Altering a Dress - Before, After & How To

Last month I blogged about some recent charity shop finds, including a homemade 1960s dress that needed altering. I bought it for £9.99 at a local vintage charity shop and it was enormous on me, but I felt that it wouldn't be too hard to adjust to the right size. I finally got around to making the changes recently and thought I'd bring you a 'Before & After':

Before! These photos show the colour best too - it's not a hideous acidic yellow, honest. The photo on the right shows the dress inside out with pins at side seams to mark where it was to be sewn

After! Much more fitted. I think the shoulders could be made a bit narrower, but I decided that it wasn't worth the time it would take, and I was fine with how it looked.

Here's what I did:
  1. Turned dress inside out and placed pins at side seams to show where it needed to be taken in
  2. Basted up the side seams using pins as a guide
  3. Turned dress right way out and tried on again to check how basted seams were for size.
  4. Made adjustments to the side seams
  5. Sewed side seams
  6. Took in fabric on existing vertical darts on front and back
  7. Added horizontal bust darts to take some of excess fullness away

It was quite straightforward and took a couple of hours as I had to take the dress on and off a few times to check that it was right. As I took it in a few inches at the sides I was hoping that there would be enough off cuts to make a matching belt. Unfortunately I didn't, but I don't think the finished dress requires one.

Side and back views showing dart details

I find it really satisfying to alter clothes, and it's amazing how something as simple as taking up a hem can make a frumpy item into something desirable. There are loads of ways you can transform an item of clothing simply, from sewing on different buttons to shortening sleeves. In June I restyled a Laura Ashley dress by chopping off the length, shortening and removing excess material from the sleeves and adding new buttons. You can see that restyle here. Other restyles I've loved recently are Debi's Bow Sweater and SoZo's Jumper Trousers.

It's definitely worth looking out for good quality items in charity shops that have the potential for alteration. Do you enjoy altering and restyling?

K x


  1. Fab! Looks like you've stepped out of Mad Men! :) x

  2. Brilliantly done! Thanks also for sharing your steps/tips on what you did...I'm still terrified of altering clothes...eeek!

  3. Great transformation! I was always afraid to take in dresses but one of my pals showed me how to do it and it's really simple and not scary at all! x

  4. It is straightforward isn't it Vix? Marie you should definitely try it, you're more than capable! This dress was a good project because the busy pattern is quite forgiving of all the darts.

  5. I think you have a real talent for creating a wonderful new WEARABLE garment from a


  6. Delicious dress! I'm so glad you rescued it to bring back to use. Looks great on you!


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