Monday, May 28, 2012

Alter or Destroy: Black & White Cotton Dress

I have some thinking to do and plenty of other projects before I tackle this one but I thought I'd share anyway.  I've found a great use for Mabel Mae, my new dress form (I seriously considered "Patsy" as a name so that I could blame her for everything I screw up, but thought that was mean).  She can help figure out what the hell is wrong with this dress!  Mabel Mae is a dress detective!

So cute, right?!  Slight problem, the upper waist, just around the rib cage is way too tight.  The top of the bust just fits and the lower waist and hips fit great.  At first I was upset with myself because it didn't fit, but then I was like, "My ribs?  Really?  My ribcage is too big now?" and realized that was probably the dress and not me.  And I was right. 

See how the top comes together at the hook and eye? But the rest is a no-go.  This picture makes it look way closer then it actually is- that gap is big.

Meanwhile the lower waist and hips have plenty of room to spare. The zipper goes down quite a bit, over the hips to the top of the thigh. It's a little more then half way down in this photo.

It doesn't even fit the dress form and she is, technically, perfect.   I'm not sure who is a 40DD with a 30 inch ribcage, but I've got the dress for you if you are out there, mutant!  As far as I can tell, the factory where this was made cheated the full-bust adjustment- adding depth to the front but not lengthening or widening any other part of the pattern. According to the tag the dress was "designed" in L.A. and made in China.  I'm sure a standard set of numbers were given and extrapolated on by whoever makes those decisions on the factory floor.  Probably someone without boobs. 

I could return the dress... but I'm not going to do that.  I'm going to take a gamble and see if I can fix it. I'll either alter it or destroy it!  I feel like a mad scientist!  Wooha-haha!

The dress is cotton (as is the lining) so adding some sort of panel seems like a good possibility.  But where?  And how?   I don't really want to mess with the invisible zipper, but that might be impossible. The stripes make things tricky too.  Here are the options I've come up with:

1. Insert a full panel (pieced, I think? maybe not, maybe more like a racing stripe) all the way down the none-zippered side seam.  Drawback? That will mess up the pretty way the strips are matched to each other. 

They did a pretty good job matching the stripes- not perfect, but not bad for a dress that was less then $100 retail. 

It would also make the lower waist and hips less fitted since they aren't too small now.  A bummer, but less of a bummer then not wearing the dress at all.   I could possible find the same fabric or go with a contrasting color like pink or red or just a solid black.  Very Project Runway Mondo-esque, perhaps?

Okay, maybe something a little more subtle.
A different pattern could work for sure. The dress is so stripey anyway it won't look that strange if you don't know how it is supposed to look. 

Maybe something like this? 

How much do you want to bet my husband tries to scan me with his phone? 
Like that's not going to happen... don't take that bet.

2.  Insert a gusset along the invisible zipper.  This would of course require me to remove the zipper and replace it.  Drawbacks?  My very limited experience with zippers makes this scary.  A gusset  would mess up the pretty pattern too.  However, a gusset might look neater then an added panel.  Particularly in a contrasting fabric- a smaller triangle of color vs. a stripe.  It would probably stand out more though and I'm not sure I want my alterations actually attracting attention. My only issue is that the zipper is currently longer then I would need the gusset since it's just my ribs and bust that need the adjustment.  I'm not sure how to work that as far as inserting the zipper in the new seam.

Could use a fun contrast:

Wouldn't have to worry too much about it being straight.
 or something like this: 

Subtle and girly, fancy black eyelet.  Obviously, I'd line it with white. 

 3.  Add inches to the waist band.  Not just around, but up too.  This would lower the waistband from around my ribs and add some space to breath.  Because I'm short enough I could hem the dress a couple of inches without a problem to get some perfectly matched fabric to do this work,although the stripe would be running the opposite way.

I think, based on my zero experience, that this alteration would make it harder to sew the dress back together. 

Drawback: it wouldn't alter the upper part of the bust which does fit, tightly, and I feel if I'm going to all this effort I might as well make it fit nicely everywhere.  I would still have to mess with the zipper.

4:  Screw it and chop up the dress as a pattern to make another dress, adding inches where needed.  Drawback?  That's an $80+ pattern, plus the cost of new fabric. This will be my fall back if things go poorly with the alterations.

We'll see!  I still have slipcovers to finish, some curtains to hem and another dress to make before I commit myself to re-working this one-  maybe I'll lose a rib in a freak napping accident in the meantime and I won't have to touch it.  Never know!

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