DIY Clothing Alterations – Dress, Part One

If you’re a human and you’ve ever bought clothing off the rack, odds are you’ve dealt with ill fitting garments. Unless you fall into that magical body size and proportional range clothing companies use to manufacture their products, it can be hard finding things that fit correctly.

My, and many other peoples, biggest problem garments are jeans and dresses. I usually end up wearing a belt, since waistlines are always too big when hips/thighs/length work. With dresses, I face the same problem in the bust line.

I’m a pretty small person. I’m usually only about 5’2″ or 5’3″ when I get regular adjustments for my back, and weigh just over 100 pounds. While that means I face the exact opposite problem most people face, I still have issues with finding comfortable clothing that looks halfway decent on me. My scoliosis can also complicate things, especially when it comes to some shirt and dress styles.

Needless to say, I’ve gotten very good at hemming skirts or pants, and taking in many dress bodices. In fact, when I shop for casual dresses, I usually look at how they’re constructed before trying them on. If I can’t figure out how to fix it in the store, I don’t buy it, regardless of how much I might like it.

When I DO find a dress I like, and that fits, like the one I’ll be altering for this entry, I wear it until it’s beyond repair. I’ve had this particular dress for a number of years, now, and it’s my go-to summer dress for when I don’t feel like wearing shorts.

(I apparently have no idea of how to take a decent picture of myself.)

The straps have gotten to the point of either needing to be glued together, or replaced. Although the skirt is pretty, I have a hard time walking in it, because it restricts my stride. In fact, there are some tears in the side seams from being stretched a little too much. So, I will be shortening the skirt, and then crocheting some of the length back into a slightly fuller skirt. I’ll be following this idea.

Since this is going to be something of a lengthy project to write about, I guess I’ll turn it into a series.

While I’m figuring out what to do with the straps, I’ll address shortening the skirt.

This is a little tricky when you do it yourself, without a model off of which to work. What I did was relatively simple. While I was wearing the dress, I pinched a bit of the fabric right about where I want the hem to end, and stuck a pin in it.

I then unfolded it, while keeping the pin in place, before measuring the distance between the little marker and the hem. In this case, I rounded the measurement to 16 inches.

In order to make sure the hem is even, I placed a pin 16 inches above the existing hem all around the dress. You can use chalk or a tailor’s pencil to make the marks, but I didn’t feel like turning the dress inside out or dealing with chalk.

Once everything was marked, I cut just under the line of pins. (It’s always better to have a little more fabric to work with than cut too much.)

I guess this would be called “fun and flirty”? Let’s hear it for more fabric, too!

If I wasn’t going to add a crochet lining, I would fold the raw edge over twice and sew it in place. Since I will be doing the crochet thing, I won’t be sewing it, but I will fold it over once.

To make sure the hem stays even, I used my tailor’s tape to keep around a quarter of inch folded over all the way around. As I went, I put pins in to hold it in place.

Again, if you’re just shortening the skirt, I’d make that first fold a tiny bit smaller, then fold it over again. Before sewing, it helps to press the edge flat with an iron.
Next comes the crochet, but that will happen during an entry next week.

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