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Julianna & her Mother’s Dress

We absolutely love working on a legacy piece and Julianna’s mom’s dress was no different! It is such a wonderful way to honor the love story that paved the way for a bride's life and their future with their spouse! We all grew up looking at photos of our moms looking so beautiful at their weddings and for the brides that have the opportunity to carry on the legacy of that dress is incredibly special for their family and us!

Here’s some of our moms on their wedding days looking so beautiful!

With Julianna’s moms dress, she loved the dress's overall design which helped simplify this project.

The saga of Renee and her first Ballroom Bustle

When Julianna’s mom wore the dress, it had a traditional bustle which was taken out to accommodate Julianna’s choice of a ballroom bustle. It was important to remove the original bustle so it wouldn’t confuse whoever would do Julianna’s bustle on her big day. Originally, we were going to adapt the bustle but Julianna didn’t like how bulky it looked at the waist so she chose the more streamlined ballroom bustle. Renee, one of our talented seamstresses, worked on Julianna’s bustle. It was her first time ever putting in a ballroom bustle and she did a great job in the end! In the beginning, Renee had a difficult time wrapping her head around the bustle structure and pinned it incorrectly a few times, and once with the numbers backward. This is all part of learning how to put in a bustle! On the 5th try, she got the bustle just right. The satin, lace, and lining layers were all bustled together. Renee had a lot of bustle points to tackle with 13 points total due to the wide skirt! We’re proud of all of your hard work Renee!

Before Bustle

After Bustle!

The Skirt

Julianna has a very petite frame and wanted the skirt to be much less full. We took the skirt in a whopping 2.5 inches on each side! We also removed all of the crinoline from the skirt, so it had significantly less body. For those that don’t know, a crinoline is a type of fabric that is very rigid and is used to add body to a skirt. 

Here you can see where the skirt is pinned to be taken in and where the team will also be shortening the waist.

Normally when you are reshaping a skirt you taper out, but with this dress we had to take in the hem all the way down the dress. This meant that we couldn’t pin the hems until after we took in the dress because it would lay differently once it was taken in. This complicated working on the bustle because everything from the waist down had to wait until the fullness of the skirt was finalized. We had to take in all 4 layers of the dress from both side seams down to the floor, as well as the front and back princess seams. A princess seam is the seam that runs along the front and back of the skirt while side seams run along the sides. This meant the dress needed to be taken in a total of 24 times! Normally we work from the side seams only, but this required taking in all the seams because of how much it needed to be taken in. You have to take in the skirt the whole way around, so it looks balanced when taking it in as much as this. We had to take in all of those layers so that the skirt would drape properly on Julianna’s frame and would help remove more of the skirt's body. 

While this was a major design change to the dress that allowed it to suit her frame better, it did not make the dress look drastically different. We actually had a checklist to help us keep track of all the seams and all the other details we needed to remember!

Beads & general alterations

There was a lot of bead and sequin repair to do because of the dress’s age. The bead and sequin detail on the neck and sleeve cuffs was very loose because that's where the dress was hooked and unhooked. The lace detail on the cuffs did not match so Bea had to completely redo one of the cuffs to match the other in addition to repairing the beadwork. You look at the cuffs and think “That’s such a small area”, but there is so much attention to detail paid to make sure the designs match even though it is a small surface area. Bea took off the lace and beads on one cuff and reattached it so that they were complimentary.

The safety pins mark where repair work is in progress.

Here the sleeve cuff is all done and looking gorgeous!

We replaced the hook and eyes on the neck cuff to make them extra sturdy because those areas get handled more. While the dress was in great condition overall, the bodice required a ton of bead and sequin repair which is very common with heirloom pieces!  

Here you can see where the team were marking the sequins/beads that were missing. They paid close attention to recreating the floral pattern in the skirt

Here the sequin/bead repair is all finished in this section!

The dress’s material was very high quality which made it easy to work with. The original seamstress from when Juilianna’s mom wore the dress made some mistakes which we had to fix. The original hem was very uneven with really messy stitches and had sections with fraying fabric.

You can see the original hem is very wonky and uneven.

Here is the finished fixed hem! Nice and straight!

 A seamstress's work may last a whole generation, so we wanted to make sure we took the time to do things right!

We took in both the sleeves and sleeve cuffs. Julianna loved the collar on the dress, but it was very itchy and scratchy. To fix this we added a velvet ribbon on the inside to make it more comfortable. We also needed to shorten the waist of the dress to fit Julianna’s frame. 

On the front of the dress there is a big lace applique that instead of making it smaller, we lifted the whole thing up and put it back on the dress. This is something that other brides with short waists may encounter. Because of the applique, we could hide the waist seam easily behind it.

Here you can see the applique being reattached.

And here it is beautifully finished!

 Anytime we did anything to the dress the sequins on the dress would catch on the lace which was challenging! Her wonderful bridesmaid, Claudia, came with her to several fittings to learn all the ins and outs of the dress. She was so sweet and became an expert at untangling the lace and sequins. This was a very useful skill to have to help Julianna stay looking glam on her wedding day!

Here we see the glam squad fixing Julianna’s skirt. Good job ladies!

Future Legacy Pieces

The most important tip for other girls who also want a legacy piece altered is that you have to budget for it! There is a serious amount of work and repair that goes into an heirloom dress. For just the beads alone on Julianna’s dress, it took between 8 - 10 hours. That’s just the beads! How the dress is preserved or not preserved also matters. You could have this gorgeous image of your grandma’s dress in mind and then you go to pull it out and the dress has sadly completely disintegrated. The quality of the original dress also really matters. We’ve worked on other heirloom pieces that every time we worked on part of it, it started to unravel which requires extreme care. It is very important to have very delicate hands when working on an heirloom piece. The lace on a dress might need reinforcing or moving to a new location on the dress which all takes time.  

If your mom is smaller than you, even if there are seam allowances enough to let out the dress, the fabric may be too damaged and may require a big design change. A lot of the time girls are not actually altering their mom’s dress, but they are having a custom dress made from their mom’s dress with design features included from the original dress. Julianna liked all of the original features of her mom’s dress; she mainly just needed it customized to her shape. It is of the utmost importance to contact your seamstress with your budget and list what elements you do and don’t like. You will need to be flexible on what elements can and can’t be changed. Some dresses will come with a bigger price tag because of the amount of work it entails. This isn’t to discourage anyone from wearing a family member's dress, it is just important to be realistic about what it will cost to have it done! For some of us plus-size girls, size is also going to come into play for an heirloom piece. If your mom was a size 2 at her wedding and you are a size 22 unfortunately her dress likely isn't going to be able to fit you. Some girls in that situation or who have budgetary constraints have a piece of their mom’s dress sewed into the inside of the dress. We’ve also seen family member's dresses used to decorate the bridal bouquet, a pillow, or a pouch to hold the rings. There are plenty of ways to get creative!

Happily, Ever After

Julianna had 4 fittings total; 4 to 6 fittings is customary for big design changes. We’re so pleased with how her mother’s dress looked on her! They were both such beautiful brides! It is so very special to be part of the story for a legacy piece like this.

Julianna and her mom were all smiles at her last fitting!

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