Vintage Sewing

How do I fix-Update

April 21, 2010

I am relatively new to sewing. I can sew the basics and am learning with each new piece I do, but I am not sure how to fix this dress. It is a vintage dress I bought on e-bay last year. I appears to have been hand-made as there are no tags. It has a wonderful wind flap or hanging yoke in the back (I’d photograph it for you but I still have it on from taking the photo of the arm).

My lovely daughter wore it to a wedding and with a little too much dancing and her beautiful and strong bicep it tore. She did the same thing to a vintage dress she wore to my 50th birthday party. Same place, from same bicep.

Would I just tuck it all in and hand sew with an overcast? Or should I buy some of that iron on stuff and try to mend it that way. I love this dress and the cute red, white and blue one as well….note to self…Molly needs to wear her own clothes when she is dancing.

Update: Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments on how to fix this. I have been wearing it all day…it is very comfortable with a huge circle skirt. Now that I think of it I also tore the chiffon on the shoulder seam of this dress. I promise I did not dance in it… was just very old and tender. So maybe a trip to the seamstress is in order…she fixed the bust on this before I wore it to my party and warned me it was about to blow.  I also blogged yesterday and today about all the gloves…for any of you interested in vintage gloves.

  1. First off, doesn't matter if its her own or not; if it isn't loose, it is NOT A DANCING DRESS. Vintage garments can be fragile and if handmade, they were made to someone elses measurements with someone elses personal taste for ease. Tell her this is what reproduction clothes are around for! If she doesn't want to sew her own.

    Second, I wouldn't use iron on anything, its too big of a tear and you will lose the "flow" of the fabric. If I were you, I would put the edges together as best as you can and hand sew a backstitch 1/8" in. I'd then do…blanket stitch I think its called, over that seam. It isn't going to be perfect no matter what you do, but that's probably the best way to do it neatly if not invisibly.

  2. What a lovely dress and a pretty daughter! I think you should apply fusible interfacing on the inside and then overcast neatly on the outside. That's what I've always done to mend my clothes and so far it's worked 🙂

  3. Beautiful dress and lovely daughter! 🙂 I think it's fabulous that she loves and appreciates vintage clothes.

    I would darn the tear very carefully. You may want to use a bit of broadcloth underneath the tear to have another layer to stitch through; you'll strengthen the repair.

    I agree with the ladies above – using a fine backstitch and then overcasting should do the trick. 🙂

  4. Thanks gals… I knew I could count on you. My daughter is an amazing writer, poet and artist who teaches pre-school children on the autism spectrum. She is almost 29 and the light of my life…one of these days I'll get her to share some of her creative endeavors.

  5. No matter what you do, the mend is going to be visible.

    I would re-make the sleeve… which means, of course, both of them. I can think of two ways, both of which would be shorter than the original sleeve.

    Method #1:
    First I'd carefully remove the sleeve, open it out and trace the sleeve, especially the cap onto pattern paper. You're going to want to remove the damaged portion and move the sleeve up. Since the sleeve narrows as it goes down the arm, you're going to need to widen it. I would slice the sleeve vertically, spread it to fit the pattern, then find a creative way to fill the gap. You could use the cut-away portion to make narrow "beltloop" like strips and weave a lattice, you could use a pretty lace insert, or a piece of ribbon. Once the sleeve is wide enough, recut it to fit the armscye and set it in.

    Method #2:
    Again remove the sleeves and open them out. Using the longest piece you can find, probably from the cap to the hem, cut a fluttering ruffle sleeve. I'd find a pattern with such a sleeve and copy it, rather than trying to free-hand it.

  6. If you enjoy sewing, why don't you take the dress apart, use the pieces as pattern pieces and sew a brand new one in a plaid pattern…that'd look great!

  7. More thanks anonymous and Fairevergreen…if the sewing spirit moves me enough and I feel confident enough to do it those are great ideas. It is just a simple cotton day dress…so I won't go to too much trouble…but maybe once I learn a little more sewing I will tackle it that way.

  8. I agree with using a bit of broadcloth (or something even finer) underneath the repair – perhaps you can find a wee bit of the garment fabric in a seam allowance or pocket bag that would work and would be the same weight/age as the area you need to repair.

    I wouldn't use fusibles, because fusibles will make the area too stiff and can be scratchy.

    If you find that the fabric is just too tattered, there might be enough left to make cap sleeves.

    Dancing can be awfully hard on vintage but sometimes y' just gotta dance!!

    I have to confess to having once danced a 1930s evening dress into shreds.

  9. I agree with Rueby. Too bad that happened to the garment. It looks like an amazing fabric that just isnt made anymore.

    How much fabric is in the hem? Perhaps you could take a few inches from that and make a patch.

    40+ year old garments arent meant to e worn with contemporary vigor. As some have said, thats what reops are for.

    Would you drive a Model T around with the dame harshness as a Carolla? No.

    If you are apt to actually saving the garment, and you are too new to sewing that you feel intimidated by the tear, you might have a professional seamstress mend it.

    Good luck.

  10. Or if you have to actually sew it back together, use matching thread for each section of the print for more camoflauge.

  11. I think I'd re-cut the dress and make it sleeveless. You can use the extra fabric to make facings around the armhole or to make a scarf or headband. If it tore once-it may happen again.

  12. I have a very similar problem, gorgeous satin-y 60s dress which i managed to tear up the back of, right by my bum…annoyingly enough. a friend of mine who used to do wedding dresses suggested patching it with fusible hemming tape or interfacing, so basicly stitch the tear up very carefully by hand, layer of interfacing on the back and then some sturdier fabric behind that and iron!
    hopefully it'll be ok!
    good luck!

  13. Stitch witchery, so you can glue another piece of fabric underneath it to give it strength. I usually first see if i can sew the pieces together, then if that is impossible, go to that. It works wonders, trust me.

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