DIY, Outfits and Style

Tailor it: Make a dress your own

In today’s post I’m sharing how I made an existing dress my own with basic sewing skills from those Home Ec days in high school.

I picked up this cute polka dot dress from Salvos Stores for $2:

I loved the print and the wrap detail of the skirt part of the dress. It was also fully lined and the fabric was very light and airy. However, I wasn’t too keen on the round neck and sleeves (the day I bought the dress it was around 35 degrees so sleeves were definitely not on my mind). It was slightly too big around the bust and back. Also, and I’m not sure if you can see it in the photo above (Instagram Husband is still getting used to the camera), there is a bit of colour run in the neckline.

Hey, why not buy a dress for $20 that actually fits, has no stains, and is in the style you want? I hear you ask.

Well, that would certainly be an easier option. However, I hadn’t really come across any kind of polka dot dress that I was really happy with, new or secondhand, and I didn’t want to buy something that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with that would eventually end up at the same place as where I bought this dress. And who doesn’t love a good sewing challenge?

The first step was to remove the sleeves.

Turning the dress inside out, I cut the sleeve about 2cm away from the armhole seam, folded the remaining fabric 1cm then another 1cm so that the folded fabric was on the inside of the dress.

Instead of using the machine, I just hand sewed the hem under, sewing it onto the lining of the dress so the stitches couldn’t be seen.  Given the stitches can’t be seen from the outside I just used a very simple whipstitch.

For the neckline, I cut out a V shape with a small slit at the bottom of the V that was about 2cm long, folded each side of the v down 1cm then 1cm again. I then hand sewed these down using whipstitch, again onto the lining of the dress so the stitches wouldn’t be seen. This V-neckline served 2 purposes: 1) I find V necks to be more flattering for my petite frame as they elongate the torso; and 2) to remove that colour run along the neckline.

After trying the dress on, I wasn’t happy with the shoulders so I gathered the fabric just in front of the shoulders and sewed it together, making the neckline just a little bit more interesting.

I then had to use the machine to take in the darts at the front a little more so that the top part of the dress fitted a bit better, but this could have been done by hand too.

And the final result.

I much prefer this neckline to the previous round neck one, although it somehow looks a bit like a cowl neck in the photos. The gathered shoulder detail also gives the dress a cool retro feel.

For these photos, instead of tying up the wrap I just tucked the bottom layer under, brought the top layer all the way around and secured it with a belt. I think I prefer the belted look to the tie up one but am reluctant to sew the wrap in this way in case there are days that I actually do want to use the tie up option (those Italian dinner date nights come to mind). I just have to hope the belt to secure enough to keep the top layer in place!

Wearing: thrifted dress tailored by me  | vintage Anne Klein for Oroton braided belt (hand me down) | Forever New boater hat (old) | Dune London woven oxfords (old)

So if there’s a (preferably thrifted or secondhand!) item of clothing that you love but it just doesn’t fit quite right, or you want to change something about the item to make it more you, try doing it yourself or take it to a tailor to do the alterations for you. Chances are you’ll end up with an item that you’ll love and will get #30wears out of it, and will be something that’s unique!

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