Racing and Lacing to the Ball

Once a year there is a charity auction ball in our town. It is a night for the residents to dress up and bid ridiculous amounts of money in order to raise funds for local groups in need. Glitz and glamor have no boundaries, so what do ladies wear or try to wear?

This dress can be found in two versions with this version being the cheaper dress:

There are 2 layers of shiny red satin covered by one huge layer of burgundy chiffon. The circumference of this skirt is 12 yards…432 inches…10.9 meters. How long will it take to narrow hem all that fabric and get it perfectly at ground level? I run a line of pins at ground level but know it will change once the lacing is done up. I replace the pins with white thread to get some idea of what has to be cut off.

The white thread tracing is the first pinning when the back of the dress was just a 6 inch gap, once laced up, the length changes (shortens) and the black thread tracing in now the new hem level. The middle stitching is the first pass before trimming and narrow hemming.

When the client described her dress as needing minor alterations…this in not what I was expecting. The center back zipper was supposed to close all the way up to the high neck halter collar…but it didn’t. She said she has one week to lose 5 pounds but even then, we would still have to bridge the gap. Her best friend told her not only would she have to lose a huge amount of weight but they would also have to remove some ribs to get that zipper up…friends tell it like it is!

She said she measured herself using a piece of yarn and then ordered a size 2. The gap is 6 inches. I have blurred out her tattoo.

On the website it shows where and how to measure with a proper measuring tape and even suggesting that a professional tailor/seamstress do the measuring. I measured the dress and the bust is 30 and the waist is 25 so I am not sure where on the chart it falls?

She asks if a corset back will work as she has combed the internet and she cannot find another dress that she likes as well and honestly…this is her dream dress for the formal event…no pressure…the event is in one week and I know that we cannot find all the components locally in time for the corset loops to match the burgundy.

I send her out anyway to dig through the racks of grosgrain ribbon and rattail cording at our local 3 craft stores.

Meanwhile, I ordered up the right color from Reasonable Ribbon and requested a priority 3-day shipping ($8.85) across the country.  Fingers crossed!!!

The regular site where I have been buying satin cording for years has shut down so the next best thing is Amazon. At least I was able to find this in 2mm in a wine color.

There will be lots of loops (46) to be made by hand from her neck to her butt after I remove the zipper. Each loop is pinned.

Each loop is machine stitched down 3-4 times and ribbon folded in half.

Hand basted from neck to butt along the very narrow 3/8 inch edge:

Second row of hand basting one inch away for try-on:

Inside basting:

Second try-on has some good results using light pink ribbon. Once the burgundy ribbon is used, it will be nice. You can see if the bride has her waist-to-hip area tightened much more, there will be drag lines. It will also pull the front tummy tighter and not be very flattering.

Those of you who wondered if the front would be pulling at a weird angle, the photo below shows it works out OK.

Using the zipper foot to stitch the band to a tiny 3/8 inch netting seam allowance and holding my breath as the needle pierces each thick satin loop.

You may wonder why the edges of the grosgrain ribbon do not match as normal. Well, after showing the client my usual loop size and ribbon lacing, she said she wanted the loops to be “exactly 1/3 less in size”. So, stitching was done right down the middle of the 1.5 inch wide ribbon as a base and then again 1/4 inch away before folding back on itself. The edges now be staggered/lay flat with no ridge as they cannot be hidden behind the sheer netting.

The top edge of the grosgrain ribbon will be a base for the new snaps.

Inside view of new snaps:

Right side view of new “dangling” snaps. You can use one or two of the holes to allow it to stick out and make a clean join with the other side.

The new 5/8 inch wide burgundy lacing ribbon is pinned to the neckline and flipped out of sight. All hand basting is gone and no one at the Ball will ever know what went into this dress other than the wearer.


Cinderella is now ready to go to the ball.

Just because we are 3 weeks away from Christmas, the brides keep coming. In fact, today I turned away a groom who called asking me to alter a wedding dress bought online by his pregnant bride in 2 days…ah nope…can’t squeeze in one more job!

I found this article so interesting about dolls since we are in the season for buying presents.

Wishing you all a super week in preparation for the holidays coming up faster than normal!!!

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31 Responses to Racing and Lacing to the Ball

  1. Laura says:

    Another amazing alteration! I still have some time to get Christmas quilts done, but it’s getting close. Relate to wanting it yesterday.

  2. Cheryl Designs says:

    Lovely work as usual 🙂 Yep-that CHEAP GOWN bought online isn’t so CHEAP anymore 😦 I hate it when customers do this 😦 I have to charge them to add corset backs AND do the hemming. It will total $170 or more 😦 AND I have the PITA to try to locate matching fabric 😦 I like to use it for the loops, modesty panel and lace. SOMETIMES I have to resort to soutache braid, cording and/or ribbon because the color just isn’t available 😦 I WARN THEM ahead of time. “MAYBE you just want to BUY ANOTHER GOWN?” No, they don’t want to do that. Ok 🙂 It’s going to be PRICEY 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      My first response when asked about a corset…”Yes, that will be $150 to start with” and she did not have any issue with that. Then add hemming 3 layers and the cost of supplies…now we are talking an expensive dress.

  3. erniek3 says:

    Thanks and I just fell down the Witness2Fashion rabbit hole.
    After your preview of the back of this dress, I wasn’t entirely prepared for the front photo: the interior cups are RIGHT THERE, like head lights. I know, it’s a trick of photography, but at some point, there will be a photo, and that is all they will see.

    • mrsmole says:

      She is not wearing or having any cups in the dress, I’m afraid the flash must have caused that effect. The bodice is just plain red satin in a sweetheart neckline. Yes, that Witness2Fashion is real history lesson of fashion!!!!

  4. Mary says:

    Amazing again, Mrs. Mole. Funny thing, Cinderella was my thought too. I hope she’s not wearing glass slippers! (Love the honest friend—the only kind to have.)

    • mrsmole says:

      She says she will send photos of the fancy event so maybe we will see her choice of shoes or maybe she will go commando like with her lack of underwear?

  5. Linda Craig says:

    Great job Mrs Mole! How did you close the gap in the back, where did you get the red satin. My guess there is a zipper there?

  6. mrsmole says:

    There WAS a zipper but that was removed to attach all the hand made loops. I buy satin cording and grosgrain ribbon to pull both sides together all the way down to her butt. She does not wear underwear, so it was important that the last few lacings would cover her crack and tattoo.

  7. Trish Brown says:

    A simply amazing job, Mrs Mole. Why on earth didn’t she get the next size up? It surely would have been cheaper ( and easier) to take in a larger version of the dress, and certainly far less hassle for you!
    Your patience never ceases to amaze me. Hemming the three layers would have taken so long, before you even got a start on the corset back. How long did the whole exercise take you?

    • mrsmole says:

      When these little girls order a dress online, they seem to keep it until the very end/deadline to return it before seeing me. If the dress could not be salvaged she was going back down to FedEx to send it back but she could not have replaced it in a week. Isn’t it always this way??? They are close to tears and you have this stinking turd of a dress to remake? How many hours….probably at least 6 with making every loop by hand and spending time on the internet tracking down the ribbons and separate cording.

  8. Kim says:

    It’s official. Some women (and I’m looking at this one in particular) are idiots. Sterling work Moley 😀

  9. upsew says:

    wow – what a way to resolve this – you are really amazing and so patient.I was fully amazed at the work going into the hem but nearly fell over when I saw the fit at the back!

  10. Susan Hart says:

    Hi Mrs. Mole,
    Did a few corset backs in my bridal years, some long like that and others smaller.
    Curious if lightweight boning would’ve helped with the buckling in the back along side the loops? Maybe not considering the netting, huh?
    Awesome work….I bet you wish you could just wave a wand, tho…huh?
    Merry Christmas!

    • mrsmole says:

      Once the white basting threads were removed, there was no buckling so no need for anything else under there and as the bride wears no underwear, the lining and skirt should lie flat. I told her friend who will be lacing her up not to make it too tight anyway. First I told her to buy a pair of burgundy underpants but as she doesn’t wear any, that went out the window. More difficult dresses to come for 2019, I’m afraid.

  11. susew says:

    I hope Cinderella is pleased with her remade dress. What an incredible amount of work to fix a much too small dress. Measuring with yarn just shows how clueless some people are and being in denial of their measurements – based on the size chart and the six inch gap should have probably bought a size 10 or even 12. In the first photo, the bust cups are so noticeable!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Susan, what looks like cups is just the satin bodice layer. There are no cups or anything under the beaded mesh layer. When I mentioned to her that I would use 2 large snaps at the neck piece, she asked me, “what are snaps?” I had to bring some out to show her.

  12. Janee says:

    Nicely done! Don’t know if you’ve tried it, but there is a source for corset lacing kits that I’ve used several times. It’s Available in several colors and lengths, and very quick shipping. I find it shaves quite a bit off the time to put in a corset back, and works pretty well.

  13. mrsmole says:

    I have seen their website before and I may buy one to see what it is like. One issue is the size of the loops, some brides want them very tiny or very flat and I have to adjust everything to make them happy. But having something already made would be nice. For this dress I still would have had to order just the right shade of burgundy which they don’t carry rights now. For a 24 inch long corset, there is an additional fee so the unit would be $44 for the kit.

  14. Well it turned out well! Love the ribbon for the loops. Makes such a nice finish inside and sturdy. I’m always amazed at what walks in the door needing “minor alterations”. A client from the past asked if I had time for a quick hem. Knowing the over the top pageant girl that she is, I asked for a pic before I answered. It was a mermaid dress with a colossal train and the top needed a bit of work too. PASS!

  15. mrsmole says:

    Makes you wonder who do they eventually find to do this kind of work and what does it cost?

  16. maryfunt says:

    Nicely done. Don’t you just hate to hear: “minor alterations.” They have no idea. Measuring herself with a piece of (probably stretchy) yarn!!!

  17. A piece of yarn? That has got to be a first…. 😬

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