Dressing in an Altered State, Part One

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You finally got with the program. You’re watching what you eat and joined a gym. The scale is slowly going down until suddenly, you put on your favorite work outfit and it’s sagging. Or worse, your coworkers comment on the loose butt or sagging shoulders.

Generally speaking, losing 10 to 15 pounds can result in dropping one clothing size. But suppose you want to lose 30 pounds. What do you do in the meantime? You hate to go out and buy new clothes you may be able to wear only a short time. But you need to look good, not only for your job but for your self-esteem.

The answer? In the short term, consider having your clothes altered. Or even better, alter them yourself. Of course, you don’t want to start tearing apart your wool blazer or jeans, but there are some alterations you may be able to do yourself with the most basic sewing skills.

Let’s start with pants. Men’s dress pants are easily taken in through the center back seam and can result in making them one to two sizes smaller. Try them on and have someone pull the waistband and hold it. Mark with chalk how much smaller you need the waistband to be.

Undo the waistband, usually tacked down in two spots that are easy to cut with a seam ripper. Press the seam flat. Lining up the waistband seams, measure the amount to be taken in and, using your chalk, draw a line through the waistband to where the crotch curve starts. Stitch along the line using a stitch length the same size as the original. Try on the pants to check the fit. If you are happy with it, then you might want to re-stitch the seam (especially if you like your pants tight), but a double seam is more secure.

White chalk marks the new center back seam in pants.

If you take in the band 1-2 inches, you may not have to trim the seam. That way, when you give the pants away after you lose more weight, the new owner has the option of letting them out again. If there is too much bulk, use your serger or pinking shears to trim the seams. I like to leave about 2 inches on each side so the band can be let out almost 4 inches. Next, remove the old stitching, press the seam allowances open, and reattach the band.

Chalk line marks a new hemline.

Women’s pants don’t usually have the center back seam in the waistband, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make one. Mark a line straight up from the seam through the band. Take out the stitching on the inside of the band, then on the outside. Cut your band in half, making sure you cut a straight line. Press the band open; mark the new line with your chalk.

Pin the two sides of the band together, matching up the folds. Stitch and check the fit. If the fit is good, then trim the excess seam allowances to ½ inch and press open. I also like to press in the folds again. Treat the body of the pant just like you would men’s pants, marking the waistline and drawing a line tapering into the crotch curve. Trim if needed, using the serger or zig-zag or pinking shears. Re-attach the waistband.

You may notice the pants are longer now, too. No, you haven’t gotten shorter. When you lose girth, your pants can hang longer. Hemming (in my humble opinion) is something everyone should know how to do. It’s so easy!

Have someone mark your new hem with the shoes you like to wear with the pants. Then lay out your pants flat on a table and line up the creases and hemlines. If they don’t have a crease, line up the side seams with the inseams. In other words, pretend there is a crease. Mark your new hemline, probably only about ½ to 1 inch. Take apart the old hem. It’s usually a chain stitch, so find the end and just pull. Press the new hem in place. Pin the hem in place at the side seams and creases; hand stitch the new hem.

Next: altering shirts and blouses.

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.

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Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.
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