Bead and Sequins…Oh My!

You would think after all these years, I would have learned the hard lesson of saying no. Every time I get a request from a friend to take on a wedding dress from BHLDN I end up regretting it BIG TIME.

The first issue is the lining and outside fabrics are really incompatible. The lining is stretchy polyester knit and the outside fabric is thin chiffon intensely beaded by hand in India and weighs a ton. As the lining is stretching around the body and the bride says she feels “comfy”, the chiffon is being tugged southward to the floor and growing.

This dress looks elegant but is filled with problems.


Some of the features that are the selling points like “no construction” in the bust…really? As in, bring your own “perky” boobs because we didn’t add support or any boning nightgown?

Next is the “looser fit” at the waist…this means you will not get this sucker to cling to your waist if that is your best feature.

The hips have the heaviest beading and give a definite horizontal line just where most brides don’t want or need it.

Finally the hem…can you see that the skirt and hem are made up of 8 godets heavily beaded vertically on either side so shortening this will require removing more beads?

Let’s get started!

At the first fitting it is obvious that the circumference at the bust is 4 inches too large and the straps will need to be shortened and moved more towards center.

The labor to remove the beads and sequins will total 2 hours just for this area. I find that every bead and sequin has been attached with a backstitch so there is no chance to pull a thread and remove them easily. Every sequin has to have the individual thread snipped and removed. The straps will also need bead removal. The bride wanted every bead and sequin saved.

So, simple so far…inside is another story. The entire zipper has chiffon binding on both edges:

As I start to snip threads, I find that the thin chiffon binding strips have been sewn with FOUR rows on each side. Then the zipper has also been attached with 2 rows of stitching next to the teeth each side. Here is what we have and what we have to re-attach later.

The way is now clear to hand baste the zipper back into place for the second fitting.

Can you feel the knit lining stretching and the chiffon screaming…”please don’t do it”? I warn the bride that making chiffon that tight will cause the back princess seams to be stressed and cause drag lines at her waist…she humors me by sitting on a chair to feel the final circumference. I’m holding my breath as this is the point when pins pop and bend and she was happy.






















At the second fitting the bride decides that the center back has to cling to her skin so another 2 inches (total) are removed near the waist, beads removed and the zipper moved over and basted again.

More sequins to remove:


Ready for machine stitching and the excess fabric will be trimmed away and re-bound with the chiffon strips.

















What about the straps? Beads have been removed and marked with red thread for the new placement.



Moving down to the chiffon hem…pins mark the final length.

How about removing more beads? Add another hour of labor and then make a narrow hem like the original.

The knit lining will be hemmed and stitched with my coverstitch machine…Lordie, this is the only easy part!


One fortunate thing with this dress with no boning or means of support for the bust…Tear-drop bust pads were attached to the lining to help smooth out the wrinkles and the bride was thrilled that she could bend forward and feel secure.


Mr Mole found this photo of a 1914 Irish wedding dress and I am so glad I didn’t have to alter something like this!!!

For those of you who love seeing veggie garden photos…here are some from today. This is a lemon drop squash…we are not sure how big they will get…maybe the size of a tennis ball?

A baby butternut squash:

Bush beans, pole beans and Lima beans with sticks and poles to discourage cats from using the soft soil as a toilet.

Who doesn’t like corn in the summer? With 20 plants, we should have a nice crop.

Last photo…I have mentioned our blue tailed skinks before and this year we have families of them either running over rocks or sunning themselves. This little creature perched itself on a rabbit statue. They eat bugs in the wild so fingers crossed they remain throughout the season.

With over 8 weeks in quarantine, we all long for more freedom and a haircut but it is still pretty scary out there with so many people refusing to wear masks to protect each other. Just this week 3 children under 10 years of age were tested positive in our town so the risk is still there for ALL AGES!

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27 Responses to Bead and Sequins…Oh My!

  1. Eileen says:

    Your lizard looks like the Western Fence Lizards we have in the Bay Area. They have blue bellies and love to bask in the sun.

    • mrsmole says:

      I guess there are many varieties no matter where you live. I have to laugh at my neighbor across the street when Mr. Mole posted a photo of our skinks and she wrote back saying that we could just keep them on our side of the street as she didn’t want any…skinks are like rats…if your neighbor has them chances are you do too.

  2. Kim says:

    Those dresses look beautiful but throw massive challenges at the poor soul asked to alter to fit. I agree, next time you’re asked RUN!!! (Or quote such an exorbitant price that at least if they agree it’s made worth all the cussing 😉)

  3. shoes15 says:

    Oy that dress…. good luck, honey!
    Love the garden photos. It has been so cold and windy in Connecticut that I am weeks behind and lost some plants. Boo.

    • mrsmole says:

      It is already 96F degrees here but rain is coming to cool things down…thank God! We have been using covers this year to help the nighttime temps stay warmer. Dresses like this make yoiu a little crazy with thinking that you have finished and then whoopsie…more hand sewing and re-attaching of loose beads…the best day is the day they write the check and carry the dress out the front door!

  4. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    I can’t believe your patience for adjusting these beaded dresses, and then they always seem to want it tighter! you are an alterations saint! happy gardening, it’s looking great

    • mrsmole says:

      There is a sort of a good feeling knowing that not many other seamstresses would even attempt this and the bride is relying on me…even better when they tell you that they are lucky to have found you…even better if they leave a small $5 tip…but normally I only get 2 of those a year…ha ha.

  5. raquel from jc says:

    why do they all want each and every one bead and sequin? You are a Saint, Mrs. Mole! Keep safe and enjoy your vegetables!

    • mrsmole says:

      It is a mystery why the bride wants every single bead and sequin but I reassure them that they will get every one along with any fabric scraps in a bag. Not all seamstresses do that either.

      • Susan Hart says:

        I have lots of little zip bags full of beads and sequins and have even given some out that probably didn’t really come from the correct dress and the customer didn’t really notice or complain. I don’t they really care they just want to feel some kind of “full ownership” or something.
        I need skinks in my garden but my cat would scare them away……
        I wish my cat ate bugs😳

      • Cheryl Designs says:

        I also give my customers ALL of their scraps in a ziplock bag 🙂 I never save those. When I NEED fabric to add gussets or a corset back I buy it at the fabric store 🙂 Saving those bits and pieces just takes up room and they are never large enough when you need them 😦 I consider it LOST TIME to sort through them 😦 I suggest keeping them with the dress in case they sell it, donate it or hand it down and someone else needs them 🙂

  6. Laurie Nauss says:

    Thank you for sharing these challenging dresses! Do you find that taking that much in the back changes the side seam locations? Or is it not an issue because dress has no sleeves?

  7. mrsmole says:

    If the dress has say a circumference of a 40 inch bust, the front is 20 inches and the back is 20 inches. Now normally women measure 23 inches in front with boobs (side seam to side seam) and 17 inches across the back so taking in 3-4 inches in back really makes the fit so much better. Yes, side seams can slide a bit to the back but most folks don’t care and the guests won’t notice. Sleeves would complicate matters for sure!

  8. Claire says:

    You are a brave, brave woman to tackle the dresses you do. I like the idea of you charging WAY MORE, to make this worth your while. Good luck.

  9. erniek3 says:

    Theoretically this is a lovely dress, but would probably benefit from a woven bodice lining (to keep it all together and not sag as it is going to do over the course of her wedding festivities. Take those photos early my dear!

  10. maryfunt says:

    Aren’t those knit linings the worst? I hope she was charged for every minute. I sometimes smash the beads rather than unpick but then she doesn’t get to save them. Love the detail on the Irish dress. Stay safe.

    • mrsmole says:

      Either way…smashing or snipping away it is so time consuming! When I have smashed beads, I end up with such a sharp mess on the floor and it takes a few tries with the vacuum to get all of them up. I don’t allow anyone to wear shows in my house, so I have to think of bare feet catching tiny bits…even mine! Staying safe is on my mind 24/7 and having a whole wardrobe of masks helps to remind me. Mr Mole has placed sanitizer bottles in every room and car and garage for however this lasts. Hope you can social distance where you are, Mary!

  11. Rosie Z says:

    Hello Mrs. Mole! I don’t know if you remember me . . . you helped me with alterations for my daughter-in-law’s wedding gown after an Angry Russian Tailor made a bad attempt at letting out the dress (and told her to lose weight!). It is funny that I happened to look in on your blog because I offered to do alterations for a bride as a wedding gift, and it is a BHLDN dress! It is similar to your dress here, polyester chiffon with embroidery and beading but a thin polyester woven lining. It only needs shortening but that chiffon! I think it grows in length overnight. It has embroidery and beading horizontally along the bottom, and the new hem will go through the embroidery – but the bride wants it this way rather than taking some up through the waist. When I pinned the length, things just looked so strange. I finally measured the skirt and the dress is a half inch longer on the left side – along with the embroidery. And thus the bottom hem is either straight with the floor but crooked to the embroidery, or crooked to the floor but looks more straight to the eye because the embroidery is parallel to the hem. How does that chiffon hold the weight of all that embroidery and beading?? Do these dresses last through a night of dancing and hugging and pulling and snagging???

    • mrsmole says:

      Of course, Rosie, I remember that dress and the bad altering that you had to re-do!!! I have found that all dresses are uneven at the hem. I don’t care what you pay for one…they can be 2 inches difference between the side seams that should be equal. The bitch comes when the hem is embroidered or scalloped and is at least an inch longer or shorter than the one that works. To add even more stress is embroidered and beaded chiffon…nice for photos but by the end of the night…who knows! Even thought they use French seams, at the top of each of the 8 godets, the fabric was already fraying from the weight and I did hand stitch some of it back together but OH MY…who knows!

  12. JustGail says:

    I wonder if the saved beads and sequins are intended to be used on something else, like the guest register book cover? Or it could just be “I bought the dress, they are mine”. I doubt they’d be thinking so far down the road to keep them for future alterations.

    Your garden is looking good, and beautifully weed free! I’m envious – I’ve been grubbing grass out by the roots for days and days, still not done. Worse, areas where I did do are growing back :-(.

  13. mrsmole says:

    I do tell them that they can add the beads to the veil or headpiece but other than that, those little bags of beads and sequins will probably be tossed in a drawer and forgotten. After 2 days of rain our weed population has expanded! If I had more time I would try spraying them with a mixture of Dawn and vinegar like I use around the house instead of harsh cleaners…the brides have deadlines…one today and another next Saturday. Thanks for dropping in, Gail.

  14. Anita says:

    Mrs. Mole,
    I just wanted to say that I am really enjoying your blog! It’s such a great resource! I am about to start shopping for a wedding dress—I know that I should consider alterations when I select a dress, but I didn’t even know how to start thinking through it since I know absolutely nothing about sewing, garment construction, or alterations! Reading your posts has really helped me to get a better idea of what not to buy when shopping! (no beads!! and no unlined dresses!! haha)
    I am wondering—would you consider writing a post of tips and pointers for what to keep in mind when shopping for wedding dress, from an alterations standpoint?
    For example, what features make a well-constructed dress? What features make alterations easy and simple? What are realistic expectations about what alterations can accomplish? What are the most common types of alterations that are done for dresses? And do you have pointers on how to sniff out a good alterations specialist?
    Also, I love your garden. I aspire to plant a garden like yours someday! All the best!!

  15. mrsmole says:

    Gosh, Anita, that is a lot of things to cover but if you can search through my posts over the last 10 years, you can see the most popular alterations. The ones that cost the most are scalloped lace hems, with or without beads and sequins. You can add 3-5 hours of labor for that. Next is removing and moving a zipper over and it involves the lining and maybe moving boning. I do this all the time and it adds 2 hours of labor. It makes the circumference of the bodice fit better and solves lots of problems but not every seamstress wants to do this. A well constructed dress has boning otherwise it is a nightgown…not being nasty, it just is a fact. While most brides choose to not wear any underwear, that bodice had better have some support!!! I wish brides did not put so much responsibility on the seamstress to add or subtract 2-4 inches or more on their “dream dress”. If it needs that much altering to start with…”it ain’t your dress”. Asking your seamstress to make a bustle for a train that extends 6-10 feet behind you will make her take a deep breath. I have one example coming up…the dress has 7 lace bustle points and 3 satin points and at $20 a point…it adds up to $200 just for that service. Things that should not cost too much are adding straps, adding twill tape to the top edge of the bodice. Things that will cost more are taking in lace bodices that involve cutting lace motifs and lining, adding darts and strips of boning to the lining depending on how accessible the areas are. Finding a good bridal seamstress…that’s a tough one if you live in a rural community. Larger cities would have a better selection and asking around to friends who have had good or bad experiences will tell yoiu a lot. Reading reviews also helps. A good seamstress will give you a rough quote and even suggest other people to check out before you commit and leave your dress in the shop.Some brides send me photos from their shopping trips and ask what do I think it would take to make the dresses fit. Some photos scream, “don’t buy me” but the emotions take over and if the salesperson pushes and offers a discount or challenges you to make up your mind TODAY as the dress will be sold after you leave the store…RUN! You can send me your own photos when the time comes and links to dresses online. I’m always here to help.

    • Anita says:

      Hello Mrs. Mole, I just got back to your blog—thanks so much for your response! It helps me to prioritize what I’m looking for when trying on dresses (bodice with support that fits, simpler dress hem, shorter train). Wish me luck!!

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