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Help with fixing prom dress?

RockytheScout | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi everybody,

I’m a lurker but I’m coming out of hiding with a question. My daughter bought a prom dress this week and it needs some repairs. (She went with a friend–I would not have bought this dress if I’d been with her–the saleslady told her it could be “easily fixed by someone who sews” and only took 10% off the price–but the saleslady-taking-advantage-of-a-couple-of-teenagers is a whole other story…) It is a polyester satin, strapless, full length, princess-line dress in black (with some pale green trim) and the problem is that the back bodice seam on one side has frayed completely apart–I presume from the strain of the dress being tried on numerous times, maybe by people who were not the dress’s size. The dress is lined and boned and the lining is fine, but the fashion fabric is frayed for a length of about three inches, starting about two inches below the back neckline. The corresponding seam on the other side is pulling and looks like it, too, could give up the ghost.

Here’s the problem–there is no seam allowance to work with to resew the seam. (All the seams are serged. Although the dress cost $150 (with 10% off!) it is cheaply made. But…yup, that’s a whole other rant…) I have to sew in a gusset or a strip or something–and on both sides of the zipper to make it symmetrical (and to reinforce the non-frayed side). Luckily it is not hard to match the black satin.

I need advice at how to go about this. Since there is no waistline I think I must make a “football-shaped” gusset that tapers to nothing a few inches below the problem. (Luckily the upper edge will be hidden by a pale green band that circles the strapless neckline.) So, do I clip all the fraying away and sew the new edges to the edges of the gusset? (I will try to make the gusset the right width to replicate the original width of the bodice–in other words, narrow–maybe with a half inch more to relieve the strain on the fashion fabric) Or should I fold the edges of the neatened seam allowances and then top stitch them down on the gusset? And just how weird is this going to look? (Returning the dress is not an option since they gave my daughter the whole big 10% off, and my daughter is easy-going and has accepted that her dress is going to have a little weirdness going on in the back.) Is there any other way to do it that is better?

If anyone has the patience to read this and give me some ideas, THANK YOU! I am an experienced home sewer but not really at the level of alterations, etc., and I’m also nervous about the slippery, easy-to-snag polyester satin.

My daughter and I thank you in advance…

Rocky

Replies

  1. suesew | | #1

    Is this problem by the zipper? Could you possibly replace the two pieces on each side - the full length? The gusset idea sounds like it would work. Could you cut that piece off at the waist and put in another piece with a waist seam there? Sometimes these things turn out to be kind of design cute. It's just enough to keep you awake at night. And have you thought of a shawl? Good luck, Sue

    1. RockytheScout | | #2

      Thanks for answering... the problem is not at the zipper--it's the seam between the zipper and the side seam. Replacing the whole length of the piece would probably look the best but it's not going to happen... too hard, too complicated, and too much work for a dress that will probably be worn once. There is no waist seam--that's why I guess if I do the gusset I'll have to taper it to nothing.

      The shawl (or shrug or stole or whatever) is a good idea but of course she'll be dancing and stuff and will take that off--I need to at least do something so that the dress doesn't look like it's in shreds on her body!

      Basically the situation makes me mad at the store--this dress should not have been sold to anyone, and if it was to be sold, it should have been greatly discounted--not sold for $150--but then again my daughter bought it (not her fault; she's just inexperienced) so--we're the ones who really made the mistake. Let the buyer beware, and all that...

      Well anyway I'll do my best and I know my daughter will think it's fine--she's much less fussy about things like this than I am!

      1. MDNB | | #31

        I would take the dress and your daughter back to the store and return it.  You could explain that you sew and it is not a simple fix.  For that money you could make a beautiful dress from scratch.

  2. Dudysews | | #3

    I had a similar problem with a bridesmaid dress last fall.  She had purchased the dress with the thought that she would lose a dress size!  Since that didn't happen she asked me to alter the dress.  With no more than some scraps of hem allowances from the other bridesmaid dresses I fashioned a gusset for each side seam and got it to fit her for the wedding.  Like Sue suggested, sometimes these additions work to your benefit!  Have fun, Dudy

    1. RockytheScout | | #4

      That sounds harder than my situation, because at least I can match new black satin to make the gussets and I don't have to use scraps from hems!

      Thanks for writing--

      Rocky

  3. Meg | | #5

    Could a design feature be added? What about adding some black satin or velvet ribbon, stitched on top of the offending seam and symmetrically placed on the other seams. Maybe even over the entire length of the seam? Or what about adding a sash?

    1. RockytheScout | | #6

      A sash won't work because the the dress doesn't have a waistline. It's an A-line and continuous from neckline to hem. (I hope A-line is the right term in this situation.)

      Putting ribbon in/on all the seams...that's an interesting idea. I'm not sure if the "vertical stripe" effect I think you'd get would be nice or a little much--especially because there's a wide vertical band of beaded, sequined embroidery down one side of the front, neckline to floor (and an inverted pleat from hip to floor, lined with pale green, only on one side). But, the main thing is--that would be way too much work for a cheaply-made dress that will be worn once... I guess I'm hoping for a more localized "quick fix" rather than a complete overhaul. It may be a difference in approach--I think you forum regulars are dressmakers and I'm a home-sewer trying to fix a problem on a dress that's poorly made in the first place.

      I think I'm going to take the dress to the costume shop of our local playhouse today and consult the guy who runs it and designs the costumes for all our productions. He's pretty amazing (and quite a character--by reputation; I don't really know him) and I think he can design and sew anything. Hopefully he won't mind spending 5 minutes giving some free consultation...

      I appreciate the ideas you all have shared... I'll keep you posted.

      1. Palady | | #7

        >>... consult the guy who runs it and designs the costumes for. all our productions...<<

        Astute decision.  Primarily because he wil "see" the issue a bit more clearly than can members.  Visual ability can matters in some instances. 

        A lesson learned for your daughter I trust.  If the sales person was other than the shop owner, there may have been commision sales involved.

        >> ... keep you posted. <<

        Please do!

        nepa

         

  4. Ralphetta | | #8

    I've been following this discussion. You have already spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix this dress and you haven't even started to actually do the work. I don't mind spending a lot of time if I've gotten a real bargain, but you've said this wasn't one. This seems like a legitimate occasion to go back to the store and either get your money back or, if your daughter is crazy about it, at least a further discount.

    In my experience, if you approach companies in a polite and reasonable manner, most of the time you reach a satisfactory solution. I know it doesn't always work...but how could it be any worse? Isn't it worth the trip? You don't need to accuse anyone of deliberately taking advantage of your daughter. Just act as if the saleslady and your daughter didn't realize the severity of the problem and explain that a 10% discount was not reasonable. Just make a decision before you go as to what you want them to do and then stick with it.

    I've always taken the attitude that you should be sure the company realizes there is a problem and give them an opportunity to resolve it. You aren't asking for a favor, your asking them to correct a mistake.I worked in the executive offices of a major store and they wanted to know if their customers were unhappy.

    1. RockytheScout | | #9

      Thanks for writing. First, a response to Ralphetta. I have my doubts about whether I could get any money back from the store (a major dept. store chain), as they expressly told my daughter that due to the 10% discount the dress was non-returnable. However, you are right that sometimes these things are made right by smart floor managers or higher-ups. There are a few other issues, thought. One is that my daughter does like the dress and I'd like to make it work if possible. Two is that the frayed section was much smaller when she bought the dress. Trying it on that night at her friend's house, and one more time for me, made the problem worse--it went from about 1 inch to 3 inches. Third is that it is about half an hour to get to the place (in the city that we live outside of) which is not a huge deal but does enter into my decision.

      The fact is, from the store's point of view, we bought the dress--damage and all--and actually I think they are within their rights to refuse to accept a return or give a bigger discount since the policy was stated to my daughter.

      I don't mind "making a fuss" when something is blatently wrong but in this case, even though I'm annoyed, I think the mistake was made by my inexperienced daughter.

      I also don't want to make her feel like it's a really serious problem since she's already worried about it--as I may have said earlier she's shy and even talking to a salesperson was a big step. (Yes, she's 18 and going off to college next year...she's a terrific girl...just doesn't like talking to strangers or doing anything that attracts attention to herself.)

      Also, I actually don't think the salesperson was purposely taking advantage of my daughter, either--she was a young woman (they were talking about the football records between their respective high schools) and she probably believed what she said when she told my daughter "Someone who sews can easily fix that."

      And finally, although I'm complaining about it, I actually kind of like the challenge... I just needed some direction and guidance.

      I appreciate your words, though, and I agree and know from experience and "inside info" (my father was an upper level executive at major departments stores most of my life) that in well-run, large retail organizations, the customer is always right (even if he or she is wrong).

      Now, here's the latest on the dress itself. I went to talk to D. (costume designer) today and he was so helpful and nice. We talked through a few different solutions but the one he recommended in the end was not one I would have thought of. He suggested I fix the frayed seam (using seam tape to give me something to work with, but, by necessity, sewing it up smaller than it was originally) and reinforce/make slightly smaller the corresponding seam on the other side. Then, take out the zipper (!). Edge a new zipper with strips of matching fabric and then insert that. (He showed me how I could just slide the strips between the fabric and lining, with seam allowances already folded in from the original zipper, and top stitch it.) This would put the necessary width (probably 1/2 to 1 inch total) back in and, he thought, would look like a zipper detail and not like gussets put in because the dress is too tight. It might look a little odd (also, the original zipper is an invisible one, and the new one won't be) but I think it sounds both simpler, less fussy, and has the added benefit of reinforcing not only both back seams but the zipper.

      So... I bought the zipper today and plan to attack the whole thing either later tonight (after my Girl Scout leader meeting) or tomorrow.

      Thanks for listening, everybody!

       

      Rocky

       

      1. sewslow67 | | #10

        Hi Rocky:  I've been reading this thread with great interest as it's always fun to find new solutions to fitting challenges ...and I think the solution that you have decided to use is an excellent one.  I also found the other suggestions interesting as well, esp. the ones that included modified design changes.

        When you get the project completed, it would be wonderful to see a photo of the end result.  I can "see" it in my mind's eye, but a photo is always helpful.  And good for you for keeping with it until a satisfactory idea "hit the right spot".  Congratulations on your creative persistence.  Good job!!

        Edited 4/2/2009 8:28 pm by sewslow67

        1. RockytheScout | | #13

          Sure, I'll post some pictures when I'm done, if people are interested!

      2. Teaf5 | | #11

        Congratulations, mom, on your resourcefulness!  Your daughter will learn a lot about persistence, optimism, creativity, and resourcefulness from your efforts that will help her excel in college.

        Some things to remember about prom dresses are that 1) only the front shows in photos 2) the appearance matters for about the first twenty minutes only, 3) everyone is so excited that they won't be checking seams closely, and 4) the dress will be worn only once, so your repair doesn't have to be washable.  And, if it's black, it's going to be difficult to see any details on it anyway!

        Your costumer's suggestions are great; I might have first tried to iron on a stabilizer under the stressed seam and then tucked under and glued the frayed seam threads.  I have also used puffy fabric paint in the same color to cover and fill in shredded areas of seams or used an exactly-matching thread to make a wide topstitch over the entire length of the affected seam with an overcast or multi-staged fancy stitch.

        Let us know how it turns out!

        1. RockytheScout | | #14

          Teaf5--

          Your points about prom dresses are so right on--thank you! And your less elegant but faster and easier "quick fix" ideas are great! I think if it weren't shiny black satin I would have already tried something like that--something along the lines of "darning" the frayed area with machine sewing--but I just think it would stick out too much because of the difference in light reflection. And there's a chance that the dress will get worn again--since my daughter's an identical twin (!) and maybe her sister will have an occasion to wear it next year or something--so it's worth it for me to put a bit more effort in. (Plus I guess it's pretty clear by now that I'm enjoying this whole process--and I haven't even started the actual sewing! Maybe I'll just keep talking about it for a few weeks... :-)  )

          Rocky

        2. MaryinColorado | | #33

          Those are some excellent suggestions too!  This is a very interesting thread.  Mary

          1. RockytheScout | | #34

            Thanks everyone for your praise and enthusiasm. The dress is still hanging in the dining room (aka my sewing room) because my daughter needs to try it on one more time for me to finish the spaghetti straps. (Did I mention that she thought the hanging straps were spaghetti straps when she bought it? She wants the straps, so we've put those in--I just need to fit them!) Of course now that the hard part is done we haven't gotten around to the final detail... and I've put away all the sewing stuff because tonight's the first night of Passover and we need the dining room. (Dontcha hate when real life impinges on sewing or other projects?) Oh well, we'll finish the straps in a few days.

            As for the suggestion that we take the dress back NOW--we're both way too attached to it at this point! (Besides, even if "the customer is always right" it's hard to imagine a store taking back a dress that's been altered--at least in my experience.)

            The idea of embroidering something on the back is an interesting one, jpadden53. I don't have an embroidery machine (and if I tried to do something by hand, I know it wouldn't look the same). But I like the idea of some little touches of flower vines in other places on the dress.

            I'm intrigued by the idea of offering to volunteer/intern at the costume shop. I have the feeling he has a few people in the community who help him sew for all the productions, but people can always use more help... it would also be a fun way to get involved in the Playhouse. (I'm in a small singing group with four other women who are all regularly in Playhouse productions, so I hear a lot about it.) Of course like all of us I'm too busy already as it is... but maybe I'll ask D. when I go to say thanks if he ever needs any extra help. Even just sewing seams or trimming hats or something (I'm thinking of their recent production of My Fair Lady--in the Ascot scene--incredible hats!!!) would be fun. Thank you for the suggestion, Deb.

            It IS hard to remember to take pictures, isn't it. The main reason I do it (when I remember) is to share what's going on with my mom (we live in different parts of the country). She loves hearing about what we're all doing (what mother/grandmother doesn't?) and seeing pictures.

            Well, I'm off to cook and clean. After I catch up on a few other threads on this forum I'm following... :-)

          2. mainestitcher | | #41

            In the saleslady's defense, it's possible she doesn't know what she's talking about. She may not have realized that sewing up the seam would make the dress too small to wear. A lot of people who ought to be able to figure these things out don't put in the effort to do so. A customer where I was working wanted his trousers lengthened. I did that, but they still weren't quite long enough. Could they be another half inch longer, he asked. I looked at the hem, and commented there is not much material left. "Well," says the customer, "where did it go? There was two and a half or three inches in there before." He was an engineer. Where I currently work, most the the consultants do know what they don't know, and have us out on the floor frequently to answer questions. There is one who has been there since the store opened, and promises her customers that alterations can and will do anything they imagine...and she really ought to know better, since her daughter heads the alteration department. She was overheard telling a customer that she didn't need a bra to hold up her breasts, just have alterations sew DD bra cups into her dress. She's worked here ten years.

          3. RockytheScout | | #43

            I agree with you that the salesgirl (it was pretty much a girl--someone who had graduated from high school only a few years earlier) probably spoke out of ignorance, not with malicious intent to mislead... After all, my own daughter didn't realize when looking at the frayed place that it would be kind of a big deal to fix--as you say, if you don't sew, you don't really "get" how these things work.

            People in the business itself should know what they're talking about, though--sounds like the person you mention gets her shop into trouble if she promises things that are impossible...

          4. mainestitcher | | #44

            Ahh, yes. I was there the morning Asst. Manager walked into the room and quietly and firmly said, "You need to talk to your mother about this."In many retail stores, though, the salespeople (Oh, we call them consultants to soften the crass commercialism of it all) burn out pretty quickly. It is not at all unusual to have 25% turnover every three or four months. The individuals bull-headed enough to make good commissions are quite frequently the ones who have crossed management by exhibiting "attitude." I was in the break room one day and overheard the following:There must have been a new bridal magazine published with the advice, "Don't purchase immediately. Tell the salesperson you're not buying today" It seemed a lot of brides to be were using this line."Yeah, and Carla will say, 'Well then, the pressure is off, for both of us, isn't it?' And she'll make the sale anyway."

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #47

            Hi Rocky, you have done a marvelous job on fixing the dress, and have pics to prove it. I would suggest strongly to you, that you take the gown, pics, receipt and daughter into the store and ask to speak to the manager. Show the dress and the pics to him/her. Explain the situation fully. Tell him to explain what goes into fixing something like that to his staff. That it is not a simple fix for someone who sews, and that your daughter is lucky to have someone who has the skills and resources to do so. Explain to them what it would cost to have a dressmaker fix it. Tell him so that someone else does not ever have to go through it, as it is a black mark against the reputation of the store. They may not give you anything back, but it will prevent problems in the future. That dress should never have been sold. It should never have been sold at that price. The store should be made aware of that. With the economy the way it is, people are becoming very penny conscious and stores are hurting. I think they will be happy to know a customer is unhappy and talking about it. Cathy

          6. Ocrafty1 | | #48

            Great suggestion, Cathy!  Store managers aren't usually sewers, nor are their associates that work for them. Educating them about the processes/costs involved in repairing damaged garments should go a long way in helping their customer relations.  If they had sold that gown to someone who couldn't fix it, they could have had a huge potential problem.  If the manager has any sense, whatsoever, he/she will be grateful to 'Rocky' for the info. She should receive some sort of compensation. It would behove the manager to possibly have 'Rocky' come and explain about alterations to the staff.

            Deb

          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #49

            Great Point! Offering to explain alterations and repairs to the staff is a Wonderful Idea! It would be something I would do. Cathy

          8. Ocrafty1 | | #50

            Thanks!  People can't give information to their clients, when they don't know what they are talking about.  Another suggestion.....either leave your name/phone #....or suggest someone who might be willing to do alterations.  Could be a way to make a little extra $$, or help someone else who wants to do it.

            Deb

          9. RockytheScout | | #51

            I want to thank everybody for their interest in this whole thing.

            See, the thing is, it was bought at a department store, not a small independent store. Except for high-end department stores or high-end departments within department stores (the designer boutiques within department stores) or better men's departments, I really don't think the managers OR the salespeople are that interested in alterations or someone telling them what it entails. The dress was bought with visible damage that was discussed at the time of sale. At that point it kind of becomes the buyer's responsibility. Let the buyer beware, and all that. I think it would be different if the damage had not been noticed--or if the dress fell apart upon wearing or something. But my daughter saw the tear, showed it to the (young and inexperienced) salesgirl, who probably really did think it could be easily fixed, and then accepted the 10% discount because of the tear. Given all that, while I could go back and ask that they train their salesforce better so as to understand what is easily fixible and what isn't, I don't think I really have the right to ask for money back NOW.

            What I think would have been justified is if I brought the dress back immediately (even though they said no returns because of the damage/discount) and asked to return it. I would have felt like the "fairness" balance was on my side since neither my daughter nor the young salesgirl knew what kind of problem they were looking at. But, it was my choice not to do that.

            I don't know, maybe I'm too cynical... but I think that in a nation-wide department store chain, the individual floor manager of a particular store is just not that interested. (That might be why this store is a so-so department store.) I think a privately-owned clothing store is a very different matter. In that case, every sale counts, every customer's satisfaction is important, and individual relationships with customers matters. Maybe that SHOULD be true with the dep't store chains, but it isn't.

            I'm going to ask my dad his opinion--he has worked in retailing his whole life, in upper level (executive) management for major department stores (Bloomingdales, etc.)--he's sure to have a point of view!

            Anyway, the prom is tomorrow night. We have shoes (bought) and a black evening bag (borrowed) and I made a hair ornament--painted some satin ribbon pale green (couldn't match the color) and made a flower and leaves, ornamented with silver sequins and crystals like the embroiderly on the dress, and put it all on a comb which she'll wear on one side. She has jaw-length hair so can't wear it up, but wanted something fancy. I love making stuff like that.

            Hope everyone is having a nice Friday!

          10. KharminJ | | #52

            Your accessories sound lovely, too, Rocky!Oooh! Oooh! Don't forget to post us pictures, too!

            About going back to the store ~ While it's true *in general* that larger chain stores don't officially have the time or inclination to educate their staff about such things as alterations and repair, it's really unfair to the *individuals* at that particular store, to not at least offer to share your knowledge. You don't have to go into excruciating detail, unless they're really interested. There's probably six different versions in different traditions ~ to the point that "If you never ask, the answer will always be NO"!Anyway, we're glad you shared the journey with US!Have a beautiful weekend! Kharmin

          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #53

            Sounds like you and your lovely daughter are having a blast getting ready for her prom. All the fun details, and making all the fun accessories too! She is lucky to have such a talented Mom and you are lucky to have a daughter who appreciates it.
            I apologize for pressing the point about going back to the store. The matter is entirely up to you, and how you handle it. I guess that I am the type of person who gets really fed up with the cavalier attitude that some of the staff of many chain stores have towards their customers. Having worked retail I find it most disturbing. I guess I just worked in the days when it was not tolerated.
            Meantime, have fun with your daughter and her prom, take lots of pictures, and post some so we can enjoy it also. Cathy

          12. Ocrafty1 | | #54

            Reading this thread has brought back so many memories of when my daughters were in HS. They are only 15 months apart, so they went to all the same dances, except 2...and usually made gowns for their friends as well. I also made all of the accessories (or they made them) and also would make cumberbuns and bow ties to match my daughters' gowns.  It seems they always picked a color that the tux rental places couldn't match. Oh, those were the days!  LOL Enjoy these times...they are such precious memories! 

            Per the store....I agree with Cathy....just 'cause they are a chain store doesn't mean they don't have obligations to their customers...and to their 'bottom line.'  I live near 2 fairly small cities, and even the chain stores need their customers' good will during these economic times.  I would approach the manager and offer to speak to the employees about the costs/value of alterations.  A good alterations person can change the size/fit of a gown....that makes another SALE for them, helps the local economy, and makes a customer very happy...one that will probably 'spread the word' about the wonderful help from that particular store. Put to them in this manner, they would be foolish to refuse your help!  Just a thought!!! ;^)

            Deb

            PS....Don't forget to post pix....we are so anxious to see them!!! Please share soon!

          13. RockytheScout | | #55

            Hi everyone,

            Sorry it's taken me till now to post pictures... it's been a busy week! First, thanks to everyone who's written. And to those who have been encouraging me to talk to people at the store where my daughter bought the dress, I appreciate your desire to help educate people and also to ensure that someone else doesn't end up in the situation we were in.

            My daughter had a great time at the prom--the dress looked and fit great and she wore high heels and makeup for the first time. (Yes, she's 18, but she's not a dress-uppy kind of person.) She, her boyfriend, and a group of friends went out to dinner first, then to the prom which was in a reception/catering hall in the city that's near us, and then to someone's house for the "afterparty." At 2 the girls left and the boys all slept over there--the girls went to one of their houses and all slept over there. So we didn't see my daughter again till about 10 the next morning!

            Anyway, here are the pictures. One is full-length--the dress is being blown by the wind so the skirt looks weird--oh well. The other shows the hair ornament I made (also not a great picture). I have the picture the photographer at the prom took which I'm going to scan but I haven't yet, so I can't post that yet.

            Thanks again to everyone who helped me in this adventure--with advice, encouragement, compliments, suggestions, and praise. It meant a lot!

            Rocky

          14. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #56

            Wonderful! By the Glorious Smiles, Your daughter felt like a princess, and her date thought she looked like one! Nice job on the hair piece Rocky, it was the perfect touch. Cathy

          15. Ocrafty1 | | #57

            Mission accomplished!!!!  Your daughter had the gown she wanted, it fit wonderfully, and she had the prom of her dreams.  The hairpiece was just the right accent.  Mom...ya done good!!! (Give yourself a pat on the back!!!)

            Deb

          16. Teaf5 | | #58

            Lovely! I can see why it would be worth a little work to get that dress at a discount; it's a lovely shape and design.And that hair decoration is exquisite--well done!

          17. User avater
            rodezzy2 | | #59

            The dress is beautiful and so is the lady wearing it.  You did a wonderful job.

          18. MaryinColorado | | #60

            I hope she had a wonderful time!  I'm sure she looked so beautiful and grown up.  Did you shed a fear tears seeing your little girl look so grown up?  I know I did back when my daughter was that age, and more recently when my grand daughter attended her first Homecoming dance. 

            Thanks for sharing the photos and your experience with repairing the gown.  The hair ornament sounds perfect too!  What a lucky girl to have such a caring creative talented mom!  Blessings to you and your family.  Mary

            Oh, just saw the photos!  She looks beautiful in her dress!  The young man looks handsome and his tux co ordingates perfectly, as do the corsages!  They look so young and happy.  Her dress and hair ornament are very stylish and lovely too!  HOpe they had a wonderfully memorable time! 

            Edited 5/2/2009 12:35 am by MaryinColorado

          19. momkelly | | #61

            Couldn't help but add my own story to this...    as you were talking about how a change in a dress to make it work..   adds the best detail to it.  

              My DD's Sr. Homecoming ..   we went looking for her dress .. found a dress she liked in a size 8  she was a size 2 or smaller.     but she really liked the dress  was $168   on sale for $39.99.   big bargain..    so we could afford to have it altered.

            when I showed her it could be altered to fit her and how it would look.. she  said   that's the one.   so we bought it .. on the way home she said .. not to pay to have it altered..   and asked that I do it.  

            I can sew but alterations not my thing.   She reminded me it was not the prom and I would do fine.     so we went home she put it on   I took the princes seems in the back and   folded the double layer dress in..    and hand stitched them in..      just to the waste..   it created a fold in the back of the dress that ended up adding  a fabulous  detail to the dress.   and it was even prettier than  the way we bought it!   a piece of sheer blue fabric.. that I happen to have..  made a shawl..  and she was Beautiful..      for $40 and a few hours of my time!  

             

          20. MaryinColorado | | #62

            Wow!  I love to hear these great successful stories!  Not only did your daughter express her confidence in your abilities, you discovered it was something you could do successfully, and you enhanced her dress, not to mention saved some money.  It doesn't get any better than that!  Yahoo! 

          21. Ceeayche | | #45

            Your daughters are blessed!  Both dresses are very nicely done and fit very well.

      3. Ralphetta | | #12

        It sounds like you've got a good plan. I'm glad you weren't offended at my suggestion to go back to the store.

        1. RockytheScout | | #15

          Why would I be offended--even if I totally disagreed (which I didn't) I came here asking for advice! I appreciate that you took the time to give me some--

          Rocky

  5. Ocrafty1 | | #16

    Congrats on going to the costumer for ideas!  Don't think that just because you a 'mom that sews' that you can't do alterations!  That's exactly how I got started doing alterations at a Bridal shop.  I actually took in dresses I'd made for my girls to show her what I could do. I sewed for myself and kids, so I knew the basics...you're just beginning to explore new techniques. 

    Keep your courage up.  At first, when working in a bridal shop, I was intimidated by the thought of working on a "wedding gown."  But then I told myself that this is just another dress, and I knew the basics of construction.  Alterations are a little different than sewing for clients in my home (which I do now)...there are shortcuts that they expect you to use in the industry.  I got in trouble with the owner for taking off a bottom ruffle to shorten the gown.  They 'fold up' the difference at the seam line and just sew it over, so that it can be let down again....and it takes too much time to reattach a ruffle...they want production!  Now I do it however I deem best...usually depending on the construction/original cost of the gown. 

    You learn as you go, and the people on this site are wonderful about helping out!  I just altered a couture gown that a bride bought at a Salvation Army store (I have a post here...couture bridal gown) I never would have dreamed I could do this 20 yrs. ago.

    But the point is....You can do this!  You have the sewing skills; just think of this as adding 'designer techniques' to your list of new skills...just go for it!  You can also do a search on this site about adding "details" and get some ideas for 'individualizing' future gowns for your daughter....and her friends!  You may be surprised and get lots of requests for the next dance.  I made my 2 daughters and 4 of their friends formals all through HS.  They don't want to walk in and be wearing the same gown that someone else has on.  This could be a whole new opportunity for you!  Have fun with it!!!! 

    Can't wait to see the pix!

    Deb

    1. RockytheScout | | #17

      Deb, thank you so much for the encouragement! What a nice post. I had read all about your couture wedding gown--wow, what an amazing story. I think it's great that you weren't intimidated, but instead were thrilled and eager to learn about it and work on it. It sounds like the bride was not really aware of what she had stumbled upon, however!

      I don't know if I ever will be expert enough to go into alterations/sewing as a career, but I do enjoy it. I made my younger daughter (age 13) a wonderful floor-length-with-train elf maiden costume for Halloween. It had those long, bell-like sleeves. I like doing costumes because I don't have to worry if things aren't perfect! I don't sew much else since I have 3 girls who live in T shirts and jeans (another reason this prom dress was a big deal). I make quilts and cat beds and things like that, though!

      As for my daughter's dress, I did the zipper replacement as the costumer had suggested, and it worked great. I am going to take pictures a little later today and post them. It looks like something a little unusual is going on around the zipper (lol) but I think it looks better than it would have if I had tried to insert gussets into the back side seams. My daughter is completely happy with it. It seems to fit her quite well (I had to take in the frayed seam, then took in the corresponding seam so the dress wouldn't be crooked, and then added the width back in at the zipper, so I was a little worried that it would end up too big or too small, but it's great) and it gives me such a good feeling to know the seam is secure and sturdy now.

      Anyway pictures are coming, and thanks for writing--and to everyone for their support and encouragement.

      1. Ocrafty1 | | #18

        Congrats on conquering a new challenge!  Don't discount your talents...you know more than you think you do.  When making the 'homey' things that you do, you are using the same techniques that you do in making a formal.  Many of us recently learned that we have been using 'couture techniques' without even knowing it. 

        I'd highly suggest that you invest in Claire Schaffer's "Courture Techniques."   I bought it on eBay for under $25.  There is so much info in there that you can use in any sewing project.  I've learned a lot...and it isn't hard at all.

        Keep asking questions here...and looking in the Archives.  Everyone here is wonderful about helping and giving suggestions...even posting copies of directions for 'how to...'  This site is fantastic for anyone who sews. I check it out nearly every day...and almost always learn something.

        Deb

        1. RockytheScout | | #19

          Thank you for the book suggestion, Deb.

          Okay, so here are some pictures. The first is of the seam before I did anything (can you see why my heart sank?) The next is of the dress on my daughter with the frayed seam trimmed, seam tape added, and seam sewn (smaller), the corresponding other side seam also taken in, and a new zipper added with some extra fabric between it and the dress. It is basted in as you can see. The seams pucker a little but they did before too...I think...

          Next pic shows the back of the dress, finished, with new zipper in place. As you can see there is an extra set of "lips" surrounding the zipper but it really doesn't look bad, I think--perhaps a bit intriguing. ("Oh, what a fascinating zipper you have!") And finally, a picture of the whole front and whole back of the dress.

          I'm going to back to the costume guy tomorrow with a plate of brownies to say thanks. I wouldn't have thought of adding fabric at the zipper but having seen how the seams pucker even when they're straight, I know if I'd tried to add gussets to them it probably would have been a disaster.

          Now we just need shoes and she's good to go... Yippee!

          THanks to everyone for the support and encouragement. I am definitely not at the sewing level of most of you, I think, but I still find it interesting to read about couture techniques and other "high level" sewing. I've been a subscriber to Threads since waaay back (I have a complete collection, from Issue 1) and I kind of liked it better when it had more funky stuff and more topics outside of fine sewing (like dying, knitting, quilting, etc.--more diversity) but I still read and enjoy it every month.

          Thanks again, friends!

          1. RockytheScout | | #20

            I just looked at the pictures I posted and they're giant--is there a way for me to make them smaller? Should I save them in lower resolution and re-post them? Also, sorry they're not such great pictures. They looked fine in the tiny screen on the camera...

          2. sewslow67 | | #21

            Don't worry about the size, Rocky; they are just fine.  And the larger size makes the detail easier to see.  It looks nice, and I'm sure your daughter must be pleased.  I can see why your daughter wanted the dress.  It's lovely.  Good job!!!

          3. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #22

            What a great dress! No wonder your daughter fell in love with it. You've done a nice job of repair work, and you should be proud of yourself. Trust me, this will be something your daughter will remember lovingly about you the rest of her life. She may not fully appreciate it now, but as she matures, her appreciation level will increase and it will be such a fond memory of you. I know this because of personal experience with my own mother. Your costumer friend surely came through in a clutch, and I am so thankful to you for posting his resolution and your results. I know many of us have made note of this technique.

          4. Ocrafty1 | | #23

            Hey Rocky.....Ya done Good!!!!  Now that I can see mess you started with, it makes much more sense.  Might be an idea to post pix with your problem...if there is a next time...so we can see what you're dealing with. 

            Your daughter will have a wonderful time, with not a worry in the world about her dress!  Be sure to start an album with pix of her in the clothes (and other crafty things) you've altered/made for her.  I never thought that when I was making dresses for my girls and their friends that I would be starting a business...small as it is, but now I show those pix to my prospective clients, as well as all the others I've added.  If you don't end up doing anything else, it will be a wonderful memory for both of you later. They still store their gowns here :(, and love to try to try them on from time to time. (They never quite fit, but its a fun walk down memory lane. LOL)My girls are now in their 30's, and the eldest granddaughter is nearly 10...just a few more years before Grammy makes gowns for her!

            Great job! 

            Deb

            P.S.   Might you get to know your costumer friend better and volunteer at the same place?  I'll bet with your crafting/fiber talents you'd be much appreciated, have fun, and learn LOTS!!!

             

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #24

            BRAVO! Job well done! Nothing wrong with those repairs at all my friend. A lesson learned for us all, and a feather in your cap as well. Thank you for posting the pictures. When they are opened in a new tab, they are the perfect size to see the details. Cathy

          6. Lilith1951 | | #25

            Rocky, thanks so much for sharing the problem, the solution and the photos! We got to learn while you learned. I have fond memories of sewing gowns for young daughters. It's some of the best stuff that we shared during their teen years.

          7. Gloriasews | | #26

            That's a lovely gown.  You did a super job on the repairs - no one will ever know there was a problem with the dress, unless your daughter tells them.  Be proud of yourself!

            Gloria

          8. RockytheScout | | #27

            Thank you, everybody! You're all so kind. I wish I could take credit for actually making the dress or something, but all I did was fix a little problem... My daughter was very happy with it--I think because I had told her that I'd be replacing an invisible zipper with a regular zipper and so the zipper would show--and she thought that meant it would be completely exposed. :-)

            This daughter (C.) chose to go shopping, although I had offered to sew something for her--and my feelings weren't hurt!--but her twin sister, R., and I together sewed the dress for R's high school graduation. (R. goes to a boarding school; C. goes to our local high school. The girls are identical twins and felt the need to develop separate identities and have separate lives, which is why R. goes away to school.) At R.'s school, all the girls wear white dresses (any style) for graduation, and because R. is interested in sewing, when she was last home over spring break we made a lovely dress, white cotton with a white embroidered organza overlay. R. did most of the work, but I helped with some things. Oh what the heck, I'll post a picture!

            I hope everyone's not sick out of hearing me blab on but I feel like I'm talking to a group of new friends...

             

          9. KharminJ | | #28

            Very nice, Rocky! Don't sweat the "blab" ~ you ARE talking to a bunch of friends! And you have every reason to be proud-as-punch of your accomplishments!Bright Blessings - to you and the girls! Kharmin

          10. sewslow67 | | #30

            I agree with Kahrman; you are talking to your friends!  The white dress is lovely (as is the darling girl wearing it), and how fun that the two of you worked on it together. 

            My mother didn't sew, but when she knew I had a special project to work in, she would inform me on Friday night that: "now honey; I will do all your chores this weekend so you can sew from Friday evening to Monday morning with no interruptions".  That was such a wonderful gift and one I shall remember 'till I die.  It was particularly generous too, since she worked full time during the week, teaching school. 

          11. joyfulneedles | | #32

            I think both dresses look absolutely fabulous.  As with many alterations, they are more difficult to repair than constructing from scratch. 

            Just another opinion on the photo's.  I wish I had taken pictures before and after of some the creations I had made.  I have some of a baby quilt I hand quilted and the little tote bag that matched and went to the big sister.  And the dog got in some of those pictures. 

            Keep up the great work.

          12. Gloriasews | | #35

            Oh - what a lovely, simple dress, yet elegant!  Fits very nicely, too!  You two did an excellent job!  Blab away!

            Gloria

          13. Ocrafty1 | | #36

            I LOVE the white dress!  Both of your daughters are lucky to have you and your talents.

            You will (if you haven't already) quickly figure out that once you're here...you are among friends. You'll get to be 'closer' to some than to others, but we all encourage and comfort each other as the occasion demands.  Some of us are 'gabby' (that would be me at the top of the list) and some are more reserved, but we all love to sew and we learn from each other, no matter what our skill levels are.  Some are better at formal/wedding sewing, others work with woolens, some create patterns, some are just beginners. The thing we all have in common is that we love sewing and want to learn more.  There is always a new, quicker, or better way to do something....and usually someone here can figure out a way to fix an absolutely unfixable problem. 

            None of my 'local' friends sew or have any interest in sewing...unless they want me to fix something for them.  When I tried to share my excitement about getting to alter a couture wedding gown, they all said, " oh, how nice."  When I described things to them...it was, " uh, huh."  I came here and shared my experiences with my sewing friends.  It was almost as good as having them here!  I've only met 1, so far, in person, but am looking forward to meeting a few more. Being able to PM allows us to communicate personally.  You've just joined a huge group of 'sew-it-alls'!

            BTW ladies and gents: my son just informed me that I'm a Troll!  That's internet speak for those of us who go to forums all the time.  My daughters had little dolls they called trolls...but in my day they were called Wishnicks!  LOL

            Deb

          14. RockytheScout | | #37

            Thank you, Deb, and everyone else--you have all encouraged me and had nice things to say.

            Next project--a poodle skirt and crinoline for younger daughter (13 years) who needs it for a chorus concert (they're doing a medley from "Grease"). I have always kind of disliked the way poodle skirts have become the iconic symbol of the '50s--and my mom, who was 16 in '52, never wore a poodle skirt in her life. But anyway, that's what they're all going to wear so we'll make one together... instead of a poodle, we're either going to put on a marmelade cat (the skirt will be bright purple) or, my vote, a penguin!

            By the way, Deb, I believe that a "troll" is actually someone who stirs up trouble on the Internet--at least in my experience. You know, someone who posts, sometimes anonymously, argumentatively in order to start fights. I'm SURE this is not what you do! Maybe your son was teasing you? On the other hand, it could have more than one meaning--I'm not the expert!

            I remember those little trolls--they could go on the end of your pencil? I never had one, but I wanted one.

            By the way, I officially volunteered to help with sewing costumes at our playhouse. I'm excited! (I went by to thank the costume designer for helping me and I brought him some brownies--and asked him about getting involved.) The next big production they're doing is "The Full Monty" and the costume designer told me they'll need people to rip apart police uniforms and sew velcro on to make them "rip-away." :-)

            Now I'm off to go for my walk--it's beautiful out where I am (Tennessee)--hope everyone else has nice weather too.

          15. Ocrafty1 | | #38

            You're gonna have a blast working with the playhouse. I did a lot of that type of work when I worked with our local youth circus. (I put something up a post ..http://forums.taunton.com/tp-gatherings/messages/?msg=9461.3   ...if you want to check it out.

             When we had to help the performers change costumes quickly we called it "strip & zip." I really miss doing that, but most of the helpers are usually moms, and they get territorial about their childrens' costumes and ideas for them.  I'd been asst. wardrobe mistress for 4 yrs. and a mom who's daughter had been in for a few yrs. took over my position. She really got her nose out of joint when someone would suggest something other than what she wanted.  As she said...I didn't have anyone in circus anymore, so why was was it any concern of mine.  I didn't need the drama, so I bowed out...and the costumes that yr. looked like crap, and needed repair after each performance. LMAO,  not my problem. 

            I may volunteer to help with our local playhouse....depends on what they need and when they need it.  Harley season is upon us and I intend to be on ours.

            Poodle skirts are fun...I made one when DH was into antique cars and they had a contest at one of the shows. I showed up after DH was already there.  He didn't even recognize me when I walked past him!  That was a hoot! We'd also made them for a circus act, so I had access to some of the patterns.  A cute idea for the "chain" is to use lightweight, chunky, beaded trim.  I found some that was shiny silver and looked like 1/4" squares...perfect for the bling! whether its for a cat, penguin or whatever...Have fun with that one!

             

            Gotta go....my son just informed me that he's inviting his girlfriend (didn't know he had one) over this afternoon.  Since none of the other kids/grandkids were coming over, I hadn't planned on making anything special for dinner....Ham's already in the oven, but I was gonna opt for sandwiches.  Now I've gotta figure something else out quick.....and of course the stores are closed.   Dontcha just love kids!  We'd planned on going for a ride on the bike this afternoon....

            DS (age 25) said Trolls are those who browse/read forums.  "Flamers" browse forums and cause trouble....He told me to google it next time and figure it out for myself.....He pulled a muscle in his back yesterday and is being pretty whiney about it. Won't follow any suggestions I make.....When do we get to quit being Mom?????? (just kidding)

            Have a Happy Easter!!!!!!

            Deb

            Edited 4/12/2009 2:33 pm ET by Ocrafty1

          16. sewelegant | | #40

            I graduated from high school in 1957 and though I did not have a "poodle skirt" the circular felt skirts were eveywhere.  I don't remember which year, for sure.  Crinolines were also the rage.  But, so was Lawrence Welk.  And Elvis was changing everything.  Television was not so good out in Montana at that time so, unlike today with the whole country into the same thing, it may have just been something popular in the magazines or the movies.  Whatever, whenever I see those poodle skirts I certainly do remember them.  They were a quick passing fad though, thank goodness.  Jantzen sweaters and Pendleton jackets were more popular and enduring.

            As for the dress you altered beautifully, at first I couldn't imagine it turning out so well!  At first I thought you should think about applying rhinestones (or similar) around the zipper insertion to hide the flaws, but then thought maybe it would just call attention to it.  Then you posted the picture and the dress was so beautiful I could see why your daughter loved it.  Who's going to look at the back?  Being black, I think, certanly helps.  It does make you feel good when you can work little miracles, doesn't it?  Congratulations.  I love the white dress too.

          17. RockytheScout | | #42

            I'm actually relieved to hear that poodle skirts, or anyway those circular felt skirts, really were worn back then... it must have just not been in style for my mom (in New York), who is very close in age to you (graduated high school in '54).

            She's told me the big style when she went to college (also in New York) was bermuda shorts and trenchcoats. !!

            I agree that if the dress hadn't been black the zipper alteration would have been a lot more noticeable. (Also, I would have had the problem of having to match the fabric.) So that was lucky.

          18. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #39

            A lovely dress on a lovely young lady! BTW this is the place to come to talk on about your sewing and sewing progress! You are amongst friends here. Cathy

          19. User avater
            jpadden53 | | #29

            Your "repairs" look FABULOUS! I probably would have tried to find a similar embroidery pattern and embroidered the back bodice like the front pleat. You are very talented and your daughter is lucky to have such a persistent mom. I have four daughters and just finished my first wedding dress. I learned so much in the construction of that dress and I am so happy to be still learning every day! I'll bet your daughter looks fabulous in the dress.

  6. dominote | | #46

    Hi, I have done bridal alterations for years and am appalled at what happened with the prom dress experience. Great idea to take it to a local costumer. If I were near you I would offer to fix it for you at no cost. It really "bothers" me when shops take advantage of its younger customers. I also agree that trying to take it back to the shop and talking to the owner might be good. I know "word of mouth" can't be good for anyone's business, especially in this "downturned economic" society.   And, if you decided to go ahead with the repair/alterations youself I would do as the costumer advised, that way if you have trouble you can go back to him with questions.

    I loved doing bridal alterations and actually only had 1 bad experience in the almost 30 years I did them. But the bride was a mess emotionally, so I really did try to "cut her some slack" and actually just ended up not charging for anything by the time the dress was done. I had over $200.00 in alteration fees, but decided I would just cut my "losses" at that point and be thankful the dress was done!  It was just "time"anyway.

    Good luck!!!!!

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