Tag Archives: vintage wedding gowns

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 Gown Restyling

It’s so impossible to keep up with my blogging during wedding season and this one was a doozy! Now that I’ve come up for air, I want to share a vintage wedding gown restyling with you. It was interesting because of all the beadwork and the addition of a train.

If you have ever altered a fully beaded gown, you’ll appreciate the work that went into this dress. (Check out my blog on working with beaded gowns.)

The base was a bias-cut silk chiffon covered with glass beads. They cannot be sewn over and so have to be removed and tied off before the alteration can be performed.

BEFORE the dress was a bias-cut "sack" because the bride didn't fill it out.

BEFORE the dress was a bias-cut “sack” because the bride didn’t fill it out.

Back of the dress before the alterations

Back of the dress before the alterations

 

In this case, the bride wanted the dress more fitted but since there was no zipper or opening of any kind, we had to make sure she could still get the dress on and off. I took in the side seams from the bust to the upper hip and added front darts. I also lifted the shoulders so that the back neckline of the dress fit a long-line backless bra.

The bride wanted some drama added to the back of the gown so we played with some silk chiffon yardage till we got a beautiful train which coordinated with the beaded cowl. I had to tea dye the natural color silk chiffon so that it matched the gown perfectly. I added a simple line of bugle beads to the edge for a little weight and a little sparkle and was still able to stay within the bride’s budget.

AFTER The added train filled in the bottom of the dress from the front and created some drama in the back

AFTER The added train filled in the bottom of the dress from the front and created some drama in the back

I wish I could have gotten picture of the train when she moved. The train kind of “flew” in back of her making a really gorgeous statement. And when it “landed” it wrapped around her like cloud.

And here’s the bride in her gown!

Brittany in her gown

Brittany in her gown

Back view shows the detachable train

Back view shows the detachable train

 

Custom Lace Wedding Gowns

Lace Wedding Gowns are really on trend this year and with that in mind, I’d like to share my process for a custom lace gown that I  made recently for a New Year’s Eve wedding.

After consulting with the client, we decided on an ivory beaded Alencon lace re-embroidered with gold thread. The base was a 40mme silk charmeuse, lined in silk habotai. I like to prepare a fabric “sketch” for the client so she can see how the fabrics look and feel together.

Fabric "Sketch"

Fabric “Sketch”

I had to tea dye the English netting to match the ivory of the lace. Shown here are samples of the dyed netting.

Tea-dyed netting

Tea-dyed netting

I used muslin for the toile which worked perfectly for the silk but the lace was so stretchy that I ended up taking it in twice to get the “va-va-voom” fit that the bride desired.

Fitting Toile

Fitting Toile

First, I made the silk sheath and fit it exactly to the bride’s body. We also made sure the neckline was just as we wanted.

Front View of the silk sheath

Front View of the silk sheath

Back View of silk sheath

Back View of silk sheath

The bride wanted the necklines as low as possible but we also had to fit her undergarment.

Next, we added the lace over the silk sheath. This is where I took in the lace twice to get a really close fit.

Lace over silk sheath

Lace over silk sheath

Once I got the fit we wanted, I could finish off the neckline and sleeves.

Close-up of neckline

Close-up of neckline

Then the fun part ~ placing the lace on the skirt of the gown! Here’s the “sketch” with the happy bride. I ended up changing it somewhat in the final so that the design was balanced. It was not a symmetrical lace so it had to look balanced as opposed to symmetrical.

First Fit of the skirt with lace pinned onAnd here is the finished gown!

Front View of gownBack View of gownclose-up of sleeve detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridal Fairs

I participate in one bridal fair every year, in January and that pretty much jump starts my bridal business for the year.  Oh, I also get a lot of referrals and internet business but the bridal fair is a great way to meet brides-to-be in person and show them what you can do for them.

In our area, there are only two fairs a year so it’s not like there’s a big choice but if brides want the “one stop shopping” experience, bridal fairs are the way to go. You can meet vendors and see if you have a rapport with them. You can see pictures or samples of what they do. You can taste samples of what they do (my favorite part) and you’ll leave the fair with lots of ideas.

I pretty much let my work speak for itself. I drape my table with fabric samples and my paper portfolio. I dress my mannequins with samples of my workmanship. And, of course, I’m there to answer their questions and concerns.

One question I get asked a lot is, of course, how much can a bride expect to pay for alterations. Unfortunately, that is something I can’t answer without seeing the gown on the bride.  Because every dress has such different construction and design, each dress must be priced individually.

Some brides only need a hem and a bustle; some, especially petite and plus-sized brides, need more work. Just remember that alterations are priced individually so a hem, a bustle, dart alterations, taking in (or letting out) a bodice are all separate prices. So the more alterations you need, the more it will cost. This is especially important to keep in mind when you are buying a sample dress. It may be a good price initially but if it doesn’t fit you, you will sometimes spend more on alterations than you did on the dress.

For more FAQ’s about bridal gown alterations, check my next segment!