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Refitting Antiqe For Prom

ThreadKoe | Posted in Fitting on

DD3’s Best Girlfriend just brought me a circa 1924 evening dress that was her Great Grandmother’s. It is an almost perfect fit for her, except through the bodice. The dress is lace over a faille under dress, made in Montreal, in perfect condition. Once I undid some bad taking in that had been done previously, she only needs a tad more room for wearing ease, perhaps? an inch. There is little seam allowance left, and what is left is maybe a quarter inch, and it is clipped. She is able to easily do the dress up, and there is little strain on the dress, but I am worried about the little amount of wearing ease through the bust area. Am I being too picky? She does not want to damage the dress by wearing it, or by altering it if she doesn’t have to either. I could use some of your valuable experience and opinion here. Thanks, Cathy


  1. KharminJ | | #1

    Hey Cathy! This *might* be a good candidate for the same "add to the sides of the zipper" trick (or adding ribbon in the side seams) that was suggested in "Help with fixing prom dress?" post # 9688.1 et.al. Also, take a look at the Kent State U Museum link on costumes and antique clothing, if you haven't already. http://dept.kent.edu/museum/staff/care.html

    Sounds like adding a skosche more room would be a very good thing - it's really, really hard to remember "Don't breathe too deeply" when you're dancing all night - even if it's her idea to not damage the dress!

    Sounds gorgeous! Don't forget the pictures...;o)

    Bright Blessings! Kharmin

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #2

      I guess the question comes down to when do you leave well enough alone, and when do you really need to make the adjustments? As I pointed out, she can move, and there is no stress on the garment, BUT I like to see a tad more wearing ease! My POV. It would be a matter of taking the garment out maybe a 1/4 inch on each side seam only? I am going to wait a couple of weeks before doing anything, as the young lady just started Rugby practices, and is likely to drop a bit in size as in yrs past. Meantimes, I have sent her shopping for proper undergarments and shoes. Do not worry, I will take lots of pics, as I still have to rehem and mend a few spots in the lace! Cathy

      1. Ocrafty1 | | #3

        I agree with you; I like a little more ease....especially if she's going to "fast dance."  I think adding at the zip is probably your best bet, I'd re-inforce it with a strip of organdy or organza...I never can remember which is the softer!....use the soft one, and add a fabric strip of similar color and weight.  That's what I did with the couture gown. It didn't show, and gave just enough ease for her to move in the gown.

        I love working on/wearing vintage garments!  I have a lovely neglige (sp?) set that is from the '40's; long peach satin, cut on the bias, with a wrapper that has tiny buttons and loops.  I had to let the nightie out a bit in the bust, but it is so luxurious,and I only wear it occasionally...it ususally travels with us when we go to New Orleans. (teehee)

        Please put up your pix...can't wait to see them!


        1. sewslow67 | | #4

          >>>>I'd re-enforce it with a strip of organdy or organza...I never can remember which is the softer<<<<

          I keep thinking that the softness depends on whether it is cotton or silk; it that right or is my memory fading on this?  I sure would like to know, just in case I might need to order by mail. 

          1. Ocrafty1 | | #5

            I always get confused about organdy and organza, so I was just reading an old article in Threads 117,(out of that group I just bought) per silk vs. synthetic organza.

            "Silk and synthetic organza are both crisp, lightweight, sheer fabrics that add body to a garment and help it stand away from your form without adding bulk or extra weight..when it comes to choosing between silk and synthetic organza, my (Donna Christopher) general philosophy is to match like with like: line or underline a natural garment fiber, such as wool, with natural silk organza, and pair synthetic organza with a synthetic garment fiber."

            I got this definition by going to ask.com......they linked to Sew News.....I've been using the terms organdy and organza interchangeably. Would you explain the differences in these fabrics? Nancy C.,email Both fabrics are transparent, crisp and woven with very fine, tightly twisted yarns in an open, plain weave. The difference between them is in the fiber content. Organdy is usually cotton or nylon, while organza can be made of silk, polyester or rayon. Organza is often used as a base fabric for embellishing. .

            I must have used polyester organza in the couture gown. It was the softest, fabric I had on hand, other than chiffon, which was too lightweight. All I wanted was something to stabilize the area I was adding on to and soften the fold of the zipper placket.  I didn't have time to order online...and I wasn't getting paid enough to keep the gown's integrity...so I made do.

            I'm still trying to figure out how to better describe the way the hem was done.  I'll try to post it in a day or two.

            On a totally different topic.......I learned today, that a tailor in a neighboring city, who has been working there for over 50 yrs. is thinking about retiring.  I remember him as a little Italian guy, named Luigi, who custom made a suit for my dad when I was about 10. He is quite well known in the local area for his workmanship.  I think he learned in Italy.  I've been wanting someone to show me how to really do padding stitches,etc. I've been trying to teach myself using Claire Shaffer's book, but I'd love to have someone show me. I had a lady who approached me about making a woolen, English-style riding jacket, and I had to turn her down because I don't really know the proper techniques. I think I may contact him sometime this week and see if he would be willing to teach me a few techniques.  The worst he could say is "no."  What do ya think?


          2. KharminJ | | #6

            That sounds like an excellent idea! You're right, he can say "No", but he can't revoke your birthday, or anything ... And since he's retiring, I imagine he'd be pleased to pass-on some of those skills and tricks. I'm jealous at the prospect...!Kharmin

          3. sewslow67 | | #8

            Hi Deb,

            Thanks so much for the terrific information and for taking the time to share it with me.  I've wondered about this for years, and remembered reading something in Threads but don't have all my copies here so couldn't check them all out.  And what you shared, makes a lot of sense.  I normally match fiber to fiber too, no doubt you do as well.

            I also really like your idea of going to that tailor and asking him to give you a demonstration.  People are most generally so willing to share their knowledge, that I'm sure he would be honored to do that for you.   I will hold good thoughts for a helpful session with him.  So yes ...go for it!!

            And thank you again for all the information.  I will make a copy of your message and file it for future use.

          4. Ocrafty1 | | #9

            What timing! I couldn't believe that I'd just been reading about it in Threads..LOL  I was really fortunate to buy many of the copies that a dear lady had put up a post about getting rid of. Not boasting, but I bought somewhere around 80 of them...The first shipment was only 10, then she re read my email about acquiring what was left after everyone else had contacted her; I sent her another check and I got them about 3 wks. ago.  Great timing...I'd just had oral surgery and couldn't do much but sit and read. I've been reading them 1x1 ever since.  Its been like Christmas!

            I did find an article last night, from 2002, about free online classes at Kent State that were supposed to be per Kleinbacker.  I emailed and got a reply that they are still available, and there was a link to the site.  But when I went to the site, I had a problem with downloading ActiveX.  I had my son work with it for almost half an hr. He knows his stuff about computers...he even called a friend of his that knows even more..who goes to the electronics conventions in Vegas for his company.... There is a problem on Kent State's end, so tonight I sent them another email explaining what I ran in to. I just wanted to cry!  I'd been so excited about taking this class.  It is suppose to be a 5 wk. class, and should have a wealth of info. If I find out that they can/will fix the problem, I'll put up a post with the links and info.  That way lots more of us can take advantage. Keep your fingers crossed!


          5. sewslow67 | | #10

            I'll write more tomorrow, Deb ...but just wanted to say quickly before I turn in for the night ...CONGRATULATIONS on your great buy of all those Threads ...and I am so excited for you to take that class, too.  That's just terrific!

            I also sent you a PM, so I hope you get that.  If not, let me know and I'll resend it, OK?  More later ...; in the meantime, I will pray that all works out with your computer glitch.

          6. Ocrafty1 | | #12

            I called Luigi, the tailor, yesterday. I explained that I sew for others, mostly women, but would like to learn some specific tailoring techniques. He told me that he can no longer run his business.  I explained that I don't want him to make a suit, but just want to learn how to do things like pad stitching, how to set a roll line in a collar, properly interface a jacket front, etc. He told me to call him next week, after Easter, and he'd just spend a whole day with me!  He seemed surprised and pleased at the prospect of someone wanting to learn from him. I am so excited!  I know that I will learn a lot from him....I plan to take a notebook and my camera...maybe even my micro tape recorder. 

            I know that he's Italian... and can't wait to tell him that I'm half.  There is a connection, especially with elderly Italians, (and he must be near his 80's)  that is really neat. Its like if they know you're Italian, there must be a relative, somewhere over the ages, that we have in common.  So you're treated like family almost immediately.  There was an Italian family that owned a garden center for yrs. in a town nearby. Once they learned that I was Italian, the wife asked if I'd ever eaten a certain kind of cookie.  I told her I'd loved them as a child, but hadn't had them for years! She went immediately into the house and brought out some of those special cookies for me.  Her husband asked where she'd gotten those.  She told him she kept them hidden....they were just for the grandkids...and sent me home with a bagful...her hubby didn't get any....he wasn't a grandkid...LOL!  We are still friends...and I got great deals on plants for my garden before they retired. (teehee)   

            I'm really looking forward to going there....I know he has a wealth of information in his head...and his wife worked with him in the shop...This is going to be FUN! I can't wait to see his workshop and all of the goodies that must be in it!  I'm hopeful that this will lead to more "days spent together."



          7. sewslow67 | | #13

            Oh, Deb; I am so excited for you.  This is wonderful news, and I will be eagerly awaiting to hear all about your visit.  When I lived in Europe, Italy was my very favorite country for vacations - not only because it was so beautiful, but mostly because of the warm and loving people there.  And the relationship between family members was a joy to see.  The experience has left me with a life-time memory of joy.

            Now then, on the subject of tailoring and pad stitching:  Did you ever receive the PM that I sent to you with additional information specific to your original question?  If not, I will resend it.  Must run for now.  Have a great day.

          8. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #19

            Where on earth do you have your lucky horseshoe hidden?????? What an opportunity! Not just the chance to learn from an expert, but the chance to make a new friend. Do you see me turning green, green, green... he he he Cathy

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #16

          Thanks for the thoughtful input. I think I will take your advice and resew the side seams with some organza, just for the reinforcement. I had suggested to her a longline or "squish me in" garment would be suitable for the dress, tee hee hee. I explained that the style of undergarment at that time would have been to bind the bosom for a more boyish figure. Should have seen the astonished look on her face! he he he It is possible that the zipper that is in it was added at a later date, as there is the row of hooks and eyes down the back as well. Just might have to let it out as a last resort, but did not want to have to deal with all the hooks and eyes being moved, they are so finely sewn. :( Will do as I must, however. Cathy

          1. MaryinColorado | | #22

            ha ha I remember telling my daughter about ladies "binding their busts" and also about the "foot binding".  She thought I was kidding!  Hm, guess it's time to tell dear grand daughter so I can see her reaction too.  But those ladies would probably be appalled at some of the things people do today such as the mulitple body piercings, tattoos, ear plugs, "un natural" haircolors, let alone cosmetic surgery! 

            Can't wait to see those photos!  Mary

      2. KharminJ | | #7

        Yeah, waiting a bit sounds like a wise move - when is the prom?

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #17

          Prom is not until mid end of May, lots of time yet, and well into Rugby season. So it is likely the Young Lady will trim up a fair bit. Will definitely be taking lots of pics of the dress when I get it back to work on it again. Cathy

  2. Josefly | | #11

    Is this dress a "flapper" dress? It sounds beautiful. From 1924, I'm guessing there's not a zipper. - ? But if you have even 1/8 inch to let out in the side seams, sometimes that little bit makes enough difference. If it's a flapper dress, the original wearer might've wrapped her bosom to flatten it, so as not to interfere with the straight fall of the fabric. Your DD's BF might want to keep that in mind as she shops for the appropriate under garments.

    Edited 4/8/2009 1:36 am ET by Josefly

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #18

      There is a zip. It may have been added later. There are also hook and eyes running down the length of the zipper. I suggested a longline or bodysuit type undergarment to her. Cathy

  3. sewchris703 | | #14

    Chiming in late here and I haven't read all the replies, so forgive me if this has been mentioned, but have you considered her wearing a long line bra under the gown? A well fitting long line bra could decrease her measurements just enough to give her that little bit of ease that you would like without altering the gown further. It is an option that I offer the brides when I'm altering wedding gowns.


    1. Ocrafty1 | | #15

      Ooohhh...great suggestion!  I do that too, but hadn't thought of suggesting it.  They have those 'Spanks' that might work, as well.

      1. sewchris703 | | #23

        Another idea is to convert the gown into a lace up if she needs more room than what letting out the zipper and wearing a corset will give her.Chris

    2. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #20

      Thanks, I did that. Cathy

  4. mainestitcher | | #21

    You say she's starting rugby practice, and she may drop some weight. If she wants to avoid altering the dress...Assets are her friend.

    They are made by the same company as Spanx, but are a little less expensive and not quite so snug. I've been told they make one about a size smaller.

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