Applique | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Custom Wedding Dress Rework + Reception Dress!

May 25, 2014

A soon-to-be-married old friend contacted me a few months back and asked if I would be into in restyling her mother’s wedding gown from the 70’s for her to wear for her upcoming wedding this summer! I was initially a bit wary of cutting into something so special but decided to go for it and I am so glad I did! The original dress was made by a dressmaker in Baguio City, Philippines, and is made of pineapple fibre organdy and beautiful cotton lace with beads and sequins. I was a little nervous with the mention of pineapple fibre as it was totally foreign to me, but it was very easy to work with. The dress was beautiful but a bit dated in a not-totally-flattering way, so we discussed changing it up a little to suit her better. Before:

She gave me a few ideas of styles she liked (boat/bateau neckline, illusion lace) and let me play around to figure out the right way to restyle the dress. I suggested a low cut lace back and she was all over it. The main body of the dress fit fairly well and didn’t need to be taken in much, but I slimmed it down a bit overall.
The main change was of course the neckline and bodice. After much consideration, I carefully cut out the lace (taken from the sleeves and veil) and pieced it in place. I pinned it atop the original neckline and traced the area to be cut away. From there I added a small seam allowance to be turned in and hand-stitched the edges of the new neck and back lines.
Then the fun part! Putting the new neckline and the strategically shaped lace together as one! Much hand stitching later (to create a seamless transition between the appliqued lace and the dress fabric I used very tiny stitches) we had an illusion neckline! The bateau neck is slightly higher at the back to kind of ‘hug’ the back of her neck. The bride is quite petite (more so than my dress form, and the low back will hit in a tasteful but lovely spot.

I am so happy with how this turned out and very inspired to push my limits further!

After the lace was cut for the wedding dress, we realized we had some left over and decided to make a second dress, for her to wear to the reception, which would incorporate the extra lace. I happened to have some lovely cream silk shantung in my collection, so from that I cut a very simple retro 60’s sheath, with bateau neck and V-back. The leftover lace was shaped into an obi belt which fastens with hooks and eyes at centre back.

Overall a very rewarding and great project! Bride and mother-of-the-bride are very pleased with the result! Feels great to be trusted with such a beautiful heirloom item. I preserved large seam allowances in the “new” wedding dress for future alteration possibilty, just in case she wants to hand it down again one day…

  1. This is gorgeous! I love that you preserved the feel of the original dress while creating something totally new. I’m sure the bride and her mother are both thrilled!

  2. Thank you all!! It is so great to be able to share something like this with people of like minds. The wedding is not for a month and a half still but the bride is way cool and didn’t care to keep the dress under wraps, she graciously let me show it off 🙂
    Seriously cannot wait to see her in it! Maybe I’ll post an update photo after the wedding, as it will look way better on her. I have butterflies about it as if it’s my big day too! Haha

  3. As mother of the groom I’ll agree that the bride is “way cool” and really love what you have done with the dress. It is going to be a very special day and what you have done with both dresses to preserve the integral and classic beauty is simply amazing. Thanks so much for the excellent work!

  4. Aww thank you Brenda! Matt and Liz are both such awesome people and I am super happy to help contribute. Congrats on your expanding beautiful family!

  5. hey, i’m going to be shooting their wedding and cannot wait to see your stunning work on the big day! i’ll send you some high-res images for your portfolio if you drop me an email to remind me. you should be seriously proud of what you’ve done here!!

  6. Thanks CC! Photos would be lovely, I really appreciate that. Your photography is gorgeous. It’s gonna look so amazing on Liz, can’t wait!
    I’ll be sure to drop you a line after the wedding 🙂

  7. What a beautiful job you did, and the execution looks flawless! Such a clever approach. I can make just about anything from scratch, but have always found re-fashioning particularly challenging. Very well done, indeed!

  8. Absolutely beautiful! A brave and creative renovation. Clearly, everyone is very pleased. It is a joy to read about a project that is so successful.

  9. Thank you for the kind words! I must say I had to really get my nerve up to make the first cut. I have been refashioning dresses for years but still have to remind myself to double (and sometimes triple) check before cutting, as there are no do-overs! I do both from scratch and restyling and the restyling can often be more time consuming, ironically enough. But it is worth it in the end to take something that will not otherwise get worn or is damaged and make it new again! After all this is what women did though the ages, mending and updating!
    I think with vintage it’s important though to maintain at least the original feel, and the style whenever possible. There is only so much of it in the world..
    I could go on forever..

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