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ouch from a beaded dress

Oopsidaisy | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I haven’t looked at all the discussions but I have a question. About a beaded dress (again). I bought a beaded dress. Beaded all over, sleeveless. Gorgeous. Compliments galore. I wore it one night and after about half an hour I had sore underarms from the abrasion of the beads against my skin. The beads are small bugle beads and so have sharp edges and the skin on the inner part of arms is quite sensitive. Needless to say I danced with my arms in the air all night. I have thought of making a bolero/shrug in organza, with sleeves to the elbow but I don’t want to be forced to wear the bolero all night. I thought also there might be something I could paint on the ends of the beads…carefully… so they’re not so sharp. I’d be prepared to spend the ages doing that, rather than make a coverup. Has anyone tried this? Sigh. Talk about fashion victim!!!!


  1. User avater
    fashionlizard | | #1

    Ohhhhh! That is so sad! :(
    One wonders "what was the designer thinking??!!" when they beaded the underarm areas of that bodice. I feel your pain!
    I suppose from your bolero thoughts that removing the beads from that area is out of the question? The other thing you could do is strategically drape petals of the shearest of shear fabrics from the top edge of your bodice to act as a protective layer under your arms.... but I have to say that your bolero/shrug idea sounds better. Maybe if you combine the two ideas....if you design the coverup with a similar petal idea, then the remaining petals of shear fabric on the bodice after removing the coverup would appear to be more intentional and not have to be too large...just large enough do do the job it has to do on the sides....without hiding the majority of the lovely beadwork.

    I can't think of any transparent paint-on material to cover the beads with that wouldn't turn out to be just as irritating in its own way...but if I do...I'll let you know. It probably isn't just the edges of the glass or plastic beads being ultra sharp, but probably a function of their shape, too.

    1. Oopsidaisy | | #3

      Come to think of it, I could maybe make a bolero without sleeves, just enough to cover the sides of the dress down to about waist level to stop the skin touching the beads. I love the leaves idea...it's given me an idea for something again.

      And then again maybe I could attach a floaty thing from the shoulders, (for want of a better phrase, like a superman cape) that attaches round the back of the armhole to under the arms. At least then I could slide some fabric between my arms and the beads for a bit of relief during the evening, LOL. But seriously, I've always dremed of having something drapey hanging from my shoulders like that. This might be the time for it.

      Thanks Fashionlizard

  2. User avater
    paddyscar | | #2

    Could you try some clear caulking to touch on to the edges of the bugle beads?  Caulking is latex, so that might be another problem altogether.  What about an emery board to rub the edges of the beads, or would that dull them? 


    1. Oopsidaisy | | #4

      Now there's an idea! Caulking...is that the silicone stuff used to waterproof things? A sealant? That's clearish. I could try that, maybe with a q-tip. I was actually thinking of clear nailpolish but was worried about the control of the liquid and spoiling the silk fabric underneath. I also wasn't sure if it would make enough of a cover over the bead edges. Then there's also the problem of what happens when you take it to the dry cleaners. It's hard to practice because you only can tell when you're wearing the garment what it means to be chafed like that continuously. My husband , bless him, said I should take a photo, remove the beads....... and replace them with the photo!

      1. User avater
        paddyscar | | #5

        "Caulking...is that the silicone stuff used to waterproof things? A sealant? That's clearish."

        That's it - and it is available in squeeze tubes like toothpaste.  But I really don't think you could dry clean it, without it melting all over the dress.  It would probably be OK if you were going to hand wash it.

        Maybe your husband was on the right track with a photo - transfer, that is!  :))


      2. User avater
        fashionlizard | | #6

        I don't think I would recommend using any kind of silicon based or latex sealant. That stuff is really hard to use nicely! Its viscosity is way too high. It will form little peaks if you try to dab it and silicon leaves an oily film on things. If you wanted to paint the beads with something.... what about gel medium? That is the stuff that you add to acrylic paints to ummm... "water" them down when you are painting. It comes in different finishes; matte, gloss... and if it is a thin coat, it is clear. Since it is meant to painted, it would work a lot better than sealant. It is water soluable when wet, but will stay put when dry. Here is a link to an online list of gel media: http://www.artsuppliesonline.com/catalog.cfm?cata_id=479 As you can see...there sure are a lot of possibilities! I would stay away from sealants and look for something in this catagory if you **really** want to paint something on the beads.I still think that bolero/petal idea will look a lot prettier in the end!

        1. Oopsidaisy | | #9

          Thanks for that. I've found another new thing out, the gel, (I might just look into that because I love looking in artist supply shops because they have amazing stuff) and silicone, you're right probably doesn't fit the bill.

          At least you've all stopped me from just going ahead and doing something I might regret later. Thanks everyone.

          1. User avater
            fashionlizard | | #10

            If you decide to use the gel, rather than trying to paint anything on the dress itself...I hope you will find some similar beads and make a test piece first. That will do two things; find out how easy it is to work with the material, and try out the test piece under your arm to see if it even solves the problem.

          2. Oopsidaisy | | #11

            Oops...thanks Mum. Yes, I almost forgot I should test a piece on scrap first.

          3. User avater
            fashionlizard | | #12


  3. sueb | | #7

    Hi Oopsidaisy,

    I'm not sure that coating the beads with anything is going to stop them from causing discomfort when they rub against your skin unless you put a piece of fabric between them and your skin you're still going to feel something whether it's the bead or the coating that you've put on them.  Not having seen the dress, can you add a complimentary piece of fabric to the side of the dress that the inside of your arm would rest upon when it's down?  Or would it be possible to remove the offending beads?  What about a wearing a pair of those long gloves?

    1. Oopsidaisy | | #8


      There's a good idea. Long gloves! I think that might be the best idea yet. They'd have to be really long ones but I do like that. Not fiddling with the dress itself is ideal.


  4. user-1123855664 | | #13

    I'd try one of the following: 1) Remove the beads for about 1/4" to 3/8" from all around the entire armhole area or just the portion under your arm and the front, tapering from 3/8" at the front and diminishing to nothing at the shoulder seam. This would be time consuming but I believe that it would give you the best results. Try to make it look like a design feature. Or 2) cover the offending beads around the entire airmhole for about 1/4" with the equivalent of a seam binding. You would need to carefully match the color but not necessarily the fabric. You might be able to find a sateen type fabric or ribbon or trim or a piece of the lining to use to cover the beads. Recently I made some modifications on a purchased suit in a very dressy matte fabric and found a shiny fabric in the same color that I was able to use as trim to cover a problem. It was a similar challenge to the one that you're facing. Good luck!

    1. Oopsidaisy | | #14

      Thanks Melinda. There's another good idea. I guess I have heaps of time. I won't be wearing the dress again for a while.

  5. algurley | | #15

    I, like you have a fatal love for beaded dresses. In fact, I used to collect 1920's french beaded dresses. They were handed sewn all over on black silk organdy. I, also, design jewelry.  When I make my own pre-beaded dresses, I use pliers and crush the beads in the seam.  I use unbeaded silk organdy for the the facings. I then go back, as part of the finishing of the dress, and replace beads.  With bugle beads in senetive areas,  like underarms, neckline I snuggle up to the bead a small seed bead. I find it give me the most comfort.  I  do use, very carefully, and with real life testing, (washing, etc.) fabric glue on knots.

    I liked the long gloves idea. Love to know if you find a pattern.


  6. msm | | #16

    what an interesting thread! and some good ideas.
    1) crushing some beads as mentioned above by alquirly, and filling in if need be with round seed beads in a similar color is a brilliant idea. use needle-nose pliers and try selecting the beads which point in the worst direction; with any luck, there's maybe 20 under each arm that are the worst offenders and it will feel better with just them gone. be careful not to cut the fabric when you break the beads.
    2) - re. the cover thing, covering the beads will probably look a little bulky, even with sheer fabric. i'd remove the beads first, as above, and then add a crescent of either a matching or a complimenatary contrasting fabric in a crescent shape under the arm, and possibly at the neck back or in some other place to make it look intentional. this would be an opportunity to add a contrast color that will make the dress work with a different pair of shoes r some favorite jewelry (a silver or gold satin could be nifty)
    3) the caulk- glue (something thick, clear and fast drying like Fabri-tac) is not a bad idea-- try some on a swatch of cloth, preferably beaded cloth, and take it to your drycleaner for a trial cleaning to see what happens.

    Edited 11/12/2005 10:46 pm ET by msm

    1. stuckinaloop | | #17

      Well, it's me Oopsidaisy. I got stuck trying to get back into the discussion, LOL and got sent to a page that said create-a-name so I did, not thinking it would actually let me in, because it didn't last night after a gazillion attempts and frantic searches for my password. And the security question didn't help much either because I couldn't remember which pet I'd honoured this time.

      I had occasion to wear my lovely dress again on the weekend. Mum told me to wear it because "you never know how long you'll be able to fit in it". Of course I hadn't done anything to change it. I just made sure I moved very carefully all night. I've realised that the long gloves probably wouldn't work because they'd have to reach right up to the armpits which would look ok on a strapless dress but mine is a round-neck sleeveless number. And now I've worn it twice, I'm over trying to look like a model, LOL. I think I've decided to make that sheer bolero.

      Thanks again to all

      1. user-51823 | | #18

        just choose your fabric for the bolero carefully. if the beads cut up your flesh, they will also possibly distres your fabric. would velvet suit you? the nap will help it protect itself, and with the winter here it would be appropriate

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