Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hemming and Hawing

My apologies, but herewith follows yet more pictures of me in clothes. Which is probably tiresome, but better than pictures of me
out of clothes, wouldn't you agree?

It started out like this:

Silk burnout bias-cut slip dress.

I've had this dress forever. I bought it years ago, wore it I don't even remember where even though I shouldn't have because I was too heavy & pear-shaped for it, gained even more weight and couldn't fit into it, held onto it because the color is so gorgeous and the fabric is so nice, and then, even after I was thin enough to wear it again, never took it out of the closet because it's floor-length. I know patio dresses are all the rage right now, but I'm already oooooooover that look and besides, the fabric of this is too dressy for it to be long and casual.

So I decided to shorten it. No sweat, right? Just chop it off, pin it up, sew it. I've hemmed hundreds of garments (probably) in my life, this should be a piece of cake.


Not so much. Bias-cut + very sheer silk fabric + sheer silk lining = hair-pulling, frustrated, hem-pinning madness. Eventually I gave up and I took it over to my mom's house to have her do it, and after standing on her cedar chest for a while and klonking my head on the ceiling fan (we turned it off first, don't worry!) multiple times while she crouched at my feet trying to pin it, I realized this was a job for a professional. (There is no need to torment my mother like that, she is a perfectly nice lady.)

I headed over to
Exclusive Alterations here in Austin, which is where I take all of my tailoring, and once again they did me right. (And in my defense, even the pros were grinding their teeth a little -- they had to re-do a bit of the hem in the back where the lining peeked out. So I don't feel so bad about not being able to manage it. And they did not, of course, charge to make the adjustment.)

See? Now it's a nice, flippy-skirted little slip dress that I can wear in multiple ways. I could leave it like that and stick on a pair of fancy shoes and be all sexy-salsa-dancing Style Spy, or I could do something like this:

(I am highly amused by the fact that I somehow managed to exactly re-create the same pose in these last two photos. That is HILARIOUS.)

I slapped on a double-wrap red patent belt, then my fantastic vintage lace vest, along with my adorable Stuart Weitzman patent flats, and went off to a baby shower brunch for a dear friend. While there, a friend said, "Look at you! How on earth did you come up with... this?" (Accompanied by that circling-finger gesture like you're drawing an imaginary ring around the person.) I think she meant it as a compliment, judging by her tone -- at least I hope so.

And I'll tell you how on earth I came up with "this": I wanted to make more of a waist on the dress because I didn't feel like putting on a giant padded strapless bra, so that's why the belt. The vest was another way to balance out the top half a little more (I'm slim, but I'm still a pear) and also to alleviate the bareness, which seemed a bit much for a Saturday brunch.

The moral of this story? If there is something in your closet that you're not wearing but hanging onto, ask yourself why. Is it the fabric? The color? Does this garment really, truly have potential, or does it just carry fond memories that you don't want to part with? If it has good bones, be creative. Can the design features that might be dating the look be removed? You can take those gigantic 80's puffed sleeves off a lot of things, and some collars can be removed -- not to mention changing out buttons or narrowing a skirt or hemming a pair of bell-bottoms into bermudas and other easy fixes. Follow this link to see a great example & get Thumbelina's excellent advice on alterations.

Part B of the moral, of course, is to seek out a good tailor. There are few things more frustrating to me than folks who refuse to avail themselves of this service. Yes, it costs a little money. But could I have bought that dress for what it cost me to have it hemmed? No, I most certainly could not. And now I have a garment I really love and am going to wear instead of a garment I loved and let hang in the closet. It was money well-spent.

How about you guys? Anyone have a good creative alteration story? I'd love to hear it!

Images: Style Spy

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Claudia said...

Best. Blog title. Ever.

StyleSpy said...

Really? I kinda felt like I was copping out...

Mardel said...

Love the dress. Everyone needs a good alterations person, I don't know how I'd live without one.

Deja Pseu said...

Nicely done! I love the little flounce around the hem.

Red said...

The dress looked great either way, but I love the new length -- definitely more versatile. I love that you rock the color red with your auburn hair. (As a redhead I was always taught to avoid wearing reds.)

I'm another tailoring evangelist. I'm short (5'1) and height/weight proportionate but an hourglass shape and short, so buying well-fitting clothes off the rack is nearly impossible. Now I (usually) buy quality clothes on sale and have them altered to fit my shape -- the waist taken in, sleeves and hems shortened. The clothes both look and FEEL better after my guy works his magic.

It took me some time to find a really excellent tailor but he is worth his weight in gold. He tells me if an item is not worth the expense of tailoring because of its condition or quality and always makes free adjustments.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

So glad you hemmed this. It looks fabulous shorter. Somehow, everything over the knee (for me, anyhow) looks dowdy. Maybe it's the leg trend. Thanks for the link :)

Claudia said...

no cop-out! I love a truly worthwhile pun :)

Toby Wollin said...

Great redo of a floor length dress - but I've got to say that you really did the smart thing getting a pro to do the hem. Bias cut fabrics are just hell on wheels to hem, which is why you see so many of these items done with a serged edge. They are just the worst to do - you need to allow them to hang forever and so on and so forth and laaaaaa. Better to get it done with a professional. This is a dress that will more than pay for the space in the closet - let's see now, I'd wear it with (now, you are in Texas, so perhaps these suggestions will not apply, but..): jacket in almost any length(including the same length as the dress) in black or midnight blue! Lace popover dress in black or white lace (the better to see the gorgeous pinky red with my dear). And so on ..and so forth. And I too know about the 'clinging problem' - I have a dress in my closet that has not been off the hanger since 1987, which was the last time I could fit into it ( and I starved myself to lose the last 10 pounds so that I could buy the thing - it was an obsession). I also have a black and gold brocade dress that started out its life as a floorlength dress, was bought by my mom at a rummage sale and for whom it was NOT a floor length dress, and she shortened it to cocktail length and wore it for years and years. I keep it so that I can take it out and sigh over it occasionally.

Chris said...

Not a great story but a few weeks ago I hit the mall and tried on at least 40 pairs of jeans. Minimum 40 pairs.
All left me with that "close" feeling but in the end I walked away. At home, I tried on jeans I had piled up in the closet (why I do that - who knows) and found two pair that fit far better than the try-ons but needed tweaking. Off to the tailors and $24 later - two very close to perfect jeans in just 24 hours!