Sewcialists, help me alter this dress!

When my grandma passed away in 2009, I inherited some of her clothes. Among which was this black & white checkered dress. The dresses did not quite fit, but I couldn’t let my mom give it to Goodwill — I was grieving and needed something to hold onto and serve as a proxy for my loss.

5 years have passed and the dress still hangs at the back of the closet, unworn. I haven’t had the courage to make the needed alterations. I have hemmed pants and I have completely deconstructed and refashioned thrift clothes. But when it comes to altering a RTW garment for fit, I am less confident. And when I am about to cut into something that belonged to my grandmother I am even more reticent. So, I am asking the Sewcialist community for your help.

A crowd-sourced tailoring session, if you will.

Here are some photographs of me wearing the dress.

I am inclined to leave the skirt as-is. I like this length of skirt and the waistline fits just right. (Though it is possible the waist is hanging a little lower than it should because the bodice is oversized.)

The zipper needs to be changed – the long metal zipper is cold and rough against my skin.

I want to update the sleeves and fit the bodice better. It sags in the front and back of the dress around the bust. The princess seams that curve over the bust and end at the armpit.

What changes should I make to modernize or “youthenize” the style?  Do I leave the collar high and make it sleeveless, or do I deepen the neckline and embellish the sleeves?

My Po-Po’s birthday was in November, so this will be one of my November sewing projects. Thank you for the suggestions!


9 thoughts on “Sewcialists, help me alter this dress!

  1. I haven’t altered an existing garment before either, so I don’t have much to offer, but I am interested to see your process for this!

  2. My first thoughts are shorten the sleeves and change the neckline. You might be able to fix a lot of the fit issues in the bust if you just move the shoulder seam down (thus raising the whole bodice up from the waist). Pinch some out at the shoulder seam and see what happens. If that works you’ll need to reset the sleeves but that allows you to shorten and fix the shape of them anyway.

    Alterations to rtw are always harder than starting from scratch, yet I seem to be hired to do alterations more than anything else even though I hate them (you should see my personal pile of alterations that haven’t happened!). If you get stuck or just want an opionon, tag me on IG or tweet me. =)

    1. Ooooh, i do like that neckline. The sleevea give me pause, but i will make a mock up to see how that would look. And creating a thin belt from some other part of the dress is a great idea! Thank you. 🙂

  3. I agree that the skirt is great as is. Like GermanCityGirl, I see the bodice as something fitted with short to no sleeves and a square neckline – kind of vintage (1950’s or thereabouts) sundress.

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