Redesigning my 1950s Dress

A few months ago I was culling my closet of old items long forgotten when I happened upon a few that had been mistakenly buried in the shuffle of everyday life coupled with our various moves into different homes.

I hadn't worn two of these beauties simply because they did not fit well. EDIT: They fit me but did not allow me any range of motion or the ability to eat throughout the day, which is a total no-go for me! I want to be able to move and eat a normal sized meal without feeling like I'm going to pop out of my clothing. But such was the style of the 1950s.

Instead of passing these beauties on to another person or shop, I was having trouble letting particular dresses go. So I tossed them into my "To-Alter" pile of clothing, hoping that one day inspiration might strike and figuring that whenever that day came, I'd be ready!

And I was ready when the day arrived! For the first yellow dress, I dove into reworking it almost immediately. I had this idea that if I simply took the bodice off of the dress and kept the skirt as a skirt I would get more wear out of it and I was 100% correct! It fits like a dream and all I really need to add to it to get even MORE use from it is an underlining or a slip skirt layer as the yellow is a tad see through.

I currently wear this one a lot with opaque tights since I can get away with not showing my undergarments through the sheer yellow fabric!

 

For the second dress, I had held off on cutting into it until earlier this week because... it's just so damn beautiful, I was afraid of ruining it! I picked this particular dress up at The Clothing Warehouse on a visit to Little Five Points in Atlanta, Ga back when I was still living in NYC. Since then, I have worn it maybe twice.

Like the yellow dress, the skirt of this white one fits perfectly fine. It is just the bodice that hugs me a bit too tight (I totally blame my wide rib cage for that). My idea was to cut off the bodice and save the skirt, just as I did for the yellow dress. However, the bead work proved to be a bit intimidating and there was less fabric left over in the bodice to create a waistband as I had done with the yellow dress.

Alas, I threw caution to the wind (if you'd call waiting 5 or so months to make any sort of move cautionless!) and cut into the dress *Snip Snip*

 I quickly noticed that the skirt had a sort of up-curve to it that matched the bodice. It was much more noticeable once I had separated the bodice from the skirt. I simply cut the convex curve to be a concave curve, like most circle skirts are, and removed any beads that happened to be close to my seam allowance line, which I arbitrarily picked to be 1/2".

 

I staystitched around the skirt opening (to prevent stretching and to keep all the layers together as there were two linings under the main beaded skirt portion), lopped off the excess zipper, and got to work on creating my invisible waistband.

I grabbed some scrap material that was in a similar shade/ weight to the skirt and chalked an outline for the waistband. I extended this line down 3" and added 1/2" to either side seam to finish off my waistband.

 

I cut this pattern piece out four times as I wanted to have a lot of structure to my inner waistband by using the self fabric as a sew-in interfacing of sorts since the beading on the skirt causes it to be REALLLYY heavy. For the center back zipper opening, I simply cut two of the four pieces in half to allow easy zipping action!

I continued to sew in the hidden waistband as I would any other hidden waist band (Attach front waistband to back waistband, finish off raw edges with a serger, attach waistband to skirt with right sides together, trim bulky seams, understitch, then iron in place!) and VOILA! It was completed and in way less time than I had spent worrying about messing this baby up!

This is the face of someone who is about to wear the heck out of this fancy skirt!

 

I am so happy that such a simple alteration would help transform this hardly-ever-worn dress into a piece I can envision myself wearing over and over and over again! Plus, there is enough ease in the skirt for me to be able to gobble down food without worrying about busting the seams! And... THERE ARE POCKETS! This is the perfect skirt for me!


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  • Very clever & beautiful! We are going to copy you on some vintage 50s items!

    • Tawnya Feldman