Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Altering Homecoming Formal Dress - Adding Sleeves to Strapless Gown

Princess Five was asked on her first date a few weeks ago. The date was to a formal Homecoming dance. She was super excited to go. We have several long dresses we picked up on a sale that she would be able to wear as formals but were not expecting to hear that all the girls were wearing short dresses to homecoming. 

We have a few shorter dresses that are more formal but the one she really wanted to wear didn't fit around her rib cage. :-( 

With that, she had a few other options but I liked this blue one with the polka dots on it. It is a little formal but still cute and fun. Most of the other girls were wearing all black gowns that reminded me of cocktail dresses and I wanted her to have something a bit more fun. 
I tried to make a video of how I altered the dress but it is a bit jumpy as I only had one hand to make it and so I do describe some good points at the end of the video about making sure you match up parts so if it is bad at the beginning, skip to the end section for those tips and pointers. 

This dress was also a bit too large in the rib cage area so I had to take it in at least an inch on either side. 
The best way to alter a formal dress is to get into the area between the lining and the actual dress fabric. Every formal should have a liner. This one was easier than some as I could just go up into that area from the bottom. On other dresses, I have actually had to unpick the lining to get to the inside seams. It just depends on the style of dress. 
Here is a link to me making sleeves for Princess Fours Prom gown. 

Here is a link to me altering / making sleeves for Princess Five's Cinderella Costume. 

Also, many formal dresses have a stiff stick like piece that holds the dress up from crumbling or wrinkling at the waste area. It used to be whale bone in the old dresses but these are easily removed. Just be careful when unpicking them, not to go into the dress fabric but just the stitching on the stiff piece.
I had to remove four of them to take in the waste as much as she needed but was able to leave the rest to maintain the shape. 

Once they are removed, you can try the dress on the girl and see how large it is. I pin it from the outside with one pin at the thinnest point on the body. Then, when I turn the dress inside out to get to the inner seam that I will be altering, I stick a pin in one side of the inner seam where the pin is on the outside so I know exactly where I need to make the seam. I then remove the pin from the outside and pin the seam on the inside with the right sides together. 
Make sure that there are no bubbles, wrinkles or folds when you pin it as it is horrible to have to unpick what you just sewed because it was flat on the top but folded underneath when you sewed it. 

I used black thread on this but if the dress itself was just blue, I would have matched the thread as it can show through when being worn. The reason I didn't care was that there is black tulle on the outside so black thread wouldn't be seen and I didn't care if it showed on the inside liner which is the blue color you can see. 
The picture above on the left is the inside seam where I took it in. It is better to error on the side of too big than taking it in too much. I usually have to go in and do a little more of a take in for this reason as I have taken in too much and having to rip it out and resew can leave markings so now I am SUPER careful to only take in a small amount at a time. 

Here on the right you can see the outside seam and it looks great. I did have to fold down and hand sew a little as the front was a bit higher than the back so a little of the liner showed but it was only a stitch or two to sew back that small liner that was showing. 
To make the sleeves, I used a chiffon that was see through but next time, I would use a thicker fabric if you are adding a fabric over it like we did with the tulle. Even with surging or zig-zagging the edges, the fabric still frayed which is frustrating so I would use a heavier fabric and then overlay it with netting, tulle or chiffon that you are sewing in so it won't fray. 
For the sleeves, you need to have the dress on the person and pin the front of the sleeve fabric on the inside of the front. MAKE sure that when you fold the front on the center that BOTH sleeves start at the same point in the front. You would hate to have one closer to the neck and one closer to the sleeve edge so they looked odd all night. 

She wanted a six inch sleeve attachment in the front and a four inch in the back. Basically if you just fold the fabric and make it bigger and smaller while they are wearing it, you can see about how much fabric they will want. 
Then, you can use a zig-zag stitch to gather it to the "six" inches or however wide you want it. Gathering it gives it some dimension rather than have a flat sleeve.

You can see in the pictures that the back spot of attachment is thinner that the front.

You need to fold the back at the center seams as well to make sure that the back sleeves are attached at the same point so the sleeves don't twist funny because one is closer to the zipper and one is sewn closer to the outer edge. 
I usually make the sleeve wider than they want so I can gather it and make it "puffy" so it isn't just a flat sleeve or shoulder. You can see in the picture to the right that I gathered the tulle using some thread back and forth a few times to the width she wanted at the top of the shoulder and in the other links above, I did similar things so that the shoulders were "poofy." 

Also, when using tulle, it is very irritating to the skin. We used the smaller hole tulle which is softer but it is still irritating when gathered and near the skin so always line the edges with another fabric. In this case, we were using the chiffon so I just made sure I had enough on both ends to fold over and cover any of the tulle that was showing so it wouldn't irritate her skin.

You can see in these pictures how I folded over the sleeves to make sure they were matching on both edges to make sure one sleeve wasn't wider than the other and that they were the same distance from the front seam and side seams and on the back, they were the same distance between the zipper and outer edge. 

I hand sewed the lining over the tulle because I didn't want anything to show once on. 

Always sew on the front of the sleeves first. Once you have them on, try the dress on and then measure the back and pin it to the right length ON THE PERSON. DON'T measure them both at the beginning and sew them on at the same time. When you sew on the front, it can sometimes slip and alter depending on how down the seam is etc. 

You would hate to have the sleeves be tight and holding the dress higher than it should fit because the sleeves were sewn up too high. 

I feel it is better to have them try it on after each thing you sew. It takes a few minutes but we usually put on a movie or something. This way, there is no mistakes and lots of unpicking. 

I hope I have made the description clear. If you have any questions, feel free to ask....

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