Adventures in Alterations – Theory Shirt Dress




Please note: I enjoy sharing my before and after alteration posts to give others an idea of what the magic of a good tailor can do for people who a) don’t necessarily fit today’s sizing conventions, or b) enjoy fashions that may not fit right off the rack (such as thrift shoppers and vintage lovers). Please use these posts only as a learning tool, and understand that leaving items in the (hopefully capable and skilled) hands of a tailor comes with its own risks, as well as rewards. Enjoy! =)

So, I think I may have found a tailor in The Bay Area that isn’t afraid to tackle some of my heftier alteration jobs. I think it will take some time for her to figure out the exact fit I like, but I took a chance on her with a really complicated piece, and she did a fantastic job! I might tweak a few things a little later, but it was finished in time and looked amazing for a good friend’s wedding.

As I mentioned in my wedding post, if I hadn’t picked the short little number from Monique Lhuillier, I would have gone for the dramatic shirt dress Theory sent down it’s Fall 2014 runway in a crisp white shirting fabric (it’s the “Diaz Sartorial Dress” if you’re interested). I remained obsessed with it, but hesitated purchasing because I personally find white dresses tough to wear for two main reasons:

1) They can’t be worn to weddings (a possibly antiquated rule, but better safe than sorry…don’t want to upset the bride!), severely limiting my dress-wearing-occasion options.

2) White fabric can be quick to swallow you up if it’s not sufficiently fitted and/or shows a lot of skin.

The dramatic nature of this dress requires the wearer to be swathed in quite a bit of fabric, and I only really wear dresses to weddings, so I passed on this dress in it’s white iteration. Enter sale season, and lo and behold, I stumbled upon the dress in a much easier for me to wear navy.

Unfortunately, the original dress was not made in petite-friendly proportions, so whittling this dress down was quite the task. My tailor made 5 major alterations:

Brought it up at the shoulder – this alteration makes the arm hole smaller, brings all major elements higher (such as waist details & button placement), and slims the shoulder. This is the most laborious of the alterations, as the whole collar/shoulder/sleeve area needs to be entirely re-cut. Unfortunately, being as petite as I am, this alteration is needed often with regular-sized garments, but I try to reserve it for special items. (Cost ~$65)

Sleeve shortened – this alteration was done at the shoulder, since it needed to be detached for the shoulder alteration described above anyway. This preserves all cuff details, which is nice. (Cost ~$30)

Sleeve slimmed – this alteration is pretty simple, and one I have done often. I think the sleeves on this dress could be slimmed even more, which I may do at a later date. For now, I plan to only wear the sleeves rolled up, so it’s really a non-issue. (Cost ~$25)

Bust and waist slimmed – this alteration took in some of that extra fabric that was at the back and bust for a more streamlined fit. (Cost ~$30)

Hemmed – this alteration was to better reflect where the dress was meant to end. Since the distance from the high hem length to the bottom hem length was proportioned for taller women, I had my tailor compensate by taking more off the the bottom hem, and only a little off the high hem. The bottom hem was brought up about 4 inches, while the high hem was only brought up about 1 inch. (Cost ~$25)

The finished dress is remarkably better in fit than it was off the rack! See it styled after alterations here. ;)

Note: alteration costs can vary wildly based on factors such as geographic location and skill level of your tailor. Please use any pricing information as estimates only.

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  1. says: Jolene C.

    Oddly enough, I had an AMAZING tailor in San Jose (I now live in Seattle) that is also called Nancy’s Alterations. I trusted her with all of my garments, she knew me well, she has quick turn around, and does high-quality work that keeps the original garment in tact. I don’t know about you, but I’ve run into my fair share of tailors who have wanted to dramatically alter a garment – maybe because they didn’t understand or appreciate the uniqueness of the piece. Anyway, maybe my comment can help someone farther down the bay.

    Love your blog!

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