Welcome back, style enthusiasts. Just as a disclaimer, this week is going to be a little bit different than what I’ve been doing because I’m going to be talking about altering vintage clothes. I have the foundation for a gorgeous look, so keep coming back to see the completed outfit. With that in mind, welcome to post number 3.
Now that Halloween weekends 1 and 2 have passed, it’s time to start thinking about the holiday season. I don’t know about you, but although I adore the Christmas season, I can’t get into the spirit until Thanksgiving has passed. That being said, there are some December goings-on that I can’t procrastinate thinking about. For example, I started cranking out scarves and hats for my friends and family on Wednesday when I was really sick. I also have to start shopping for school secret Santa events and preparing for my December capstone project presentation. A capstone is basically the college version of a senior project. For mine, I wrote a play and am directing a staged reading of it that will be performed in early December. I based my play on Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, so it takes place in the 1950’s. The reason I’m telling you all of this is that I have a very specific outfit that I’m working on for my capstone performance and the base of it all is this dress.
This is the first piece of clothing I’m sharing on here that I did not get from a thrift store. I actually got this dress at the theater I interned at in Harrisburg over the summer. They were renovating their entire space and needed to get rid of things that had accumulated and sat over the years, so we interns helped organize a prop and costume sale in early June. While we were organizing rooms full of costumes, our boss said to let her know if we saw anything we wanted to take. I was too nervous to ask for this dress, so I hung it up with the other dresses and decided to get it if it was there at the sale that weekend. As you might’ve guessed, it was. I got the dress, a black fascinator, and a pair of vintage oxford shoes for me and I found a suede jacket for my boyfriend. How much did I pay for all of that, you ask? My boss bagged all my things, gave me a smile, and said, “one dollar”. All I have to say is that if anyone ever says that hard work doesn’t pay off, that person is very wrong.
Once I got back to my Airbnb from the sale, I tried the dress on and saw that it had all sorts of surprises. First of all, on closer inspection, I learned that this dress was not a 1950’s-style dress originally. Judging by the hem in the lower layer of the skirt, the dress was at least five or six inches longer, which leads me to believe that this was originally a prairie-style dress that was altered in the theatre’s costume shop for a specific production.
Another part of this dress that proves my theory are the button holes on the inside of the dress. There aren’t any buttons attached any more, but there are only two buttonholes and they stop sooner than you would think, so I am led to believe that this prairie dress was altered a lot on top to create this Sleeping Beauty-style neckline.
Did I mention I am living for this neckline?
Other than the metamorphosis of the dress, I saw that is desperately needed some TLC. There were a couple holes on the seam near the side zipper and a few small holes on the seams of the waist and bust areas. Also, the dress was just the tiniest bit too small. It was just snug enough that the zipper wouldn’t close. It’s something I knew I could fix, though, because I firmly believe that you should make your clothes work for you rather than agonizing over the fit of the clothes you find in a store. I didn’t have my sewing things with me at the time, so I had to wait until I came back home to get to altering my new 1950’s dress.
Once I got home, I had to pack everything to go back to school, so I didn’t actually get to start altering the dress until I got moved into my dorm. I started by messaging my Aunt Kay, who is a seamstress of over 30 years, and asking her how to take a dress out. Once I mentioned that it has a side zipper, she was doubtful that I could alter the dress because she said “side zippers are from the devil”. She had a point. Side zippers are so very awkward. Does anyone prefer side zippers to back zippers? Anyway, I turned the dress inside out and realized that it had been taken in before, so there was extra fabric I could play with. So instead of making a new skirt panel, I ended up ripping the seams on the sides of the dress and re-sewing those seams using a quarter of an inch of the extra fabric on each side.
After that, I repaired the small holes in the dress and altered the waistband. You can see the waistband is elastic, but there was a strip of white fabric on top of it that hindered the elastic from stretching, so I took that out. Once that was done, I tried on my dress, holding my breath. Would it fit? Would it look good? Would it be comfortable?
It turned out that the dress fits me so well, I don’t even need to bother using the side zipper. I can just slide the dress on over my head and it fits like a glove. The only change I want to make in the future is to alter the neckline so that the cut will be a little lower and I can expose more of my collarbone. The neckline is fine now, but I think it could use a little more drama. For all intents and purposes though, the dress is complete. Now all I need to do is work on styling it for my 1950’s capstone.
For shoes, I decided on these low, red heels. They aren’t quite the kitten heels of the 1950’s, but they’re the closest thing I have and I love wearing them.
Here they are with the dress. They don’t look exactly the same shade of red because for some reason the dress looks more purple than red in this lighting, but the dress will work well with these heels.
One thing I need to find or buy for this look is a petticoat to make the skirt puff out a little more. I really wish petticoats could be worn in everyday life nowadays, but I guess they just aren’t in vogue right now. At the same time, there’s nothing really stopping anyone from wearing them on a regular basis either.
I’m also thinking of adding a pearl necklace to this look, but I would have to have my mom send it to me from home. I don’t normally travel with my pearl necklace because it was handed down to me from my Grammie, so it’s the real deal and very special to me. What else do you think would make this look? Let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas.
Although this look is not yet complete, this is what I have so far. I’m extremely excited to get my accessories together and post about the final outfit.
I really like the way this dress feels and how it fits. It makes me feel very feminine and the fit of the skirt is perfect for twirling. Now that I think of it, this dress would pair very well with my red baking apron. If that wouldn’t make me look like a 1950’s housewife, I don’t know what would. I’m not saying that I would prefer to live in the 1950’s, but I really dig the aesthetic of the time. Sometimes I want to wear torn-up jeans and a leather jacket, but other times I want to wear a classy dress and heels and curl my hair. I see style as a fluid spectrum that way.
As I said earlier, this post was a little different than what I normally do. I’ll be posting again featuring the complete version of this look with accessories, makeup, and how you can try to recreate the look for yourself. I hope you enjoyed this slightly different installment of The Vintage Millennial.
P.S. If you’re also a novice tailor and want to know how to let a dress in, Rain Blanken of The Spruce Crafts is a great resource. If you’re a visual learner like me, Rain has you taken care of with step-by-step instructions with pictures. I didn’t end up following this process because of the structure of the dress I got, but definitely use this guide if you need to properly let out a dress. If you end up completing a project like this, I’d love to see how it turns out. Let me know in the comments how it goes in the comments!
Until next time!