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July 20, 2024


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Making a "New" Wedding Dress From a Thrift Store Garment

wedding pictureBuying a Basic Wedding Dress at the Thrift Store:
If you are handy with a needle and thread, shopping Thrift Stores for a slightly used wedding dress can be a great way to save a ton of money on what would normally be a very expensive investment. This can also be a fun experience for the bride and anyone else involved in the project. Here are some important tips for choosing the best deal at a Thrift Store:

  • Before purchasing a dress, make sure the basic fit of the used wedding dress is right for the bride. You will want to be able to use the basic dress as is with minimal fit alterations to make.
  • If available, select a dress that has a lot of fabric in it. This is where it really makes sense to makeover a wedding dress. A dress with an organza over-lay can be especially helpful, because the professional surging on the hemline can save a great deal of time, and it always looks great.
  • Choose a dress in which the train can be reused in some way within the makeover process.
  • Purchasing a used veil can also save a lot of time and money.
  • Once the dress and veil have been purchase, the bride should go through bridal magazines and Internet postings to find ideas that she likes, in which the basic Thrift Store dress can be used. Let your creative juices flow, and think of ways the dress can be changed or embellished to capture just the right, desired look.
  • Make drawings to illustrate your ideas, and share them with other creative people to get their input.
  • This planning process may take two to four weeks, and you don’t want to rush this planning stage. When you begin the project, you’ll want to make sure the bride is comfortable with the overall plan.

Sharing a Wedding Dress Makeover Design Experience:
The bride bought a basic satin spaghetti-strap dress at a Thrift Store. The dress had a close-fitting bodice with a seemed waistline and a very full gathered skirt that had a both a gathered satin under-skirt and a gathered organza overlay. Both layers in the skirt extended in the back of the dress to become a long chapel-length train.

sketchThe bride decided she wanted two dresses with 4 pieces: 1) Reception Dress, 2) Wedding Jacket, 3) Wedding Overskirt, and 4) Reception Sash) made from the single Thrift Store dress.

  • The bride’s design was a basic dress for the reception dress, which would have a fitted bodice, seamed at the waist, fitted through the hip, and flared out from below the hip to the hemline. This would be a new satin skirt that would need to be made, and would be attached to the Thrift Store spaghetti strap bodice at the waistline seam.
  • The bride decided that the plain scooped-neck spaghetti strap dress was too plain. So, she looked for inspiration on the Internet, and selected a neckline from one of Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes from the movie, Cleopatra. This neckline was a scooped-neck dress with a keyhole type cutout in the center front. The bodice of the Thrift Store dress was altered to reflect this change.

    bodice neckline
  • The design idea was to use the existing gathered skirt and organza overlay skirt and train from the original Thrift Store dress. This two-layer skirt would only be used for the wedding reception, and would be remade into a separate finished overskirt. The overskirt would be open in the front to expose the reception dress, which would be worn underneath. The overskirt would have a wide waistband with a back closure. Since the removable overskirt will be worn for the wedding only, thus eliminating the bulk of wearing the train during the reception.
  • A third piece of the wedding dress would be a separate embroidered sash, which would be used at the waist of the reception dress, which would only be used when the overskirt with train is removed after the wedding ceremony.
  • A forth piece to the wedding ensemble would be a newly-made separate bolero jacket with stand-up collar with capped sleeves, which would be worn during the actual wedding ceremony only.

Remaking the "Old" Dress and Creating the "New" Pieces
for the Updated Wedding Dress Design:

Just a basic shrug/bolero pattern with cap sleeves was used to make the jacket. About 10 yards of extra off-white satin was purchased in order to make the new skirt for the reception dress and the new bolero for the wedding ceremony.

Since the bride was a lover of pearls, it was decided that both the bolero and the wide waistband for the overskirt would be completely covered with pearls. To minimize weight and to save time and money, it was decided that gluing the half pearls onto the bolero and onto the waistband of the overskirt would be the most effective way to achieve the goal. 10,000 6mm off-white pearls were purchased to have enough to completely cover the bolero and the wide waistband of the overskirt.

  • Gluing the Pearls
    • Using jewelry/fabric glue that dries transparent, begin attaching jewels to the bolero at the collar.
    • Image - StartCollarGlueing.jpg
    • When the collar is complete, continue gluing the pearls on the front of the bolero row by row, following the curved edge of the bolero front, until each side of the bolero front has been completely covered.

      Gluing pearls front Pearled Jacket Front
    • Once both sides of the front have been completely pearled, begin adding pearls to the bolero back, using the curved lower edge as a guide and working your way up row by row.

      Glueing Pearls Jacket Back
    • When both bolero front and back have been pearled, begin gluing pearls to the cap sleeves, starting at the lower sleeve edge, and working your way up to the top of the sleeve, one row at a time. Since you will need to work your way around the sleeve, from the front to the back of the garment, you may find it easiest to glue the pearls on while the garment is on a hanger.
  • Making the Wedding Overskirt
    • The skirt and organza overlay were completely removed from the original Thrift Store dress, and the gathers were removed. Since the overskirt design called for a front opening to expose the reception skirt in the front, the skirt was folded in half, carefully matching the seams, in order to mark the fold where the skirt should be cut completely down the front.

      Overskirt Interim fitting
    • The bride also decided to have the two front panels lined with the royal blue color of her wedding. This became a little tricky. This process also required that three more layers of lightweight white fabric or interfacing be added as interlining into the two front panels (between the blue lining and the off-white right side, in order to prevent the blue fabric from showing through on the right side of the overskirt.
    • Once the lined blue panels were successfully added, all layers of the new overskirt were re-gathered at the waistline, with the front completely open and a short 7-inch opening as a back closure.
    • The wide waistband was sewed in place, leaving about a 8-inch waistband space left open between the two blue lined front panels. This opening will expose the front of the reception dress worn underneath. Finish, by hand sewing the new waistband in place on the inside of the skirt.
    • Glue the half-pearls to the entire wide waistband, starting at the back closing, gluing the pearls vertically onto the waistband, from the waistline seam to the top of the waistband, working your way around the entire waistband row by row, making sure the rows of pearls are very straight, until the entire waistband of the overskirt is completely covered.

  • Making the Reception Dress:
    • Going back to the reception dress, which now only consists of the spaghetti strap bodice, a new skirt needs to be sewed and attached to the bodice. The bride selected a basic dropped-waist style skirt pattern, seamed at the waist, fitted through the hip, and flared from below the hips to the hemline for the reception dress. The bride also wanted a gored pleat with a slight train in the center back of the reception skirt.

      Interim Fitting Reception Dress
      Interim Fitting all piecesInterim Fitting
    • This new skirt was made, fitted, and then attached to the spaghetti strap bodice.
    • As the fitting process progressed, the bride also decided that she didn’t particularly like the spaghetti straps on the Reception Dress, so we had to make some last minute changes. She decided that small cap sleeves were more her style. So, the new cap sleeves were made and attached to the reception dress, and the spaghetti straps were cut out of the garment.

      Cap Sleeve Receiption
  • Make or Purchase a Separate Wide Embroidered Sash for the Reception Dress
    • Our bride purchased a ready-made embroidered sash.
    • Just need hooks and eyes added at the center back of the sash.

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