Vintage silk maxi dress upgrade

I don’t live at Savers. I promise. But I do seem to visit regularly and my recent visits have been very productive.

I went a couple of weeks back, 25% off voucher in hand, and plucked a long cocktail frock from the rack. Feels like silk, I thought. And has that extreme-Photoshop-saturation-levels look that pleases my eye. I didn’t even try it on; just eyeballing it I could see it was too narrow for my hiptacular region. But the Savers pricing department – you know the one, that seems to be OUT OF THEIR MINDS sometimes, charging STUPID money for old tat – had relaxed the insanity that day and priced it at $15. With discount, $11.25. Figured I’d chop it into a skirt or something.

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I didn’t realise just what I’d scored til I got it home. The skirt was too narrow, yes, but the top fitted well. It was beautifully made and the long slits up each side of the skirt had very wide hems. Aha! Wide enough to expand the skirt!

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A little selvage detective work turned up some happy news indeed – handwoven Thai silk. (when sewing, always include a bit of labelled selvage for future frock archaeology.)

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I figured if I hacked the middle out, widened and darted the skirt, sewed it all back up again, it’d be swellegant.

So that’s what I did! Sheesh, it took a while though. Why do alterations take longer than just making the whole thing from scratch? I also felt a terrible responsibility to do a Good Job because of its age (early 70s?), its glorious fabric and its high-quality construction. To botch it with half-arsery would be tragic indeed, and probably anger the Gods of Thrift so much that such bounty would never again be laid across my path.

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I took it for a cocktail-drinking test drive and I’m pleased to say it worked quite well in that particular role.

And my tip to you for finding your true waist before chopping into a vintage marvel? Knot some old elastic in a circle slightly smaller than your waist. Wiggle into it and put it over the frock. It will settle at your narrowest point, ie, your waist. Then use a sliver of soap – which is guaranteed to wash out, not like some other markers, ASK ME HOW I KNOW – to mark exactly where your waist sits, all the way around your middle. You can see on the top snap of the still-maxi frock faint soap marks where I’ve traced waist and cutting lines. Worked perfectly.

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10 thoughts on “Vintage silk maxi dress upgrade

  1. Hi, love your blog (nice to find someone blogging about sewing in the south, where its spring and not ‘fall’). And love this project – it looks awesome on you! Great job.

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