A Risky Alteration: BCBG Pleated A-Line Dress

This is a quick post that I found in the "unpublished" archives from many months ago. When my mother first gave me this dress, my initial reaction was ... hrm, interesting.

I tried it on and sauntered around the house, as each member of my family gaped in horror, expecting the worse. "Im not with child," I snapped at my dad and grandma. 
BCBG tweed dress, sz 0

What to do with such a dress? The ginormous pleats overwhelmed my petite frame and made the dress difficult to alter. My mom instructed me not to alter it, and instead save it for when I am pregnant. That is just so like her to buy me something that won't be worn until a decade down the road, if at all. I remember when I was 10 years old, she bought me these purple, carrot-shaped, Route66 brand jeans in kids size 10, 12, AND 14. I didn't hit size 10 until I was about 16 years old, and by then I had probably burned the jeans. Moral of the story: I did not want this dress sitting around for 10 years waiting for me to grow into it. I was determined to make it wear-able.

You can't tell in the photos, but the material is a light blue tweed, which is actually beautiful in person. Such a shame that the fabric was used on this tent instead of a nice, fitted, sheath dress!

Pleats are always tricky, plus this dress was fully lined. Simply taking in the sides wouldn't work, as the fabric being taken away would pull on the pleats. I spend an hour brainstorming and putting in a few stitches myself to see what type of alteration would work. This is a rough sketch of what I ended up getting:
#1 - stitch shut the pleats on the upper body. #2 - slim down both sides of the upper body to give it some definition. When I took it to Hemmingway Tailors, the ladies agreed. They also suggested slimming the dress all the way, as the full skirt would pouf out too much if only the torso was taken in. The poor side pockets were forfeited in the process.


The results:
Front View: before and after alterations

Side View: before and after alterations

Back View: Before and after alterations
The front and side views look better post-alteration, but ... uh-oh...what happened to the back? The tailors took in too much fabric from each side, and as a result the back pleats (esp. the left side) are pulled open and have completely lost their shape. So my tailors aren't perfect, after all. I'll forgive them, but they should have been able to foresee this issue when pinning in the sides. There's not enough fabric to let out to address the problem.

Anyone have a tip to share about altering pleated items? Or a tip for me on how to salvage this poor dress?

30 comments:

  1. Lol... my Mom did the same thing when I was little! Buying clothes that were too big to save for me to "grow into"... but of course I never did :P

    That's a shame about the dress, because the material does look pretty. I think the 'after' could still be more fitted though. Have you tried belting it? Maybe that would help give you more shape and also hide the pleats in the back?

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  2. Hmm I think the after could use some more taking in still! Sigh, it really is too bad b/c it does look like a very nice material.

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  3. You're so brave for even trying to alter that dress. I would have given up on it immediately.

    I have no idea how that would be fixed by alterations, but perhaps you could hide the flaw by wearing a waist belt with it. Maybe the folding of the fabric under the belt would hide the offending pleats? Or how about wearing it under your long M&O cardi and then belting it?

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  4. Lovely dress! I can't sew for shit. Good thing my mom and sister can!

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  5. My mom's taste is a hit and miss. Sometimes, I LOVE IT.. other times, I think: what the heck were you thinking, buying me that super long, frilly, strangely printed skirt?

    At any rate, I applaud your altering, and am frowning at how strange the back looks now. Any chance you can just scrap the pleats and just change it into a sheath???

    With a dress like that, I'd definitely need to belt it to give any definition, or else, look like I am 3 months along

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  6. Sigh, I agree it should be more fitted. Probably should have gotten the top taken in more, and left the bottom alone!

    AN - belted and with a long cardigan is a great idea! I'll have to try that when I get home. The material of the dress is so thick, I hope a cardi fits over those sleeves!

    FB - I've definitely thought about stitching shut all the pleats! Will have to pin them and see if there is enough material left to go around.

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  7. that's definitely a risky alteration! it does look better though :)

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  8. My sister had to alter a dress like that in design school. She suggests that ti would be possible to convert that into a classic sheath form. You would have to shut the pleat opening down further till your waist and take in the lower half to give it a slight pencil skirt kind of look. I believe if you just close the entire pleat, it would not give much room for moving around and may look more on the casual side than you seem to wear... just a thought =)

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  9. Thanks for the tip! You mean just close the pleats further, but not all the way? So the pleats would still exist below the waist? Just trying to envision : )

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  10. My mom is supposedly "stylin'" but I don't think she quite gets my "preppy" love (my mom is from Hong Kong - I don't think "preppy" exists there). In the past few years, she's bought me winter coats, always weird looking, not-so-preppy ones (I am IN LOVE with J.Crew coats, but have not bought one yet because of my mom's purchases!)

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  11. Good save. I love the avant garde look of the original dress, and wish I could pull something like that off. Your alterations stay pretty true to the original design, which gives me hope that *just maybe* this is possible for us shorties to pull this off.

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  12. Yup, If you close the pleats all the way it may end up being an A-line dress or babydoll, which would still be less shapely. If you leave the pleats after the waist line and take it in from the sides it may lend itself to a more formal look something like this http://thecharmchat.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/pleated-sheath-dress.jpg
    In the end it depends on the kind of look you want to go for. P.S. Thanks for the Ann Taylor sale update =).

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  13. Plus the ladies you usually go to for alterations may be able to advise as to what may work best given the fabric and ingenuity that may be allowable with the dress. Gud Luk!

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  14. This may be helpful as well...http://www.instyle.com/instyle/package/general/photos/0,,20257818_20302006_20665498,00.html

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  15. ^ Wow, great article to use as a resource. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  16. ahhh so brave for trying! my mom used to sew alot and I actually asked her.. she didn't have a clue haha -_- I agree, a belt may work, but I'm pretty clueless myself :/ good luck with it!!!

    <3jimin

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  17. I think it looks great right now! I love all the alterations you make! It always ends up looking gorge.

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  18. Looks great :) ! Reminds me.. I need to alter a few of my stuff as well..

    Btw, saw your comment on Aney's site. There is Aritzia in the states!! Check out their site for the locations :)

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  19. i think post-alteration looks great, from the front. sorry to hear about the back though, the pleats do look a little uneven. i'm the last person to ask for how to salvage a dress but i do hope that you find a way to make it right. i'm sad to hear that you lost the side pockets too. you're so tiny! i love pockets on skirts and dresses since i never know where to put my hands if i'm not holding a bag or umbrella haha. the dress looks great though!

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  20. Hi

    I love your blog. I'm a first time reader and stumbled upon your blog through a google search on Longchamp. I'm also a very petite person who struggles to find clothes that fit. Unfortunately I live in Australia so can't buy any of the brands you recommend. Anyway you seem like such a unpretentious girl, not forgetting to mention absolutely stunning as well so wanted to comment. Keep blogging. Will def be following.

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  21. Tessatham - Wow you're right. Thanks for the tip! I see they are very North-west / mid-west based. I'll definitely put them on my list to check out when in San Fran or Chicago, because I love their Wilfred bustier tops!

    Elysa - Welcome! And thanks so much for your kind words. I think there are a few other petite readers from Australia, and I hear the same thing about how hard it is to find decently priced petite clothing there! I know one uses a forwarding service to get packages to her home. Too bad these brands here don't expand and ship internationally!

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  22. ur mom is too cute! lol i love how it looks post alterations! it's such a cute dress. i'm especially loving the back detailing! thanks again for the tips on organizing my closet:) now, i just have to find the time and motivation to get on it! lol


    TheOwlsCloset.blogspot.com

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  23. hahahaaha, not with child, you crack me up!

    I sadly wouldn't have the slightest clue how to fix this =/ I royally suck

    But if you can make it into a sheath (somehow) that would be great :)

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  24. If nothing else works perhaps you could try cutting the top part completely and turning it into a skirt..? Kills the original design completely but atleast you could still use the fabric.
    I don't even have a 101 in tailoring so can't say for sure exactly how to go about it. :-)

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  25. amazing! i love the 'new' dress! :)

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  26. I also had a dress close to this. I sew, so I took apart the bodice from the skirt and removed all the pleats. My dress had pleats all around that made me look big! After I took out the pleats, I measured the bodice to match the skirt and cut away the extra fabric. I then stitched the new fitted skirt to the bodice. It is much more flattering now.

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  27. Hemingway Tailor is located in my town!! we MUST be from the same area. I have been looking for a good tailor for a while but it is difficult to trust the job without actual experience. Have you ever tried Chez Leon in Waltham? Is Hemmingway costly in comparison to other tailors? Please let me know! Thanks!!

    garineh(dot)ashjian (at) gmail.com

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  28. I don't have any tips since I don't know much about sewing or even altering clothes for that matter... but I just wanted to say that I think BCBG should really "shrink" their sizes a bit. I find that their sizes all run a bit bigger than normal.

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  29. Any updates as to what you decided to do with this dress?

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