You can’t do enough, you never hear Thank You or any sounds of gratitude. At least at some point I will be free and the dress will be out the door. Not so lucky with my own mother I’m afraid.

  33. LindaC in AZ says:

    Yeah yeah yeah. Nice dress.
    So…. you could share with us the recipe for the scones maybe? 😉

  34. Pencil Girl says:

    You are amazing! Both in your sewing abilities and your patience!

  35. Aliza says:

    You’re doing amazing work, but it’s a waste of your skills since that poor girl’s never going to have a dress she loves, with that atrocious satin and dated design as a starting point. Perhaps you can recommend that she and her husband move to Australia after the wedding? Ten thousand kilometres between her and her MIL may save their sanity, and marriage!

    • mrsmole says:

      I don’t think the MIL apron strings could reach that far!!!! Next time I get a call with the voice telling me that the dress was last worn in the 80’s…I will say no…lesson learned!

  36. sewruth says:

    You’ve just made a new dress!!

  37. mrsmole says:

    Only this new dress is WAY heavier than the old one. I make the brides walk down my hallway and do a turn to come back and feel the weight of the bustle on their butt. I warn them that having 5-8 pounds of fabric buttoned onto their backside will throw off their balance and walking ability and they have to practice at home before the event. Also why don’t these girls try to break their shoes in before the wedding? Lord knows it is a long day in tight shoes!

  38. Sharon P says:

    To heck with the dress !! Can you pass the scones, please ? Got any coffee brewed ?

  39. barbara says:

    just incredible! i thought my MIL was dead but here she is, alive and well. except we escaped by moving out of state. what a saint you are. i would have sicced my cat on them by now. have you met the MIL?

  40. mrsmole says:

    Yes Ma’am…the MIL was here for the first fitting when she ordered me to save every bead. When the bride returned for her 3rd fitting this week, she also reminded me to save every bead…bizarre!

  41. Pingback: Wine was Flowing | fit for a queen

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