Monday, October 20, 2014

Altering a Wedding Dress

Ok, so from the title you may think that I got myself into some heavy duty alterations...I mean, a wedding dress! Thankfully, the alterations were not extensive. Though, I will say from the get-go, I wish I'd dedicated more time and attention to detail on this project. Having a week to do it, seemed like plenty, but I think my son got wind of me having a special sewing project and made it that much more difficult to sit down to work on it for more than a few minutes at a time ;). However, I took this project on for a very dear friend, and she didn't complain one bit about some of the, erhm, imperfections in my work. Let's just say, it was a learning experience...and I have a lot more learning to do!

Shall we take a peek at the project? Ok, here's what we started with. My friend found this dress on one of her trips out to visit me, shortly after they'd decided to have a small legal ceremony and party for family and friends stateside. She is from Japan, and they will be holding a more 'traditional' wedding there with her family and friends very soon. We did some quick shopping around on a day trip to the city (NYC) and happened upon this dress. It was two sizes too big, she didn't like the sheer top, but  she loved the rest and we thought we could work with it.

The first, and simplest step, was to remove the sheer fabric. I did this by trimming it off right along the top edge of the bodice, getting as close as I could so there'd be no fraying.

Next, I marked where it needed to be taken in, planning to do so at the back zipper. Then, I found some staining on one side of the dress and decided that instead I'd take in each side of the bodice.

I removed the flowers from the area to be taken in along each side and then unpicked the seams. I then trimmed off the excess fabric and closed them back up topstitching to do so. I took in the lining of the bodice first, before pinning everything in place with the outside and stitching closed. It kept going wobbly on me where the layers of fabric were thicker, but I figured after resewing the flowers I'd removed along each side, the seams would be hidden anyway. Well, the following weekend, I traveled to Michigan where we met up for a bachelorette weekend, and where I could do any final adjusting/fitting with my friend. The waist was perfect, but the top was just a bit too big still, so I took it in. Then it was too tight, so I let one side out a smidge. We kept going back and forth without getting the perfect fit, and all of this was done by hand. Now, I am by no means a neat seamstress when it comes to hand stitching. So, even though it came out wobbly on the machine, it still looked better than what I was doing by hand. :-/ We reached a point where it was 'good enough', and I covered up the side seams with the flowers, concealing now very ugly work.

In the end, I think that if I'd taken it in along the darts on the back of the bodice, as well as the sides, shaping it a bit more, it may have fit much better. She had to do a bit of readjusting :( throughout the day, but even so, she looked absolutely beautiful! I'm honored that she asked me to do this for her, and that I was able to be there to celebrate their big day! Here's to hoping this is just the first step in learning more about altering for others, and improving my hand sewing skills ;).

The timing of this project was also perfect in sharing an article that a fellow refashion enthusiast put together about recreating formal dresses, whether bridal, prom, etc. I've already pinned several of the ideas, and some of the projects featured are from refashionistas that I know! If you haven't come across this yet, please stop by Paris Ciel and take a gander at all of the inspiration for remaking those 'one and done' types of dresses! (Carissa's winter white party dress is my absolute fave!!!)

I know my thrifted/refashioned wedding dress could be the perfect candidate for a remake one day, so I'll be keeping this post in mind for when I work up the courage to tackle that project ;) Here's what mine looks like:

I had to take the top in/up a bit and tacked the train up so that it created a draping effect in the back. I had it shortened by a professional seamstress and cleaned as well. I paid $20 for the dress, but including the hemming and cleaning it went up to $100 total. Not bad for a wedding dress, if I do say so myself ;). It's 100% silk...might be where my obsession with thrifted silk began, and I wonder what I should do with it to make it wearable on future occasions. I'd love to try dyeing it (though that scares me), or creating a dramatic skirt with the bottom portion, or something, but taking that first step will definitely be the hardest! I'd love to hear your ideas on what you would do if faced with the task of refashioning this dress to be a more versatile special occasion leave me some comments!!! Any and all ideas welcome :)



  1. It looks beautiful! What a thoughtful gift to your friend, I'm sure she is very grateful.


  2. Wow-both dresses are really wonderful! Nice job. I don't have advice for your dress, because I'm sure I'll love whatever you come up with.

  3. 1. Nice job on the alterations! I liked the sheer top... until I saw it as a strapless. Perfecto!
    2. Thanks for the comment on my white party dress. I do so love that tulle skirt. Wish I had more occasions to wear it!
    3. You and your wedding dress looked 100% gorgeous! I'm thinking a little dye job, crop it to cocktail length, and you'll have a beautiful dress to wear out for your anniversary (or whenever you like)!


    1. She actually liked the idea of the sheer top too! But the fabric was a bit stiff and weird, so yay strapless! I still go back and look at that refashion (the tulle skirt is to die for!) every now and then and wish I had an occasion to wear it too ;) I'm with you on the dye! Shortening probably makes the most sense...but I may want to play with the top half a little as well...when I'm ready, I'll have you all vote on the color for me!

  4. I would've never known you had any problems with that dress alteration. It really turned out cute. And your own gown is beautiful. Love the way you made the train into a long drapey ruffle.

    Have you been to Trish's blog "Feeling Kinda Thrifty"? During a refashion contest she used her wedding gown to create a beautiful top that she can wear anytime. That appeals to me, to be able to frequently wear something made from a special event dress. Here is the post:

    I like Carissa's idea, too. The material in your dress is SO beautiful. You'll think of the right thing when the time is right.

    1. I think I've seen Trish's post, but I'll jump over again and check. Thanks for sharing your ideas with me! I definitely want to do something to show off the beautiful silk ;)