Friday, September 13, 2013

Make it Better: Adding Straps to a Strapless Dress DIY

Sailboat Motif Dress
image from Ralph Lauren
Looking through my closet recently, I found that I own a lot of casual strapless dresses. A majority of my closet is dresses, so this was not too much of a surprise, but I did realize that the strapless dresses in my closet are rarely worn.

Even if I ignore the uncomfortable feeling of the requisite strapless undergarments, strapless dresses are not appropriate for many situations, including work. This means that I am not able to wear them for the majority of the week, so they are not closet workhorses like my dresses with wide shoulder straps, short sleeves, or long sleeves.

However, strapless dresses are often inexpensive. I purchased the madras dress in this tutorial for just $7.00! But even an inexpensive buy is useless closet space if it is worn only once or twice a year.

Inspired by this sailboat Ralph Lauren dress which makes me feel pretty every time I put it on, I decided to find a way to create wide straps that match the fabric of the dress, and attach them with buttons. Read on for the instructions...

Supplies Needed:
-Four buttons
-Needle and thread
-A sewing machine (or hemming tape and an iron)

Chopping off a couple inches from the bottom of a dress only works if the dress is long enough to loose at least 2", but luckily, it's been my experience that many strapless dresses fall to the mid-calf. Midi, or tea-length dresses are perfect for shortening as they are a difficult length to wear -- they visually cut off one's legs at the widest part of the calf, making the leg appear fuller. Shortening the dress to the knee and adding straps will make it slightly more casual than a tea-length strapless dress, as tea-lengths are most appropriate for cocktail attire, and strapless dresses are dressier than dresses with straps. For this dress, the madras fabric is a little on the casual side for many cocktail events, so I prefer it as a more versatile dress with straps and a hem that looks good with flats or heels.

1) With the dress on, first determine how much of the fabric can be removed from the bottom of the dress. Ideally, the dress that is left will fall to just below the knee, so the section removed will change based on height for each woman. Keep in mind that the dress will need to be hemmed, so err on the side of caution when determining how much can be removed.

Also measure how long the straps should be from where the front button will be placed to where the back button will be placed. We will use this measurement in a minute.

2) Using the ruler, make sure the section being removed is even all the way along the hem of the dress. Hem the dress all the way around either by sewing it or using the hem tape and an iron.

3) Now's the time to use the strap measurement. As one can see in the picture of the Ralph Lauren dress, there is additional fabric below where the button is placed. I added 4" to my strap measurement to allow for 2" of extra fabric at each end.

3) I chose to remove the seams from the strap fabric because I didn't like the way they looked.

4) My strap fabric was about 2" wide. I wanted the final straps to be about 1.5" wide, so I hemmed the sides first, and then folded in the corners and hemmed what will become the ends of the straps. The madras dress already had contrast stitching in white, so I chose a white thread to continue the color. Make sure the straps are the same length as one another, both before and after folding and hemming the corners -- at first I folded more fabric on one strap than the other, so I had to correct that error.

6) Sew the straps to the dress, and the buttons on top of that. The Ralph Lauren dress has functional buttons, but I chose to make mine decorative.

I like that this dress is now something I can wear more regularly. Too bad I didn't think to do this project early in the summer! Hopefully, I'll still get a couple more wears out of it before the heat subsides... and since the strapless version of the dress sat on a hanger all summer, even one or two wears will be an improvement.

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