Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to resize a reversible dress

Remember the chartreuse dress that I wore with all sorts of other greens a few days ago? Well, this is the the other side of it, and the long story of how I made it actually fit. I snagged it on eBay for $8.54. Reading the measurements, I suspected it would be a little big for me, but it was just too funky and unique for me to pass up, and by now I'm a pro at resizing dresses, so I wasn't worried. Of course, in my excitement, I neglected to consider exactly how I would resize a dress that's ... dum dum duuuuum! ... Reversible!

The normal technique of turning it inside out and taking in the side seams wouldn't work, because there is no inside-out! No matter where you put a seam in a reversible dress, it will be visible when you reverse it!

Fortunately for me, this particular reversible dress was made with two layers of fabric, so, after some thought, I realized I could take the dress partially apart and do my alterations on the real inside—the space between the two layers.

Adding to the challenge, the dress had a complex closure system, which was a series of fabric-covered toggle buttons running down one side. There was no way I could touch those without ruining them, so altering the side seams—even on the inside layers—was out of the question. Fortunately there were already darts running up the back, so I decided I would just take them in.

I checked the dress all over for an external seam—one that was sewn from the outside, so I could rip it out and then replace it when I was done.

I found one on the bottom hem.
I ripped out most of that bottom seam from the back panel.

Then I tried the dress on and marked where I needed to take in the back darts. I couldn't reach the back while wearing the dress, so I just pinched the sides and stuck in a few pins to mark the amount of fabric that would be removed. An inch between the pin and the side seam meant I'd add an inch to the back dart at that same height.

Then I flipped the newly-opened backside of the dress inside out, so the inside of the green layer was facing out towards the front, and the inside of the grey layer was facing out to the back.
Starting with the green layer, I replaced my pins to mark where to sew, and then I did so (pun intended).

I ended up lengthening the back darts by a good amount—in fact, extending them all the way to the top of the dress. I was worried this would create weird puckers in the top, but it didn't! Phew!

After taking in the back darts of the green layer, I turned the dress right-side out and tried it on, green side facing out. The fit was much better, but if I wanted to be able to wear the dress with the grey layer facing out, I'd have to resize that layer too.
So I flipped the backside inside out again.

This time just eyeballing the width of the darts I'd already modified, I matched up and sewed the darts on the grey layer.

The pictures only show how I pinned the yellow side, but the grey side was done in the same way.

Another try-on ensued.

OK! Everything was looking great.
Theoretically, this was all I would need to do to, plus restore the bottom seam, to have a resized reversible dress. But of course, real life is never that easy. I had noticed previously that one of the darts in the grey layer was longer than the other. Though I'd originally let it be, I knew I couldn't wear the dress with such an obvious flaw directly over my butt.

So, I lengthened the shorter of the darts until they were approximately equal.
Then another try-on ensued. This time, I noticed that the fabric of the grey side was bulging a bit right under my armpit.

The first time I tried to fix this, I simply tightened up the dart on that side, but after another try-on, I could see that I hadn't fixed anything.

Yet another flip inside out, a quick adjustment of the side seam, which had actually been sewn badly originally (look at all the overlapping seams!), and...

Yes... Another try-on. This time I was satisfied.
Another thing I had to fix before the dress was wearable were two small snags on the back of the grey side.

I solved this problem by poking the loose thread back into the hole it had created using a needle. As soon as a small loop of it was poked through, I grabbed it from the underside and pulled it the rest of the way.

This made the flaw almost unnoticeable. But it's there! In the picture! Near the bottom center.
Finally, I pinned the two halves of the bottom hem back together and sewed them up again. My thread doesn't quite match the fabric as well as the original did, so my seam is more noticeable than I had hoped, but still, at the bottom of a dress with so many other exciting features to catch one's eye, I'm sure it won't be a huge issue.

After: All fitted and extremely blurry. Sorry, but I'm sure I'll
be wearing this dress again in the future, and I'll be sure to take a better shot!
My favorite reaction to this dress? "You look like Chun li from Street Fighter." Which I guess is appropriate, because, if you're counting, I did something like 6 fittings in less than an hour. This dress has not even a centimeter of stretch, and I'd tightened it up so much that I felt like I was fighting my way out of it every time I slipped it on or off. I just about had to dislocate my shoulders like a fashion Houdini to remove it. All the exertion made me sweaty, and that made me sticky, and the last couple of times, I actually had to recruit my boyfriend to wrestle me out of the dress. A couple days later, I couldn't figure out why my shoulders were so sore, but now I remember! Not only did I get a new fabulous dress, but I actually got a workout while fitting it!

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