Archive for the ‘Dresses and Gowns’ Category
A godet (unlike a gusset) is an extra piece of fabric in the shape of a large triangle which is added between seams to give flare. Examples would be inserts into skirts or dresses to give width and volume. A godet could be added to the back of a very tight fitting gown to allow the wearer more movement when walking.
Judith aka genie
A gusset is a triangular piece of fabric that is inserted into a seam to add width to a garment. Clothes that are too tight can have a gusset inserted at the centre back, sides seams or at the inside leg in the crotch area. Some tailors will have an insert at the inside leg that is not quite triangular, but has been added because the person has a large thigh.
Judith aka genie
Tulle cannot be marked like normal fabric, so I use a different method when cutting tulle. Measure the difference between the tulle and the fashion fabric and write the measurement down. The first thing I do is mark and cut the fashion fabric (outer fabric). For gowns I always chalk the gown, or pin all the way around to ensure I have it straight.
Once the outer fabric is cut, place the garment on a hanger. The hanger I use has a metal swivel hook at the top. Secure the shoulders to the hanger to ensure it “hangs” correctly. Use clothes pegs if necessary.
Hang the gown in a doorway securing it to the top of the door. The door should be open. Sit on a chair or stool, and cut the first layer of tulle to the SAME LEVEL as the outer fabric. If there are multiple layers, cut them one at a time, using the existing cut length of the gown at your guide.
The next step I find easier to do on a workbench, however you may find it easier with the garment still hanging. The tulle needs to be cut a second time to the difference it was originally. Allow for the hem allowance of the outer because at the moment it is still not stitched.
Lay your tape measure over the tulle at the bottom the amount you have to cut and slowly work around the tulle measuring and cutting as you go.
Judith aka genie
Boning is only an addition to the seam. It really does not need to cause any grief. The boning will either be encased in a sleeve or sewn directly onto the seam. If the garment has to be taken in and it has boning, treat it the same as any other alteration, except the boning will also need to be unpicked, then the seam will will be taken in, overlocked or the excess cut off, then sew the boning back on as it was originally.
I always prefer to cover the top and bottom of boning, even if it was not like that in the beginning. After a period of time, the sharp prongs can poke through the fabric and dig into the skin which is very uncomfortable. So if the manufacturer did not cover the top and bottom of the boning, just sew a piece of soft fabric over it to protect the garment.
For more details go to “How to take in a gown with boning”.
Judith aka genie
Sometimes you will have a garment that is lined and everything is encased inside the bodice and you wonder how you are supposed to get into it to alter.
It could be shortening the straps, taking in the sides or taking in at the sides or back with boning attached. Whatever the alteration, finding a way in can be confusing.
Generally the fashion fabric and lining are separate, and you are able to get up into the garment and work each section with ease, however there are times when a garment can be closed at the waist, or in the case of a vest or bodice the garment is totally encased with no openings.
When we alter lined jackets, there is an opening in one of the sleeves, which has been topstitched down. With either of the above if there is no such opening, consider one of the following:-
Dress zip – unpick one side of the zip that has the flap across the zip. Generally it only needs to be unpicked in the middle of the zip, rather than anywhere near the top or bottom of the zip. Do not unpick the lining from the zip, JUST THE FASHION FABRIC (outer fabric). The lining is generally attached to the zip first, then the zip is topstitched in.
As mentioned earlier the last stitch sewn is the first to be removed. By unpicking the topstitching on the fashion fabric, you will have a lot of room to get inside and do any alterations. then all you have to do when finished is re topstitch the zip back on.
Closed at waist or under bust – Usually the upper and lower section of the garment have been joined together, however there is usually a very small section next to the zip that has not been sewn ON THE LINING (inside).
Push your fingers into this small hole, and with your quick unpick, slowly unpick the stitches attaching the bodice to the waist. You do need to open it out sufficient to get in and do the alterations. Once the alteration is complete you should be able to resew the bodice lining to the waist or slip stitch it back on.
Judith aka genie
Boning is used to support the garment on the body. Almost all garments with boning are strapless, however sometimes it can be used to create definition in a garment or if a garment hangs loosely on a body. One body shape that will have problems would be a person with little or no waist. With this body shape the garment could be pushed upwards creating folds in the fabric. Check that the straps do not need shortening, and if this does not help, perhaps a little boning on the lining will create strength to the garment.
Taking in a garment with boning is the same as taking in a garment without boning when you look at each process individually.
The first step is to pin the excess fabric of the garment whilst it is on the person’s body. Successful clothing alterations come from recognizing that we are all different body shapes and your job is to fit the garment to the person’s body shape. Pins are used to achieve this, but not just any pins. Small silver pins, or small pins or any type will not work because you may have to pin through the boning.
When pinning a garment with boning, you need to use pins that will push through the boning. This is why I always use Quilting Pins which are 4.5 cm (1¾ inch) long. They are strong and long, which means you can pin into and out of the boning with this pin. I do not have any pin size less than this in my sewing room. No matter what I am pinning, these pins works the best, because I have less area to pin, and they take the garment in as if it has been sewn with seams. This gives the customer a good idea of what it will feel like when altered. When customers come with a garment already pinned, I will save the pins for them and return them to the customer, or throw them away if they do not want them back.
If you use small pins, and you place them a fair distance apart, the person will definitely not get the “feel” for how the garment will be when taken in.
The next type of pin I use, particularly for pinning boning is the “Hat pin”. This is a very long pin (6.3 cm or 2½ inches) and is excellent for pushing into and out of boning. It is also excellent when pinning thick fabrics like denim.
When a strapless garment is too big at the top, the first place you should try to pin is the side seams at the centre back on either side of the zip. Have the person facing a mirror and take hold of both these seams and pinch the fabric in. See if it takes in the front section. If it does then proceed to pin this area until you have taken up the excess fabric.
The side seams can be taken in, however you will have to reshape the front bust area because the back panel will not fit into the front panel when taken in. That means reshaping the front panel to fit the back panel. The side seams should also have boning.
Another option is to take in through the centre back which would normally have a zip. Try pinning the excess fabric down the zip. The zipper should be closed and in the centre. Once pinned, place another pin over the top of the pin that is pushed through both sides. Do this all the way down until you can undo the zipper but still have one side pinned for your reference points.
Your pins are what tells you what needs to be done. Let’s say you pinned the centre back zip area, or the side seams or side back seams and the front is still too big. Take all the pins out and pin over the bust area. Almost every strapless dress or gown will have panels over the bust. Be careful when pinning over the bust area. You do not want to accidently pin the lady. Pinch the excess fabric with your fingers and slide the pin in so that you can feel it with your fingers.
The person should be able to look at the garment and see what it will look like when it is taken in, and because you use a good long pin, and the pins are one underneath the other, she will feel what it will be like when taken in.
For a comprehensive understanding of my Taking in Technique, please refer to my book Clothing Alteration Secrets Revealed, but briefly this is what you need to do.
Make a stick drawing of the garment and the area you are going to take in. Measure from the top of the fold to the edge of the pin and right this measurement down on the stick drawing. For example Start = X” Now measure down 5 cm (2 in) and measure from the fold to the pin and write down on the piece of paper 2″ = X”. Follow this process all the way down your pins. In this way you are transferring the amount you have pinned the garment onto a piece of paper. It is imperative that you get these measurements accurate, so that when you take in the garment, you will be measuring from the original seam stitching and marking in the amount you have on the piece of paper.
If you are dealing with a top that is lined (and most garments with boning will be lined) then you may find an opening inside the garment somewhere. If there is none, then the last thing to close the garment would have been the zip area. Do not unpick the lining from the zip. Unpick the outer fabric from the zip IN THE CENTRE ONLY (not the top or bottom) Only unpick enough to pop the garment through. You should be able to slide your hand in and turn the garment inside out.
If the garment is a dress you should be able to get access in between the lining and the outer.
If the garment is a dress or gown and the bodice is encased, unpick at the join (generally the waist) close to the zipper. You should notice a small section that is not sewn close to the zip. This will be where you will get access to the garment, so unpick sufficient that you can get into the area you need access to.
The boning can be sewn on a number of ways.
A separate sleeve has been made for the boning to slide into. This will be sewn onto the seams at the centre back side or the side seams or the front. where ever you are altering, you will need to unpick the casing with the boning in it and put it aside.
Attached to seams
Some manufacturers will sew the boning directly onto the seams. In this instance, unpick the boning and put to one side.
Seam allowance stitched on lining and boning encased
This will mean a little more work for you because you will have to re sew the seam allowance and you will have to make sure that you do allow enough room to insert the boning.
ALWAYS unpick the under stitching around the top of the garment, BEFORE you taken it in. This under stitching should be unpicked before the seam that joins the lining to the outer, and always unpick the under stitching a little bit more than the seams joining the lining to the outer.
Unpick enough of the seam so that you can take in the amount it is being taken in. The best method for this is to use a tailors pencil, and place dots as per your measurements. For example if the Start = 2.5 cm (1″) then place a dot that is 2.5 cm (1″) IN from the original seam. The second tailors pencil dot should be 5 cm (2″) down from the first dot, and will be the same as the measurement you had on the paper for this amount down. Let’s say it was 2cm (3/4″), then you will place a dot at this position. You will work all the way down the seam transferring the measurements from your paper to the garment. You will then do exactly the same with the lining.
Repeat with the opposite seam.
Sew the new seam on your sewing machine, following the dots all the way to the end. always taper off gradually.
Over lock the excess off, or if the seam is opened out, then unpick the old seam, and iron the seam flat BEFORE you cut off the excess, allowing for seam allowance of course.
SPECIAL NOTE – ALWAYS SEW THE NEW SEAM FIRST BEFORE UNPICKING THE OLD. THE OLD SEAM IS YOUR REFERENCE POINT, AND IT HOLDS THE GARMENT IN POSITION FOR YOU.
A sleeve board works excellent for seams on the bodice of garments, or a ham.
Attach the boning back onto the seam allowance. It is usually attached to the lining, but I have come across garments where it is sewn onto the outer. Again it depends on the manufacturer.
Always make sure that the top of the boning is covered with some fabric. Occasionally you will come across boning that is cut with no cover and it can push through the fabric and dig into the person. Very uncomfortable.
As you can see there really is no difference between taking in boning and taking in a garment without boning. The same principles apply.
It’s really nothing to be worried about. Take it in like any normal top, the only difference is you have a little bit of extra work because you have to take the boning out, and then when you have taken it in, you need to repeat the encasing for the boning. Have a good look at it before you begin to unpick. Make sure you have your measurements written down on a piece of paper before you unpick.
Put the garment back together as it was originally. For this type of alteration, I would charge a minimum of one hour which is at AUD$40.00 per hour, however for a job like this it would probably take around one hour 30 minutes which would be AUD$60.00.
Judith aka genie
The types of hems I am talking about are the full skirt gown. Gowns like this are generally worn out for a special function, or a bridesmaid gown or wedding dress. The skirt is full, and this means that at certain sections the skirt will fall on the bias. The fabric drops at this section which causes the skirt to be uneven. Shops that sell gowns have them hanging on the rack ready for the customer to come and view. The longer a gown hangs, the more the gown will drop.
The other extremely important point is that when a gown is manufactured, the hem is not always completed accurately. Added to this is the fact that we are all different body shapes, so that means when the gown is on the body, it may dip in the front or dip in the back because of a large bust or round bottom. The most common problem I found was that the back was usually higher than the front!
So imagine what happens, when a person brings in a gown and says, “Take it up 10 cm (4”)” and doesn’t try it on. I have had people bring me gowns that are shorter in the back than the front, and are looking for solutions. If this ever happens to you and you then you can insert a panel across the bottom, but make it look like it was meant to be by having one side longer than the other as if it is a triangle. This is just another good reason for saving off cuts from alterations.
Another tip when pinning a gown is to make sure that the straps are correct, BEFORE you pin the bottom. Even if they do not need to be altered, check to make sure they are sitting correctly on the person. It is very frustrating when you have spent time pinning the bottom – all the way around the gown, only to have the person give a tug here and a tug there AFTER you have done all that.
Generally I will say something like, “Before I pin the hem, I need to be sure you are comfortable with the top section. Because if that changes then the hem will change.”
Pin the front of the gown first; getting the length the person wants. Make sure they are standing with their spine straight. A person’s first reaction is to bend down and look at what you are doing! Then they look up and it’s too short! Work with the person wearing the gown. They have paid a lot of money for that gown, and having the hem straight it important.
Have you ever noticed at the Oscars how the hems are all over the place! Seriously, the ladies gowns are very seldom straight, and men’s trouser hems are generally way too long! I watched a show on Oprah one day where they did a transformation of these men. The transformation was amazing, but the only thing that I felt let it all down was the fact that the trousers had not been hemmed to the persons correct length. They were so long; they bunched up around their knee and thigh area. But I am digressing…
Once you have the length at the front, measure from the floor to the new fold. Whatever this measurement is move around the gown folding the hem up the same amount. Double check the side seams because they may have pulled up slightly with the stitching.
If you have a hem chalk marker, you could have the person stand on a stool. Place a pin at the new fold, and drop the hem. Then set the chalk marker at this new length and puff chalk around the new hem line. This is a major time saver, and saves your back.
Sewing your hem
1. Most domestic sewing machines have a rolled hem foot. They can be an excellent method for sewing a small rolled hem on a gown, but they are not without their frustrating points. When you hit the bias of a gown the fabric is harder to feed through. And when you come to side seams, the thickness can be a problem. Try sewing a row of stitching around the bottom of the hem just in from the cut line. This may help you a little to stabilize the fabric.
2. Use your normal sewing foot and stitch around the bottom of the gown, then fold this over and stitch around again. The first row of stitching makes it easier to fold and gives you a nice tiny hem.
3. Instead of sewing around the bottom just up from the cut line, fold the fabric over .5 cm (1/4”) and stitch in place. Once you have stitched all the way around the garment, fold this section over and stitch around again. This also gives a tiny hem.
4. Convert your overlocker to a three thread machine. Take the needle out of the left hand position and only have one needle in the right (next to the machine). Set the overlock width to as wide as possible, and overlock the edge of the garment. When you are finished, use your normal sewing machine to fold the overlocking over and stitch a small hem.
5. If you want to create a flounce on the bottom of the gown, switch to zigzag with a medium width stitch and lay some fishing line underneath the gown. Zigzag as you go and make sure you catch the fishing line as you stitch.
6. If you own an overlocker, and the gown is a chiffon or similar soft fabric, you could put a rolled hem on using your overlocker. Switch to the rolled hem foot, or if it has an adjustment only, make the adjustment. I find that turning the blade down so it is not cutting the fabric gives a nicer finish. Also consider putting an embroidery thread in the middle. This gives a really great finish. For some fabrics, I will go around once, and then go around a second time over the top of the first. It makes the rolled hem thicker and looks great.
Tip – Instead of hanging a gown in the wardrobe on a hanger, either lay in flat in a draw, or place it inside a clothes bag which you can hang in the wardrobe, but have the bag folded in half and attached back on the hanger, so that there is no weight pulling the skirt down.
Judith aka genie
To be honest I don’t like putting dress zips in dresses. They are ok in trousers, but I always convert to an invisible zip when I have an alteration such as taking in when there is a dress zip or replacing a dress zip with an invisible zip. You might ask “why would I do that?” The reason is because the flap that folds over the dress zip sticks out even when it has been ironed flat. Usually the zip is in the side or back and this means the small flap adds more bulk to the body. Also as the garment gets older the fabric tends to fade or get worn in sections around the flap, particularly at the top.
Zips areas can give more room, particularly from a dress zip converted to invisible.
Letting out – With a dress zip if the garment is too tight, the stitching will get pulled on the outer fabric, which means you want to fix the problem before it gets to this stage. If you come across this problem where the weave of the fabric has opened, try laying it on the ironing board (once the zip has been taken out) and give the area a light iron just to warm it up. Use your finger nail to ease the weave back together. Work from the top down to the bottom. I have on occasion used the end of my nippers or the end of tweezers to ease it in. It depends on the fabric. There is a lot of fabric used in a dress zip so by taking this zip out, ironing the fabric flat, then inserting an invisible zip you will usually get an additional 2.5 cm or (1 in).
Taking in – When taking in the sides is not an option on a garment, take a look at the zip in the centre back. Pin the centre back even though there is a zip. When a garment is made the panels are laid on the fabric ensuring that the centre back would be on the straight of the grain. A dress zip will lay reasonably flat on the straight of the grain, but if you are taking in at the zip area, then fabric will more than likely be off the grain. That means some bias will be involved. If you put a dress zip back in, there will be a twist in the flap over. An invisible zip WILL NOT have any twist in the fabric. And it sits very flat against the body.
If you have to put a dress zip in and the garment is lined, attach the zip to the lining first. Bagging the top of a dress zip is more time consuming than it is bagging an invisible zip. If I have to put one in, the last thing I do is topstitch around the zip. I prefer to attach the fabric to the zipper first, making sure it is sitting at the same position at the top and bottom.
If the garment is lined, I would attach the zip to the lining first. Then do the outer.
Judith aka genie
We all know that if you have a big bust, you are better off to have a “V” neckline or at least have a lower neckline than normal. The “V” takes the line of the eye away from the bulk at the bust. I have a lot of tops I alter, and over the years I have developed different techniques for lowering the neckline. The best is a template. I draw the shape I want on a piece of light cardboard making sure that the left side and the right side are the same length and width apart. Then cut around the outline and use this as your template to mark the top. This method ensures you get the right side and the left side exact. Before you cut the top, allow for seam allowance.
One mistake people make is that they just cut off the back band, but this usually makes the top too wide at the neck. I prefer to unpick the back band around to the front. That way I am still keeping the shape at the back of the neck, and not making it too wide at the shoulders.
If you are shortening the hem, cut in the piece off in a circle and you could use this as your band around the neck. If it is the same fabric as the back, then you can put a join at the shoulder seams, which means you dont have to unpick the back.
Judith aka genie
Yet another of my pet hates is a halter neck dress. Maybe its because I am either sewing or on the computer, but my neck does not like halter neck dresses. So if I find a dress I like but it has a halter neck, I change it to normal straps. The only thing you have to do is attach the back strap closer to the centre back. The reason for this is that the halter strap at the front will be closer to the underarm, and if you put the strap in what I would call the normal position for a strap, then it will fall off the shoulder. The only issue you will have is bra straps showing, but if you where a strapless bra you would not tell.
Judith aka genie