Monday, July 11, 2011

How to tailor a dress with facing

Ever buy a dress from the thrift store, it's vintage and perfectly you, but it's slightly too big? Here is just the tutorial for you. This is for a faced dress, requiring to be taken in only at the sides. Facing is the lining that is only 2" wide or so, on the interior of the dress. It is around the arm holes and neckline. Facing is used to give shape on seams that can't be sewn with a simple hem.

Before. Clearly a few sizes too big. This dress makes me look skinny when it's this big.

Funny story behind this dress!! When I was home in Michigan for Memorial Day, my sister and I stopped into a local thrift store, our favorite, Valueland. Rachael was still looking for a dress for the wedding we were attending that weekend, and we only stopped because we were in the neighborhood. We wouldn't have stopped normally, because our dad happened to be with us. My dad hates my thrifting! While he has seen some of my bad fashion choices and definite junk I have bought over the years, he knows I find some great pieces. I also don't need more clothes, but shhh, I don't like admitting that to myself.

So were were looking through the dresses, strictly for Rachael, and I saw this dress. I fell in love with the fabric! And it's such a simple 60s dress, it is perfect for me and perfect for summers in Georgia. And get this: it was only $2! But, my dad would not let me get it. He and Rachael laughed at it, telling me how terrible it was, and my dad literally ripped it from my hands! Not even kidding, he took it from me like I was 5 years old, "Sally, you do not need that!" He thought it was funny and I left the store empty handed.

What did I do the next day? I went back and bought it when my dad wasn't with me. Hahaha. Take that, Dad! I know he is going to read this. So look, Dad, it's pretty, huh?

Back to the tutorial. Carefully pin the dress to fit you. Always point the pins down! And careful when moving your arms around, you can easily catch your skin on them! It is easier to have someone help you with this step, preferably someone that won't poke you and that knows how to pin.

This is important! If you are making the dress very fitted and tight, wear the undergarments you plan on wearing when you wear the dress when you are pinning! You don't want to pin when you aren't wearing a bra and then wear a bra with padding and it doesn't fit you. I'm guilty of pinning things not wearing the proper undergarments and then the bodice is way too tight. So plan ahead and don't rush the fitting process. Taking the time for the little details pays off!

Take off the dress and put something else on. You shouldn't have to try the dress on again until you are done, if you pinned it properly. Feel free to wear a robe of something you can easily slip off so you can check the dress as you sew and pin.

Make a note of where the pins are. I like to do this in case the pins come out when I'm sewing one side. That way if they do fall out, you don't have to put it back on again.

I like to get out my post-it graph paper and draw a little sketch. Mark at what point and how much it will be taken in. Oh and another thing. Make sure you take it in the same amount on each side. You don't want to take it in 1" on one side and 1/2" on the other. In that case you would take it in 3/4" on each side.

I definitely wasn't using my cutting table this day for work. Clem was busy napping, and too busy to move for mom. Thanks cat. She loves fabric, just like her mama.

This is the facing at the side. Get a seam ripper or razor blade and separate the facing from the bodice, just enough to be able to take it in with room to sew it back up. I usually open it up about 5 inches. Also, at the bottom of the dress, along the hem, open the hem about 5 inches.

With both sides are now open, go back to your sewing machine.

Sew the sides seams, measuring the distance from the existing seam to the new seam. Make sure it is what you wrote down earlier and it is exactly how much you need to take it in. Backstitch at the beginning and end to keep your seam in place.

Now time to sew the facing. But before you do that, pin the shoulder straps to the fabric, pin perpendicular to the seam. You want to still be able to hang your dress!

You will take this in the exact amount you take in the top few inches of the dress. Measure and sew precisely.

Sew the facing back to the dress. Then top stitch on the good side of the fabric, along the facing. Doing this makes a huge difference in the final fit of the dress. It keeps the facing down and you are also sewing the raw edges underneath to the facing.

After top stitching both sides, tack the facing down so it stays in place. This is just a small stitch along the seam of the dress. "Stitch in the ditch", sewing the facing down to the dress in between the two pieces of fabric.

Having clothes that fit properly make a world of difference in how you look. Can you tell how much better this dress looks with just a little bit of sewing. I wore it to work and got so many compliments! Everyone always asks me if I made what I'm wearing. I kindly replied, "Nope, but I fitted it to my size, and, it was only $2".

This technique of taking in the sides of a dress with facing can be very handy when shopping for vintage clothing. I can't tell you how many times I have found something I love but it is just a tad too big. Shopping will never be the same when you can pick out a dress for it's cut and fabric rather than it's size. It is so rewarding when you can pick something out and say, "I can make this my size". I encourage you all to try this! 

Questions? Comments?  

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  1. thanks for sharing, this is absolutely helpful. And this is a really thrifty and pretty dress!


  2. lovely vintage dress is this.. i really like and appreciate you for the nice work..

  3. What a great dress! Love it! I have had to take in soooo many things I get thrifting, but I've never tried this method. Thanks for sharing!