First off, I have a confession to make. See the dress in the photo above? It's new. I bought it last week. I decided to put a temporary hold on my shopping ban when I pulled out my spring/summer clothes a couple weeks ago and realized that many of them no longer fit (I've dropped about 15 pounds since last summer...and when you already have a small frame, it's pretty noticeable in your clothes). And while I'm trying to replace only a couple of necessary things like jeans and a couple of light summer tops, I just couldn't pass up this dress when I saw it. I love this dress. Love. It. Most of my summer dresses and skirts are still wearable (even though they're a bit big) so it wasn't really a necessary purchase, but when I saw this dress I knew it was worth adding to my closet for multiple reasons:
1. It has (sort-of) sleeves! It can be difficult to find a summer dress that isn't sleeveless or tank-style, and while I'm not opposed to tank dresses in general (I own a couple myself), my shoulders/upper arms are one of my least favorite features, and I'm just more comfortable with my shoulders covered.
2. The v-neck is high enough that it doesn't show any cleavage! This is virtually impossible for me find in most dresses. I'm just shy of 5'3" and my torso is very short, so the distance between my collar bone and my cleavage is much shorter than average. The neckline of most regular tops and dresses usually falls about halfway down my chest, and I'm not a huge fan of exposing the girls to everyone I meet, let alone while sitting in church. With this dress I don't have to constantly be attentive about pulling up the neckline or wear a layering camisole underneath, which helps to keep it super light weight and cool on hot summer days.
3. I'm totally in love with the print! It's a beautiful Asian-inspired print that just called my name, and the colors and patterns are pretty and feminine and delicate.
4. An added bonus: the dress itself has a very simple shape and will make for a super easy pattern to make some copycat dresses in the future. Oh, and did I mention this dress has pockets??
You can see why I love this dress. In fact, I have only one problem with it. It's pretty short (for my tastes). It's from the Junior's section, and with current styles junior's dresses are generally cut a couple of inches shorter than women's dresses. On top of that, it's a size small and there weren't any mediums or larges left, so I couldn't even go up a size for the added length. I prefer my skirts and dresses to fall no shorter than the bottom of my knees (I've mentioned before my great love of midi skirts for this reason), as I have a fairly round bum that causes my skirts to rise up several inches when I sit down...and I am soooo not comfortable with my bare thighs hanging out. Modesty issues? Yes. Body issues? Definitely. I guess I'm also becoming a bit of a conservative fuddy-duddy in my old age.
Anyway, I knew this dress would be absolutely perfect if I could just lengthen it a few inches. Of course, sometimes you get lucky and there is extra fabric in a dress hem that you can just let down. But inexpensive dresses from Target? They're usually made pretty cheaply, and the hem on this dress had no extra fabric at all. Another option is to wear a slip extender under a dress or skirt to add a few inches. I do in fact have a couple of slip extenders that I made last summer, although only one of them would work with the colors in this fabric. I chose not to go the slip extender route though, because 1. wearing a polyester slip underneath a dress doesn't keep things all that cool during the summer; 2. the slip extenders I made last summer fall into the now-too big category (thanks to the weight loss mentioned above), and fall so low on my hips now that several inches of the slip itself would show between the hem of the dress and the lace extender bit; 3. the one slip extender I have that would work with the colors of this dress is pretty sheer lace, and really doesn't 'cover' anything--it's more for adding decorative trim under a skirt that's already long enough rather than adding coverage to a too-short dress. So I decided my best option was to just add several inches of trim directly to the dress itself, and after a bit of searching I found just what I was looking for at my local Joann's.
This woven trim is about 3 1/2 inches wide, and while it's not solid it definitely provides more coverage than your average lace (and I got it for only $2/yd with a coupon!). Plus, most of the lacy trims I looked at just didn't quite fit the feel of the fabric's Asian-inspired patterns. I thought this trim was fairly neutral in design, and though it's hard to tell in photos, the color is better described as 'unbleached' rather than white or even cream. Also, this trim is flat and not ruffled, which would allow it to drape flush with the fabric of the dress rather than poofing out in a ruffle at the bottom.
|Here you can see the 1/4" hem of the dress. I pinned the trim so that its top edge was just under the top of the hem.|
Once I had the trim pinned around the entire dress I began the sewing process (tip: do NOT cut off any extra trim at this point; wait to cut off any extra until after you've actually sewn it to the hem, otherwise you risk cutting the trim too short if your pinning job wasn't perfectly even). I chose to hand stitch the trim to the dress rather than using a sewing machine as hand stitching allowed me to run my stitches only through the fabric on the inside of the hem. (Using a sewing machine would be totally fine, but keep in mind that it would make the stitches visible on the front of the dress. I didn't want a visible seam as I'm not great at sewing perfectly straight seams with a machine.) I just used a simple whipstitch, but kept my stitches small and close together for the most durability and made sure to actually bring the needle through the cotton fibers of the trim and not just around them. I also made sure to only run my needle through the fabric on the inside of the hem, not allowing my needle to pass through any fabric on the front of the dress and thereby keeping my stitches hidden.
Tip: using a thread color that matches the fabric of your dress will allow any tiny stitches that accidentally go through to the front of the dress to blend in and be less noticeable.
Once I finished stitching the trim all along the hemline of the dress, I finished it off by overlapping the ends of the trim by about an inch. Because this trim is made of woven fibers rather than lace or solid fabric, it's a bit tricky to finish off. If you were machine sewing, you could match up the ends and machine stitch them right sides together (then tack down the ends on the inside of the hem) and that would probably hold them pretty well. Because I was handstitching, I chose to overlap the edges one on top of the other and then do a running stitch down one end, across the bottom, and then up the other edge. It's not the cleanest of finishes, but it lays nice and flat, and is pretty secure (I did a lot of work tacking down the individual fiber ends as I stitched up and down the edges). Tip: switch to a thread color that matches your trim at this point so that the stitches will blend in with the trim and be mostly invisible.
Up close it's not all that pretty, but from a distance the seam is not really all that noticeable. I also made sure to place this seam directly in line with one of the side seams of the dress, where it's least noticeable overall.
And that's all there is to it. I managed to add 3 1/4 inches to the length of the dress and it now comes to the bottom of my knees--just the spot I was aiming for. I'm much more comfortable with it now! Plus, I love that the pretty edging adds even more delicate detail to the dress while being neutral enough to not take the focus away from the colors and print of the dress. How can a lacy trim not make anything look more feminine?
Not only does the trim add length, I think it makes the dress look a little more finished and of higher quality. Looking at the before and after side by side you can see the difference that adding the trim makes:
If you get a chance, click on one of the photos in this post and zoom in for a clearer image of the fabric's patterns and colors. It's hard to see, but even the colored stripes at the bottom are patterned.
I was so excited to be able to wear this dress for Easter! I had visions of pairing it with my strappy gold wedge sandals (an end-of-summer clearance deal from Target last year for a whopping $6!) and my white knit 3/4 sleeve blazer. Unfortunately, the cold, windy, rainy weather encouraged me to change my plans a bit and I ended up wearing it with my brown boots and a light tan sweater.
Have you ever refashioned a too-short skirt or dress? What did you wear for Easter services? I'd love to know!
Linking up with:
Feminine Mondays at Taming RapunzelYour Whims Wednesday at My Girlish Whims
We Did It! Wednesday at Sew Much Ado
Wise Woman Linkup at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home
Show & Tell at Gingerly Made
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest
The Party Bunch at Thirty Handmade Days
Link Party Palooza at Tatertots and Jello
Think Pink Sunday at Flamingo Toes
I Made This and Love It at Make It and Love It
Inspire Us Thursdays Link Party at The Inspired Wren