Last Minute Surprise

A few weeks ago, Michelle came to my studio in Hillsborough for her first Fabric Fitting.  The Fabric Fitting is the first time that my bride gets to try on her actual wedding dress.  It is very exciting because up to this point we have been working in muslin.  Now that all the fit and design decisions have been made, the dress is finally cut and basted in the real dress fabric for the bride to try on.  This is a usually a quick fitting with maybe a few adjustments for the difference in fabrics and the time when I get all my final information for completely finishing the dress.  In this case, there was a bit of a surprise.


At our very first meeting, I start talking to my brides about the importance of proper foundation undergarments.  When Michelle signed the contract in April, I gave her a 2-page document that I had written featuring my philosophies and examples of  what I thought would be appropriate foundation choices for her particular body and this particular mid-century silhouette.  I know that undergarments are a very personal choice, so I always try to guide and advise while leaving the final decision to the bride.  As a busy lawyer, Michelle did not decide on her foundation garment until this what-would-be-final fitting.  She had, in fact, just received a brand new long-line bra foundation in the mail the day before, and had not yet tried it on.

So, first, we had a bra fitting.  Michelle is very apple shaped (small on the bottom/ large on the top). With this type of figure, a long-line bra usually will fit in one place but not the other.  Just like in off-the-rack clothes, bras are sized to an average of people who might wear them.  To have an All-In-One actually fit all is asking a lot for most figures.  So I marked to take in the bustier at the waist so that it would fit her nicely.  These new undergarments did give her a very nice shape, and now looked great under this dress, with one major exception.

The bra stuck out about 2” above the beautiful Roland Mouret inspired neckline!

We experimented with the neckline in the fitting figuring out how to make it all work.  We could raise the neckline, but we’d lose Michelle’s beautiful cleavage.  We played with a sweetheart neckline, which Michelle really loved, but I wasn’t convinced that it worked with the design.  All the lines on the dress were very thoughtfully placed for balance and symmetry.  I was having a hard time finding a way for the sweetheart neckline to make sense with the rest of the dress.

I took the other fitting notes and decided to think about it.  We scheduled a second Fabric Fitting for the following week.

Since Michelle really loved the idea of the sweetheart look, I tried to redesign it in a way that made it work with the rest of the dress.  I tried to maybe reference the hip detail in the neckline, or find another curve in the dress that I could somehow tie into the neckline.  But no matter what I did, to me, the original neckline was far superior.  To me, the sweetheart neckline always seemed to turn the dress into a waitress uniform.  I could not get over the fact that every time I looked at the revisions, I felt like the bride might bring me a piece of pie. (I’ve been watching episodes of Pushing Daisies lately.)

Then I had an idea that I should have thought of much sooner!  Why were we trying to redesign the custom couture dress we’ve loved since April to fit a bra that was mail-ordered days before?

I contacted Michelle and asked her if it was okay for me to alter the bra.  By cutting off and rebinding the top of the bra, we’d be able to have the great fit of the foundation without compromising the neckline.  She also agreed that it made a lot of sense, so I went to work.

I marked the part of the bra that I wanted to remove with a tape, and once I was happy with the lines, I cut the top off of the first cup.I then used the piece that I had removed as a pattern for the second cup, so that they would be exactly symmetrical.
Then, I rebound the edges by hand using French Grosgrain ribbon. (I used to be a professional milliner, so naturally I chose a binding technique that is similar to how you would bind the edge of a hat.)I chose to use white binding so that in case there is ever a glimpse of the top of the bra, it would match the dress.  I also thought it gave the bra a nice Chanel detail.  I always encourage my brides to choose pretty undergarments.  Not only does she wear it on her wedding day, she will also wear it on her wedding night!

With the bra altered, I was able to recut the front of the dress in a way that worked with the undergarments and did not change the design.  Soon everything was ready to go for our Final Fitting!

One Response

  1. Genius! You are the Encyclopedia Brown (or Nancy Drew, maybe?) of couturiers … transforming the bra, with a little Chanel detail… what an awesomely unexpected way to solve the puzzle!

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Hi there! I'm Brooks Ann.

I’m an independent designer and couture dressmaker for one-of-a-kind bridalwear located in Hillsborough, North Carolina. I also teach the sew-curious both in-person and online.

My blog follows along with the couture process of how each heirloom-quality custom wedding dress is made from idea to wedding day, as well as other interesting tidbits related to sewing, weddings, and body positivity.

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