I’ve been in the try-on room with the MOST ABSOLUTELY DIVINE OMG PERFECT BLOUSE, only to find out that when the shirt goes on over actual breasts there’s a big gap between buttons right at cleavage level. There are two easy fixes for this. They both begin by buttoning the shirt on a flat surface and pinning the area where it gaps so that it remains closed with the button line lying flat down the front of the garment.
Fix one is appropriate if you don’t mind pulling the shirt on and off over your head instead of unbuttoning it. Basically you take some thread the same color as the fabric (or transparent nylon thread) and make several small overlaping stitches at the gap. You may be able to hide the fix further by catching only the bottom layer of fabric on the side with the buttonholes, but this also has the potential to tear away on delicate fabric when it goes through the washer.
Fix 2 allows you to wear the shirt unbuttoned or take it off without pulling it over your head. Go to the fabric store and get sets of “hook and eye”connectors. They’re essentially the same thing you use to fasten a bra. Turn the shirt inside out (remember the spot is pinned into the position you want it). On the edge of the strip that goes under the other (the side with buttons), stitch the hook part of the hook and eye to the fabric with the hook facing out towards the front of the shirt. Your stitches go through the little flat loops attached to the hook (see drawing). Hook the “eye” (loop) part through the attached hook and make sure it lays flat. Stitch in place to the side of the shirt with the button holes. Try it on with the loop hooked and see if it lies flat (you may have to adjust it).
(Note: Fix 2 assumes that the gap is over the cleavage where the hook and eye won’t rub on skin and create a sore spot).
The fix here is obvious, in that the clothes may need to be dyed. If it’s cotton, hemp or linen then you can use the RIT dyes available at any fabric store. If it’s wool, silk or other natural animal fiber (other than leather or hide), you’ll need what’s called an “acid dye”. There are other specific dyes for leather and suede, and even for rayon. I’ve found the best source for specialty dyes is Dharma Trading, http://www.dharmatrading.com/ . They even carry natural vegetable dyes and ready-to-dye natural fiber fabrics (cotton, linen, hemp, silk) by the yard.
Problem: They Only Make Clothes to Fit Tall Women!
The answer is to hem it, whether it’s the sleeves or bottom hem. If it only needs to come up a little bit you can just fold and stitch. If it needs to come up more than ½” then you may need to cut. There are several options for a finished look:
If you’d like a clean edge to the hem or don’t have a sewing machine, cut the fabric 1” below where you want it to hang. Fold under ½”, then fold again to tuck the raw edge under. Iron the folds for a crease and/or pin, then stitch.
If you’d like a cuff or visible hem you would follow the same process, except folding up in the opposite direction (towards the outside of the garment). Stitch at the top and bottom of the fold.
If you have knit fabric (such as a tee shirt), cut the hem ½” below where you’d like it to hang. Overstitch the raw edge. This means a series of small stitches right at the edge, with a perpendicular stitch looping over the raw edge of the fabric for each straight stitch. This keeps the fabric (especially knits) from unravelling and helps it wear longer. The overstitch function on your sewing machine should look like one of these:
Knits are hard because the stitches need to stretch with the fabric. If you have a sewing machine that can handle a double-needle you can use a double-needle straight stitch to give a tee shirt hem a factory- look finish. If you have a sewing machine with a stretch stitch (/\/\/\/\) then you can use that to finish the hem and it will look just fine. If you have to hand-sew, consider stretching out the fabric while you sew a straight-stitch so that the stitching has give. Practice on some throwaway fabric to get the right amount of stretch without the stitches bunching.
Sometimes you can’t hem from the bottom because of a print or pattern. Unfortunately this will take more sewing skill to solve since it means you must go to the nearest seam (armhole, waistband, etc.), cut or pluck out the stitches (there’s a tool called a seam-ripper that’s designed specifically for this), note how the seam attaches and take in more fabric. Re-attach the seam lower on the skirt using basting stitches (long loose stitches easy to rip out) BEFORE cutting any fabric; you’ll probably need to make adjustments. If this is the issues remember that there may be a limit as to how much you can take in before the look and fit of the garment is lost.
Problem: They Only Make Clothes to Fit Short Women!
This is one I run into a lot because I’m tall. Shirts that are designed to fall to the hips only reach my waist. Skirts meant to hit the ankle get me at mid-calf. Sometimes it’s hopeless, but sometimes I can fix it. Basically the fix is to add fabric. Some really high-quality well made tailored outfits are made to be let out an inch or so, but they’re not going to waste fabric in sweatshops making the clothes adjustable.
For too-short sleeves you have two options. One is to shorten the sleeves (see the last section) so that they’re ¾ or short-sleeve instead of long. The other is to find matching or contrasting fabric and add it to the sleeve. Hemlines are pretty much a matter of adding fabric, as are too-low necklines on shirts designed for the tiny-busted.
Fabric can be added anywhere: top, bottom or middle. Too-short sleeves are always a problem for me, so I’ve experimented a lot. For one design I cut the sleeve back to a little below the elbow, added a strip of lace (hem the raw edge of the sleeve fabric, then stitch the lace to the underside/hemmed side) then made a bell sleeve of a coordinating color. This is a bit of a romantic and flamboyant look, but might work for you. The strip of lace could also be a stripe of contrasting or coordinating fabric or ribbon. The same technique can also be used to lengthen the torso of a shirt or length of a skirt.
L is length from existing sleeve cutoff to desired cuff. Remember to consider ½” will be taken off each piece of fabric every time fabric meets, and allow hem or cuff fabric at wrist opening.
W is the circumference of the opening of the existing sleeve. Remember to add 1” of fabric for a seam when you sew the fabric into a tube.
F is the Flare, or however much you want the wrist cuff to differ from the point where you attach the sleeve extension. If you want a fitted cuff, make this a negative number (i.e. reverse the trapezoid).
Of course if you only have an inch or so to add, it’s much simpler just to attach something at the wrist to lengthen the sleeve. Check a fabric store for interesting trims, like lace, crochet, ribbon and other fun notions.
Problem: They Only Make Clothes for Gigantic Boobs!
The Dart is your friend. Not the kind you throw at photos of major clothing line designers who think all women look like fit models, but elongated triangles that make two-dimensional fabric follow a three-dimensional form.
The most common type of dart begins at a seam and comes out into a point. This forces the fabric to “bend” around the dart, create a form that hopefully follows your body. Not all shirts or tops lend themselves to darting, but quite a few can use darts to adapt to your body shape.
If a garment fits you everywhere except for being too baggy in the breasts, for instance, you’ll want to use horizontal darts to take up the extra fabric. The downside is that this may also make the garment shorter (particularly at the sides), so be forewarned. This is much easier with a friend to help, but can be done in front of a mirror.
First turn the shirt inside out and put it on. Use your fingers to pinch together equal folds of fabric at the side seams until the shirt feels like a better fit. Experiment with both the width and length of the fold, which should be wider at the seam and fold as a triangle with the point no further towards the buttons than your nipple. When you have the perfect amount of fabric pinched to make the garment fit you, pin it in place. This is your dart. Stitch along the line of pins, check it again for fit, then iron the fold to one side or the other so that it lies flat.
The problem now is that you've shortened the front of the garment, but not the back. You need to carefully remove the stitches from the side seam (again, using a seam ripper) up to the dart. Hem the back of the shirt to the same length as the front and re-attach the side seams.
Problem: They Only Make Clothes For Tiny Boobs!
For the opposite problem (fits the breasts, too loose below them) begin your dart from the bottom hem and keep it fairly straight until just below where it hits the breasts, then taper to a triangle (see second graphic above). This is a much easier adjustment as you don't have to rip any seams out!
If the clothes are baggy everywhere, the solution is to buy clothes that fit you .
Problem: They Only Make Bras For Tiny Boobs!
Darts can also be used to adjust a bra. If a bra is the right band size but just barely too large in the cup, take a small dart on both sides of both cups to bring it in and fit you comfortably. If it's considerably too big, consider taking a solid seam across the front. The downside is that the extra fabric from the dart might rub or create an uneven shape. It’s always better to get bras that fit, but for those of us who don’t have a week’s grocery money to blow on one, this is a good cheater.
End of Part 1