Tag Archives: antique lace

Lace Wedding Gowns

Lace wedding gowns are still very much “on trend” this season and you may be wondering why the alterations on these gowns are so expensive.

When I think of lace, I think of the art of collage: lace is made to cut apart and stitch together in whatever pattern most flatters the body. That is why so many brides like it. Done right, it can flatter and slim the body in a way that no other fabric can.

Some lace dresses are cut out of lace yardage and they can be easy to alter, if they don’t have bead work. If they do, that is another story. But especially the dresses made of Chantilly lace and vintage dresses are made of whole yardage and are altered like any other gown.

Vintage Chantilly lace gown

 

The most expensive lace dresses have the lace pieced at the side seams, flowing into the skirt. The beading is then sewn on top of it. So when the dress is altered, we have to remove the beading and save it to be replaced. Then the lace must be CAREFULLY removed. I cannot stress this enough because most lace is stitched to netting or tulle which is very delicate. Removing the lace has to be done slowly with as little damage to the netting as possible. This is probably the most time consuming part of the alteration.

Lace Wedding Gown Alteration. Here the lace is unstitched awaiting fitting.0

Once the lace is removed, we can continue the alteration, whether it’s the side seams, darts, shoulders, or hem. After we check the fit, the seams have to be finished and the lace can be replaced. This is where the creativity ~ and the fun~ comes into play. Placing it so that it melds with the design of the gown and doesn’t look like it ‘s been altered is one of my favorite projects to do. I also do a lot of repairs on lace dresses. Lace is delicate so you can imagine how easy it is to snag or put a fingernail through!

 

Lace repair on antique wedding gown. Lace is pinned in place ready for stitching

When the lace is pinned in place, it can then be sewn, usually by hand, and the beading is replaced. This is very time consuming as well. But the finished product will look like absolute confection!

If you think you will need alterations on your wedding gown, you may want to remember that lace and beading add to the cost. If you are petite, plan to wear flats with your gown, are big busted, small busted or have uneven measurements, you WILL  need alterations!

Repairing and Altering Antique Clothing

It was quite the wedding season this year! At one point I had to stop answering the phone because all I could do was turn down work. I apologize if you were one of those who called me and couldn’t get through. As a one-person business I have to sometimes choose between completing the projects I already have  and getting more work.

One of the projects I enjoy the most as a dressmaker is working with vintage and antique dresses.  Whether it’s a wedding gown or a suit or coat, I do quite a bit of repairing and altering antique clothing.

As I’ve written about before, when dealing with antiques, I like to really take my time and think through the project before I begin. It’s just too easy to go forward too quickly and make a grievous mistake. Even the most cared for garments are fragile and usually have rips or stains.

The dress pictured above was worn by the bride’s mom in the 1980’s. She bought it at an antique shop and best guess is that it is about 100 years old. The bride wanted to carry on the tradition but it needed a lot of work!

 

You can see the rust colored stain on the very sheer fabric.

You can see the rust colored stain on the very sheer fabric.

The cotton voile was fragile and had some stains. The lace was delicate and had rips and stains.

Here is one of the many rips in the lace I had to deal with.

Here is one of the many rips in the lace I had to deal with.

The waistband of the dress was completely ripped up but fortunately, the bride planned on wearing a sash. I reinforced the band with silk habotai. I lined the whole dress with the habotai to compensate for the sheerness and  use it to reinforce the stress areas of the dress and yet still keep it light and airy.

For instance, the bottom ruffle (which was shortened so her shoes would show) was re-attached to the skirt and the lining so that it wasn’t hanging from the skirt alone.  I also attached the shoulders and sleeves to the habotai to reinforce those areas.

When dealing with the stains, I tried out a spot that I knew was going to be removed when I hemmed the dress. I VERY GENTLY rubbed a small amount of baking soda into the stain and that was all it took to shred the fabric. I then decided to just try soaking the stains with baking soda and it didn’t remove the stains but it lightened them enough so that they got lost in the volume of fabric.

Here are some details of the gorgeous dress:

This is the back of the dress. You can see the embroidery and the crocheted buttons.

This is a close-up view of the back of the dress. You can see the embroidery and the crocheted buttons.

Here's a close-up of the buttons.

Here’s a close-up of the buttons.

Back View of the Dress

Back View of the Dress

 

 

Vintage Wedding Dress Updated

When Jennifer brought me  her grandmother’s wedding dress, it really showed the difference between today’s wedding fashions and the styles from 1945. The dress was a knee length sheath made from a beautiful cotton lace. It had a jewel neckline which was way to close to the neck for Jennifer’s taste and it was sleeveless. The hemline probably hit the much shorter grandmother just below the knee. It had yellowed in few places but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Unfortunately, I did not get any “before” shots this time! Check out more vintage updates on my alterations page.

Jennifer needed the dress re-fit, the neckline changed and the style updated. She had chosen a sheer stretch lace with a raised pattern to add to the dress. The color matched the original dress and the texture was sure to give Jennifer the design she was envisioning.

First, I removed the tight facings and undid the stitching in the shoulders. The dress darts were way higher than they needed to be for our contemporary bride and undoing the shoulders allowed me to drop the dress enough to correct the dart placement. I used the new lace to add a gathered cap sleeve. I changed the jewel neck to a V and lowered the back. Then I reshaped the dress to fit Jennifer’s figure, and shortened it carefully leaving the extra fabric in case the next wearer wanted more length. With vintage garments, you never know who will want to re-use the dress so I like to leave as much of the original as possible.

Close-up of neckline and sleeve.

Close-up of neckline and sleeve.

Once we had the sheath fitting the way we wanted, I added the skirt. She was wearing very high heels and wanted a fun skirt added to the hipline for more of an updated look. We placed the skirt exactly as  needed for Jennifer’s va-va-voom figure. (She fills out the dress much better than my tiny dress form!) It is open in front up to the hemline so it moves out of the way when she walks, and we left a slight sweep train in the back. The skirt can easily be removed if a future bride wants to reuse the dress.

Back View of Dress

Back View of Dress