Being Real about the Dress

June 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

I’ve been holding out on you.  My dress arrived months ago and I haven’t said a word about it.

Can you believe a wedding dress is in that box?

If I had, the first words out of my mouth would made your mama blush.  Hell, they would’ve made a sailor blush.

If you remember (its been a while since we’ve talked about it) my dress was being made a dressmaker I found on  I selected the basic pattern and Mr Pretzel helped me  “design” the details” of the  dress. The pattern is vintage, and one that my dressmaker has made numerous times.  I was happy with her work on my e-dress so I felt confident making this purchase online.  However, I also was realistic. I knew the dress would need to be altered once I got it. Even though she had my measurements nothing takes the place of seeing a dress on the body of the person wearing it so I set aside some money for alterations.  I also knew that I wanted to “have control” over the fabric so I purchased the fabric myself and mailed it to the dressmaker.  I requested that she not hem the dress so that I could do that  in person with my local seamstress. I put a month of cushion in the dress making schedule- to account for any unforeseen problems. All in all I was pretty calm through the whole process.

When I pulled the dress out of the box I was overwhelmed with how beautiful the fabric was. I hadn’t seen the dupioni in person- only a swatch- and it was luxurious.  Then I pulled out the crinoline and my heart stopped.  It was the wrong color.

My heart started pumping again, but this time in hyper-drive.   I stripped down and pulled the dress on.  As I zipped, I sighed in relief – the waist fit like a glove.  I looked in the mirror and my eyes traveled to the bodice- it had entirely too much fabric and was hanging in a shapeless mess.  SH!T!  SH!T, SH!T SH!T!  I pulled on the “wrong color” crinoline- It was  too long and I had a “bump” around the waist. My head was spinning and tears were brimming in my eyes.    I turned to call Mr Pretzel into the room and I felt and heard a pop.  Stitches along the zipper let go and I let out a big F-bomb.

I tried hard to stay positive and made a mental checklist of what was wrong.

  • The crinoline, which was supposed to be white tulle with an aqua ribbon edge, was all aqua.  It was visible through the fabric (and lining) of my wedding dress and it measured 4 inches too long.
  • The shoulders of the dress appeared to be too tall which made the fabric pool around my bust.  I’ve had trouble with dresses fitting in the shoulder area (apparently my bust to shoulder proportions are wonky) so this wasn’t all that surprising.  I found that if I “shortened, the straps that the fabric fell into place better.
  • The stitching around the zipper had popped- at first I blamed myself for not wearing Spanx when I first tried it on, but later I discovered that it was poor stitching.

I shot off a frantic email to the dressmaker and grabbed the phone to call my local seamstress, Sue.  She agreed to meet me that night to assess the situation.  Mr Pretzel tried hard to keep me calm as I went back through my emails to double-check the crinoline order.  I had a sneaking suspicion that the color mix up was my fault and it was.  I had requested an “Aqua crinoline”- when what I really wanted was a “white crinoline with an aqua ribbon edge”.  Damn! I totally own that screw up.

I would love to tell you that my meeting with Sue set my heart at ease but that is not entirely true.  She made me confident that all would be fixed and ok, but she also  found numerous other problems with the dress. It left me feeling disappointed in my dressmaker.  The dressmaker and I chatted a lot back and forth in the process of designing the dress.  I felt a connection and really, really liked her.  Finding these errors and problems made me feel like I had been let down by a friend.  In addition to the problems above my local seamstress found:

  • A sizable nick in the armhole seam.  This jagged bit of fabric was not properly repaired
  • The dress was lined with two different fabrics. The front was a lightweight fabric and the back was a heavy satin.  It appeared that the dressmaker didn’t have enough of the right fabric on hand and just used what she had.  I regret not thinking of purchasing and sending lining fabric as well. note: the dress maker didn’t include yardage for lining fabric when I requested the yardage needed for the dress
  • The crinoline top was made from the heavy satin fabric which bunched at the elastic waist and created a bump under the dress
  • The whole zipper had to be re-sewn because it was not properly anchored

Sue had a plan to correct all of the problems except the lining issue.  We decided that it wouldn’t really matter much with a white crinoline.  We discussed at length what to do about the crinoline.  She described how my dressmaker had made the top of the crinoline (inserting elastic into a rectangular fabric  piece, drawing the excess fabric in at the top) and how she would construct one properly (measuring my waist and creating the top out of a curved piece of fabric to fit my body with no gathering.  We decided that Sue would make me a new crinoline.  I left feeling better about the dress, but worse about the dressmaker.

Over the next month I had 4 more meetings with Sue. She constructed me a beautiful crinoline and saved my dress.  We even changed the design a little in a “project runway” moment.

Wrong color crinoline on the right, my new one on the left.

Close up of the tops. The original crinoline on the left has a bulky top compared with Sue’s crinoline on the right.

I am over the moon for my dress.  I still have lingering bad taste in my mouth about the mistakes that were made (mine and the dress designers) but I am finally able to talk about it.  You might be surprised to know that I still would encourage ordering a custom dress online. With a few stipulations.

  • budget appropriately for alterations
  • expect for it not to fit perfectly when it arrives
  • purchase all of the fabric for the dress and send to dressmaker (including the lining fabric)
  • double check your order to make sure you are asking for the right things
  • double check your measurements

After all the alterations and purchasing material to make a second crinoline I only ended up $50 over my initial budget.  All in all, the problems seemed much worse than they were.  I bet you are wondering where the dress photos are already?  During this time that my dress was being reworked I decided that I didn’t want to post pictures of the dress before the wedding.    I want the dress to be a surprise for our guests, many of who read my posts.  As of today the only people who have seen my dress are Mr Pretzel, Momma P, our dance instructor Andrea, and Sue. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long- under 30 days until the wedding!

Can I tide you over with pictures of the clutch I made from leftover dress material?

Really, no dress photos.  I’m serious…

OK, OK, I’ll give you one small look.

Did you have a dress made for you from afar? Would you add any other suggestions to brides wanting to go this route?

Entry filed under: Dress.

My Friend, the Cobbler Mighty-Moon

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