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Thread: How to shrink a dress?

  1. #1
    "A List" Customer RodeoRose's Avatar
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    Question How to shrink a dress?

    I did some searching for a similar thread but couldn't find one; if there is one somewhere I'm very sorry. Bartenders, feel free to move this!!

    Anyway, I have a 1930s black dress made from what I believe to be silk (or a similar synthetic) crepe. I really don't want to sell it, as it has great sentimental value to me, plus some fading and little moth holes that don't bother me but would probably put off a buyer. The thing is, it's way too latge for me: it has a 42" waist and a very ample bust, and I have a 25" waist and a, err, not-so-ample bust

    I know the obvious answer is to either sell it or take it in with a sewing machine, but I've heard crepe fabrics have a tendency to shrink in the wash-- should I give it a go? If so, how? I have already tested a small square of fabric I trimmed when hemming it (had to take a few inches off as the very edge had some very large tears) and the fabric is colorfast.

    Thanks for any advice you may have

  2. #2
    Bartender Lady Day's Avatar
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    Its not like shrinking a dress is magically going to make a smaller size.
    You have to take into consideration the grain, the seams which might not shrink with the dress, and any fancy type of treatment to fabric, interfacings, zippers, etc.
    Your seam lines could droop, the interfacing could pucker, finishes might not lay flat. It could be a world of hurt and you could ruin the dress.

    If you were only a size below the dress, I could maybe see it, but we are talking 4-5 sizes. What you are thinking of doing is just unrealistic.

    I would personally say sell it to someone close to that size than risk ruining a garment that can never be replaced.

    LD

  3. #3
    "A List" Customer RodeoRose's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Ahh, OK, thank you for the reality check Lady Day! Especially since this is a classic early 30s dress rife with darts and detail seams, I can see how this would be a very bad idea.

    Fortunately I can wear it anyway with a sash pulling it together; a slightly different look than originally intended, but still quite nice. It was practically given to me, so it's no great economic loss either.

  4. #4
    One Too Many crwritt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RodeoRose View Post
    I did some searching for a similar thread but couldn't find one; if there is one somewhere I'm very sorry. Bartenders, feel free to move this!!

    Anyway, I have a 1930s black dress made from what I believe to be silk (or a similar synthetic) crepe. I really don't want to sell it, as it has great sentimental value to me, plus some fading and little moth holes that don't bother me but would probably put off a buyer. The thing is, it's way too latge for me: it has a 42" waist and a very ample bust, and I have a 25" waist and a, err, not-so-ample bust

    I know the obvious answer is to either sell it or take it in with a sewing machine, but I've heard crepe fabrics have a tendency to shrink in the wash-- should I give it a go? If so, how? I have already tested a small square of fabric I trimmed when hemming it (had to take a few inches off as the very edge had some very large tears) and the fabric is colorfast.

    Thanks for any advice you may have
    I have a friend who ran a consignment shop and costume rental establishment for years. Her favorite quick and painless
    alteration for too large vintage dresses was to stitch one end of a length of elastic to the side seam at the waist, stretch it across the back waist, and stitch the other end of it to the other side seam. This made the front look trimmer, and if you then put on a belt or maybe a jacket, you could artfully adjust the excess fabric into pleats. You might try this!
    Colleen
    Amina calls me Grammie.

  5. #5
    "A List" Customer RodeoRose's Avatar
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    That's a great trick, crwritt! I'm a little squeamish about altering my older garments-- I like to keep 'em as original as possible-- but fortunately this dress has little belt loops that I can hook a ribbon through to make a sort of drawstring at the back. Then just like you said, I can arrange the excess material in a neat fold so it doesn't compromise the integrity of the original form too much.

  6. #6
    "A List" Customer I Adore Film Noir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crwritt View Post
    I have a friend who ran a consignment shop and costume rental establishment for years. Her favorite quick and painless
    alteration for too large vintage dresses was to stitch one end of a length of elastic to the side seam at the waist, stretch it across the back waist, and stitch the other end of it to the other side seam. This made the front look trimmer, and if you then put on a belt or maybe a jacket, you could artfully adjust the excess fabric into pleats. You might try this!
    Brilliant!

    RodeoRose,
    You could use a satin ribbon such as this and the colorful bow will make it a focal point of the back of the dress:



    Or, if you choose a black satin ribbon, it would blend into the dress.
    Vintage is always in style

  7. #7
    Bartender LizzieMaine's Avatar
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    The elastic idea is brilliant -- and done carefully, it's also fully reversible, which is a big plus for any vintage item. Unlike my usual way of shrinking a dress, which is to eat pizza three days straight.
    The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error. -- William Jennings Bryan

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    "A List" Customer RodeoRose's Avatar
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    Ohhh, i don't think I actually understood the elastic idea... I was picturing sewing the elastic all along the back of the dress, but I just reread and I realized how simple it is, with just two stitches at the side seams! I think I'll definitely try that out, then use my ribbon trick to cover up the elastic. Thank you ladies for all the ideas! I really appreciate it .

  9. #9
    One Too Many crwritt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RodeoRose View Post
    Ohhh, i don't think I actually understood the elastic idea... I was picturing sewing the elastic all along the back of the dress, but I just reread and I realized how simple it is, with just two stitches at the side seams! I think I'll definitely try that out, then use my ribbon trick to cover up the elastic. Thank you ladies for all the ideas! I really appreciate it .
    Maybe I didn't explain it clearly enough, the elastic is attached to the inside of the dress, and only the two ends of the elastic
    are stitched to either side seam, so when you put on the dress, the elastic lays across your back waist.You will never see it
    when the dress is worn. Your sash or belt will corral the excess folds of fabric

    Of course, I rarely have trouble with dresses being too big in the waist.
    Colleen
    Amina calls me Grammie.

  10. #10
    Distinguished Service Award Lauren's Avatar
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    Sorry, a little late jumping in here, but I agree with the other ladies to please not try to shrink the dress. Even though crepe does tend to distort when it's washed it also starts to hang funny and puckers at the seams. It won't be a pretty dress anymore but a shrunken mess Much better for the dress to do what the ladies here have suggested or to have it taken in, or a combination of both- especially since it's so old.
    Please post pics if you can of you in your dress after you do whatever you've chosen cause I'm sure we'd all love to see! Mmm... 30s...
    http://wearinghistoryblog.com
    "...be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

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