Alterations–creating more room in the bodice of a Lilly Pulitzer dress

It occurred to me recently that as I create bright-colored summer dresses, I’m channeling Lilly Pulitzer in a way.

A couple of my dresses: 

So, I looked up Lilly designs, and sure enough, the cosmic connection is undeniable.  There are some differences; for instance, I almost always put a collar on my dresses, while ‘Lillys’ seem to all be sans-collar.  Lillys are also more shaped.  They have darts in front, back and bust.  I liberally omit darts.

Lilly Pulitzers:

Slim Aarons Pulitzer dresses 1964
More Lilly Pulitzer images here

A Lilly Pulitzer of my own!

Not long after I looked up images of Lillys, there was the real thing hanging on the rack in my fave vintage clothing store; on the half-price rack to boot!  I tried it on.  It was quite snug through the bodice.  When zipped up, it felt like a corset,… but fit otherwise.  There was no way it wasn’t coming home with me.  I’d figure out how to make it fit.

The dress

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The dress is from the Lilly Pulitzer ‘Jubilee’ collection; a limited edition to celebrate her 50th year of the line.  I believe it is from 2009.  (This isn’t vintage, but the store attendant told me they had made an exception for this label and design.  I’m glad they did!)

Cool Lilly details:

Lining.  The outer fabric is a middle-weight woven soft cotton.  The entire dress is lined with white cotton batiste/lawn fabric.  It feels quite comfortable, and drapes nicely.

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ID tag: When I opened up the lining under the arm, this tiny ‘Lilly’ tag was sewn into the seam allowance.  I’m guessing it is to help ID a counterfeit.

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Pockets! (I always intend to add pockets to my dresses, but it doesn’t get done if I’m in a rush to finish the garment.  Then I always intend to go back and add pockets later, but sigh, that doesn’t happen very often. Note to self:  Add pockets.  Every time.)

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Keyhole back.   It is a nice feature that adds interest but doesn’t require special undergarments.

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Unique Prints:  All Lilly Pulitzer prints have ‘Lilly’ embedded somewhere in the print.

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This Jubilee Collection print also has ’50th’ embedded in it.

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And now, the alteration:

To expand the bodice, I had to find some spare fabric in the dress.  The side-seam allowances were normal; not wide enough for expansion.  The hem was narrow.  No excess fabric there.  My solution was to remove two of the ‘flowers’ on each side of the lower edge.

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Two flower strips straightened out, pressed flat and then sewn together side-by-side, made a 9″ x 2″ strip.  This was plenty wide enough to expand each side of the bodice.  Here is one of the strips:

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The strips were used to make a V-shaped inset to the side seams under each arm.

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Mission accomplished!

The dress now fits comfortably.  Once I’d gotten past the tedious process of unpicking the stitching on the four flowers, the actual altering process was surprisingly quick and smooth.  No frustrations at all.

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Myrtle the sewing pup-prentice, was dying to help the entire time.  She finally found her role, hiding the ugly stack of paint supplies in my selfie.

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