Taking In A Dress That’s 5 Sizes Too Big

I haven’t written in almost a month. Not because I didn’t want to.

I was preoccupied with altering a bridal gown.

I should have known that taking in 8 inches at the bust was going to prove to be difficult.

Isn’t there an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t take in more than like three inches or something?

This dress was a size ten and I think the bride is a size zero.

To complicate matters, there was an extra band of fabric sewn in around the top edge of the dress.

As in many strapless dresses, the front of the dress was higher than the back, so when you take it in at the side seams, the new seams don’t match up.

Here’s a diagram of the side view of the gown. I’m drawing this out so you can see what happens with most strapless dresses when you take in the side seam:

diagram of taking in side seam, 5 sizes too big, 814

If you take in an inch from the front and back at the side seam (which makes a total of 2″), you can see how it changes the side and the top edges (as well as the band in this case) don’t line up and match each other:

diagram of taking in side seam that doesn't match up, 5 sizes too big, 813

My alteration was double the amount of the one in the photo above.

I needed to take in at least 4″ total on her side seams (which equates to 8″ total in the bust area!) Now, you can see my dilemma. Hopefully, that is not what you are facing.

Plus there was beading involved.

And appliques.

But those were the least of my problems.

Here’s how it looked midway through the project:

altering a dress that is 5 sizes too big, 812

The band is lining up fairly well with the main body of the dress. I’ll need to tweak it a bit, but do you see the “sagging” at the bottom of the photo?

My next challenge was to pull the band down lower on the dress to take that excess out of the bodice of the dress and get it to lay smoothly.

This was much more difficult than I thought it would be.

The more I pulled it down, the less circumference of the band I had to work with.

Eventually, it worked.

I also added some boning to give her support on that side seam.

The manufacturer had added the original boning to the inter lining (yes, it’s a third layer…not the dress, not the lining, but an additional layer!)

The interlining was made of self destructing fabric (ha!) and there wasn’t much of it to begin with. So, I needed to use some Fray Block on it to save what I could.

I would have loved to tear it all out and get rid of it, but time was of the essence and I knew whichever way I went, it was going to take time. (Oh, maybe I should have just cut it out! Hmm. Hind sight is always 20/20, isn’t it?)

I think my mind was on getting ready for Christmas and not stressing out!

Haven’t you had alterations like this before?

The farther you dig in to the garment, the more work you find to do?

I don’t run into this very often, but this was just one of those times.

Notice in the photo above that the band seam is now not perpendicular to the floor.

That is because it wouldn’t match up if I tried that.

Thankfully, this seam was under her arm and mostly covered with the applique when finished, so no one cared. Or noticed.

I forgot to mention that I also had to take up the hem.

It had horsehair along the bottom and a huge train (which I didn’t have to alter, thankfully)!

The bride had a rough work schedule, but we got her fittings in when we could, sometimes at night.

I finished the day before Christmas Eve!

There were bridemaid alterations that had to be done the following Monday and the wedding was Tuesday!

I thanked the Lord profusely that He got me through it.

So, the bottom line is, what is the rule of thumb as to how many sizes you can take in on a garment? I learned after the fact, that a garment shouldn’t be taken in more than 2 sizes down from where it started. Now, there are exceptions to this and you’ll know when you see them. For instance, a straight line, like a hem can generally be taken up as high as you need it to go. It may mean altering the side seam or the front facings or other considerations.

But, when it comes to altering a fitted garment, the reason two sizes is the max is that it changes the whole fit of the garment. It’s difficult to change the curved areas of a garment especially. But, it’s also difficult to change pockets, linings, hips, etc.

But, if you’ve got the time and the desire to figure it out, try it. You’ve got nothing to lose. Just don’t trim off any seam allowances or clip any curves until you’re sure that your experiment is going to work well.

Sometimes, it’s worth it to buy a cheap garment at a discount store just for the purpose of practicing your alteration skills. Or, you may have found, for example, a pair of pants, very inexpensively, and it’s worth the trouble to figure out how much you can take in before they don’t hang well or before they get too tight in the crotch or side seam. Then you’ll be prepared when the customers ask you to do something that you’re not quite sure about. On this particular dress, I figured it would work. I hadn’t had anyone ask me to take in so much before, but I didn’t factor in the band at the top or that the curve of the bodice would be so complicated.

Not only was it time consuming, but it did increase the level of stress. However, you may be the type that doesn’t get rattled by stress and this may be right up your alley when it comes to trying to fix something. I don’t mind the challenge, unless I have a deadline that is looming quickly, with several other sewing items needing attention as well.

What about you, have you ever had a project that consumed you or stressed you out to the point that you didn’t think you could finish it on time?

I’d love to hear about it.

Also, are you making any New Year’s resolutions?

I think you know mine!!!!