Off the Rack ~ Celebration Solutions: Wedding Dress Alterations

Continuing our month of celebration dressing, this week will be my final bridal post. This time, I’ll go over the alterations to the wedding dress’s bodice, and what I would tell a seamstress next time.

Here are all the previous bridal posts:

Leah’s Happy Swimsuit Memory
Wedding Dress Shopping Part I
Wedding Dress Shopping Part II: David’s Bridal
Wedding Lingerie Shopping: Masquerade Hestia Basque
Hestia Bustier Revisited (and Wedding Dresses!)
Le Mystere Soiree Low-Back Bustier Reviewed
Wedding Dress Shopping Part III: Alterations
Celebration Solutions: Altering Molded Bra Cups

As for today’s post, here is how the bodice looked before alterations. For an extra fee, the dress came with increased cups (volume-wise) and a one-inch higher neckline:

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When I brought it to the seamstress, I was wearing a baggy sweater and her immediate thought before she saw it on me was that the cups were too big. I insisted they were not, and told her I paid extra to have them bigger. Once it was on, I’m pretty sure she got the idea.

She still needed to alter the cups slightly, though. They were a bit pointy in the outer corners and needed to be made rounder, and the waistband needed to be taken in at its base, like so:

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When it was all done, it fit perfectly. The seamstress really knew what she was doing, and it didn’t require a second fitting or more work. Buuuut…in looking at my photos, I can see that the bodice did not stay quite so perfect throughout the day.

Here’s how it looked when I first put it on:

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Perfect décolletage! I’m totally filling out the cups and there’s just a hint of cleavage.

Here’s a shot during the ceremony, where you can see it mushing into my armpits a bit when my arms are at my sides:

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But a side view during the ceremony looks great! The point is, my boobs are where they should be.

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However, once I sat down to dinner, and then repeatedly got back up to hug people, and back down to eat, and up to mingle, and back down to drink…my boobs started having a containment issue:

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I didn’t even notice it was happening at the time, which I guess speaks to the comfort of the dress. But by the time dancing rolled around, I was seriously quad-boobing:

Please enjoy this super charming shot of me with crazy face and a beer bottle. So classy, this one!

Please enjoy this super charming shot of me with crazy face and a beer bottle. So classy, this one!

Again, I didn’t really notice it while it was happening, but I would really prefer if my mashed up cleavage wasn’t memorialized forever in my wedding photos.

So here’s what I’ll do if I ever have to get a structured sweetheart neckline altered ever again:

  1. Right off the bat, I will tell the seamstress that I have a hard time fitting my boobs into off-the-rack clothing. I want her to know this is a serious concern before we even start.
  2. I will bring these photos with me, to show her exactly what I don’t want happening over the course of the dress’s wearing.
  3. I will specifically ask if she can keep the cups more open and less flush with my chest even though it looks better that way when I first put it on. I’ll jump around a bunch if I have to, to get my boobs flying around so she can work with them in person.

And finally, with all these awkward faces, here are a couple nice photo of my complete outfit, as a little palate-cleanser (click to view full size):

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Big Bust Celebration Dressing: Fraulein Annie Falling in Love Waist-Cinching Panty

Sometimes our memory embellishes a thing, and when we see it again, we wonder, What was the big deal? Well let me assure you, this doesn’t happen with Fraulein Annie lingerie.

I’ve admired this brand for a long time, and Frauke Nagel recently offered me a bra and panty set to review. It took me weeks to make up my mind, but I finally chose the mulberry/slate Falling in Love fuller bust bra in 34F and waist-cinching panty in US size L. They arrived last week.

My memory hadn’t exaggerated the quality and beauty of these pieces, and because the bra fit perfectly this time, I also experienced the exquisite softness of the satin cups and straps. However, it fit best on the tightest hook, so I’ve placed an order for a 32FF to compare the fit, and I will give you my full review after it arrives. On the other hand, I don’t want to delay reviewing the waist-cinching panty because Fraulein Annie shapewear is exactly what some of you will want to wear under your special occasion dresses this summer.

Like Tina Fey, I have Spanx in my lingerie drawer. Mine is the open-bust body suit that combines her two pieces into one. It made my shirts fit better when I was heavier, and it smoothed me out for a couple of weddings. But I hate it. It’s such a letdown to peel off my carefully put-together outer look to come down to this.

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Besides being hideous, it goes higher than the sides of my bra, so the edge rubs me raw whenever I reach my arms forward. I thought this was a necessary evil to maintain an uninterrupted plane of smoothness from bra band to shapewear, but thanks to Fraulein Annie, it isn’t.

I measure 16 inches from my bra band to the beginning of my crotch.  When I’m wearing the waist-cinching panty, I can easily lay my bra band on top of the waist cincher band. The only skin visible is a little triangle under the center gore of my bra. With the silicone edging around the band, it stays put. All Sunday I kept reaching up to make sure it hadn’t slipped down, but there was no need. It never budged.

The bra and cincher panties worn together are so beautiful that I wish they could be outerwear. As I undressed down to my pearls and Falling in Love cincher panties at the end of the day Sunday, I suddenly understood why the Fraulein Annie trademark is wearing evening gloves with her set–these lingerie pieces are made to be elegantly accessorized.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty front

I’m sure my neighbors wondered why I was laying shapewear on top of their azaleas yesterday, but it was too pretty to resist.

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Closeup of the silicone edging. I love that the burgundy bows aren’t too matchy-matchy.

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Extremely easy to fasten and unfasten, but it stays secure while wearing.

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Cotton-lined gusset.

Besides being beautiful, I know you’re wondering about the function, so let’s begin with hold. Basically, I find it on par with my Spanx. Neither are corsets, so there is no boning that will force you to suck in your stomach, but it takes up to 1.5 inches off my waist. This made a giant difference in the comfort level of a size 6P dress I tried yesterday–when I wore the cincher, the fabric glided over my waist. When I didn’t wear it, the fabric clung.

The experience of gliding vs. clinging reminds me of this interesting tip from The Wardrobe Wakeup by Lois Joy Johnson–an excellent book, by the way:

Wear shapewear as a liner to improve fit. When designers and manufacturers cut costs, linings are the first to go. These silky inner “skins” used to mean quality but now even pricier clothes scrimp on them. Linings do help tailored skirts, dresses, and pants keep their shape, but wearing control garments under inexpensive unlined items provides the same benefits. You don’t need maximum strength shapewear–any silky, light compression piece will help clothes skim over stress points. Shapewear works as a buffer between unlined items and your skin. It prevents sticking and pulling so clothes won’t crease, pull or ride up as you bend and move.

I asked Frauke how she would rate the hold of her shapewear on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. She said, “I’d give it a 4. Marks & Spencer classify their shapewear in ‘Light, Medium, Strong, Extra Strong’. All my shapewear pieces are Strong.”

As you know, I’m also curious about shapewear’s smoothing effect on my back. The cinching panty didn’t obliterate my bulges, but it definitely helped.

waist cincher comparison

Without on the left. With on the right.

You may also be wondering if the beauty of Fraulein Annie shapewear is also its weakness: will the embellishments show through? If you’re wearing something super thin and sheer, they might, but I was surprised at how little showed through the thinnest, clingiest top I own.

sheer stretch fabric over fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty

I’m also wearing the Falling in Love bra in this photo.

There was, however, a bit of VPL with the blue dress I mentioned above. I attribute it to a combination of the dress being slightly too small and the legs of the panties being very slightly loose on me. My only wish for this panty is a flatter band around the legs with the same silicone edging as is in the waist band.

As far as sizing goes, my waist measures 83 cm, so the US size L is right for me. It is far more comfortable than I expect shapewear to be, though, so I would have considered trying an M if my experience with the Va Bien longline hadn’t already convinced me to err in the direction of a larger size when in doubt.  Frauke concurred: “I won’t recommend wearing a smaller size than one that fits well. It would create bulges and would be uncomfortable and irritating. After all, shapewear is to flatten bulges and to give you better proportions. Also, if you are wearing a garment a size too small, the material gets tired faster and it won’t last as long as it should.”

I also asked Frauke how she would recommend wearing panty hose or stockings with the cinching panty, and she advises hold ups in the summer and panty hose in the winter.

I’m absolutely delighted with my mulberry/slate Falling in Love waist-cinching panty, but if you study the Fraulein Annie shapewear options, I know you’ll understand why it took me so long to choose just one. Based on my own experience, I know you’ll be happy with whatever choice you make.

 

Curve Cam: Interesting Bust Seams

I’m buried in workshop preparation right now. It’d help if I’d stop getting distracted by things like Mayim Bialik’s appearance on What Not to Wear in 2011 . . .

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which I discovered after looking for a photo of Melissa Rauch in a high-boob-prominence look like this one

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to contrast with a low-boob-prominence look like this one.

Melissa Rauch purple cardi

So now that I’ve spent more hours than I could afford, it’s a good thing I have a backup Curve Cam for today! I met the teenager wearing this dress after church yesterday and immediately asked if I could take a picture of her bodice for my blog.  Her mom bought this dress for her a couple of years ago–from Avon, of all places. I think the double seams across the bust are a great way to combine both design and function to make room for the bust. It also helps that the back is an elasticized panel.

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I’ll take both this and Melissa Rauch’s dress please!

Off the Rack ~ Celebration Solutions: Altering Molded Bra Cups

For Hourglassy’s month of posts on “celebration dressing,” I’m starting with my big celebration—my wedding last year!

If you want to read the whole saga of the dress and the lingerie hunt, here are all the links. If you just want to see how I altered my undergarments, scroll down.

Leah’s Happy Swimsuit Memory
Wedding Dress Shopping Part I
Wedding Dress Shopping Part II: David’s Bridal
Wedding Lingerie Shopping: Masquerade Hestia Basque
Hestia Bustier Revisited (and Wedding Dresses!)
Le Mystere Soiree Low-Back Bustier Reviewed
Wedding Dress Shopping Part III: Alterations

I last left off having dropped the dress off at the seamstress to have the waist taken in and the bust cups shaped a bit. I also left my Le Mystere Soiree Bustier with the seamstress, so they could take it into account with the cup shaping.

When I picked up the dress, it was perfect! The cups were a little more rounded at the top (instead of having pointy-ish outer corners) and the waist was cinching me in and staying up without feeling at all uncomfortable. However, a tiny bit of the bustier was still peeking out if I moved too much. Since I doubted I’d find anything better, I decided to just trim down the gore and the inner cup. Here is how I did it…

Here’s the bustier as it started:

The rest of this post will be photos with instructions in the caption. Apologies for all the different lighting, as it was done over several different days at different times. Everything here was sewn by hand.

First I used a seam ripper to pick out the seam holding the upper cup trim in place. Don’t cut off the excess trim, as you’ll be re-attaching it later.

First I used a seam ripper to pick out the seam holding the upper cup trim in place. Don’t cut it off, as you’ll be re-attaching it later.

Next I removed the fabric from the outside of the gore, again leaving it hanging.

Next I removed the fabric from the outside of the gore, again leaving it hanging.

Back to the inside of the bra, I removed the seam holding the underwire channels in place.

Back to the inside of the bra, I removed the seam holding the underwire channels in place.

Now that everything was taken apart (but not completely removed from the bra), I marked where I planned to cut the foam with white chalk.

Now that everything was taken apart (but not completely removed from the bra), I marked where I planned to cut the foam with white chalk.

After I carefully cut off the excess foam.

After I carefully cut off the excess foam.

Next, I sewed a baste stitch along the cup edge to hold the outer fabric in place. I went up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Next, I sewed a baste stitch along the cup edge to hold the outer fabric in place. I went up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Then I laid the trim back onto the cup edge, pinned in place, and baste-stitched it back on, again going up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Then I laid the trim back onto the cup edge, pinned in place, and baste-stitched it back on, again going up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Finally, I un-sewed part of the underwire channels so I could cut down the wires.

Finally, I un-sewed part of the underwire channels so I could cut down the wires.

On to the hard part—cutting the underwires. These things were impossible! I own a pair of sheet metal snips, but they barely made a scratch. Luckily, my father-in-law has a hacksaw and clamp, so the next time I was at his house I held the bra in place with the clamp and sawed the excess wire off. I’ve also read that you can use bolt cutters. Who knew underwires were so strong??

On to the hard part—cutting the underwires. These things were impossible! I own a pair of sheet metal snips, but they barely made a scratch. Luckily, my father-in-law has a hacksaw and clamp, so the next time I was at his house I held the bra in place with the clamp and sawed the excess wire off. I’ve also read that you can use bolt cutters. Who knew underwires were so strong??

A close-up of the freshly cut wire. Those dainty little scratches are all the damage my sheet metal snips could do.

A close-up of the freshly cut wire. Those dainty little scratches are all the damage my sheet metal snips could do.

Next up was coating the wires so they couldn’t stab back through the fabric later. I considered just dipping them in hot glue, but was advised that that might not be good enough and the glue could easily pop off since the metal is non-porous. Instead, I got heat-shrink tubing. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors, and shrinks down to half its size. I bought 3/16” tubing.

First I tested it on two toothpicks put together with actual flame (left, which you’ll notice is coated in foil so as not to set the wood toothpicks on fire) and a hairdryer on the hottest setting (right).

First I tested it on two toothpicks put together with actual flame (left, which you’ll notice is coated in foil so as not to set the wood toothpicks on fire) and a hairdryer on the hottest setting (right).

Flame on top, hairdryer on bottom. The actual flame seemed to burn the plastic a little, while the hairdryer was hot enough to fully shrink it while maintaining a nice smoothness.

Flame on top, hairdryer on bottom. The actual flame seemed to burn the plastic a little, while the hairdryer was hot enough to fully shrink it while maintaining a nice smoothness.

A comparison of the tip with hairdryer (left) and flame (right). I also figured it was safer to use the hairdryer, since there’d be no threat of me accidentally burning the bra fabric.

A comparison of the tip with hairdryer (left) and flame (right). In addition to the better smoothness, I figured the hairdryer was safer, since there’d be no threat of me accidentally burning the bra fabric.

Since there was a little bit of excess plastic at the top of the toothpicks, I folded it over and mushed it down while it was still hot, and then blasted it with the hairdryer again to set it.

Since there was a little bit of excess plastic at the top of the toothpicks, I folded it over and mushed it down while it was still hot, and then blasted it with the hairdryer again to set it.

The topside of the mushed up tip.

The topside of the mushed up tip.

The wire with finished heat shrink on it before I completely mushed the tip down. You’ll notice the tubing is a little wider than the wire, but the next size down at the store from which I bought (3/32”) looked too small. So if you can find a size in between (i.e. 1/8”), that’d probably be your best bet.

The wire with finished heat shrink on it before I completely mushed the tip down. You’ll notice the tubing is a little wider than the wire, but the next size down at the store (3/32″) looked too small. So if you can find a size in between (i.e. 1/8”), that’d probably be your best bet.

A comparison of the original tubing (left) and the shrunk tubing (right).

A comparison of the original tubing (left) and the shrunk tubing (right).

The finished shrink tubing on both wires, successfully folded and mushed.

The finished shrink tubing on both wires, successfully folded and mushed.

Back to sewing!

The next step is to put the wires back into their channels and sew the channel shut all around the wire, including at the top. I went back and forth over the top a few times to make sure it was super strong and the wire couldn’t break out.

The next step is to put the wires back into their channels and sew the channel shut all around the wire, including at the top. I went back and forth over the top a few times to make sure it was super strong and the wire couldn’t break out.

Then you can snip off the excess wire channel above where the wire stops.

Then you can snip off the excess wire channel above where the wire stops.

Next, sew the wire channel back to the cup exactly where it was previously attached. This is the view from the outer side of the bra. You can see that the wire channel goes past the edge of the cup a little, but that’s no big deal.

Next, sew the wire channel back to the cup exactly where it was previously attached. This is the view from the outer side of the bra. You can see that the wire channel goes past the edge of the cup a little, but that’s no big deal.

The view of the now reattached wire channel from the inside of the bra. You’ll notice it’s only attached to the cup at the point, and the gore fabric is still flopping around.

The view of the now reattached wire channel from the inside of the bra. You’ll notice it’s only attached to the cup at this point, and the gore fabric is still flopping around.

After reattaching both wire channels to the cups, next trim off excess gore fabric and sew it to the wire channels. This is the view from the outer side.

After reattaching both wire channels to the cups, next trim off excess gore fabric and sew it to the wire channels. This is the view from the outer side.

You can see here that I left the gore fabric raw and just folded it over behind the wire channel. I was too lazy to finish the gore fabric’s edge and there were already so many layers of fabric there that it would have been difficult to sew—I was already using a metal thimble to push the needle through because my cushy fingertips couldn’t handle it! Additionally, because I trimmed down so much of the cup foam, the old cup trim didn’t actually reach all the way to the gore any more. So to keep the edges from unraveling, I sewed an overstitch all along the raw cup edge.

You can see here that I left the gore fabric raw and just folded it over behind the wire channel. I was too lazy to finish the gore fabric’s edge and there were already so many layers of fabric there that it would have been difficult to sew—I was already using a metal thimble to push the needle through because my fingertips couldn’t handle it! Additionally, because I trimmed down so much of the cup foam, the old cup trim didn’t actually reach all the way to the gore any more. So to keep the edges from unraveling, I sewed an overstitch all along the raw cup edge.

DONE! The finished product was never visible on my wedding day, even after hiking down a mountain for good photos and dancing for two hours straight! Here are some final photos:

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Next week: Lessons I learned from my dress’s tailoring, and what I’ll tell the seamstress next time I need a sweetheart neckline altered.