Lots to Reveal

This Madison James dress found its way to my sewing room in March.

It then spent the entire summer with me until the Fall wedding as the bride lives out of state and could only come back for 2 fittings in 6 months.

The train is huge and heavy being thick satin. The shoulders need taking up as well. The hem is stiff with 2 inch wide horsehair braid.







Starting with just 5 points pinned up tells me that we might have to go up to 7 just to get all this up off the ground. The weight of all this satin is unbelievable! Covered buttons and rhinestones run the full length of the center back seam to the ground.

You can see how much the bride wants removed from the shaped cap sleeves. Can you also see how doing this causes wrinkles/drag lines in the side bust panel? Push up bust pads are pinned in place but this bride will have to compromise on what works and what doesn’t. This happens when you take up the shoulders so much as to distort the actual curve of the bust seam. Where does that fabric have to go to lay flat again?

The top waist beaded belt needs to be shortened by 2 inches, one inch on each side.

First, all the rhinestones and pearls have to be removed one at a time, no bead cracking this time! The naked edge is folded under and 3 hooks and eyes are attached and the resulting belt is together without looking like anything has been done. Did I save the beads for her??? YOU BET!


I have thread marked where the fabric will be removed from the strap and cap sleeve.

Also this bride wants to have triangular cut-outs made in each side seam so skin colored mesh can be inserted to make it look like she is not wearing any underwear. Guess what…SHE ISN’T wearing any!

The openings will be 5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. The mother was not happy knowing this was the bride’s request but I lucked out as the bride wanted the entire length of the side seams opened to the waist to reveal more and more. The second strip of rhinestones is actually glued tight to the satin and I was not about to get into that mess so we are stopping at the top level.

There are 2 layers of thick satin and one layer of lining and a strip of boning to deal with. Not what a seamstress wants to see when she opens the seam…layers!

Before the second fitting I made two 2-layer skin colored chiffon inserts to fill the open side seams and have them attached by hand.


Tucked into that triangular space…hand basted…hmmmm. That way the bride can still change her mind if they don’t  look like she envisioned.

Second fitting with 2 inches taken out of each strap thus raising the entire dress up, we still have the drag lines in the bust but the bride is so happy that the waist is sitting on her waist. Once I get inside of the bodice, I will take in the princess seam to see if that helps. You can see how the whole design of the bodice changes once you hike the straps up.

The bust would have fit better lower but we have changed the whole arc of the bust points and adding those side pieces just adds one more issue to create problems. While the straps are now shorter and narrower, the design still needs to rest at the outer edge of her shoulders and not like regular straps. Raising the shoulder straps also makes the underarm fabric crawl right up into her armpit so the armhole will have to be lowered an inch or more to compensate.

The upper belt fits tight and the lower belt sits well on her hips without revealing too much in the cut-out. Originally she wanted the back “V” dropped even lower…so glad I talked her out if it! The 5 point bustle could use a few more points but she likes the soft loops of fabric. To me it looks messy and uneven.

Let’s tackle the bust drag lines…taking in the princess seams 1/2 inch on one edge only.

With the satin layer and under layer basted, the only thing I could think of for the lining was to hand tack a tuck and not bother messing with the boning. I could reduce the volume by 1/2 inch with a 1/4 inch tuck…fingers crossed it is enough!

Here you can see how I shifted the princess seam over 1/2 inch on one side. I wanted to maintain the spacing between the bust points and not take in both edges, only the offending one.

Can you see the furry edges? Man this stuff can ravel just by looking at it!!!

The shoulder seams of the straps are thread marked for narrowing…can you see the dirt marks? This dress had spent many seasons being tried on in the shop.

More worn and dirty edges:

Both triangles under the armhole are marked ready to be basted and folded under:

The shoulder seams are machine stitched, narrowed and under stitched along the neck edge.

The final nude netting (doubled) with French seams at the top edge for stability.

This photo shows the netting in place before the lining is attached by hand. So many variables with so many layers all trying to get into the act. Have to tame all the layers but at least the bust drag lines are gone…hooray!

On the outside I ran a tiny row of machine stitching along the edge to keep everything nice and secure.

Finally the bust cups are attached and ready for the final try-on:

Steamed and ready to leave the sewing room…no more bust drag lines!

The final bustle…messy and drapey….just what the bride wanted and with 11 bridesmaids, they should have no trouble finding the loops and buttons.

Before I race back to the other gowns, these two beauties were produced and for some strange reason, they each have a pigtail curved section that you could run a string through and hang them up.

The final squash harvest:

Three days until Turkey day and then the following day we help set up for the 100 ASG drawstring pillowcases filled with all of life’s necessities for homeless teens and seniors. Doing charity work over the holidays fills one with a real sense of gratitude!!!

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44 Responses to Lots to Reveal

  1. erniek3 says:

    I don’t understand why she wants an alteration that no one will see unless she walks around with her arms in the air, an action that would address any drag lines in the bodice. Also just removing it after a busy wedding day without food and a couple of toasts will achieve the same goal. 🙂
    It was a lovely dress in the photo. Your work is always well done, and I’m sure the customer is satisfied. Meanwhile, I’ve had a good giggle, and I hope the check clears.

  2. Trish says:

    I agree. A HUGE amount of work to add the mesh inserts that no-one can see!
    As I’ve observed before, Mrs Mole, you have the patience of a saint.😇 If I was doing that job, my swear jar would be full after half an hour!
    A brilliant job removing the drag lines from the bodice. I went back to look at the original design of the dress, and those shoulders definitely weren’t meant to be taken up. Another triumph Mrs Mole.👏🏻😊

  3. MDy says:

    You are a miracle worker. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. Laura says:

    I am laughing. One day in the life of a bride and wow! But…at least it’s okay ’cause they’re gonna pay you for your expertise!!!!!!! Wishing you and Mr. Mole a peaceful Thanksgiving.

  5. Nancy Figur says:

    Honestly I find your posts fascinating. Also, amazing at what crazy things brides have in their heads.
    Are most of these girls buying samples off the rack or are they buying gowns that take the normal few months to come in after being made. You really do work miracles.
    My four girls had very little needing to be done to their gowns, bustles, maybe bust pads, a little hem and it still cost a fortune. Oldest DD had a Monique Llullier and the place we bought it said that she had such good pattern makers that the dress would not need alterations if she didn’t lose or gain weight. Months later – it fit like a glove – didn’t even need a hem. They just did the bustle and that was it. Then we had a Lazaro, minor alterations and found out the shop was going out of business and was robbing Peter to pay Paul, that was tense, then a Jenny Packam that was literally one piece beaded mesh over a slip that also fit like a glove and last a Jim Hjelm which didn’t come in too bad but I didn’t like the way the alterations made the bust look but I wasn’t willing to fool with it myself even though I could have.
    Your girls seem to need major work and are so blessed to have someone who is willing to do that for them and entertain crazy ideas like mesh panels.
    As I read this I am sitting taking apart an 80s wedding gown to be made into a Christening outfit for a boy. Much less risky taking them apart than what you have to do.

    • mrsmole says:

      Wow, Nancy, you really are a veteran of wedding dress selections!!! This particular bride had tried on hundreds of dresses and just before she was going to leave the very last salon, the salesgirl went into the back closet to dig out this dress that had been hanging for quite a while. Well…you know that the bride just thought her prayers had been answered. Then the hunt for a seamstress…her mom got that job as the girl lived out of state.

  6. maryfunt says:

    I’m glad to see that you decided to reshape the bust curve. The final fit is much nicer and what’s another seam or two when you are already doing so much. The nude inserts look silly to me but you give them what they want. An underbustle would have also worked; aren’t the volumes and weight of heavy satins so much work!!! Nice finished look.The squash harvest looks so good. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • mrsmole says:

      I did try under bustles but the bride and her mom thought it was better this way. The dress did not have a lining that could be used to attach loops and buttons for a French bustle and the bride wanted all that fabric to move when she would be dancing the night away. The weight and volume can be overwhelming and I am so grateful that my 4 sized mannequins will stand on the platform all weekend long while I play with the levels and never complain or need a potty break.Hope you have a dry Thanksgiving but your weather report looks like wet wet wet!

  7. Karen says:

    I nearly fell of my chair when reading, I thought she meant mesh gussets in the skirt and no underwear 😂 . I love seeing your alterations they always amaze me , I can sew but the gowns you fit are a whole other level !

  8. Maybe just me but I liked the dress before those nude triangles were put in! You did a fabulous job of it though. Happy turkey day to you and good for you giving your time to charity!

    • mrsmole says:

      Hope you have a super Turkey day too, Linda. The dress was perfect before I had to wedge triangles into it! Our local ASG sews projects 11 months of the year and it is now at the end that we see the results after stuffing 100 pillowcases for homeless teens and seniors.

  9. Naomi says:

    11 bridesmaids!!!!! The nude mesh is odd, but 11 bridesmaids – that’s just CRAZY

  10. thanderina says:

    You’re a miracle worker. Your blog posts are the most eagerly awaited ones in my inbox. Years ago I worked as an apprentice to a designer and corsetierre, and I have such fond memories of the two of us sitting with a cup of tea after fittings bemoaning the madness of brides. I’m also learning so much from you about fitting and altering my own makes for myself!

    • mrsmole says:

      When I was younger, in my mid 40’s, I had a sewing mentor and besides learning new techniques, just being with a talented person…call me crazy, but the good stuff wears off on you and you are enriched!

  11. upsew says:

    perfection, and so well done. I too wonder why the mesh – the dress has some lovely simple lines and why mess with it! wonderful fit and you really have amazing patience and skill (I have just finished altering my nieces irish dance dress and had a mild break down half way through so I truly cannot imagine wrestling a wedding dress into a sewing machine….yikes) – great harvest, I was inspired by your garden to plant winter brocolli as I had in my last garden, turns out this garden had some predators so all gone….. but I do have a plan of action for collars for broccolli next year.

    • mrsmole says:

      When my clients tell me I have a “glamorous” job, I remind them that once their dress is pinned…then begins the wrestling with it under the presser foot…and all done from the inside where no one will see my work. Just the weight of these dresses give you a backache hauling them around never mind sewing through layers and layers! I have seen gardeners who use collars…not sure if anything keeps hungry bugs off broccoli?

  12. LinB says:

    “I want it to look like I am half-naked and not wearing any underwear.” Why not simply show up actually naked before the Lord and the congregation, and skip the expense and bother of a dress altogether?

    Nice to see that this dress is not strapless. I remain astounded that the penchant for strapless dresses lasted more than one season, 20 years ago.

    • Nancy Figur says:

      LinB you are right. Most brides i see do opt for strapless. The bridal shops definitely present it as the much more comfortable option and i agree if and that is a big if, the dress fits right. If it doesnt fit and the bride is tugging at it all day – the worst!

  13. Char says:

    I hope this alteration pays for a nice trip for you to a tropical paradise where you can sit in the sun, drink fruity drinks and meditate on the simple things in life. Lordy, mesh inserts, no underwear, eleven bridesmaids . . . and thank goodness you talked her out of lowering that back vee. TMI!

  14. that is a pretty dress and one of the more sophisticated styles you’ve shown us – and then the mesh inserts! I think that might be win the title of dumbest choice by a bride this year. Why? you did a great job but they are just ridiculous…..

    • mrsmole says:

      It does look like she grew out of the dress and we had to add new sections…but hey…one-of-a-kind dresses make brides happy! I thought once I sent her to Britex, she would ditch the whole idea…but NO!

  15. ceci says:

    I too was envisioning mesh inserts in the skirt and no panties – assume that will be the next trend? After that the reality isn’t too bad, although it doesn’t seem to add much visually.


    • mrsmole says:

      For all the hours, it certainly does not add anything to the dress but I learned what to do with 3 layers of fabric and mesh…fingers crossed…the one and only request like that!!!

  16. Julie Culshaw says:

    The dress was very pretty before the crazy inserts. I know you don’t want to tell us, but I would imagine that you must charge an arm and a leg for these alterations. You deserve every penny. These brides are crazy!

    • mrsmole says:

      Her bill was under $500 and as she got the shop-worn dress for a bargain price, she never balked at the labor charges. Where else would she have been able to find a dress with underarm mesh?

  17. susew says:

    Reading your posts is so entertaining. The amount of money spent on dresses and everything else on the special wedding day is astounding. A wedding is one day; the marriage should be a lifetime.

    • mrsmole says:

      Mr. Mole says I should put my wedding dress on a mannequin and let my brides see that you can actually get married in a homemade cotton knee-length black floral dress without all the extras and have money leftover after paying for the license.

  18. A friend had those side inserts in her dress as well… can’t say as I care for the look.

  19. mrsmole says:

    Not the most flattering part of a woman’s body is it? The issue with this one was…how tight to make them so they didn’t stretch out of shape or grab her skin.

  20. Sharon P says:

    The one time that the dress wasn’t too small, the bride wants you to add side seam inserts ? Weird !
    A long, long time ago I altered dresses for a couple gals that were 2 of 21 bridesmaids. The wedding was to be held on a golf course and the bride insisted all the girls wear 4” spiked heels. Thank goodness the bride lived out of state and luckily I was not asked to alter her gown. With that large of a wedding party you know there had to be a whole lot of drama going on !!!

    • mrsmole says:

      I know that make-up artists charge $65 per bridesmaid and $150 for the bride, so that can really add up! Drama, you bet and the fact that many brides choose really unflattering dresses for their bridesmaids…it really feels like an ego trip for the bride.

  21. Fabrickated says:

    I had the same idea as Karen – thinking she wanted the mesh inserts in the skirt… And by no underwear I thought you meant what we call no knickers. Pretty horrifying. So it was a relief, but a strange idea, to find the see through fabric in the armpit area? What? So it might look like a perspiration stain at a distance. Utterly unfathomable. I felt the dress had enough going on without such a feature (display of the side bust??), but there you are. Great work, and entertaining writing as always, complemented by tremendous vegetables. Happy Days.

  22. mrsmole says:

    Oh Lordie….skirt gussets, no underwear…a frigging nightmare for sure!!!!! On most of the dresses, I leave all the excess fabric inside so the bride can sell or give her dress to another bride and the next seamstress (not me!) will be able to restore the dress back to the original…but not this puppy! I had to cut the triangles out and years from now the next bride will wonder what happened to this dress…as you say…sweat stains…and photos…go figure?

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

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