Stunning Back

Willowby Mandara is the standard strapless concoction…but wait…the MOB has plans!!!

What is this?

Seven point tulle bustle?

How about a halter to hold everything up? What about pinning out some side bust darts? Can you see the right one pinned? Is this starting to make sense? Will the bride carry fabric down the aisle?

With a grosgrain ribbon pinned on as a halter, we mark the eventual width of the new back panel:

New side bust darts hand basted and halter pinned for effect:

Now, I didn’t just make a dart through all that thick lace…I have to do it the hard tedious way…so come along and count the minutes….

First, before removing the pins, red thread baste the new dart legs on the outside.

Ditto for the inside base layer:

On the outside, detach all lace and flip the edges back to reveal the base and boning.

The inside dart/tuck controls the whole width and length of the dart. It is hand sewn.

Left side dart:

Find the actual edge of the lace, detach and pull across to the new location and stitch with red thread on the right side.

The left side lace pattern:

Let’s tackle that back panel…have I done one before? No. Do I know what the edges will be finished like? No. Will it be single or double?

How will it be attached at the waist? Zipper…Velcro…safety pins…hooks and eyes?

We decide on 2 layers for stability so they are stacked and cut together.

You can buy extra fabric from the maker.

Can you see that one side of tulle is wider than the other? I am giving the mother a chance to decide which side she wants.




What about the halter strap? You can’t just use it alone can you?

Of course not…why not trim off 3 inches from the train to cover the halter.

Each layer was different but they looked nice when wrapped and sewn on.


Each strap has a curve and a job to do.

Getting closer to the end:

The mother wanted the narrower version and the edges will be sewn stacked and left with a 1/4 inch raw edge. You can see that the panel will be sewn on the left and snapped on the right.

Maybe some of you have made baby clothes and used Snap Tape for the crotch opening to change diapers. Well, it will come in handy here. First, find the center of the panel and pin the tape.

Machine sew across the edges and also in a diamond pattern between the male snaps. Attach corresponding side with the female snaps inside the bodice.


Halter strap placement is crucial for optimum support!!!

At this point, the bride said she felt very secure with such a tight fitting bodice.

All the red thread is replaced with ivory thread by hand.


As usual, I mention that any future bride can release all the stitching and have the dress back to the original dimensions as nothing was trimmed away.

What about that bustle??? Well, that is the best part…the mother told me that this dress will only be worn to walk down the aisle and the reception dress will be beaded and quite fancy for dancing. The bride did not want to bother with a bustle and will just drag the train around for a short time. I never saw that other dress but doesn’t it seem a shame to put so much time and effort into a dress that will only be worn and seen for 20 minutes?

In cleaning up the garden before winter and I found this monster scarlet runner bean hiding. We are saving the inside red seeds to plant next year.

Wishing you all stress-free sewing projects and lots of compliments as we race towards Thanksgiving here in the US. Thanks for dropping by!!!

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20 Responses to Stunning Back

  1. Laura says:

    I’m so glad I had a $35 full length dress my mother made. That’s when fabric was $3.75 a yard and I had a simple white floral fabric. What you do is always amazing. AMAZING!

    • mrsmole says:

      The starting point for me is always the request…be it reasonable or not. This MOB was so certain it could be done that she ordered the extra fabric the day they ordered the gown.

  2. lesleyshepherd4342 says:

    Awesome work and extreme patience with your clients,

    • mrsmole says:

      Patience can get you into trouble Lesley, like taking on something that really should not be done but you agree to it anyway. I say you learn something new on every dress but some days…you just don’t want to cram any more solutions into an aging brain!

  3. LindaC says:

    Well, for 20 minutes your excellent work will be seen.

  4. Mem says:

    Well done , excellent work . Wow what a production . I read somewhere that the more focus on the wedding which would include the dress , the shorter the marriage !

    • mrsmole says:

      True, Mem….if the whole thing is just a production, an epic event, a jaw-dropping 3-day social affair with all the best people invited…then there is going to be disappointment when reality hits…and the newlyweds have bills and they realize their life will not be like the Kardashians.

  5. poppykettle says:

    Gosh, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the mother getting married in that dress, for all the art-direction she provided! Excellent work though – I quite like the back panel and halter addition!

  6. Cheri Collins says:

    Where did that wonderful back embroidery design come from? It would be stunning on the back of a dressy jacket or blouse!

    • mrsmole says:

      You can order any extra fabric from Watters/Wtoo/Willowby “Mandara” bridal gown supplier/salon in your area. It would enhance any jacket!!!! Maybe even online specialty fabric shops might have such dramatic fabrics?

  7. renee says:

    Thanks for posting! I am a seamstress and work on gowns all the time, now others will see the work put into them for alterations. The back panels are great for covering up tattoos also. Great Job!

    • mrsmole says:

      A few years back I had so many gals with back tattoos…not just a bird or butterfly but huge Eagles and Owls with their wings spread. One bride had her entire back covered in angel wings in black from her shoulders to her butt so yes, this would help in covering up such mementos. We do the impossible, Renee!

  8. Anne Swinson Godwin says:

    “…only be worn and seen for 20 minutes?” No. The pictures will last forever. As will the dress and memories for anyone who wears it later. All you can do is hope or pray that the marriage will last. This reminds me of the train made (for my first marriage). We lived next door to my Grandmother, an expert seamstress. We were going to take a straight panel of lace with scalloped edges and make it round on the end. That part turned out beautiful, by cutting the netting between the lace motifs and sewing it back together. Then we decided to rembroider the scalloped lace on the edge and add pearls. We ended up rembroidering the entire panel. It sat on my Grandmother’s dining table for a good while. Thanks for bringing up that memory. You are amazing at what you do!

  9. mrsmole says:

    I’m afraid we are running out of grandmothers who can design trains…so sad. The grandmothers I meet tell me that they made an A-line skirt in Junior High Home Ec class but never did anything after that. I grew up in a community where on the wedding morning, back in the 50’s, grandma would be ironing the dress and veil and mothers were in the kitchen whipping up wedding food while dad and brother decorated the wedding car with crepe paper roses and streamers. Now none of that seems to have survived. The dress is not touched by anyone except maybe the photographer when they take that shot of the dress hanging in the window. I feel we have lost all the personal touches of a day to unite families and celebrate new beginnings. The drama and theatrics and expense has just gone overboard! You are blessed to have nice memories and hopefully still have the dress to share with future brides, Anne.

  10. Anne Swinson Godwin says:

    I totally agree with the expense, drama and theatrics of today’s world. I won’t comment further on the baby reveal parties. One granddaughter has worn my dress. I do still have the train, hoping a family member will one day use it. I am blessed!

  11. erniek3 says:

    That is a lot of effort to prevent the extended family and friends from seeing the back tattoo, especially seeing the arm tattoo. I am just assuming this, based on your referencing the mother’s comfort with the results. An effective compromise, and new stuff learned by you and now by us.

    The part about the crepe paper flowers in your reply made me smile: I work for an old friend, and the crepe flowers, signs and the wedding bouquet are all hung up in the “storeroom” (their garage) at his home office where I work, from their wedding in 1996.

  12. mrsmole says:

    As the mother never mentioned the tattoo, I’m not sure why the back had to be covered but she was determined. I remember that making the flowers was the job of the bridesmaids back in the 50’s and 60’s. The flowers matched the colors of the bridesmaid dresses. As the wedding party cruised around town and honking their horns on the way to the reception, you could see the cars filled with colorful dresses and colorful flowers the length of the car attached to the hood and roof and trunk. Some even attached flowers to their shiny hubcaps and tall radio antennae. I didn’t know that some folks actually save their flowers…wow!

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