As a bridal seamstress, I’ve seen all sorts of gowns and several designs multiple times. I’m always intrigued by the styles folks bring in and the stories behind what about the gown appealed to them. People always ask me if there are some gowns that stick out in my mind, for whatever reason, and the answer is a resounding “YES!” Here are descriptions of some of the wild and wonderful dresses I’ve seen.
There’s one I always like to discuss. I affectionately refer to her as “the Octopus.” This dress had 30, count ‘em, THIRTY layers of tulle to the skirt! It literally stood up by itself when you took it off the hanger. This dress drove me crazy when I attempted not only to shorten the skirts, for obvious reasons, but also when I tried to alter the bustle. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get all 30 layers to lay straight and behave themselves to coordinate into a bustle point. So, I ended up doing 5 layers at a time and making a rather pretty layered scalloped effect. Unfortunately for the maid of honor, the silly thing had 46 bustle points when I was done. Yes, you read that correctly. I think I gave her an 8-page diagram of instructions. I have no idea if it was even attempted, but I am very grateful that I’ve never broken this bustle point record.
One bride brought me not one, but two weird dresses. The ceremony dress was a bodycon column number covered in crystals from neckline to hemline. The silly thing was so heavy that I didn’t move it from the fitting room until I was ready to work on it. I had to remove 2 inches of crystals on either side of the seam to be altered in order to get it into the sewing machine and then I got to put them back when I was done with the change. The even crazier thing was that this young lady was short and built like a pencil. The running joke was that the dress weighed more than she did!
The second dress, in complete contrast, was made from a type of scuba fabric, extremely stretchy, was off the shoulder, and had an A-line skirt. She was a size 00. So was the dress supposedly, but I ended up taking 4 inches out of each side seam! She also had me change the skirt while I was at it. The A line became a mermaid. Not sure what the rest of her wedding was like, but I’m quite certain that it was a showstopper.
Another bride brought in a gorgeous ball gown with an off the shoulder neckline and what seemed like millions of little 3D flowers all over it. She asked for a Belle al a Beauty and the Beast style bustle for the train. The only way to achieve this well was through French points (attaching under the skirt versus over) and there were 25 of them. This was my second “worst” bustle in terms of difficulty. I’ll never forget the look on the maid of honor’s face as I was trying to show her how to bustle the dress. There was murder in her eyes directed at both myself as well as her sister, the bride. I advised the bride to buy her sister a double after she successfully completed bustling the gown. Alas, I have no idea if either occurred.
A bride also brought me this fabulous Italian number that was long sleeved and had dress-length lace illusion insets from shoulder to hem. It created a VERY striking silhouette, as they were strategically placed to show just the right amount of skin and leave the imagination wondering.
Then there was the bride who brought me the gown that was 8 sizes too small for her and wanted me to add panels to either seam in order to make it fit. I talked about this gown (as well as included a pic) in my blog entry “Fairy Godmother.”
Also in this parade of gowns is an incredibly cheap garment made in China and haphazardly constructed. The bride wanted me to fix all the issues it had AND make it look fabulous on her. It was like putting lipstick on the proverbial pig. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. To the bride, not only did her pig have lipstick on, it came complete with earrings, smoky eye shadow AND the smolder! My alterations were 3 times what she spent on the dress. Probably not her smartest move, but at least she was happy.
One of my favorite gowns looked like Picasso and Edith Head went to Greece for inspiration and collaborated on the project. The fabric had a very unique hand as well. There were asymmetrical petals everywhere. I thought it was gorgeous. It, however, was also a pain to bustle. Since it didn’t have normal symmetrical layers to it, drawing a diagram for it was nigh on impossible. I had the mother of the bride video me bustling it as I hoped it would help the day of. Again, no report back, so I can only speculate if bustle-age was ever achieved.
Not only do I alter wedding gowns, but I also remake vintage gowns into something more modern. One gown in particular was straight out of the ‘80s–HUGE sleeves, super high neckline with illusion fabric to the sweet heart of the satin, tons of sequined Battenburg lace appliques everywhere with the satin cut out from behind them, and a HUGE bow on the back. It was fashionable for the time, but mom, bride, and I all agreed that it was hideous now. First, we got rid of the bow and the sleeves. I took off the illusion neckline, adjusted the front, and lowered the back so they were both a V. I removed about half the sequins and filled in select appliques so they had backing again. We also took down the skirt from a generous A line to a more narrow and fitted A line. Both bride and mom loved the finished product.
One bride brought me a gown that had a split overlay. She wanted me to take the satin underskirt off and make her fitted ankle pants out of the same shiny satin as the dress. One problem . . . she was too plump to be wearing shiny satin in the form of fitted ankle pants! Palazzo, maybe. Matte satin, maybe. I tried to tell her this, but she insisted I make the shiny satin pants. Of course, she was disappointed when she came for the fitting. I always make things larger as you can pin things to make a perfect fit, but the satin was unforgiving of her curves, as I knew it would be even after pinning. I think that’s the only tantrum I’ve had in my studio, knock on wood.
Thank goodness wedding gowns are as varied as the folks purchasing them. I would surely get bored altering the same thing over and over. I can’t wait for the next surprise to come through my studio door!
Until next time Dear Readers, may all your bobbins be full and all your seams be straight.