I was approached by a client who had bought a Jenny Packham dress in a sample sale. The body of the dress fit fine, even the length was perfect. The lace mesh at the centre front had perished but otherwise it was in pretty good condition.

Lucky Girl!

However, the same could not be said about the bust area. The dress was cut for a B or C cup at most whereas my client was a decidedly devoted “F” cup!

Not so Lucky Girl!

Unfortunately, the shop who sold her the dress insisted all she needed was a strapless bra and all would be fine. Well it doesn’t take much imagination to know this was some very bad advice.

What’s a girl to do in a situation like this?

While it may be a straightforward job to reduce a hem or side seams this was a more interesting challenge

Well, after an intense consultation with the bride we settled on a complete rebuild of the bodice which would keep the romance and feel of the dress but have enough structure and support to eliminate the need for a bra.

This gave her one less thing to worry about on the day as it is rare that a bra and dress are completely compatible in a relatively unstructured situation.

 The idea was to use one of her bras on a mannequin and fit the dress to it to keep fittings to a minimum. Simple!

All good? What are we waiting for?

Well, the dress was an old sample so the fabric had developed its own particular “shade” of ivory that was not going to be easy to match up to. I scoured the land for a match and found one through a contact I have in Birmingham.

We wanted to keep as much of the original dress and its beading intact so I increased the bodice area above and to the side from the new fabric. The first step was to create a base or foundation for the new bodice from calico and make sure it fit the bride comfortably and maintained her modesty.

This also had to incorporate new “grown on” straps as opposed to the skinny straps it had on the back of the dress which had perished badly. This would also help to minimise the appearance of a fuller bust (Top Tip, right there)

Once the foundation was perfect I used the same pattern pieces to cut new satin areas. Once they were secured to the original bodice pieces it looked as though it was always intended to be that way. A completely new lining was cut for the bodice and then the whole was fixed to the skirt. I also incorporated an amazing elastic underband into the lining all the way round which mimicked the action of a bra to hold the whole thing in place without any slipping or unexpected “wardrobe malfunctions”. The bride said it felt amazing and gave her every confidence

The last job was to create some new beading at the centre front. We didn’t want to bead it all over as that would have only increased the illusion of a heavy bust rather than minimising it. Plus there was a budget to consider!

Lastly, I tidied up and replaced any and all loose or damaged beads on the original part of the bodice and checked the skirt for the same.

Et voila! A dress any bride would be thrilled to wear.