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How to shrink a dress?

Discussion in 'The Powder Room' started by RodeoRose, Feb 27, 2011.

  1. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    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. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

    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. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    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. crwritt

    crwritt One Too Many

    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!
     
  5. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    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. I Adore Film Noir

    I Adore Film Noir A-List Customer

    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:

    [​IMG]

    Or, if you choose a black satin ribbon, it would blend into the dress.
     
  7. 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.
     
  8. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    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. crwritt

    crwritt One Too Many

    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.
     
  10. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    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...
     
  11. I Adore Film Noir

    I Adore Film Noir A-List Customer

    Yes, before and after, if you're not too shy.
     
  12. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    Oh, I'll gladly show you the finished result! I'm so excited to try this out... thank you all, both for the excellent advice and for saving my poor dress from becoming a shriveled mess.
     
  13. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    Pictures!

    OK, here's the dress in question. I'm up at University right now, and most of my sewing notions are at home, so I'll probably put the elastic in when I'm home for Spring Break next week, but I took a few pictures with a little string belt inside the dress where the elastic would go and my trusty ole ribbon to give you an idea of the finished product! I think with a dress as fragile as this one it's probably not a bad thing it's so loose, as there are no closures except in the lace modesty panel. Anyway, it's a fun little frock (well, maybe not little lol) and I'm so glad I didn't try to shrink it and kill it!
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Apologies for the large photo size! Also, my messy hair and visible slip... it's midterm exam week and I'm a bit frazzled right now.
     
  14. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    What a darling dress! Totally has that Edwardian influence thing going on. Love it!
     
  15. I Adore Film Noir

    I Adore Film Noir A-List Customer

    RodeoRose,

    That is an adorable dress and it looks wonderful on you.
     
  16. RodeoRose

    RodeoRose A-List Customer

    Thanks Lauren; I know, the current Victorian revival thread immediately reminded me of this dress!

    I Adore Film Noir, thank you!!
     

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