October 17, 2014

What's New at Lady's Mantle Studio for 2015

A New Online Boutique!

I am in the process of creating an online boutique that will feature my one-of-a-kind, completely-handcrafted-by-me bridal accessories.

Unique headpieces, veils, sashes, wedding capes and jackets, detachable trains... lots and lots of pretty! And the best part? Many of the pieces will be upcycled, incorporating vintage laces, appliques, and other fantastic "found" materials.

The shop will be up and running in time for the January start of the 2015 wedding season. In the meantime, you might be able to see some sneak previews on the blog!

Custom Gown Commissions for 2015

Beginning in 2015, I will only be accepting custom commissions from brides who will be choosing to have their gowns constructed of minimally processed natural fabrics (silk, linen, cotton).

If you're thinking of choosing me to create your gown for 2015, and want to know more about what this means for you, please contact me for more details. For general information about the custom process, please see my Custom page.

Phasing Out Alterations

As of December 31, 2014, I will no longer be accepting alterations on retail bridal and formal wear. However, I will still be taking alterations for this holiday season's party wear, so don't hesitate to contact me if you need something fitted for a December party! 

Website and Blog Update

A badly needed update is coming soon, including a new Bride's Gallery plus the stories of two recent custom projects on the blog!

January 19, 2014

A Custom Wedding Gown, Start to Finish in 6 Weeks

Alex contacted me in November about making a custom dress for her Winter Solstice wedding. I have never accepted a custom wedding gown commission less than about 4 months from the wedding date, but there is an exception to every rule!

Back bodice detail: hand-placed Chantilly lace appliques, custom covered buttons

When a Window of Opportunity Opens...

In this particular instance, many factors came together to make this exception-to-the-rule work: Alex was already decided on the design and type of materials she wanted, she was able to accommodate scheduling a quick succession of fittings, I was able to get the materials quickly, and most of all, I had an unusual lull in my holiday sewing schedule. In other words, it all seemed meant to be!

So, we began in earnest, moved quickly through the fitting and construction process, and ended up with Alex's beautiful one-of-a-kind gown finished a week prior to the wedding.

The Challenges of Petite Design

Alex had two main requirements for her gown:  1) At her height of 5 feet, it was very important that the gown design achieved a flattering, elongated silhouette (something that's often difficult for petite sized women to find in ready made garments), and 2) she wanted her gown to feature a delicate, elegant lace.

To achieve the correct silhouette, she chose a gently curved raised-waistline bodice featuring Chantilly lace paired with a semi-fitted flared skirt of subtly textured satin. Secondly, the detail of the lace and net is placed completely at the bodice, drawing the eye upward, leaving the clean lines of the skirt to fall without visual interruption to the floor. 

These two basic design decisions worked in tandem to achieve the look and fit that Alex was after: the elegance and delicacy of lace plus a visually elongated silhouette.

Alex's finished gown

Chantilly Lace

Alex made and excellent choice when she decided on a beautiful imported scalloped Chantilly lace. This particular yardage had the classic scalloped "eyelash" edging at both selvedges along with individual appliques at the center of the yardage. 

For Alex's gown, the lace appliques and the scalloped edges had to be hand-placed over point d'esprit netting which covered the entire bodice. 

As you can imagine, working with lace is detailed, slow-going work, usually done entirely by hand. Good light, a confident steady cutting hand, and lots of breaks for tea and stretching are the key! 

Separating the scallop motifs from the yardage

Carefully cutting the netting away from the cording lines in preparation to place the lace motifs on the bodice

Fitting the main lace motif to the front bodice while still at the cutting stage

Adding pearl and rhinestone beading to the lace before placing on the bodice

Shaping and hand-placing the lace appliques on the bodice in preparation for handsewing

Detail of the completed bodice front

A Matching Headpiece

One of the additional perks of having a custom dress made (besides getting an absolutely one-of-a-kind gown in the exact materials you want... that fits perfectly!) is the option to have custom accessories made as well. 

Alex wanted an understated but elegant comb to wear in her hair. So, I gathered up a few scallops of the Chantilly, made a couple of satin flowers and placed in some branches of gold wire and pearl beads (to echo the beading on the bodice), and...

Custom headpiece: Chantilly lace, textured satin flowers, gold wire and pearl beads


Alex, it was a joy working with you! I'm so glad time and providence came together to allow us to bring your beautiful wedding gown into being. Congratulations... and my warmest wishes to you and your husband, always.

September 9, 2013

Featured Wedding: Rebecca & Kris, July 6, 2013

Rebecca & Kris  ~  July 6, 2013

Last spring, Rebecca and her mom, Debra, came to me with an alterations situation I've unfortunately dealt with many times: a wedding gown that was altered by someone (and I'll be kind here) who was obviously less than skilled in wedding gown alterations, and in this case, even basic sewing techniques. Which brings us immediately to:

Wedding Gown Triage

Not only was the inside of this dress mangled, the overall fit of the dress was visibly atrocious. The lace overlay of the skirt had been sewn back into the bodice at a different proportion than the satin underskirt (and at different proportions on each side!), which basically destroyed the waistline fit of the dress.

The bodice side seams pooched out and were sewn very unevenly, and the armscye (the armhole opening) had been somehow narrowed out of proportion so that the entire opening ended up being hoisted up way too tight. Armpit wedgie, anyone? Yikes.

Much of the beautiful beaded lace that trimmed the front and back neckline of the bodice had simply been cut away, and even worse, several portions of the trim were unevenly sewn (stuffed, actually) back into the altered seams, beads and all!

There were several other sad sewing atrocities committed against this dress, but I'll spare you anymore details and just end the assessment of the injuries with this:  All the altered seams were sewn with dark lavender thread. A white wedding gown... dark lavender thread. Heavy sigh.

The Dress Doctor's Recommendations

At the first consultation, I actually suggested that Rebecca might want to just consider buying a new gown because, though I have been known to pull off some quasi-miracles where wedding dresses are concerned, I really had my doubts about being able to rescue this one!

But after discussing several possible solutions Rebecca and I were both hopeful, so we decided to give it a try. And in the end (even though it was touch and go for a while), I was able to nurse this dress back to beauty and actually managed to coax it back into a pretty good fit, too.

And so, since Rebecca reallyreallyreally wanted to wear this dress to her wedding, and I reallyreallyreally wanted to be able to make that happen for her... we all (including that poor dress!) eventually made it to...

The Happy Ending

Prescott Bride, Rebecca

Detail of repaired, refitted, and re-beaded bodice

But, That's Not All!

In addition to doing the repair work and the fitting alterations for Rebecca's dress, I also shortened the train (from a cathedral length to a sweep length), reshaped the crinoline (because Rebecca wanted a less full silhouette), and installed a pick-up bustle.

And Then...

I made a custom headpiece per Rebecca's own design using some of the lace trim left after the removal of the dress's train.

Detail of Rebecca's custom headpiece

Detail of Rebecca's custom headpiece

So! Needless to say, this dress and I came to know each other very well over the course of her rehabilitation. And I am here to testify:  this poor little Cinderella of a gown had one very big will to live! 

Congratulations, Rebecca and Kris

Rebecca, it was a pleasure working with both you and your mom. I'm so glad I was able to be a part of this happy ending ;)  I wish you and Kris all the best, including many many happy anniversaries!

Wedding photos by: Nelson's Wedding and Portrait Photography, Litchfield Park, AZ
That gorgeous bouquet was created by: Allen's Flowers, Prescott, AZ

And, please take a minute to visit Rebecca and Kris's adorable wedding site here: Rebecca and Kris

August 4, 2013

Megan's Vintage Wedding Gown Restyle: Congratulations Megan & Aaron!

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

Congratulations Megan & Aaron!

Megan and Aaron - July 6, 2013

Megan and Aaron and crew

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

July 1, 2013

Megan's Vintage Wedding Gown Restyle, Part 7: The New Gown Completed

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

Megan's New (Old) Gown!

Regrettably, I was only able to get a few (not so great) pictures of the finished gown at the studio before Megan picked it up. So I'm really hoping to get a few from Megan after the wedding! But, photography snafus aside, here are the before and after pictures.

Before and after - front view

Before and after - back view

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

June 18, 2013

Megan's Vintage Wedding Gown Restyle, Part 6: Finishing the Restyled Skirt

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

Re-assembling the restyled skirt of Megan's gown consisted of carefully removing the old lace ruffles and replacing them with ruffle made from the new lace. Megan had chosen a double-edged scalloped lace for the restyle.

Making the New Ruffle

To make the new ruffle, I cut 14 yards of edging from the yardage, created the ruffle using my handy dandy ruffling foot, then applied the finished ruffle to the skirt along the reshaped line of the new hem.

Cutting the ruffle from the lace yardage

I do love my ruffler!

Adding the new top ruffle along the newly placed guidelines

Bustling the Gown

Finally, the skirt was bustled using a simple one-point pick up at the center back. To accomplish this, I made a custom covered button from scraps of the leftover bodice fabric, attached that to the back of the skirt, just below the zipper. The pick up loop was hidden at a point underneath the top of the first ruffle.

Restyled gown bustled

All that remained was to add the ribbon at the waist, do a final pressing, and arrange Megan's final fitting...

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

June 16, 2013

Megan's Vintage Wedding Gown Restyle, Part 5: Finishing the New Bodice

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

Now that all the test fittings and last details of fabric and style choices are complete, the new restyled gown is ready to be assembled!

Re-forming the Bustline Seams

To finish the bodice of the gown, the original one-piece front of the bodice was first recut (from regular darts to a princess seamed bustline for better fit). Once the bust seams were properly reshaped, the restyled front was sewn to the restyled back and the new lace shadow panels added.

Original bodice with darts

Restyled bodice with princess seams

Finishing the Restyled Bodice

Front and back sewn together, and new lace panels added.

Detail of the bias seam reinforcement on the bodice back

Finishing the Restyled Sleeves

The sleeves edges were finished in the same trim as the neckline, and given a (custom made) button and loop closure at the wrist.

Detail of sleeve and closure

New Bodice - Done!

And finally, the bodice was given a new lining, the sleeves and neckline trim added and, voila! the new bodice is complete.

Finished restyled bodice

All that remains is to finish the skirt and complete the bustle...

To read all the posts in this series, go to the project diary at:

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