Something Borrowed

One of my favorite projects over the many years I have been a dressmaker is remaking a vintage wedding gown. It may have belonged to the bride’s mother or grandmother or even the groom’s family. I have known families who invested in one gown and it became a tradition to use it for several generations.

Sometimes, it’s an emotional attachment to the gown. Maybe the bride has always admired her grandmother’s long and happy marriage or her mother has passed away and this is a way to include her in the festivities.

Whatever the reason, I always feel honored to be part of the process and it can be a very involved process at that. The bride is almost always bigger than the original wearer of the gown. There can be issues with the wear and tear of the gown, especially if it wasn’t preserved properly. And then there’s the problem of style. The bride has to feel like it is now her dress and not a “hand-me-down.”

A gown I worked on recently was beautifully preserved, although a bit crumpled from being in the preservation box since 1955. The dress was satin with a lace overlay, and a net skirt. The bride wanted to keep the original design as much as possible but it was way too small across the back for the bride. Also, the Chantilly lace was a bit fragile. Fortunately, the lace capelet covering the shoulders still fit her so I “only” had to recut the side back panels. I found a lace that was the same pattern as the original, although the rose motif was a bit smaller and I had to tea dye (several times) the satin to match. After fitting the gown, I gave it a good hand press and it looked beautiful on the bride.

“Before” ~ a bit crumpled but no worse for the wearing in 1955. And, yes, this is the front of the dress.

Back View shows the bodice that was too tight for the bride and the lovely covered buttons along the center back seam.

Close-up View of the back of the bodice. You can see the beaded edge of the capelet covering the shoulders. The sequins had turned color but at least they were consistent throughout the dress.

Close-up of the new side panels. You can see that the rose motif is smaller but since it’s mostly on the side and covered by the arm, it blended nicely. And I was able to match the color perfectly… Whew!

After: Back View; all pressed and ready to go!

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Diane says:

    What a wonderful gift to someone to retrofit a family treasure. Your patience, talent and skill are to be admired.

  2. Avatar Karen (mother of the says:

    There are insufficient words to thank Barbara for her care and patience retrofitting our treasured heirloom. I'll admit to being nervous, leaving this dress in the hands of a stranger but Barbara allayed all of my fears. It meant so much to my daughter to be able to wear her grandmother's dress. She was absolutely beautiful, thank you Barbara for making her dream come true!

    • Karen ~ thanks for your trust in me!

      My favorite part of the whole process was when the original wearer of the dress saw it on her granddaughter. Her tears of joy made me tear up, too and that is why I keep Kleenex handy!

      The dress was pretty fragile but maybe another generation will be able to use at least parts of it someday.

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    Barbara, Your skills at remaking certainly aren't limited to wedding dresses. Your remake of that beaded thrift store find is a real treasure to me. Sure didn't fit me when I bought it, but I knew I could count on you to work your magic, and I was right.! Thank you so much, you talented lady!