Saving a Dress from Myself

Some months ago I made a dress to celebrate passing orals (yay! I’m a PhD candidate.). It didn’t turn out as planned (boo!). Most of the times patterns just work for me, so I haven’t done many alteration. I learned some important lessons.

1.Vintage patterns patterns are cut for a different culture.

Going into the project, I was hyper aware that pattern sizes change over the years
and the 1968 pattern (Simplicity 7757)  I was using might not use standard sizing. However, since the pattern I used was printed the year everything changed, it actually uses modern sizing (as “NEW Sizing” printed on the front might suggest). Despite using modern measurements, the dress hung like a tent yet clung in the wrong places. This was not what was depicted on the pattern envelope. The idea of what looks good has changed. What looks good varies by body type. The vintage advertisement for the pink dress suggests that this shape was “in” during the sixties. Also, this is why patterns have photos on the front.

2. If you take a dress in at the side, you will have to recut the sleeves  unless they were huge to begin with.

I really loved this fabric, so I decided to do dress surgery, dresurgery, dresurgé? I took about three inches off either side of the bust. But I didn’t recut the sleeves since I don’t like making irreversible decisions (more on that later). I wish future me had warned me somehow.

Dear past self,

I can hear what you’re saying, “Oh, I have skinny arms, I can fit my arms through that tiny hole. I’ll just taper the sleeves so the top is smaller than the bottom.” That is a bad idea. This has only ever worked for you once and that was on a sleeveless shirt. Your upper arms will need that room to rotate forward or the dress will probably stretch funny. And now the dress is stuck like that forever because it’s not quite annoying enough to rip the sleeves off again. And it’s all your fault.

3. Gores added to the side of the dress won’t look the way you think they will.

img_2985After some excruciating trial and error adding darts to the back
to suggest I had a waist, as well as taking the dress in at the side, my end product looked a lot like what was on the pattern envelope. But while it looked fine from the front, it bunched weirdly in the stomach, didn’t quite fit in back, and I didn’t have enough skirt to run. The dress was sabotaging my chances in the coming zombie apocalypse.

I decided to add some gores to the dress. The tutorials I read warned me that adding fabric onto the sides would only add volume to the sides. Instead, I was supposed to slash several places around the dress and add the fabric there. I decided to ignore this for several reasons

  • I did not hate this dress and did not want to ruin it in case my changes were worse than the original.
  • The fabric I was adding matched the direction of the
    extant grain, and I was only adding enough fabric to make the bottom of the dress just as wide as a dress I already had. That dress didn’t have problems
  • Maybe the tutorials were meant for making a-line skirts. This
    dress had the grain of the fabric along center front.
  • I couldn’t find any pictures of the results of this mistake.

img_2999It turns out that only adding gores at the side of a skirt is generally a BAD IDEA. The fabric folds along the seam lines so it doesn’t flare out the way it would have if you had originally cut the skirt wider. Instead, the skirt hangs like a much narrower skirt, but gives you the leg room of a larger skirt. This looked fine for the style I ended up with, but gores in the front and back would have been cooler.

I added some darts in the front and augmented the ones in the back, and ended up with something I will actually wear which looks nothing like the dress I started out with.


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