{Tailoring}: Fanning the Flames

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

There are a LOT of reasons why I love vintage. The stories the garments come with, the attention to detail, the one-of-a-kind nature. But few things get my heart beating quicker than a glance at the INSIDE of a vintage garment. Back in the day, so much care went into every aspect of making a vintage dress – each seam, each stitch – and care even went to imagining the future woman who would wear her. The adjustments she might want to make. Because fashion was once about longevity.

Due to it’s one-of-a-kind nature, I often subscribe to the notion that vintage is “meant to be.” If it fits perfectly, than it traveled through time to meet me. If it doesn’t, it usually it means she is still searching for her next soulmate. But, there are those times when it’s pretty much impossible to walk away and Meant To Be makes way for Must Have. There are dresses that are so worth breaking the rules for…

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

This particular dress presented just such a conundrum when I saw her at Mother of Vintage. She made my heart skip a beat. Her intricate detail work and illusion bodice rendered me speechless. The sheer, netted panels and delicate flames licking around the neckline filled my soul with light…. I’m sure you get the idea – this was vintage dress porn at its finest.

So, I held my breath as I clicked onto her content page, only to devastatingly find her measurements as she stood were for someone far FAR more petite than me – she was short in the bodice and generally small in almost every conceivable way. She measured 34″ bust (eh), 23.5″ waist (boo), and free hip, with a 14″ length from shoulder to waist (bigger boo). Herm. I clock in at 35″ bust, 27-28″ waist, and 38 hip, with a longer-than-average torso of 16″ from shoulder to waist. This is the point when most us us sigh in frustration, cast one last longing look, and walk away. But fate was on my side…

The Prep

As someone who loves to sew (case in point here & here), I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to tailoring vintage garments (or any garment). Whether you’re browsing in a thrift store of searching online, there are a few key terms to know when you’re trying to decide if you can let a dress out to suit your measurements:

Seam allowance: The area between the edge and the stitching line on two pieces of material being stitched together. This can range from a very small amount of fabric (1/4″) up to several inches.

Dart: These are essentially folds (tucks coming to a point) that are sewn into fabric to take in ease and provide shape to a garment, particularly in areas of curvature (hence why they are often seen in the bodice). They look like folded a triangle of fabric on the inside of a garment.

Back or Side Zip: We all know what a zipper is, but you’ll notice they can be at the back of a garment or on the side. Personally, I find garments with back zips much easier to tailor, especially for beginners, because you often can leave the zipper alone and tailor your garment based on the fabric in the side seam allowances. But, there can be a fair amount of fabric at the zipper as well, so it’s always good to check.

Although you are usually unlikely to get more than a few inches out of a garment, I took a chance and wrote to the lovely Hannah about the available seam allowance in this dress and was completely blown away by what came back to me…

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

Fanning the flames of my vintage-loving heart, one look at the inside of this dress and I knew that we were meant to be together. There was so much glorious fabric in the seam allowance and darts of this dress, with a good 2.5″ in each side seam allowance, another 2 inches in each bodice dart, and 1.5 inches in the zipper. There was also nearly 2″ of extra fabric in the bodice, meaning that I could let it down. So, all up, I had over 10″ in the bodice to expand, and could get the bodice length to 16″ easily.

So, she merrily floated all of the way over to Australia and into my arms. Thanks to generous seam allowances, my Bernina, and several cups of coffee on a Saturday, this beauty was ready to be transformed.

The Tailoring

Step 1: Because I needed to lengthen the bodice, the first step was unpicking the zipper and the waist seam, removing the bodice from the skirt completely and pressing out the creases.

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed AestheticFanning the Flames - The Dressed AestheticFanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

Step 2: Next, I unpicked the stitches in the side seams, and measured the waist flat to 14″ (which doubled, would get time my desired waist measurement of 27-28″, which a bit of wiggle room for eating). Once I was happy with that, I pinned the side seams with right sides together and, keeping it even on both sides, sewed them together with a straight stitch. Then, I opened the seam and pressed.

I made sure to apply a liberal amount of steam and massaged the old stitch lines in a circular motion, which helps to reduce the small holes from the old stitches.

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed AestheticFanning the Flames - The Dressed AestheticFanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

Step 3: The skirt was a bit tricker. One thing to watch for – don’t just check the seam allowance in the bodice. Always check that there is the same seam allowance in the skirt (or at least, as much as you need). In this skirt, there wasn’t quite as generous of seam allowances, with only about 1″ in each of the side seams. But, the skirt had 8 darts total, with about 1.5″ of fabric in each. Instead of micro-manipulating each dart, I decided to remove two of the back darts completely and let the dress out slightly at the sides, giving me more than enough extra fabric to play with.

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

Step 4: Once my adjustments were complete, I reattached the bodice to the skirt and stitched the zip back in. Because the bodice was now lengthened, the zipper was a bit lower on the dress than it had been previously, so I sewed in a hook an eye about 2″ above the zipper, so it looks as if the zipper placement was intentional.

I tried her on and found a minor dart adjustment was needed (there was a bit of pointy boob syndrome). With the help of Sewanista, I scooped the dart slightly, and she was ready to party.

Step 5: Put it on and frolic around like a fool, resplendent in the fruits of your labor!

The Styling

It’s the perfect time of year in Perth, where flowers are blooming in everyone’s gardens and the entire city is awash with color. Although I can get more than a few stares wandering around my neighborhood, dressed to the nines, I just had to take advantage of all of this stunning scenery. I have to say, the delicate rosettes on the bodice of this dress fit right in…

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic

Fanning the Flames - The Dressed Aesthetic
Outfit planned using Dressed for iPhone

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I couldn’t be happier with my tailoring outcome and am overjoyed that this dress is a part of my vintage collection. And the deep crimson stitches went perfectly with my latest footwear acquisition from Mo-Mo’s, which have always reminded me of rose petals.

The moral of this store is – always ask. If you are completely obsessed with a vintage dress but find her to be too small, always have a look inside! The guts of a garment can really tell a story. And if that beauty is online, don’t ever be afraid to email the seller and ask about seam allowances. The answer may surprise (and delight) you.

If you have any questions about tailoring, ask away in the comments below!

(and if you missed it, I’ve been continually updating my list of Black Friday deals from around the web – including incredible sales at some of my favorite vintage shops. Hope you snag a deal!)

 

 

xoxo

Outfit Details:
Dress: Mother of Vintage (similar here, herehere & here)
Belt: ASOS (similar here & here)
Bracelet: Gift (similar here & here)
Handbag: Moyna NY (similar hereherehere)
Shoes: thrifted from Mo-Mo’s Vintage (similar herehere & here)

Lip Color: Nars Heat Wave

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The Dressed Aesthetic

8 comments on {Tailoring}: Fanning the Flames

  • Elspeth's Heir

    Oh thank you so much for this post!!! I am not as tall as you are, but find so many dresses with that dreaded 14 or 14.5 inch bodice and it makes me weep that I need a 15. This gives me hope that some of those beauties could still be mine. You did an amazing job – just stellar!

    • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

      Thank you so much! 🙂 And I know what you mean – the bodice length is always my undoing! I’m so so glad the post was helpful – let me know if you ever try a similar tailoring project. I’d love to see it! 🙂 xxx

  • alecia

    I FEEL YOU! Thank you for sharing these tips.

    I find it so hard even with vintage items with my measurements. One way to knock off a couple of inches is to wear a good fitted minimiser bra (they may look ugly, but boy do they work) in tandem with the use of the generous seam allowances that are so often in vintage garments (bless them) if you find you are booby and find a dress that is *perfect* and find that the seam allowance might be cutting it a bit thin.

    • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

      Thank you Alecia! SO glad you found it helpful. I totally agree about the minimizer bra – but I’ve never found one that I really like or that works for me all that well! Do you have a particular brand you recommend? I find a lot give me more of a sports bra look…but I’d love to find one that minimizes me but holds a curvy shape! 🙂 x

      • Alecia

        A cup above in Joondalup has an awesome range of bras and will definitely have some. I haven’t been able to find many in places like Myer and David Jones because their stock gets decimated pretty quickly when it comes to small band/large cup bras. I’d suggest going to the place in Joondalup or one of the specific bra stores in the city (not bras and things though), you might have to try a few on but its worth it!

        • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

          Oooh thank you!! Will definitely have to check them out. 🙂 xxx

  • StinaP

    The joy of generous seam allowances! Great work – the dress is a stunner!

  • Jessica

    This dress is vintage porn at its finest. It was truly meant to be but you worked hard for her! The reward definitely paid off.

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