Ever since I learnt to sew my experience with vintage shopping has got so much better. I think it's often the case that you find a really gorgous dress but, totally understandably, because it's from a different decade it's a little too long or the sleeves are a bit odd or that neckline is just way beyond prudish. So many times I've seen people looking at dresses and then sadly put them back because it's a tiny bit wrong. It is heartbreaking...on a very small scale.
And so I thought I'd start a mini series showing you some super quick fixes that can totally transform a dress. The majority of the time people think that a dress needs a lot more of an overhaul than it does and so I'm here to show you those super useful skills!
Your first step is to evaluate your dress.
So this is the step where you have to be super realistic and practical. Put on your dress and have a good ol' look at yourself. You're going to have to list what you think is wrong and then practically consider whether the hassle of changing this outweighs the beauty of the dress. Consider your skills, consider how wrong it could go, consider how good it could look.
So for example the first thing I didn't like about this dress was the length. It's a little bit awkward; not quite long but not quite short and it just doesn't give the overall impression that I want it to have. Length is the easiest thing to change about a dress (providing there aren't any beautiful features on the hem you don't mind snipping off) so I judged that this was totally doable.
The second thing is the fit around the waist; it is just slightly off. Being an elasticated waist band it can make the whole dress look a tiny bit unstructured and just not as flattering as a modern cut. In order to fix this I would have to take out the elastic and restructure the bodice with darts and a new waist band. Doable but totally not worth it! This is a problem which can be fixed rather simply with a belt. In my opinion waistbands always have hidden problems and are never a quick fix, approach with caution!
So moving onto the top of the dress. I love that frill but I'm not so keen on the high neckline and the double collar thing makes me feel a little bit overdressed. Or at least like Mary Poppins. Necklines are usually pretty easy to change; all that is involved is a bit of snipping and creating a new facing (don't worry, I'm doing a detailed tutorial on this next week, that's not all the advice I'm giving you!) plus they can completely change the look of a dress. I think this is usually worth going for if you have an easy workable fabric which can be ironed and pressed. I'd stay clear of chiffons and silks and take caution with velvets as these are more likely to go out of shape while you are working with them and you will end up with a wonky neckline.
And lastly those sleeves. They're sorta puffy, huh? I'm not sure if I love them or hate them. If there's anything where you find yourself indifferent my advice is to make all the other changes first and then judge. Changing sleeve length is pretty easy, it's essentially like re-hemming a tiny skirt but changing an entire sleeve can be really problematic. Often a sleeve is the most dating thing on an outfit so it will make a huge difference by my advice is to work on sleeves sparingly and perhaps restructure your first sleeve on an outfit you really don't care about because I've had sooo many go wrong.
So there is your evaluation! By now you should roughly know what you want to do with your dress and what you think is actually doable. Stay tuned for the second installment where I teach you how to take the hem of your dress up into a super cute shorter skirt!