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Guest Post: How to Redesign a Wedding Dress – Part 2

Today's guest post is the second of three in a series that my Mom wrote for me while I am away on holiday. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here. She's writing about how to redesign a wedding dress, and the dress she is talking about was actually my grandmother's dress that she redesigned for my wedding (I am so lucky!)! So, warning: lots of sentimental photos (and lots of educational photos about her process).

The original dress

Cutting up someone’s wedding dress is pretty scary, exciting, and fun all at the same time. Luckily, I’d done it once before. But, when it’s happening to my mother’s dress, that makes it even more of those things! She had passed away before that day was to come, so she wasn’t here to give her permission. I think she would have approved had she known, because it was to be for her granddaughter, Stacey’s, wedding.

This is how it came to be. When Stacey told us she was engaged, I remember immediately thinking about her love for all things retro. I thought about my parent’s cedar chest, now mine, that holds my, Stacey’s sister Lisa’s, and my mother’s wedding dresses. Since I had made Lisa’s dress not too long before, and I figured mine wasn’t the right vintage (1977), that left my mother’s dress. She and my dad were married in 1952 and I knew that would be the dress out of them all that Stacey might be interested in wearing. I figured she’d probably want to make changes if she wore it, but I had no idea what those might be.

The dress was a heavy slipper satin, with a fitted waist, long sleeves, upturned lace collar and long train. The bodice was covered with lace front and back, and a lace panel went down from the waist to the hem in both the center front and back. The back was closed with satin and lace-covered buttons and loops.

The next time Stacey came home for a visit after announcing her engagement, I told her my idea. She loved it! And with that I embarked on my second repurposing of a wedding dress. We opened the cedar chest and she tried on the dress.

What we noticed first was that the waist fit Stacey perfectly. It could stay as is. Now to hear what she had in mind for the changes. She wanted to remove the sleeves to make it sleeveless, change the neckline of the lace in the front to more of a boat, cut away the bodice under the lace in the front to be a sweetheart shape and a low scoop in the back, keep the covered buttons up the back as closure, and have the hem a bit below the knee.

Could I do it, she asked? Yes, I knew I could. I asked if she was sure that’s what she wanted. Yes, she was sure. Now to get started.

The first thing I did was to determine about where she wanted the hem and add about 6 inches (just to be safe) and cut off the train. It was so heavy I knew that’s what needed to be done first. I must have measured 4 times before actually beginning to cut. That’s the part that falls under the scary category!

Quadruple measuring to cut the hem

Once the extra length and train was removed, off came the sleeves.

Next, I realized that the new neckline for the lace in the front meant I would need to remove the top part of the bodice lace and replace it with lace from the widest part of lace at the end of the train. It was just wide enough, but I would have to turn it sideways to make it work. I figured no one would notice the flowers were facing a different direction.

I created a new line coming from the bust dart to the armhole at an angle that would fit the piece of lace I had cut from the train and would look like a natural design line.

I had to take out the v-shaped seam below the bust and bust darts to be able to insert the new bodice lace, make the same dart, and sew it in place. I basted everything by hand with black thread, and then hand sewed everything in place with matching thread. I had to be careful to sew only the lace, and not the lining, in some places!

Next came truing up the lines on the bodice front to be the same on both sides, then cutting them with a seam allowance. I then made a matching pattern for the front bodice lining that I cut from lining fabric left over from making Lisa’s wedding dress. I sewed the lining to the front bodice, trimmed the seams, and basted the lace to the new front bodice at the side seams.

Truing the front neckline

We'll leave off here for today, and I'll be back next week with the final installation, complete with finishing the bodice and the skirt, along with the final reveal photos! Let me know if you have any questions about what I have covered so far.


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