How to Sew Beads onto a Wedding Dress or Formal Gown

What do you do if you have to alter a wedding or formal dress (for a customer or for yourself) and the dress has beads on it? (Or maybe, you are making a dress and you want to add beads to it).

It looks intimidating, doesn’t it?

Well, I’m here to show you how easy it is to remove those beads and then how to sew beads onto a wedding dress or formal gown.

There are a few ways that beads are attached to these types of gowns and it is important to know which one you have before you give your customer a good estimate on what the alteration is going to cost them. I generally don’t give an estimate until I can assess how the beads are attached to the gown.

There are a few questions to ask yourself first.

I just begin by assessing the area where they are to be removed. How many beads need to be removed? Are they all the same type and size of bead, or are they all different?

Your best bet, is to take a photo of the area before you begin taking things apart so you’ll know how to put them all back once you’ve finished the alteration.

Some beads are attached all over a mesh netting type fabric and then sewn into the gown. These are easily removed as an entire “sheet” of fabric. They are usually treated as one fabric and laid against the main fabric of the dress. Those can sometimes be the easiest to alter because you don’t always have to take them out one by one.

(If you have a fully sequined dress, you may not need to take any out at all. In fact, many of those can be stitched right over the top of them without any damage to your needle).

Other beads are connected in one long chain of thread. They can lay as one long string against the gown and be tacked every few inches, or they can be attached randomly all over the dress.

Another way they can be attached is singly, one by one. These are the most labor intensive. But, you can convert these to a long string easily if you have alot of beads you are needing to remove.

The best way to determine what you have is to poke around and look for a knot which would signal the end of a long thread. You can pull gently on that thread and determine how the beads are all attached. You can snip that thread and then pay attention to how the rest of the beads are attached.

Now consider what type of alteration needs to be done. For example, if I am taking in the side seams or bust of a dress, I will start by removing the beads closest to the side seam line.

That’s what needed to be done on this dress.

On this dress, the beads are huge and vary in size and shape, so I need to remove them or my presser foot will not be able to move over the surface of the fabric when I take in the dress.

beads on a gown with a seam ripper, 695

These beads were sewn on individually, but probably done by a machine, not by hand.

I can usually follow the thread with my eye, even while it is still sewn in, to figure out which beads should come off.

I use either my seam ripper or a pair of small pointed scissors to clip the first thread.

Once that is done, I pull the bead off and store it in a small bowl or baggie.

Now, I gently pull on the thread to see where the next bead is coming from.

Go slowly so that all the beads don’t spill all over the table or floor.

gently pulling on a thread to see where the next bead is, 696

I try to keep the thread as long as I can without cutting it because I may be able to use that same thread later to secure the beads that are not going to be removed.

We’ll talk more about that later.

thread tail while pulling off beads on a gown, 697

Once all of the beads are off, I do the alteration.

I have a list of alterations that you might need to know how to do at the bottom of this post.

Next, I find a needle that is narrow enough for the beads to slide over. The hand needles I have for this job are called beading needles.

Thread the needle with thread that matches the color that was used originally.

Tie a knot on the end.

I come up through the dress from the back, or if that is not possible, or I don’t want the knot to show on the underside, I come up through a spot where I will later attach a bead so that the knot will be hidden:

needle coming up through clear bead, wedding dress, 698

Anchor the bead down with several stitches. The bead above needs to be sewn by coming up through the middle of it and then down the outside of it. Because that particular bead is triangular shaped, it was best to sew it down with three stitches on the three sides of the bead. Otherwise, the bead stood up on one side. You may or may not have a unique bead like this.

Sometimes, you’ll have to go through the middle of the bead like this. I think going through the middle of the bead is the most common type of bead:

clear oblong bead on wedding dress, 703

And sometimes, you’ll have to sew the bead on the edge of the bead like this:

large round clear bead on wedding dress, 706

Just continue to sew the beads back on. If there was originally a pattern or sequence to how the beads were sewn on, then follow that sequence. Refer to the photo you took at the beginning before you took the beads off. Sometimes you won’t be able to match the pattern exactly, but do what you can to make it look as good as possible. In this case, the beads were sewn randomly all over the dress bodice, so I will do the same and fill in the open spaces until it looks good:

clear beads sewn randomly all over wedding dress, 702

What you will notice, most likely, is that if you took the dress in, you will have leftover beads. I put those in a baggie for the customer if she wants them. If she doesn’t, I keep them for future dresses that may need extra beads.

When I get to the end, and have stitched on all the beads necessary, I will pull the thread to the back of the dress (if that is possible). Sometimes, you can’t pull it to the back. In that case, knot the thread several times, as close to the underside middle of the bead as you can and cut the thread off close to the last bead.

Next, remember the long thread(s) that you had from pulling beads off at the beginning?

Thread those onto a needle one at a time:

re thread needle with loose threads and weave them back in to beaded dress, 699

Then pull each one individually to the back of the dress (if possible) and either knot each one individually or tie two threads together into a knot that is secure like this:

pull threads to back of dress and secure, beads on a dress, 701

If you’re not able to pull them through to the back of the garment, then tie your knots under a bead or in some spot where they can’t be seen.

When you’re finished, it should look the same as before you started.

beads all over a wedding gown, clear beads up close, 707

If you’d like to know how to price your work for a customer, I would like to suggest my new e-book entitled Pricing Strategies For Your Sewing Business.

If you’d like to know how to make specific alterations, just type in the specific alteration in the search box above and you’ll see over 100 posts on how to do various alterations on this website.

Some popular posts include:

How To Take In Side Seams and Facings

How To Take In A Dress With Piping

How To Put In Gussets In A Dress Or Top

How To Take In The Bust On A Dress Or Top

How To Put In A Corset Back In Your Dress

How To Make A Rolled Hem