My sister has a few things in her closet that she knows I would just die for. A 1930's peach satin bias-cut nightgown is one. I can admit that I truly covet it. I know that is wrong considering how much vintage stuff I already possess but it's so beautiful it gives me goosebumps. She also has a lovely green velvet vintage suit, c. 1960's. The problem with the vintage suit, as with many vintage items, is that the waist band on the skirt is teeny, tiny. The jacket fits her beautifully, but the skirt is a "never going to happen" deal.
So, being the closet "I~wish~I~were~a~clothing~designer" that I am, I volunteered to fix the waist band for her, to make it a larger size.
Read on to learn how.
VINTAGE SKIRT WAISTBAND ALTERATION TUTORIAL
by Michelle Horlbogen
small seam ripper
7/8" double fold bias tape Quilt Binding (in coordinating color)
Stitch Witchery Fusible Bonding Tape
iron & board
(TIP: Click on the photos in the tutorial to zoom in.)
1) First, you need to remove the existing waist band. I use a sharp, small seam ripper. The only issue with this can be that the clothing label is on the waist band. If it is, just carefully remove it and save it to hand sew back on later. Trim any frayed or long threads you find. If there are darts at the waistband, you can determine if you need to let any out by slipping the skirt on to see how it fits. If you still need more room, take out either the two front or two back darts. (Depending on the fabric, removing darts may leave some marks, so think it through before you do.)
2) Take the bias tape and pin it to one end of the waist band with @ 3/4" extra (so you can have something to work with to finish it later. Measure it all the way around to see how much tape you need (don't forget to add the extra at the other end as well).
3) Pin the bias tape to the skirt, starting at one end and working around to the other. The tape just folds over the top of the skirt. As you pin, you may have to stretch the fabric and tape to get a smooth, flat finish.
4) Now you have to do something with the ends of the tape. As you can see in the photo above, I just folded in & pressed the tips of the corners, and then place a small piece of the heat n bond tape on the bias tape, just about a 1/2" from the end, so you can fold it over and iron it down. The goal is to have a nice edge to the tape where the zipper is.
5) As you can see in this photo, the edge has been folded in and "glued" down, then pinned. You'll have to determine where to end the new waistband. I like to just barely cover the top of the zipper, so the two new ends of the waistband touch.
6) Now that your pinned and the ends are "glued" down and pinned, it's time to sew. I usually gage where I want the seam depending on what's inside. Sometimes a skirt will have a very flimsy liner, so I tend to sew pretty close to the bottom of the bias tape to make sure I catch the lining all the way around. I've also done it with a double seam, one along the top and one along the lower part of the bias tape. I don't think it really matters, as long as all four layers are sewn together well.
7) Trim your excess thread and VOILA! Your vintage skirt is ready to wear! If you removed a label, don't forget to sew it back in.
Now, with that said, there are a few concerns. Firstly, there is the BIG question of whether vintage clothing should be tampered with. I definitely believe that high end, Haute Couture / Couture vintage clothing falls in the category of Fine Art and should never be altered (unless it's in utter disarray with no chance of restoration to it's original state). That, in my opinion, is indisputable. However, when you are fortunate enough to have, as I do, some of your grandmother's sweet cotton day dresses or pretty suits from the 1950s/60s, and with a slight bit of alteration you could have some fantastic, unique vintage clothing in your wardrobe to actually WEAR, then I say go for it!
Secondly, if you remove a vintage skirt waist band and replace it with quilting bias tape, it is not going to look quite as nice. So think about how you will wear the skirt - will you want to tuck your blouse or top in? If so, then aesthetically speaking, this could be an issue. A great way to "skirt the issue" is by wearing a wide belt, even if you tuck something in, this will give you a more modern look and is a great way to hide the waistband.
Thirdly, I must humbly admit I am by no means even remotely close to being a tailor or seamstress, so you may want to try this out on a skirt you don't really care about (maybe one your daughter has outgrown or even pick one up at the thrift store on dollar day to play around with). This will allow you a chance to try out the idea and maybe even improve on it. By the way, does anyone have a different way of solving this vintage waistband size issue? If so, I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment!
My sister was very happy, the skirt fit her perfectly. Look how she thanked me, how great is she?
xx ~ Michelle