This summer my brother got engaged, and we are so excited! Him and his fiancée are the best thing to happen in our family this year. They are getting married in a small ceremony this December, so my mom needed a mother of the bride dress.
My mom is height challenged like me, just to a greater degree. She is 4 feet 9 and 1/2″ (that half is important), which makes her 4″ shorter than me.
So while I find clothes shopping annoying and frankly, a little pointless, my mom has it much harder. My mom is the person who got me hooked on sewing. She sewed her own clothing in high school and college. She sewed a few things for my brother and me, but seldom once 2 younger children came along. I think piano is her first love. She prefers to put energy into her piano teaching business. I don’t blame her! You’ve gotta do what you love.
I really didn’t want my mom to have to go shopping for a mother of the bride dress. I knew it would be hard for her to find something within these parameters: hunter green or navy, short sleeves or longer, knee length and a jewel neckline. It also needed to be a style that my mom liked. Cross that with a dress in petite sizing and she might as well start from scratch!
So that’s what we did. I hadn’t seen my family since the pandemic began, so I was really happy when my mom agreed to come to NY so we could hang out and make her a dress. She picked out a pattern she liked that was simple enough to finish in a week.
This is McCall’s 7994, view C. It has a fitted bodice and skirt with bust darts, waist darts, and an invisible back zipper. My mom really liked the flounces, so we decided to do those, too.
My mom wanted a dress that was nice enough to wear to the wedding but not too formal to wear to church. We talked fabric and I realized I had the PERFECT fabric in my stash. It had only been there SEVEN years, lol. Mom loves anything floral and this lacy navy fabric (I’m sure it’s not technically a lace but idk what it’s called) was nicer than anything we could find online. (And had flowers, DUH…it was a no-brainer!) And while I may have used it eventually, it was so ‘Linda’ and it had the perfect amount of drape to use for the flounces. I’m glad we used it!
We found some nice rayon lining fabric in Philly and some dreadful $1 red muslining fabric. My mom had never made a muslin before. I was adamant that it be part of the dress construction process. We chose a size 8, according to her measurements. The muslin fabric was super shifty and hard to cut. Mom wasn’t sure if it would be worth the effort. It’s good that we did it because I had removed a bit too much length in the bodice, the side seams had to be taken in, as well as some changes to the back darts. Lastly, I had to lengthen the skirt a bit because I realized Mom wanted it to hit below, not above her knees.
Smaller Body Double
One of the nice things about sewing together is that my mom is like a mini version of me. With a few minor differences, we require similar bust, shoulder and height adjustments. We are both very straight in the waist and not much ‘junk in the trunk’. Since I am familiar with my adjustments (and I have sewn simple garments for her before) I was able to make those same changes to her pattern before we cut out the muslin.
Mom and I despise tight things around our waists! When we put the muslin together we thought the ease around the waist was good. It could have been tighter, but I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable. After we had basically finished sewing the final version and she put it on, it became clear that this dress was too big!
So that made me think it was my size. I tried it on. Other than being too short, it fit perfectly! Isn’t that completely wonderful and terrible?! I thought we were making a nice master pattern that would fit her and that she’d maybe make again someday. Instead I got a nice master pattern for me.
Mom had to spend some time taking in the side seams. I’m sure it was tedious, but she was a good sport. I constructed the flounces and she put those on. I inserted and sewed the sleeves, because I was fairly certain she didn’t want to do that. I did narrow the shoulder a bit more to fit her frame better. I forgot to mention, I lowered the neckline slightly. It hits right where she wanted it to.
If we were to make this dress again, we could size down 1 size and avoid having to take in an inch ease on each side. It’s really annoying that Big 4 pattern companies are often not true to size! It’s one of the main reasons I like smaller indie designers who have good drafting and consistent sizing.
The finished dress is so lovely! It’s very lightweight so I think she will also be able to wear it in warmer weather. I really enjoyed sewing with my mom and am excited to see her wear her new dress in December.
Thanks for reading!