Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vintage 911: Shrink My Dress

Vintage 911 before...and after.

Just recently a totally awesome coworker gave me this amazing vintage dress. I immediately fell in love with the print. I mean, it's got it all: umbrellas, toucans, starfish, a startled lady in a swim cap  -- it's just the most adorable thing ever. The prob? There was just a little too much fabric. Everywhere. A nip/tuck was in order.

Upon close examination, I found that this dress was entirely hand sewn. Can you imagine? In high school, when I was sewing-machine-less, I hand stitched the hem of a skirt. The process and the end result were equally painful.
 When thinking of how I would alter this dress, my first thought was to simply take in the sides and be done with it. However, that proved to be impossible for a couple of reasons. One, the dress only had a top button at the back of the neck. If the dress was altered to be form fitting, there would be no getting in and out of it. Two, the dress was pretty poorly crafted. I mean, it was hand sewn, the seamstress did what she could. But I wanted to do this dress up right. So, no short cuts. No slight modifications. This was gonna need to be a complete redo.
 I began by dissecting the dress. This was so hard to do as I wasn't sure exactly how this was going to end. I couldn't bear the thought of facing my work buddy knowing that I'd needlessly slaughtered her dress. Despite my sweaty palms and worry, I hacked away.

After cutting the back of the dress from top to bottom, I then took out the seam connecting the bodice to the skirt.

The original dress had a bodice that was gathered at the waist. I prefer a darted bodice, so I got out the dress pattern that I've used here, here, here and here. This cleaned up the bodice and created a more fitted look.

The sides were still wide, so I pinned and altered on my mannequin, as seen in the photo on the right.

 To be certain I took in an equal amount on both sides, I created a tissue pattern. I sewed along the line of the tissue paper, trimmed and ironed open.
 Once the bodice was complete, I was ready to add the skirt. Before I did, I took up 3 1/2" from the bottom. I then baste stitched two rows at the top of the skirt so that I could gather it.

I gathered the skirt to fit the bodice, pinned it like mad and stitched it to the bodice as seen on the right.

Gotta love a wind-created crinoline.
And, viola! Couple hours later and the dress was complete.
After adding even bigger darts on the second fitting, the dress fit much better.

Putting in the zipper was the last step. I used the zipper/tape trick again and it worked great. This dress has a beautiful pearl button at the top that I was able to keep in the dress.

Now, with the dress complete, I need your help: do I keep the parts of the dress that come off the shoulders (on left) or get rid of them (on right)? Hubs is leaning toward the look on the right...while I'm not sure if I want to take away from that wide collar.

So, what's your vote? You can cast your vote at the top of this page on the right. The last time we played this game, I was seriously out-voted (gee, thanks guys). After you vote, feel free to leave me a comment and lemme know what you think. Thanks for playing!


  1. Looks better without the wings on you. Great job love it with the black bow belt.

  2. I kinda like the one on the left- while it has wings, it seems to balance well with the full skirt.

  3. yeah, I like the one on the left--the proportion is better. Love your redo!!!

  4. I agree, keep with the left! It looks more fun that way. The right looks too impersonal.

  5. I love your redo! That fabric it's made up in is auhmazing. Totally worth some tweaks! :) I did, however, vote to remove the shoulder extension... It's just my aesthetic preference though; I like how clean it looks without! :)

  6. Anonymous9/12/2012

    Oh, I definitely like the little cap sleeves - keep them! This is one adorable dress! I super duper love it!!

  7. Anonymous9/12/2012

    The coworker that gave it to you must have good taste! Looks great!

  8. So cute Cassie! What an amazing print on that dress too!

  9. Cap sleeves keep the fun curved line. Love it!


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