Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When You Can't Let Go: How to fix a dress when everything's wrong

 Early in the spring, much too early to be wearing sleeveless dresses, I picked up this sundress at Rugged Wearhouse. It was the perfect blend of trendy and hippie, with pretty little flowers and a color that would go perfectly with the brown sandals I'd just bought (Or did I later buy the sandals because they'd go with the dress? I forget). I did not try it on, and I probably should have, because I would have noticed that it made me look fat. However, I loved it so much that once I owned it, my wallet 13 dollars lighter and myself looking 15 pounds heavier, I didn't try to return it.

But after I'd worn it once, it became painfully obvious that love wasn't going to be enough to keep our relationship afloat. The dress was going to have to change.

The smocking on the back wasn't tight enough to hold the dress up, and the little ties that served as a halter were sufficient to hold up the front (albeit while cutting into my neck) but the sides slowly sagged over a few minutes of wearing, giving the dress a decidedly frumpy look and revealing my bra underneath. In addition, I was growing increasingly intolerant of the bulky look imbued by the dress, and I concluded that the worst of it was caused by a bulgy part of the skirt on my left side. Lastly, due in part to poor construction, the top front of the bodice kept trying to turn itself inside out and let the lining layer peep out.

Here's a picture of the front of the dress with the beige lining
poking out over the top edge—just one of the many
"quirks" the dress had to offer.
I was seriously considering giving the whole thing up for lost, but I really, really wanted to wear it with those brown sandals, if only just once! So I set up for some major surgery.
  1. First, convert the halter straps into shoulder straps. This would help the dress stay up evenly all the way around.
  2. Second, diminish the bulging part on the left side.
  3. Third, tame the front bodice and keep the lining under wraps.


Converting the halter into shoulder straps wasn't too big of a challenge. The ties were more than long enough, so I just sewed them down along the top edge of the bodice, on the underside, until they were at a good location for a shoulder strap. At the same time, I made sure some of the sheer fabric on the front was pushed up and sewn in place, to hide the lining a little better. Then, wearing the dress so I would know how long to make the straps, I pulled them up and over, and pinned them down on the back of the dress. I then sewed them into place, leaving the free tails to tuck inside when wearing. The advantage of doing it this way is it's totally reversible if you ever want to wear it as a halter dress again!
Some words of caution:
  1. Make sure you're sewing the straps onto the inside of the dress. I accidentally sewed one on the outside and had to rip the seam and start over.
  2. I had to sew the straps closer together than I would have liked, in order to help keep the bodice from flipping inside out and/or sagging. Ideally you would place the straps exactly where your bra straps are.
This is a picture of the two halter ties being pulled to the left and right, along
the top of the dress. That big hank of thread dangling on the right? That's
where it will poke out as a strap. I reinforced it there with a bunch of extra

Here's a picture of one strap pinned down and ready to be sewn. Look
carefully, and you'll notice it's actually pinned on the outside of the dress.
That's a big no-no.


The bulging part on the left side proved to be an ongoing challenge. I tried sewing it down, which created too obvious of a seam and still didn't eliminate the bulging! I poked and prodded it for a while before finally giving up. So I have to look fat—big deal. I know in my heart that I'm thin enough that my dress needed help staying up anyway!


Now, for the magical flipping bodice, I was kind of stumped. Part of the reason was that the right foam bra pad had been sewn too low, leaving too much flexible fabric near the top of the dress. But even after moving the bra pad up, and even after adding the shoulder straps for extra support, there was still fabric poking out near the center of the bodice. What would have helped was a little bit of boning to help hold the fabric in position, but this dress was obviously too cheap for something like that. Eventually I decided the best solution was to eliminate all the excess fabric that had no place to go after the bodice was drawn into gathers at the center. I fixed it the old fashioned way—with a safety pin! I simply pinned through some of the errant fabric and secured it down lower on the inside of the bodice. No more peeping liner!
Here you can see the right bra pad is positioned lower than
the one on the left.
Here is me closing up the gap between the top of the bra pad
and the top of the dress.
The final solution: Safety pin locked in position!
With all that done, I finally considered this dress wearable. I also learned a lesson.

Style Tip If you're shopping for a dress that will be held up entirely by a smocked bodice, buy it a size smaller than normal! Better too tight than slip-sliding and bulging all over the place!

Come back tomorrow to see the result of all these labors!

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