The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Five Grads, One Dress - The Seamstress' Cut

I started taking alterations a couple months back to round out my services for clients and because I discovered I actually liked doing them (nothing like a nice, easy hem job to balance out the longer projects!).  Shortly after I made this decision, Linda Hill, our area's most reputable home-based alterations lady, contacted me to se if I was interested in taking her overflow.  Yes, m'am!  (Must have been destiny at work . . .)

Elle's mother Mary in the dress 1980.  Source: Wednesday Journal

This project came to me via Linda.  The public high school in Oak Park requires that graduating ladies wear long white dresses.  The daughter of Linda's friend needed a family dress altered but Linda didn't have room in her schedule.  I almost passed but then found a way to stretch my schedule and I'm so glad that I did.  The dress was written up in a local paper with annoyingly sadly no mention of the seamstress, so I thought I'd provide some behind-the-scenes coverage.  You can read the newspaper version with some great quotes from the ladies who wore the dress and additional photos of the dress in action here.

Dress as it came to me

Dress insides

The dress had been worn by four women in the family so far: Elle's mother Mary, Mary's older sisters Nancy and Peggy, and Mary's oldest daughter Maranda.  Now it was Elle's turn, but the dress just didn't fit - Elle is a small person, but bustier than her aunts/sister.  Linda passed along some suggestions when she passed me her client and I took it from there!

First I carefully unpicked the side seams and took out the side seam zipper (this dress is now 35-years-old).  Then I basted fabric scraps at the side seam so that I could see how much extra room was needed (when Elle first tried on the dress for me, she couldn't pull it down over her girls!). 

I used the scraps to make a pattern piece for what needed to be added at the side seam:

I balanced out the two sides before creating a pattern

The dress has a tie that was just barely wide enough to use in the side seams, so I reduced the SA to 1/4", crossed my fingers and cut.  Taking out the side seam stiches had left small but visible thread holes in the fabric.  The holes bugged me now that the seam allowance was smaller, so I fused white knit tricot interfacing to the back side of the fabric, and voila!  no more holes.

I sewed the new side seam panels in place, replaced the old zipper with an invisible zipper, added a button hole and button to the tie, reduced the seam allowances in the lining to 1/4" and we were ready for the day.  Not an ideal alteration, but it worked!

I loved that I got to help extend the life of this dress.  It was both exhilarating and terrifying to work with something that had so many memories attached to it.  Elle's face made it so worthwhile!
6 comments on "Five Grads, One Dress - The Seamstress' Cut"
  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Rhonda! That means a lot coming from you!!

  2. Wow! I would have been so scared. You did an amazing job!

    1. Thanks, Amy. Ripping out those side seams definitely brought my heart rate up . . ..

  3. Wow, that's so cool! What a wonderful family tradition. The dress is even sort of back in style now! I really admire your braveness in taking the dress apart to alter it - I don't know that I would have had the guts!

    1. Yeah, I should mention that some procratination happened as I gathered my nerve. It helped to have a deadline that meant there was no time to find a second dress if I didn't do this right!