A Pleasant Alteration

Phase Eight Ninette after straps adjustmentMy client, a first-year student, was shopping for an outfit to wear at a wedding and spotted this beautiful, expensive dress in Phase Eight.  She waited until it was in the sales then bought it for a fraction of the original price.

That’s the kind of thing I like to do.

Except that when I play chicken with the shops, my coveted item sells out, thereby becoming ‘the one that got away’ I spend years afterwards searching for on Ebay and in charity shops, just in case….  🙄

I suspect the reason why Phase Eight didn’t sell out of this number is that the straps are too long.  This size 8 had an excess of 5cm (2inches) that I took out.

Normally I baulk at alterations (there are some horrid ‘prom dresses’ in suburbia), but I loved this dress at first sight.  The colours remind of me of staining you get picking and eating cherries!  The skirt conceals a tulle underskirt between two layers of white lining: the outer lining stops the netting catching on the dress fabric and the inner lining makes the underskirt more comfortable against the skin.  The fabric is polyester: stiff but not organza.  The bodice is interfaced with a soft backing which prevent it from being too sheer and it is also lined.

This is the wrong side of the strap, before the alteration.  Observe how ‘helpfully’ the white bodice lining is a few mm narrower than the bodice.1 Before

I felt I knew what to do – though that did not stop my hands trembling when I unpicked the stitches!

1 Opened up

Step 1 – opening up. It’s important not to be afraid of removing enough stitches to make room for sewing of the shoulder seams. P.S. Notice the white interfacing on the fashion fabric.

1 right sides together, stitch straps

Step 2 – press right sides together, pin and stitch bodice 2.5cm away from original stitching line. Trim and press open.

1 Right sides together, stitch lining straps

Step 3 – the fiddly bit. RIght sides together, sew the lining straps 2.7cm in from original stitching. (Ok, so I did sew 2.5cm the first time, but as it lies in the inner curve, the lining ended up longer than the bodice and had to be redone).

1 slipstitch lining to fashion fabric

Step 4 – press opened seam allowances to the inside, pin and slipstitch together.

1 After

Inside of adjusted strap

1 after, right side

The right side

Does my method look right?  Would you have improvements to suggest?  I charged £15 for about 90 minutes work (opinion welcome…)  It’s one of those tasks that would take a third of the time once you’ve done it so often that you’re more confident.

I really enjoyed this job.  It came at the end of a week which began nastily on Monday.  On Monday, I spent hours sewing double layers of crinkly chiffon for a client who wanted them turned into two gift shop scarves.  It worked out a fraction of the minimum wage.  I might write about that some day 🙄  🙂

But whilst on the subject of lovely RTW dresses and summer, here are a couple of links:

Almost Famous, one of my favourite shops (though I tend to look rather than buy) is also having a sale.

Fancy picking cherries and blackberries?  It’s time to make Summer Pudding!1 summer pud

19 thoughts on “A Pleasant Alteration

  1. You made a perfect job of that little alteration. It’s really tricky knowing how to charge for things like this. The client has no idea about the work that goes into it. I was thinking only yesterday, that’s the value of classic tailoring – it’s hard but it lasts and no one expects to throw it out for a newer trend next season.

  2. Such a cheerful dress! And you are helping me to gain confidence to do exactly the same alteration on a dress I have and have not worn. It’s silk with bicycles all over it and it comes above the knee (imagine that). The straps are about 5cm too long, too. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. I love the fabric and a picture of the food you can eat without worry.
    I would do the alteration in exactly the same way.
    I think the price is right but I think it would seem expensive to a customer as sale prices are quite astoundingly low.
    I just bought a dress from H&H sale for £5 that I plan to copy because it is an interesting pattern.
    I love sales and getting things that need alteration. A perfect job for me.

  4. The only thing I would have worried about would be if the strap was on the bias, then something to stabilize the seam. Yes, I screwed this one up once, for that reason.
    I would like to think that the alteration costs and payments all sorta level each other out for me, but they don’t. When I stop enjoying it (four years now?) I’ll quit.

    Check out “Fit for a Queen.wordpress.com” sewing blog; Mrs Mole does bridal alterations. And some heavy duty psych work. It’s funny and terrifying all at once.

  5. What a gorgeous dress! I know Phase Eight are expensive so, as she got it in the sale, an extra 15 quid to make it fit her perfectly is a small price to pay for giving you stress and ending up with a fabulous party frock. I hate alterations – even my own clothes lie dormant for months whilst I pluck up the inclination (made up expression!) – and I hate it when people who know you sew always say, ‘oh, you couldn’t just have a go at this dress I’ve got, could you, it doesn’t fit me any more and I wonder if you could make it bigger/smaller/longer/different in some way’ and they don’t generally want to pay you for it either. I have learnt to just tell them I hate doing alterations – even hems – and leave it at that. Having said all this, I would have altered the shoulders in the exact same way you did – praying all the time and feeling like I’d earnt my money.

    • Thanks, a great comment.

      Plucking up the inclination is exactly the expression to describe the lure of ‘certain’ sewing jobs!

  6. Whenever I bought RTW dresses in the past, this is an alteration I always needed to do. It is, in my opinion, a fiddly job and I think £15 is a bargain. Having said that, I think people that don’t sew expect work like this to be done cheaply as they are not aware how long it can take. I know if I did alterations for customers I could not possibly make a living wage.
    As for your comment about tracking down “ones that got away”, this is something that I also do. About a year ago I tried on a dress in
    “& other stories” in Regent Street. I put off buying it as there was a number of alterations that needed doing and I begrudged paying the full price. Imagine my delight when I managed to pick it up in an auction on eBay for £12. Strangely, I haven’t yet worn it and it has been in my wardrobe for about 6 weeks. I wonder if it is sometimes just the chasing that is the pleasure!

    • That’s very interesting, your idea that the thrill might be in the chase.

      And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

      I think if I found some of the items I’d been after for years (a particular jersey shirt from Boden, a Monsoon kaftan in pink and lilac) they’d be so tatty or smelly by now… But 6 weeks in the wardrobe is nothing – time is on your side!

  7. Perfect alteration and perfectly done too. Next time you do this you will be faster and the £15 will worth more. It must be difficult to price alterations as the simple looking jobs are the ones that end up taking the time! I’d be terrified of making alterations for other people – so well done you!

  8. I think with anything hand done it is hard to charge for the actual time it takes which is a real shame. That’s why it’s so hard to make a living doing it.
    Mmm been thinking of making a summer pudding, now I’ve seen that pic I’ll have to.

  9. An interesting read. I do garment alterations for a living and £15 is about what I would charge for this alteration. It would take me just under an hour in most cases, so I would achieve my goal of £15 an hour. I don’t always machine the lining, sometimes I trim and tuck the edges under as I’m hand sewing anyway. Such a fiddle to machine it sometimes.

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