Story Of A Dress With No Underarms

Recently I acquired this sweet little 1950s front buttoning dress. As you can see, it had suffered a major trauma to the underarms. I guess a previous owner was finding the sleeves a bit tight and just ripped them. However, the tears did not only rip the dress along the seams, but also horizontally into the fabric of the garment. But how impatient!

A lot of 1950s dresses have diamond shaped gussets at the underarms, so I thought, why not put a diamond shaped piece in here to replace the damaged underarms? Easier said than done.

Firstly, I am not a professional dressmaker. I was taught basic sewing skills by my mother, my high school needlework teachers and myself. 

Secondly, it's one thing to make a dress with underarm gussets from a pattern, inserting the gussets as the dress is made, although how to achieve the nice pointed corners on the gusset is a skill I do not have. It's another thing completely to insert a diamond shaped patch into a garment which has already been made up, especially when you have an irregularly shaped damaged area to cover, and no pattern.

So I had to make a pattern to cover the size and approximate shape of the damaged area. I started with a paper template of a diamond and tweaked the size till I thought it would fit. I had to do maths! I even asked hubby for a protractor (imagine his surprise!), but I worked out how to make a nice diamond.

 Then I cut out a practice patch to test for fit.

I pinned each patch into place on the dress. The two holes were not the same size, so I had to make two differently sized patches. I also had to cut away some of the damaged area to make it fit the shape of the patch, (more maths!).

Then I pinned the patches in, two sides at a time.

In the view below, you can see the kind of problems I had getting it to fit. It was looking as though I needed to make the patches a little bigger. 


 The fit didn't look too bad, so I now felt confident to cut the real fabric. The dress has a 5 cm hem, so it wasn't going to give me enough fabric to make the whole patch, it had to have a seam. 




In retrospect, I should have cut both patches the same and cut the hole in the dress to match, but cutting the hole in the dress was quite intimidating.

I cut the patches, pinned, tacked and machined them 2 sides at a time.

Getting the corners nice and pointy seems to be an arcane art and I failed completely. It was extra tricky because it is a dolman sleeve, so cut in one piece with the bodice and having no sleeve seam to incorporate the point into. In fact, I ran out of patch at the point.

 But yay, the dress now has underarms!! I tried to line up the seam in the patch with the seam in the dress, but once again the shape of the patch and the hole dictated the position, so it's not quite in line, but who is going to see it under your arm? 

Now to patch the hole I made inside the hem.

And to turn back and finish the cuffs.

And we now have a dress that is wearable. I'm not happy with the lack of diamond points, but I think that the dress was well worth the energy of saving, and will look gorgeous on a petite woman.

Here is the finished dress...


with underarms. (:

View the dress here


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