Wedding Wednesday: Altering Mom’s Dress

I may have mentioned a time or two before how I wore my Mom’s wedding dress on my own wedding day.  I did go out dress shopping, but did not find anything to my liking.  I found one dress that I fell head-over-heals for until I saw the price tag.  That dress is gorgeous, but I could never imagine spending so much money on a dress you wear for one day.  I’d rather remodel a kitchen. 😉

Altering Mom's Dress- Before

Altering Moms Dress-After

While venting about the frustrating dress hunt to my Mom, one afternoon, she told me I could wear her dress.  A little hesitant and not so sure her dress would even fit me, I agreed to try it on.

My Mom ordered her dress from the JCPenny catalog.  She has always called herself a “tom boy” and to this day she still does.  She was never into dresses and the frilly, girly things so picking out a wedding dress was definitely not a detailed she obsessed over.  She ordered her dress and it fit her well straight out of the box.  No alternations needed.

JCPenney Fall and Winter Catalog 1981


Here are photos from my Parent’s wedding day on June 13, 1981.  The stylish wedding party in their lovely peach dresses and the guys’ in their ivory and brown suits.  Good lookin’ bunch, eh?

mom and dad wedding 1981 3

My Mama.  Isn’t she beautiful?

mom and dad wedding 1981

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mom and dad wedding 1981 2

mom and dad wedding 1981 1

From the photos, you can see the dress originally had chiffon sleeves with lace cuffs. The front and back neckline were fully covered with lace and the veil had a lace covered headband.  When I tried on, it was like the dress was made for my body.  It fit perfectly.  She told me I could alter it anyway I wanted.  I thought about it for awhile and decided to bring it a tailor to see what they could do.  My Mom suggested Stephen Dean Tailors in Minneapolis.  We ventured to his shop to get ideas and pricing.

I imagined they would charge us an arm and a leg to alter the dress into a strapless version (if it was even possible).  I tried on the dress for him and I told him what I had in mind.  He pointed and explained what he could do.  I asked: how much do you think this will cost?  He said firmly: $45.00.  I starred blankly. Blinked and then looked at my Mom.  I said: Really, $45.00?  I took one last glance in the mirror and said: okay, let’s do it!

He completed the alterations in steps.  First removing the sleeves and neckline.  I went back in to try it on so they could fit and shape the top.  I returned again after they hemmed and finished the strapless top.  The third (maybe fourth?) fitting is when we decided to add the straps.  After the alterations were complete, my dress looked like this:

Paul & Jolene-0425

Far less fabric on the top half of the dress.  The only part altered were the sleeves and the lace detail above the bust line and around the neck.  They carefully removed all of this fabric and made the dress a strapless, sweat heart neckline.  The straps were added in the final hours of alterations.  Since the dress was not originally designed to be strapless, it did not have a good structure to stand upright on it’s own.  To avoid a Janet-Jackson-like mishap, I opted to add the straps.  Almost every inch of the chiffon and lace that was removed was reused to create the flower sash around my waist line.  I still have a tiny piece of lace and chiffon left over.  This past winter I used some of the fabric to make an ornament for our Christmas tree.

Paul & Jolene-0222

The veil was altered to remove the lace covered headband.  They sewed on a hair comb so the veil could be placed in my hair.  I also used some of remaining chiffon and lace to make this floral hairpiece with teal and blue feathers.

DIY Tulle Flower Corsage and Bout

I loved the way the dress turned out after alternations.  It was so much fun to see our guest’s reactions when they learned I was wearing my Mom’s dress.  It was a very special day in an extra special dress.  After adding on the additional cost to add the straps and renting a petticoat slip with a little poof, I spent about a total of $100 on my dress.  Are you wearing your Mom or Grandma’s dress?  How did your alterations turn out?

Photo Credit: Mark Schlanser Photography (new photos)  |   Old photos by a family member

One thought on “Wedding Wednesday: Altering Mom’s Dress

  1. Pingback: Wedding Wednesday: Chiffon and Lace Flower Sash | Designs by Jolene

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