Friday, August 13, 2010

Vintage dress alterations

I foolishly believed that the purchase of a vintage dress to wear to the wedding had solved all my problems.

It "just" needed to be taken in a little at the bust, I thought. Ha! When will I learn? I unpacked my dress from its box and tried it on. Although it was quite a snug fit at the waist, it was baggy under the arms and felt too wide across the upper chest. "Easy! Just lift the shoulders!" I decided.

So I unpicked the shoulder seams of the dress and its lining, and hoisted the straps by 2cm, back and front. I tacked it before I sewed.
When I went to try it on again, I noticed a strange pucker across the bodice. Turning it inside out, I could see a line of heavy black machine stitching running horizontally across the garment, tucking the front up by about an inch. It hadn't been done with much care or skill. It was definitely some kind of a "quick fix" to make the dress fit a previous owner. So I decided to unpick it.
I was admittedly afraid that it was concealing a big stain or rip, but I really didn't consider the risk of exposing the two rows of holes left by the black stitching.... until I had done it! However, it is not a showstopper. And the dress has relaxed into a far better shape - phew!

So I sewed the straps as planned, and then ran a line of stitching down the non-zipped side seam, from 2cm at the top, tapering to nothing at the waist. When it arrived, this seam had just been tacked closed and showed signs of a couple of previous alterations. Whatever else, this dress has had a lot of effort invested into making it fit its previous owner/s! On the zipped seam, I moved the hook and eye to a better position to draw the fabric over to cover the top of the zip under my arm. Done? Almost! I also had to restitch the bottom hem, which was falling down.

In all, it took me half a day to carry out all these alterations. As I worked, I became aware of the undeniable "old clothes" smell of my dress. I hung it by an open window for the last few days before the wedding. but I realised I might have to wear some perfume to freshen up my... aroma. I never wear perfume! But I couldn't go to a wedding smelling like a charity shop.

My daughter and I hit the town and must have sampled every "tester" in Debenhams, Boots and John Lewis before I settled on DKNY's "Be Delicious", on the principle that it didn't smell like fly-killer.

I love the fabric, and the style is so unique, but the smell is bothering me. It took a while for me to notice it, so I am hoping that the fresh air and a spritz of eau de parfum will be enough to rehabilitate it. I am pretty sure it is "clean"... it is just old.

And FL's outfit?
FL and I both ordered suits for him to try on. His was from a leaflet found in the Radio Times, perfect product placement for an "old fashioned" suit for an older gentleman! However, it turned out to be made of very shiny "wool", and the trousers did not seem to be the same colour as the jacket. The trousers had those nasty little pleats at the front - too small to add style, but big enough to make a man's crotch look saggy! It also arrived as a crumpled mess, which irritated me a great deal - it was packed in a suit hanger and a box and yet still looked like it had been through the wars. Back it went.
My attempt at suit-buying was also from a magazine flyer, but I think mine was from The Observer. This one was altogether crisper and more expensive-looking and yet cost less than half the price of FL's attempt. However, it was light grey with a fine pinstripe, and FL was not happy. He wanted a darker colour and no stripes. I do agree he looked a bit like a vicar in it. However, it was looking like our only option a few days before the wedding.

And then... by complete chance, one of his golf friends appeared at the club with a bag of clothes destined for the Red Cross shop. FL has a history of accepting such cast-offs as he doesn't believe in "wasting" money on clothes. The friend was dubious about this bag-full: "I don't think you will want it... it's a suit. When did you last wear a suit?!"
So home it came, and FL surprised me by getting dressed in the Bothy and making a grand entrance: "What do you think?" And actually, it is the best of the lot. Third time lucky! It is a very dark navy with a charcoal grey dotted stripe. The fabric doesn't crease easily, and the trousers have a flat front. I had to take the hems up an inch, but that was no problem.

So there you have it - we are both wearing vintage to the wedding! Pictures will follow!


RooKnits said...

Fabulous. I can't wait to see pictures. Have a wonderful time.

Debi said...

Can't wait to see the dress! Have fun at the wedding!

Sandy said...

Suggestion: Put a damp (not wet) hand towel into the dryer along with a piece of paper sprayed with the scent you chose and toss the dress about for 20 or so minutes. (If you don't have a dryer at home, you can probably do it at the cleaners or at a friend's house.) That should do the trick to get the "old" smell out... can't wait to see you both in all your sartorial splendor!