Mid-Century Makeover - Revamping a 50s Gown & Jacket Set
I found this late 50s/early 60s red brocade gown and cropped jacket set at my local antiques shop. It wasn't expensive, so I could do some experimenting using my fledgling sewing skills without taking too big a risk.
Here's what was wrong with it:
1. I didn't need another gown. Not really. I'd be more likely to get use out of it if it were cocktail length.
2. Have I mentioned my exceptionally long, circus-freak torso? Or the fact that dresses of this period are frustratingly short-waisted? This unfortunate combination means many a mid-century waist seam hits me 2-3" above my actual waist, cancelling out the desired nipping effect. It looks weird. On a related note, we won't discuss where bust darts tend to hit me. Very depressing.
3. The jacket was oddly big. Not only in the torso but also in the shoulders. I didn't realize this when I bought it. I was focused on the dress and what I could do with it. It mostly fit and was such a gorgeous color!
Here's what I did with it:
I shortened the dress to street length. Then, using the chopped-off fabric, I fashioned a belt wide enough to camouflage the too-high waist seam.
You'd think a simple sash would take an hour or so, right? Well, I managed to make it take all day. I mean hours and hours. I started with more than enough fabric and screwed up so many times, I nearly ran out. Making a belt. A belt.
I measured at least twice before cutting once. Yet, somehow it ended up too small to close. I had to perform surgery using the few remaining bits to lengthen it (note the odd seam hidden beneath the bow).
When at last it was long enough, I carefully (honest) measured and marked for the hooks and eyes before sewing them on. And... now the belt was about 4" too tight. WTH? Undo, redo, and finally -- finally -- done.
Not only was the dress's waist a bit too big, but because the seam hit me so high, the skirt's pleats were opening above my hips -- not good. The wide cummerbund-style belt reined all that in quite nicely, making the dress more flattering.
I tried the jacket on over the belted dress and discovered it was really quite large. Since my arms are nothing anyone needs to see, and the jacket looked awful, I had an idea. Why not remove its sleeves and add them to the dress? Sarah assured me I could do it, quick and easy, but after the belt fiasco, I was skeptical. A month later, I finally took the plunge.
I snipped the armscye seams and transplanted the sleeves. It's not a perfect job, but it's definitely passable. I did the whole thing by hand. The idea of manipulating all those layers of fabric in the small space of the machine was too daunting. I didn't even try.
Here I am making absolutely sure I had the correct sleeve pinned in the correct armhole in the correct direction:
And here's the finished dress. Yes, the sleeve heads are a bit off. The left is good, but the right (which IRL is left -- mirrors are so confusing!) looks vaguely 80s. Maybe I'll tweak it in the future. But for now, it's good enough for my purposes. All in all, a satisfying little project.
Before and after:
Have you ever transformed a vintage (or modern) garment to better suit your needs or fit your figure? I'd love to hear about it.