This dress really only scrapes by as being handmade, I’m afraid. It’s a dress originally from Target, which I found at Salvation Army, and the only alteration I made was to adjust the side seams and armholes.
Very often, something 1-2 sizes up from my usual size will be fine in length but simply too wide, particularly in the bust and armhole area, and the armholes are typically too saggy and low. Using dressmaking patterns first alerted me to how sizing works, which is that sizes get wider faster than they get longer, i.e. for every 2″ additional circumference (i.e. one size up) they might only have 1/2″ additional length. And of course logic would have made me aware of this if I’d ever thought about it much – someone a size bigger than me isn’t likely to be a whole 2″ taller. So although I might not be a size Large in circumference, in height a Large is likely to be fine. And while I’m pregnant, a non-maternity Large (in the right style) is actually ideal everywhere but in the whole shoulder/armhole area.
Taking in the side seams about a 1/2″ also ends up raising the armhole, while ultimately decreasing bust circumference by about 2″ overall. So this simple alteration fixes all the problems with a too-big bust and saggy armholes, and I’ve found it useful many times on both tops and dresses.
A lot of the sewing I’ve done for myself during pregnancy has been reworking secondhand clothes to make them function for me now, and hence not quite the creative or technical accomplishment of some of my previous projects. I wasn’t sure at first if I was really happy about this, because admittedly it’s more impressive and satisfying to step out in a dress you’ve completely designed yourself, like last spring’s maxi dress.
But I do feel that my quicker, easier maternity refashioning projects have taught me some new practical skills. And in a sense they simply fulfil, in a different way, the desires that motivate the more complicated projects: to make creative use of what’s available, and open up possibilities beyond what’s possible by simply buying new clothes.