Tips & Tricks

When your Princess wails “But my prom dress doesn’t fit!!!”, don’t panic!
*If it doesn’t fit, here’s what to look for to see if it’s “alterable”:
            Too small:  Can she “get in” it?  No?  Forget it, unless it needs to be hemmed more than 5”.  If it does, there’s a chance a skilled seamstress can use that left-over hem to make it big enough, especially if it’s 2 layers (a sheer over an opaque, for example).
If she CAN get into it but it won’t zip all the way, please don’t try to force the zipper up!  If you do, it may break the zipper or stress the fabric around the zipper so much that it’s unrepairable .  Chances are that it will zip part way, at the bottom.  At the top of the zipper determine how much space there is between both sides of the zipper.  If it’s  less than 5”, it can very probably be let out enough to fit her, especially if it also needs to be hemmed & there’s some extra fabric from that hem.
            Too big:  Don’t worry, unless you could fit another girl in it with her.  Again, a skilled seamstress will be able to take it in & size it down.
*There’s something about it that makes it not perfect – the straps are too wide, she’d like the skirt to be narrower, it’s strapless & she wants straps, there’s too much froo-froo, not enough froo-froo…you get the picture- I personally know a Skilled Seamstress who has a lot of experience with “re-styling” and has been quite successful making other Princesses happy!
            Chances are pretty good that she’s going to need alterations.  A Simple Hem is about $30 and other alterations can run as high as $100, but your seamstress will advise you of that & work with you. 

            This advice is not strictly for Prom, so save it for other formal events that will come up during the school year; Homecoming, Spring Fling, Fall Fling, Winter Fling, etc.  After the Big Event, consider passing the dress on to someone who can use it.  Our planet isn’t getting any bigger & it behooves us all to recycle whenever we can.

Don’t be discouraged if your new clothes aren’t your size, or need some alterations to make them fit well.  “Baggie” and “Roomy” clothes, although popular, do NOT make anyone look better.  Clothes that fit WILL!

Getting married this summer? Now is the time get your gown in.


What do you suppose a certain recycling crazed seamstress  has on her mind?

Why, extending the life & use of bridal gowns! 

Of course I’m serious.  Look at it this way:  No matter what the expense of a gown, more is invested in it than money.  For many brides, their gown represents more than just a special dress for a life-changing event (as if that wasn’t enough!).  As a memory in the making, it’s a tangible expression of what’s anticipated. 

In the more extravagant cases, the Gown becomes a major – if not the major – focal point in many ways and often can even be said to be the “Star” of the Production.  After the conclusion of its purpose, where does it go? 

Most likely back into the bag or box and into storage for who knows how long.  No longer appreciated or admired, the memories surrounding it lose some of their joy as they fade.  In rare instances plans to “pass it on” to some bride in the future actually happen, but even then the enjoyment of it is fairly short lived.    Why not give it another “life” by changing it? 

There are quite a few possibilities & some of the options offer the opportunity to create something that will become an heirloom; something passed on in the future and treasured, maybe, for its beauty but certainly as a symbolic keepsake.

One of my favorite re-uses was by a “second-time-around” bride, in her 40s, who was ecstatically pregnant for the first time. 

Her gown was a very light dusty rose satin sheath, elaborately beaded with an extravagant, detachable train.  She was planning to keep the memory of this event fresh by having the train made into a canopy for the baby’s bassinet and, when her daughter was older, transforming that into a headboard for her bed.  The dress itself could have become any of a number of things; some of the beaded areas would have made a wonderful cover for the wedding photo album, covered one or more of the photo frames or  be transformed into decorative pillow covers.

Other possibilities include:

Make a miniature copy of the original gown to fit a doll & display it in a glass case.

Use the bodice to make a bustier, maybe adding different colored beads or other “fancies” to enliven it.

Cut the gown into sections & make a traditional pieced quilt, using the beaded pieces at the center and layering the tulle over other fabrics.

Put sections on the collar or cuffs of another blouse or dress, or use smaller pieces as appliqués.

One of my favorites, for holiday ornaments cut beaded fabric sections to fit on Styrofoam shapes, trim & hang with ribbon.

Really, there’s virtually no end to the things begging to be embellished if you start looking around and thinking about different uses for a gown. And if you’re creative but not especially “crafty”, many professional seamstresses’ skills are not limited to sewing!

The thing is, in my work I see many pretty gowns and the occasional “to die for” beauties that, after all is said and done, are essentially “disposable” because they’re considered to be “all used up” after that one wearing.  I think that, more often than not, significant amounts of money are spent on them and the “return” should be a little more lasting than one day.  There’s also the enjoyment of their beauty to consider.  It’s sad to just put it away and make the further enjoyment of it a rare thing.  If you have a gown in your life that you want to bring out and enjoy again, it doesn’t matter how old it is.  Think of it as a treasure waiting to be rediscovered.

Until next time, look for and enjoy all of the beauty in your life.  It’s a blessing often overlooked.




*Narrow lapels are the best choice if you’re full busted, short waisted or broad shouldered.

*If you’re small busted, medium to narrow lapels won’t overwhelm your upper torso.

*Super-wide lapels look best on a well-proportioned, larger figure.  They engulf a smaller woman and make broad shoulders look broader.

*Make sure a standard lapel or shawl collar aren’t too long – otherwise it will gap or break over your bustline.

*By their nature, shawl collars are usually a good choice for almost any figure.  However, they may not be your best choice if you have a very angular figure and facial features.


*Patch and flap pockets add bulk wherever they’re placed.

*Pockets positioned straight across the body rather than at an angle tend to lead the eye across the body – not a good idea for the short, full-busted or thick-torsoed shape.


If you are larger on the bottom in proportion to your shoulder width, shoulder pads can help balance the upper torso with the lower half.  Nipped waistline styles with darts or seams are better for curved shapes.  Princess seams, from the shoulder to the bottom, have a lengthening effect because they divide the front of your body into three narrower vertical sections. When a jacket is fitted or semi-fitted, the longer it is, the shorter your legs appear.  The exception is a long, loosely fitted, flowing, straight-cut jacket.  If it’s made of a soft fabric and is full enough to flow over the body, it’s a great choice for visual lengthening while concealing a thick torso or wide hips.  It’s best worn over a long dress or pants and is flattering to all figure types.  Shoulder pads are a must on all but the super-straight, square and broad shouldered figure.

Short, cropped jackets such as a bolero or a short Chanel create the illusion of longer legs – and can do the same thing for the long-waisted figure when worn with a skirt or pants with a wider waistband.  However if you’re full busted, a short style that grazes the high hip is a better choice.  Darts combined with a side panel (in the princess style) provide the opportunity for a great fit in a short jacket for a full-busted figure.  Eliminate horizontal pockets, adding a pocket to the vertical seam. Many jacket styles feature a rounded lower edge, even when the other lines may be straight and more severe.  A curved line at the lower edge can be flattering to any figure type as the eye is drawn upward for a lengthening effect.  Note:  Wearing any jacket style open rather than buttoned can have the same effect, because the front edges create two vertical lines in the center of your body.  A front-banded cardigan focuses four lines at the center front for strong lengthening power.  In addition, if your body is angular but your face isn’t, combining curved and straight lines is a great way to create a look that’s flattering to both.


Considered a key piece in a versatile wardrobe, a jacket should fit you to a T.  For a head start to a good fit, consider your body shape when choosing a jacket style.  Body size and contouring also can guide you to the best choices in jacket details – collar style, lapel shape and width, and pocket types and location.

Are you super straight or romantically curved?  Thin to the bone, generously endowed or somewhere in between?  Remember, it’s your bone structure that determines your silhouette – not the extra padding you may have at hip, tummy, waist and bust.  If your body is straight, it will still be generally straight, even when you gain weight.  Choosing a jacket with an exterior silhouette that mimics your own makes it easier to fit it to your shape.  Choosing a style with interior design lines similar to your own also creates a more harmonious look.  If your body is straight and angular, a style with straight lines from bust to hip, a straight lower edge, straight pockets and more angular collar and lapel shaping will be more flattering and easier to fit.  For curvy body types, it’s better to have jacket styles that have softer lines and a more defined fit.  The same holds true for pockets , collar and lapel shapes – straight lines for the straighter shape, curved lines for the more softly shaped body.  A seamstress who can change these design lines on a jacket can make a big difference in the overall effect of the jacket


A simply shaped, semi-fitted cardigan or blazer that just covers the fullest part of the hip is flattering on any body type. For the most flattering length it should be just long enough to cover the fullest part of your derriere – a length you can wear with both pants and skirts without exposing more curve than is flattering.  A quick glance at the back will let you know if the jacket is long enough.


If you’re looking for a new job, you really need to pay attention to your Interview Wardrobe! If there’s not much hope for what’s in your closet, it’s time to make an investment in something new. All of the department stores, discount stores and clothing stores are getting in their Fall/Winter merchandise and have to make room for it by putting the summer lines on sale. BIG discounts! If you’re very careful and take some time to sort and shop, you can find a new outfit practically for a song. If there’s something you love and can afford but it only comes in sizes too big for you or has a couple of things about it that you don’t particularly care for, call on your alterations seamstress. Not only can she re-size it to fit you perfectly, she can tweek it and get rid of the things you don’t like about it. If you think alterations are beyond your budget, think again. Tell your seamstress about your financial situation and she may very well be able to work with you. After all, you can’t afford NOT to look “fitted” and more professional!

The way you look could cost you a job!!  Don’t let this happen to you.

Is The Interview a necessary “evil” in your life? When you’re in a position that calls for a good first impression (job interview, “cold” sales calls, submitting a proposal, etc.), get some valuable points by dressing well. Put yourself in the place of the person you’re trying to win over. Look at yourself with their eyes. Will they see someone who dresses in a haphazard way, with nothing about their clothes that suggests they have “success” in their future? If your clothes don’t fit, doesn’t that say you don’t know any better? “Quality” clothes are much more affordable than you think (more about that later!) and alterations that make you look “tailored” are always an investment in yourself and worth the expense. When looking for a seamstress/tailor, one of the questions you should ask is if she/he would consider bartering. You may very well have a skill or know-how that would be valuable and “tradable”!

Unless you’re sure that your closet only contains thrift store rejects, there may be possibilities there that are worth looking into. Again, try to change your perspective and ask yourself why you don’t wear or like something that’s been hanging there for more than a year. Most often it doesn’t fit well. Too big, too long, too tight. If it did fit you well, would you like wearing it? Would it be something that your interviewer/client/supervisor would think well of? Alterations by a competent seamstress will solve that problem. Or do you have something from your past that is of good quality but was just a bit too “trendy” back then to be taken seriously now? Restyling could be the answer for you. Pant legs, skirts and lapels can be “narrowed”, shoulder pads can be removed and often a change of buttons can be a huge improvement. Your seamstress should be able to offer qualified opinions and advice.


Keep double-stick tape with you whenever you can.  Office drawer, purse, car, etc.  It’s an invaluable “quick fix” for a loose hem, lost button, slight tear in your clothing.  Remember it’s only temporary and take it to a pro seamstress (wink) to get it properly repaired.