Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate dress for me

Yesterday was possibly one of the loveliest days I’ve had in ages. Partly for the company (my little sister) and partly for what we actually did. Which was spend the morning searching our local op-shops and then come home for an afternoon of sewing and alterations.
This was one of the treasures we picked up:
A handmade pirate themed halter dress with full circle skirt; very Dangerfield inspired. Someone had clearly put a lot of effort into this but bits of it weren’t so successfully. Some seams were tangled up, there was elastic all over the place and
the facing would not lie still. But the biggest issue was the fit. It was massively too big. See, my sister is pretty tiny in her proportions and this dress was clearly made for someone at least 2 or 3 sizes bigger than her. We didn’t manage to snap a before picture of the back but – suffice to say – it was genuinely enormous.
Because large parts of it were elasticated, it was only once the unpicking had started that we realised just how much work there was to be done. It always seems so easy when you try it on in the shop!
In the end I ended up doing quite a bit of work on it. Firstly, I unpicked the waist seam to allow me to work on the bodice and skirt separately. Thankfully the skirt was in good nick and only required a couple of pleats to get it to fit properly. The bodice was completely different matter.
It took well over an hour to unpick all the elastic. I can say one thing for the previous sewer: they were extremely thorough. Everything was well stitched in place, even if the lines were a little wobbly. After the last of the unpicking (two darts on the front bodice) it was at last time to get to fitting.
As it was so large, I started off with two large darts in the front bodice, starting at the waist and ending at the bust. I replaced to the ruching at the centre of the bust with four small pleats. Partly because I was sick of the elastic, and partly because it was easier to adjust the pleats to sit just right.
Having fitted the front, the bigger (literally!) challenge was still to come: the back. After pressing the back panels flat, I discovered that – for my sisters’ measurements – there were two more back panels than were needed. Having cut out the new centre back line, I reattached the bodice to the skirt, inserting 2 pleats in the front and 4 in the back to get a better fit.
Last of all, I re-inserted the original invisible zip and voila! One beautifully fitted dress!

Doesn't she look lovely!?

Doesn’t she look lovely!?

Doesn’t she look lovely!? It’s so her style, it’s kind of ridiculous. And we’ve got a bit of fabric left over to play with as well; always a bonus. For an op-shop dress, I’m going to say it turned out pretty darn well. Thankfully we were able to keep the main features of the dress the same, and only tailor it rather than completely re-constructing a new dress.
Looking back at the process, it was fun but definitely time and energy consuming. I must admit, there was a point when we both thought that we might just have to sew a new waistband to the skirt and leave it at that, leaving the bodice relegated to scraps. But I’m very thankful we continued on. It was definitely worth the effort.


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