I don’t always immediately respond to inquiries for wedding dress alterations on a Saturday night outside of business hours, but I also don’t often get requests for bridal alterations with a 3 day turn-around.
Seeking Emergency Solutions
When I read Johanna’s message I immediately felt sympathetic; there’s only ever one reason a bride is looking for and politely asking about dress solutions the week of her wedding: something has gone very wrong. (If not multiple somethings.) And that is exactly what Johanna’s message confirmed. The wedding alterations she’d previously had done on a dress left it in disarray, but she had another dress – which she thankfully preferred – and decided to reach out just in case her wedding dress alterations could be done in time.
It would be a bit of a crunch but I couldn’t say no. And the next morning I even sent her a mock-up of what I had planned. I wanted her to see that it would be worth the expense and last minute effort. It reassured her and she and her mom came in for her fitting later that morning – graciously providing me as much time as possible to finish the work.
Her lacy Oleg Cassini mermaid gown had a plunging neckline that she hoped to cover and make more modest. She also wanted to add simple straps, not feeling as comfortable with a strapless dress, and she needed a significant hem and a bustle added. Once she was in the dress I told her that I normally would recommend a slight take in on the sides of the skirt to make it fit a bit better, but to save in cost and time I should be able to take in the outer lace layer to help eliminate puckering.
She was happy for a simpler solution, so after pinning that I began working on her neckline. Using muslin I was able to create a rough pattern for a subtle sweetheart neckline to provide the modesty desired for her church ceremony. (The muslin allows me to create a pattern and the client has a much easier time visualizing the changes I’ll make.) Then, as I suggested in the mock-up, I showed her different options to add other than just spaghetti straps. I also suggested attaching them to the middle back of her dress in a “v” to make the back a little more fun. She and her mom were so excited for the customizations I offered and both loved the suggestions.
And though I always say it’s amazing how much just pinning the hem will improve the look and feel of a gown, I think they were even more excited to see how I pinned the bustle!
Bustles are one of my favorite things to do and if you’ve never seen an attractive or stylish one it’s always a pleasant shock to see how pretty they can be!
In the end, we all had a lovely time at her fitting and it was wonderful to see her relax and have the stress of her wedding dress alterations all taken off her shoulders. Especially because, as I told her, the last thing I want for a bride is for her dress and the memory of it to be: “meh.”
Every bride deserves a dress that looks beautiful and is a joyous memory to look back on, just like the rest of her big day.
Now for the Fun
For plunging necklines like Johanna’s I’ve seen “temple fill” wedding dress alterations done where the back of the sheer or mesh parts are lined with a solid fabric. In most situations, this feels like a lazy solution to me. With some exceptions, it is often noticeable and awkward, when the goal should always be for alterations to be seamless and indistinguishable, if not invisible.
As a couture seamstress I will always choose an artistic solution – even if far more complicated – over an “efficient” solution.
Instead, I completely eliminated the plunge by adding fabric and joining the two sides of the bodice, then masking and disguising any new seam lines with the lace. I used the dress itself to source lace by removing it from subtle spots on the dress — which I told her I would do ahead of time. This can be tedious, but with a heavily embellished dress like hers, if a person is really patient and selective with where it’s ‘borrowed’ from, it’s pretty impossible to notice. (I’ve done this multiple times and not even been able to find where I removed lace from afterwards, myself!) I even made sure to place the lace along the neckline with parts hanging off to match the style of the rest of the bodice. And I have to say… it all turned out flawless.
I then made and attached her straps out of white satin fabric, hemmed her skirt lining, meticulously cut the raw edges of her multi-layered tulle skirt to the perfect length, then added her bustle. The clear acrylic bustle buttons were completely unnoticeable amongst the lace, and I was able to hide her loops in the lace that was scattered throughout her skirt. The style of her skirt made this easy because even if there wasn’t lace where loops were needed I was able to ‘borrow’ lace (as I had for her bodice) and add it symmetrically where needed.
Knowing she was going to be able to have the reality and memory of her wedding dress completely redeemed in time for her big day made me so, so happy. (And still does.)
My studio has a wall-length curtain with a dressing area behind it so for mostly my own entertainment I decided to theatrically hang her dress up behind it and close the curtain to allow for a grand reveal. And I’m so glad I did!
When Jo and her maid of honor arrived for her pick-up appointment I felt like the host on a makeover show and their reactions were even better than I expected! Their jaws hit the floor and they both squealed with delight. I’m not sure if it was before or after Johanna put it on but it all made her MOH cry happy tears (*the official stamp of success for a seamstress). Their compliments were so kind and it was so wonderful seeing how well it fit Jo, how great she looked in it and how incredibly happy it all made her.
The bodice was perfectly fitted to her – snug without being uncomfortable – and she loved the new straps and how they made her feel extra secure. I showed her MOH how to button up her bustle and Jo was so excited for such a fun look that was going to really let her dance and celebrate.
It was such a happy and cheerful appointment. They got me to take pictures of them, then I got her dress hung, packed and ready for her to take with her to the rehearsal later that day.
The Icing on the Cake
She gave me the sweetest card thanking me for my hard work. It was such a joyous experience and I’m so glad I was able to help. I was able to see the preview wedding day pictures her photographer shared on instagram that weekend and it made my heart warm and fuzzy to see how ecstatically happy she looked. She even texted me pictures the next week (before she got back from her honeymoon), thanking me again for helping make her dress “perfect.”
There really isn’t a better or more drastic example of why I do what I do. Johanna’s wedding dress alterations were the quickest turn around I’ve done or had requested still to date and I’m so glad my schedule wasn’t too busy for me to have to turn her away.
I don’t really ever want my clients to be in an emergency situation, but just know that if you are – I will do everything I can to remedy it.
Photo Credit: Johanna’s beautiful wedding photos by Pros of Photography