This vintage early ’90s Express Dress was an amazing thrift store find last year for $3. I wore it several times last fall… until I saw photos of me in the dress. The length was not flattering on me, people. So last Monday Megan 2 and I set out to shorten the dress.
I’m serious about the not flattering thing. Below is the only sharable photo out of about 30. Post-baby, I’m short and stout. And long 90’s and 70’s silhouettes do not go with the teapot look. To be comfortable in your own skin, you have to know what shapes you can rock and which styles are better left to different body types.
Sewing machine to the rescue!
Us Megans started out by deciding what length to cut the dress. I put it on, and we folded the dress under to get a rough look of how it would look above the knee vs. below the knee. I’m a below the knee girl typically, but Megan 2 talked me into being a little more daring. Above the knee it went. We cut off some of the excess fabric so pinning the dress to the right length would be easier.
When freehand cutting like this, don’t worry about being perfectly straight. You’re just making the material easier to work with. That said, DO worry about cutting too much off. It is much easier to trim a little bit extra later than it is to piece extra fabric on. Because you don’t want to walk around looking like you’re wearing something out of Paris Hilton’s wardrobe. Unless, of course, you have her legs.
Anywho, you also have to take the seam allowance into consideration. We made sure that we had over a 1/2 inch of fabric over the length we wanted the dress so that we’d have enough fabric for the hem.
The next step was to pin the dress. Megan pinned the excess fabric under, pinning about every three inches all the way around the dress. She made sure to leave an extra 1/4 inch for the hem (the hem actually uses 1/2 inch of fabric, but the other 1/4 inch is folded under while you pin).
It’s good to have a friend to pin while the dress is on you (next time this will probably be Jake’s job). It would be difficult to pin yourself while wearing it and would be hard to judge how the dress falls if you don’t have it on. That said, it is possible to just stick a few pins in the front while the dress is on to use as a guide when you pin the rest of it.
Next we measured and pressed. We put the dress on the ironing board and measured from the seam under the bust to the place where the dress was pinned (this measured about 20 inches for this dress). We took turns doing this part. We measured around the whole bottom of the dress, pressing with the iron as we went and adjusting when needed (which was a lot of fabric because the skirt is very full, or “flirty” as Megan 2 called it).
After pressing, we laid the dress flat and measured again just to be sure. Measure twice, cut and sew once.
The fabric was already pressed under, so I just had to whip the dress through the sewing machine using a straight stitch (don’t forget to back stitch!) at a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Some people are expert sewers that can fold under the fabric again to create a double hem the first time through (my mom). I am not one of those people. After sewing the hem under, I pressed it under again and then finished off the double fold hem (folded twice at 1/4″) on the sewing machine using a little less than a 1/4 inch.
Using a double hem weighed the dress down a little more, but it also gave the hem more of a finished look. After I finished the hem, I went around and snipped any extra fabric and strings poking out that hadn’t been trimmed earlier.
You might think that altering clothes is intimidating, but I thought this would be a great place to start. If I can do it (I can only sew in a straight line, mind) then you can too! Bonus:It took less than an hour start to finish!
I’m so in love with how the dress turned out (though I still wish that it was below the knee… just a bit). I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl, but we spend a ton of time outside walking around. Light summer dresses are the only way to beat the Kansas City heat and humidity! Now all I need are some cute wedges.
Oh, and these photos have little to do with the dress, but I loved them. I’m awkward in photos (don’t act like you haven’t noticed), so giving me props to play with is one way to get me to relax. I don’t feel so weird if I have something to do.
Have you done any clothing alterations? Have a favorite link to share? I’m planning on doing a lot more of them over the summer, so I’d love to see your take!