Adapted Dress

4 Jun

So when the lovely Sun eventually made an appearance, I decided to have a dig through my wardrobe and take stock of the more summery dresses I have, one in particular I really like. I bought it from Oasis about 2 or 3 summers ago, it was a bit of an impromptu buy, I saw it & thought it was cute, but not too girly & it fitted so I got it! However I have only worn it twice, mainly due to seeing a photo of me wearing it after the second time and realising it didn’t suit me as much as I thought & I also had slight sinking moment when I realised I’d actually gone out wearing something ‘that short’ I momentarily felt like I was channelling my Dad (not that my dad said that to me much growing up – but it’s such a Dad thing to say). So this lonely dress has been sat in my wardrobe for over a year having not been worn at all.

detail of the back of the dress

Look at that lovely bow – definitely a dress worth rescuing.

I think part of my problem is that I don’t have a very conventional body shape (I guess not many people do). I’m average/slightly short at 5’3”, yet I have long legs and a short torso for my height, I’m also approximately an 8/10 on my top half & a 10/12 on my lower half. So many styles and shapes don’t suit me that well.

I have a dress makers mannequin which I definitely don’t take advantage of enough, I’ve not used it for a little while and I’ve put on a bit weight recently (which has also affected my overall shape – which has been a good thing generally) so I re-measured myself, adjusted my mannequin and fitted my dress on it. I find it’s much easier to be constructive with your analysis of the fit, not to mention you can see the dress much better when it’s on a mannequin – as opposed to looking at yourself wearing it in a mirror. The main issue I had was the length, it’s on the short side, but as it is made out of a light weight cotton with a really full skirt, it didn’t hang well for my shape , it just seemed to emphasize my wide hips (which sometimes isn’t a bad thing – but not for this dress) so it needed weighing down a bit too.

Original dress before adapting

So I popped along to the local market & picked up a metre of polycotton in a similar yet solid colour, just £4. I washed it in preparation, not that I thought it would shrink much, but it does make the fabric softer & easier to use.

I worked out that I wanted the skirt to hang 40cm from the waist line. I folded the skirt part up twice – to give me a quarter & placed it on to my paper (a roll of cheep lining wall paper is great for making quick large piece patterns that you’re only going to use once). So I drew a rough outline of what I’d needed – extending the skirt & measuring 40cm from the waist.

Drawing the pattern for extended skirt

I cut out my makeshift pattern & set about pinning to my fabric. I soon discovered that being a full (almost circular skirt) made this a little tricky, I did have a brief panic that 1m of fabric wasn’t going to be enough, as I just wasn’t going to get the 4 pieces out of it, no matter how I folded the fabric, then I realised I could fold the pattern in half (adding a little extra for seam allowance) & cut out 8 pieces instead, which fitted much better on the fabric – phew!

I sewed all the pieces together using French seams, unfortunately I don’t have an overlocker – so this is definitely one of the neater ways to sew seams. When I do sewing projects like this – I do very much have the attitude of ‘I’ll just see how it goes’ & if something doesn’t quite go to plan I can usually sort it out. Like when I came to attaching my new section onto the bottom of my dress I found that it was a tad too small (about 2-3cm), not wanting to just make a hash of it, I took a deep breath & un-picked and let out 3 of my 8 French seams, it did the trick perfectly! A very good reason why it’s a good idea to be a little generous with seam allowances, especially if you’re essentially cobbling thing together as you go.

I put my dress back on to my mannequin before sewing the hem, just to make sure it was hanging right & the overall effect had worked in lengthening & weighing down the dress a bit & I was pleased to see that it had!

Extended dress before hemming

I pinned and pressed my hem and opted to stitch it by hand. I almost always stitch hems on clothing by hand, it was the way I was shown when I was little by my Mum, it does take a lot longer than on a machine but it looks infinitely better & doesn’t give you that harshness of a machine stitched edge.

This is the finished dress, in an ideal world I have remembered to get a photo of me in it at the beginning of my friends birthday evening out, as opposed to the early hours of the morning when we’d just returned home – so apologies for the tired look & the slight fuzzy-ness of the image, not sure if that’s me or the photo.

finished dress adapted by nettynot

You don’t have to be an expert at sewing to give things ago. I’m still learning with everything I make, I need to improve on being able to adapt dress making patterns so that I can make clothes to fit my own body shape. So when a colleague mentioned they’d found a ‘make a dress in a day’ workshop on Groupon at one of my favourite places, the textiles Workshop, in Sherwood, I got myself booked on! I will write another blog about the dress I’ll be making on Sunday – watch this space; I hope my sewing skills are up to it!

Is there anything in your wardrobe you can’t bear to part with but wouldn’t wear as they are – what could you do to make them wearable again?


2 Responses to “Adapted Dress”

  1. NottinghamKnitter June 13, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Having seen this in person, I can vouch for the fact that it looks fab! I hadn’t seen this blog post when I saw Steph wearing this dress and I couldn’t even tell that she’d modified it, that’s how good a job she did 🙂

    I’ve never made modifications to any of my wardrobe. The closest I came was machine-dying a skirt and dress once. I’d been to my friend’s house for a party and was wearing this gorgeous top with droopy Galadriel-style sleeves. Her mum is obsessed with bleaching mugs and teacups and had left one bleaching on the windowsill behind the sink. I must have gone to get a glass of water or something, and trailed the end of my sleeve in the mug. I didn’t know it had bleach in it, so just thought I’d got my sleeve wet under the tap or something. Before I knew it, bleach all on the front of my top and skirt 😦 My friend was so annoyed with her mum for leaving out a mug full of bleach when she had a house full of friends round for party, she felt so bad for me!

    The top and skirt were both a similar shade of pale lilac, so I bought a pack of light purple machine dye, chucked them both in the machine and they came out great. Darker than they’d originally been, but the shade was consistent between the bits that had been dyed and the other areas, so I was pretty chuffed! I don’t have either garment any more (this was about 10 years ago!) but I got decent wear out of them for some time afterwards.



  1. Made a dress in a Day | - July 4, 2013

    […] as long as I can remember. I have made garments before & I’m always adapting things (see my previous posts) & I love a bit of patchwork. What I struggle with is how to adapt patterns so that they will […]


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