The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Refashion: Wedding Dress 1970-something to Wedding Dress 2014

I have a few refashioning projects to showcase this month. One of the things I like about refashioning garments, is that there is usually a story involved. The projects come with a shot of nostalgia.

Back in April I previewed a wedding dress I had taken on as a refashioning project. Our bride Jamie really wanted to wear her mother's wedding dress. I don't think she actually liked the dress all that much (and her fiance actively disliked it), but she really liked the idea of wearing something of her mother as she walked down the aisle.

Yep, classic 1970's wedding dress: floor length skirt (as opposed to 1960's wedding tea dresses), fitted lace sleeves, high neck lace overlay on top of princess neckline bodice. Jamie's mom looked gorgeous in it:

Isn't it funny how context changes everything? The dress looks perfect on Jamie's mom in these photos. I think it's because everything goes together - the hair, the hat/veil, even the flower arrangement. It looks old-fashioned on the dress form, but on Jamie's mom it looks sexy and hip. It's harder to like the dress in a modern context, and it needed some help to work for Jamie.

First, even though it had been packed away carefully by a dry cleaner (we had to break the seal to get at it!), it had yellowed a bit in places and was certainly not the bright white color it once was. After researching online, I decided it needed a bath. I removed all the metal bits (buttons, hook and eye, zipper) and soaked it in our tub for 24 hours in cool water. I discovered that our tub will not hold water for that long, so I had to add more water every few hours. This may have helped as the dirty water was replaced by clean multiple times during the soak. And it worked!!


After (with sneak peek of corset back)
I have to admit I was surprised by the results - I was worried that I would somehow damage the dress and I didn't expect it to brighten as much as it did. But there was no other way to do it - it's not like I could cut off a piece of the dress to test it!

The second step was to remove the lace sleeves and yokes. I carefully removed the lace applique that vined up from the bust and the back, and picked away the mesh from the bodice. Jamie wanted this preserved in case her own daughter someday wants to incorporate it back into a new design. I love imagining what this dress might become in 30 or so years!

Back of lace applique

Mesh, lace, and inside of bodice

For the third step I needed to tackle the straps. I very luckily had a 1/2 yard of perfectly matching silk satin in my stash. I found a pattern with straps and neckline similar to what Jamie was imagining and made a muslin. Jamie came to try it on so we could tweak it for fit and placement.

Muslin fitting

Pattern pieces for straps/neckline

Now it was time to tackle the back closure. The dress was a titch too small, and Jamie loved the idea of a corset back. I follow the blog Fit for a Queen, in which Mrs Mole tells stories of the brides and wedding gowns she tackles in her alterations business - it's both hilarious and informative. I knew she had added corset backs to a number of wedding gowns, so I wrote to her asking for help. And Mrs Mole delivered: she sent me to a step-by-step photo tutorial she had written up for Sew Much Talent AND gave me guidance on where to buy satin cording. I was so pleased I didn't have to try to figure this out on my own!!

Loops sewn from cording and Petersham ribbon

Snaps to hold modesty panel in place while lacing

Modesty panel backed with cotton for support/comfort,
boning to stop it from flopping.

All laced up! The ribbon is as close to "Cubbie blue"
as I could find. Thank you, Soutache!
I found this strange, but the dress bodice wasn't lined and it had no boning for structure. I wanted it to have both, so I made an internal corset from the same pattern (Vogue 2237) I used for the wedding dress I made in 2013, and hand stitched this into the bodice.

Finally, all that was left to be done was adding back the lace applique and bustling the back for dancing.

Jamie's sister under the dress to learn how to tie the bustles!

This was a scary process - I was terrified much of the time that I would both ruin Jamie's mother's dress and ruin Jamie's wedding because she wouldn't have enough time to get another dress. I do like taking on these heart-racing projects every now and again, and every time I finish one successfully I have a little more faith in my ability. But it was nice to have some pants to hem when it was all over!

And finally, here are some pictures of Jamie from her wedding day in the finished dress (nothing was ruined!). Isn't she a beautiful bride? Her photographer was Brittany Lynn from Brittany Lynn Studios. I love when I get to see dresses in action, and Brittany is good photographer.

Getting tied up

(I lent my wedding earrings to Jamie so she
would have something borrowed.)

Congratulations to John and Jamie!
I do like getting to be a part of these transformations!

15 comments on "Refashion: Wedding Dress 1970-something to Wedding Dress 2014"
  1. Wow, what a transformation! Beautiful!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Tasha! I'm still thinking about the lovely tank dress refashion you did for the holidays!

  3. I love the story you wrote and the outcome of the dress. Congrats

  4. HOLY SMOKES!! The dress turned out beautifully! Fabulous work, especially adding all the corseted pieces and the modest panel :)

    1. Thanks, Meg! Almost as impressive as your cat woman costume!

  5. Wow wow wow WOW WOW! What an epic refashion! (And epic blog post.) Amazing work you did, all without having a heart attack and dying like I would have. Congratulations!

    1. I did have a series of mini-heart attacks, but luckily survived them all.

  6. Beautiful!!!! I can't imagine putting the dress in to the tub. I would have been terrified! Such a fantastic outcome!

    1. I know! You wouldn't believe how many times I checked on it to make sure it wasn't falling apart or turning blue.

  7. Lovely remake and corset back lacing and internal corset with the end a perfect dress for a perfect day!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Mrs Mole! And BIG thanks again for your help!