Pick-up Ponderings


added April 2010

just discovered your website and it’s wonderful. I’m doing a bustle for a wedding dress; it is a Maggie Sottero, Addie Lynn style.

Although I’ve sewn my whole life, made wedding dresses before and am comfortable with alterations, this will be my first bustle. I’ve just ordered your bustle dvd, so I feel confident I can manage the execution, but would like your opinion of what kind would work best with this slim a-line.  My bride is a size 6, and open to suggestions.

Thanks you for your time, Laurie

Hi Laurie,
I took a look at the link you sent. This gown is a good candidate for a pick-up bustle.  

added June 2009

Dear Leanna,

Thank you so much for your sharing your wisdom and experience!  You have given a wonderful gift to so many, and I really appreciate it.  I just bought your bustle video and it is very useful.  The level of detail for sewing on the rigging is very helpful.
I have sewn garments since a child, and I worked for about 2 years part time as a seamstress in an independent bridal/formal shop while in grad. School, 15 years ago.  That owner/shop pretty much did only ballroom bustles, and that is basically all I knew about til now in bustling.   I have continued to sew garments and do alterations for family and friends but have not worked on bridal gowns since that time.
I have a bridal hemming/bustle question. I have been asked to do Alterations for the July wedding of a daughter of acquaintances through my church.
The dress is Mori Lee by Madeline Gardner Voyage/Destination 6144. Based on measurements, the bride was told to purchase a sz 4.  In reality, the Bodice was large and I had to take it in 3" total on sides and taper to lower bodice, in the beaded area.  The bride loves the fit now, and I am now to the hem.
The skirt train consists of two separate layers:  chiffon over satin with horsehair braid in hem of satin.  The dress front needs to be hemmed 6 inches.  The bride wants it just about "on the floor", she thought 1" off the floor was too high.  I pinned satin at 1/2" off floor and she liked it.   She wants chiffon just slightly longer than the satin.  With the dress on her, I marked the chiffon with pencil where the bride wanted the hem.  The bride said she does not want the side seams hemmed at all, so our agreement is to taper the 6" hem over to the side seams.  I have not hemmed this type of bridal dress before, and am concerned about it.  I used a rolled hemmer in the distant past on dresses, but have upgraded machines in the past year, and to be honest, at this point I am not confident enough in using the one I have now to do this exact of a hem with so little room for error on this, where the plain drapey chiffon is really the interest at the front hem.
How would you advise doing this--by hand--with a tiny rolled hem?  As the dress came, the chiffon is about 1 1/4" longer than the satin all the way around, and is anchored to fall this way at side seams.  Should I taper the 6" front hem [with chiffon about 1/4" longer than satin], slowly til it's about 1 1/4", like it came?
The second question is on the bustle.  This dress has covered buttons all the way down the train, and it seems very much like one of your examples where you used a pickup bustle. The bride loves the look of the Pickup bustle (outer) with the one point.  [She did not like the inverted pickup bustle.]  In reality, when the bustle is rigged, the sides drag the ground since the side seams are not being hemmed.  She indicated it was fine with her to have the sides drag ground.  Given that she did not want the sides hemmed, I was not sure anything else to suggest if she _had no_t wanted it to drag--there is no waist point or decoration to attach any other outer bustle anchor points to.    Could you suggest what to try here if the bride in fact did not want the sides to drag?
Again, thank you so very much for sharing your time and wisdom.  I really, really appreciate it.

Sincerely, Becky


Hi Becky,
You have a lot of issues here. Let me try to hit them one by one.
Your bride might have been "advised" to purchase a size 4 because that was the smallest size the manufacturer makes.
The length of the hem is a bride's wish. I start at 1" because that's a comfortable length that many brides like. I do my best to teach the brides all the reasons why this is a good length, but in the end it's her choice that counts and if she says she can walk comfortable and gratefully in a hem that touches the floor, I do it that way.
I try to set the layers at 1/2 drop from satin to chiffon. I like that look better, but if the bride wants the original drop ratio I do that.
Chiffon is a nasty fabric that does not cooperate with seamstresses. I have found ways of dealing with it's character that work for me. To do a rolled hem I machine sew a folded line 1/8" lower than the hem pins, trim the fabric 1/16" from this line, turn the folded edge up 1/16" and sew another line right on the fold.  
As you have discovered, the bride can make poor choices in her hemming wishes that cause problems for you once you get to doing the bustle. Not hemming the gown across the whole front is a major one. If a bride wishes to make this decision, she needs to be informed that the sides will drag when bustled before the hem is sewn. If she says this is ok, then you do what she wishes but protect yourself by making a big deal of it so she can't blame you for guests stepping on her dragging sides at her reception. 
I have one example of a bride who wanted this in my bustle pictures. I set the whole train so it gave the same drag as the sides did. It's the second set of pictures on this page:
The only other thing I do to solve dragging sides is set more bustle points to bring up the sides. This is usually undesirable for it often creates funny pulling effects in the sides area of the skirt. Generally, I spend a lot of time educating the bride at the hem stage to convince her that dragging sides is not a good idea.
Good Luck with your bride

added February 2009

 How should this dress be bustled?  Could it be done using the one point system?
 It needs to be as easy as possible. My husband will be doing it for me.
 We are renewing our vows in Hawaii and it will be just us,the minister and photographer on the beach.


There is a gown I did just like yours on this page. The bride wanted what is pictured. I did it with only one point and that got the look the bride wanted. To get the rest of the train up more I would have had to do more points. I do not think you can get your train up all the way with just one point. But I do think if your husband can handle hooking one hook I am sure he can do 2 or 3 with no problem. I also bet the photographer has some experience in this area for he has probably seen many a bride in your same situation and photographers are used to helping brides look their best. I'm sure he will offer any help you might need.

added March 2008


I found your page on google and have a question for you. My wedding dress is very straight in front and the seamstress who did my alterations made it so that I would do a pick up bustle and hang it on the last button on the back. This however makes my hips look like the flying nuns habit. The dress is covered in lace and beading, so it needs to be up for the reception so guests don't tear or break it. Is there another way I can bustle it without looking like I have huge hips? Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it!


Yes, I am familiar with this problem. The trick to avoiding the nun wings is to set the bustle points lower in the back.

added March 2008

Thanks, Leanna, for sending the follow-up e-mail. The DVD arrived today. I have watched it and found your instructions and video very clear and easy to follow. I'm delighted I found your video on the Internet.

I am making my daughter's wedding gown. It is the slim, A-line style described in your video that utilizes a single pick up point. The bottom of the gown and train are covered with lace embedded with pearls and sequins. The lace is beautiful but adds quite a bit of weight to the gown. Will the hook and loop of a single pick up point still work? Might you have any other pointers to distribute the weight?

Thanks! Carol

You can do 2 points close together, like about 3" apart. That will give more stability. You can also use a tiny button on the underside of the Anchor point. I forgot to say that in the video.

added February 2008

I’m looking for a picture of a bustled mermaid style gown. This is my dress, Please help! I am much, much shorter than this girl, and so the train is MUCH longer on me!

Any suggestions would be great!

I don't have any good pictures on my site to refer you to, but I would do this with a low pick-up bustle but using about 4 points instead of just one. You could shorten the train to make it more proportionate to your height. That will be more expensive but it might make you feel much better about the whole thing.

added December 2007

hi leanna,

thank you so much for your valuable information on the web. i had a bustle question for you--i bought this dress recently (please click on the dress for specific vews) and was thinking about bustles. i had initially thought of a pick-up bustle but my seamstress worried that it would break the line of the dress and recommended a low french bustle instead. do you have thoughts about this?
Stunning Elizabeth Fillmore Wedding Gown
thanks so much in advance. happy holidays!
take care, nhi-ha

Both the French and Ballroom style Pick-up Bustles will break the line of the dress. It matters which you like the best, not what your seamstress thinks.

added December 2007

My daughter picked more of a soft mermaid (not quite so dramatic, but still the same effect) style wedding gown……..I’m not sure how to bustle it. The dress is very fitted to below the hips and then it flares out and with a train. Joli Bridal 3911 is the numbers on the order form……………..any suggestions on this style of a wedding dress?


Usually I use a Pick-up style bustle for this mermaid style of gown. Here are some links to pictures:

The bustle has to be set low on the backseam because of the mermaid style.

added November 2007

Hi there, I have been looking at your website and have got some insight into how to bustle. I am going to buy your dvd, but I just wanted to know how possible it is for me to bustle my dress. It has a very long train and has a lace overlay with a thick satin underlay. The lace and the underlay is attached at a couple of places to keep them together while walking. However I don't have a clue how to bustle it.

I have attached a picture of the dress. (Oleg Cassini - CK118). The train is actually longer than that. In the picture they have moved the train around the sides as well.

Please give me your advice.
Thank you, Karen

Any dress can be bustled, some are just more complicated than others. You gown is very fitted through the hip area so the bustle will have to be set low, maybe in the knee area. Many of this type of gown can bustled in the Pick-up style pictured on my site, but if your train is much longer than the picture you sent me, it will need more points than one.

added May 2007

Dear Leanna,

I have read your entire website and I want to thank you for sharing such a wealth of information! If only I lived closer to you so I could hire you to work on my dress.

I have an Allure style 8308, which features an elaborate cut lace overlay (I think it's stitched onto organza?) with a long train. Here are some pictures, but they don't really do justice to the lace:

A close up of the lace on the train:

And the bodice: (Note: the real dress doesn't wrinkle like that in the middle. I'm clipped into a bigger size.)

When the dress arrived, the bodice fit me PERFECTLY. The bottom, however, was very big, which confuses me because I'm usually a two on top and a six or eight on the bottom in street sizes, and this is a size eight in "bridal dress" size. On the model, the dress seems to be more form-fitting around her hips and bottom, and only flare out mid thigh. My dress lies in folds around my hips. Could they have made a mistake?

It's also several inches too long -- even in really high heels (which I really wouldn't want to wear to my wedding -- I'm not a super-high heel kind of gal) I'm going to need hemming. This concerns me because the scalloped hem makes me think this is going to be a major undertaking -- that I will have to take apart the dress at the horizontal hip seam/band and lift it from there. And since the skirt already seems too full, will that make it even fuller? How can you "take in" such ornate lace? I'm also concerned that this will double the cost of the dress. (I was quoted $500 for shortening alone).

Finally, if all this works out, how would you recommend bustling a dress like this? I bought it because I was so in love with the lace, so I would want to show it as much as possible, but I'm worried that an "outside" bustle might tear the delicate fabric?

I would be so grateful for any advice you have to offer. Thank you so much for your website. It's been a real education.


It's not a good idea to go by the model pictures. You don't know how they pinned her into the dress or touched them up after the photo session. It shouldn't be difficult to take in the hip area if that's what you need.

In the picture you can see a band that separates the scalloping bottom lace from the skirt lace pattern. I would do the ham by moving the scalloping lace up by this band. I suspect that when the gown is the correct length, the folding at the hips will smooth out because the whole skirt can drop down.

The Bustling I do has stays under each point to support the fabric. I've never had a bride report that her delicate lace tore in one of my bustles. I can't say how your people will bustle the gown, but I'm sure they have some understanding of the situation with the lace. Polyester Organza is a rather strong fabric though it is shear. You will probably need what I call a Pick-up bustle with the shape of the train. Though this is usually done with one point, it can be done with 2 close together points to support he lace better.

added March 2007

Hi, Leanna.

Thank you for your helpful site.

I've attached some pictures of my wedding dress, which is from the David's Bridal Galina line. It is chiffon with an organza (?) overlay, and neither layers have any beading or ornamentation. I am pretty sure that the seamstress there told me it could not be bustled. At the time, that didn't register with me as "and therefore will be impossible to ballroom dance in."

Your site makes me think it would not be impossible to bustle--maybe a simple french bustle at the knee? Can you give me some tips on what, exactly, to tell the seamstress? Especially regarding how to bustle the transparent layer?

Another thought I had was to do some sort of wrist-loop and cord arrangement, so that the train would be lifted just a few inches when I'm dancing. I'm sure I've seen this in depictions of Edwardian-era (I think) balls but can't find any illustrations on the web. Do you think something like that would work?

I'd really appreciate any advice--my fiance and I have been taking ballroom lessons, and we really want to show off what we've learned!

Thanks much, Lee Ann

Yes, this can be bustled and easily. The French Pick-up Bustle at the knee you suggested will work nicely. There are pictures here:

The rigging is sewn to all layers so that when the bustle is made all the layers are caught up in it. Step-by-step instructions for making this type of bustle are in my Beautiful Bustles DVD.

I always like the wrist loop style, but I think your train is too short to make it work nicely.

added July 2006

Hi Leanna,

Your bustle page is great. It was informative and concise. I would love
your advice with my train as it is rather unusual. I have attached a
picture for you to see. Your opinion on how it should be bustled would be
greatly appreciated.

Thanks and regards, Thao

What a gorgeous gown and yes, it is unusual. I would try the Ballroom Pick-up Style first but the flair may start too low and the train too wide for only one point. Maybe 2 points will work ok. So it may end up looking like a very low Ballroom Bustle.

added July 2005

Hi Leanna,

I am working on the bustle of a gown which has just one bustle point picked up to the bottom of the zipper. Can I use a thread loop at the base of the zipper and put the hook in the train's lace? there are no buttons on the back, no waist line, and no beading or appliques on the dress except for the he, do no hiding spots. Will it be strong enough? It also seems backwards...usually putting the hooks at waist. There is no place to hide the hook, button, etc., so I thought I could switch and put the thread chain at the zipper and hide the hook in the lace. Will this work, or do you have a better idea? Thanks in advance for the help.

This is a great example where inverting the hook and eye placement makes sense. It should work fine.

I normally don't worry much about hiding things. Wedding guest aren't looking for bustle riggings and they just don't notice stuff like that. I teach the brides that it's not worth worrying about.

added February 2004

I found your site on bustling a wedding gown. Can you tell me what type of bustle you would recommend for the following gown? It has a relatively short train, so perhaps a wrist loop would be best, but I am not sure.

Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Kindest regards,

A wrist loop would be really elegant. If you'd like a ballroom bustle it will probably take only one point. You could do a French Pick-up Bustle but it would have to be rather lowfor your train is very slim at the hips.


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