This pretty little sundress started out life as a baggy, shapeless 80s suburban housewife dress, but with the help of some scissors and elastic thread, I gave it a facelift.
Elastic shirring is much easier to create than it appears! Some of my best fitting sundresses have panels of elastic shirring, which help the dress mold to the body while remaining incredibly comfortable. All you need is a sewing machine and some elastic thread.
Here’s the original dress. It’s long and, despite the bodice’s nice corset-y princess seams, completely baggy and shapeless. On the plus side I loved the bright summery fabric, and best of all, it has pockets!
You can see here that it just sort of hangs straight down from the bust to the waist. If you are even the slightest bit busty, you know that the shaping under the bust is the critical difference between looking curvy or just looking like a blob.
I also removed the big bow at the back. I love bows, but this one had to go.
I sewed the shirring first in a large panel at the back of the bodice. Then I added a couple panels at the front, on the side panels, to bring it in under the bust. This wonderful tutorial at Craft Stylish explains the nuts and bolts of how to sew shirring.
Last, I shortened the dress to be about knee length, a much more flattering length for such a full skirt.
It really is very very easy to sew elastic shirring, and it can totally change the shape of so many garments! It’s especially wonderful on garments that are difficult to alter in other ways. For example, this dress had felled seams that would have been a great deal of work to take apart and sew together again.
Here are a few tips to help you along, but do check out the Craft Stylish tutorial for the how-to:
- The tutorial linked above suggests you mark each of the lines you will sew. Since I was sewing many parallel lines, I didn’t do this. I simply marked the outer edges of the finished panel (so basically, drawing a rectangle). I sewed the first line along the bottom. Then I just used the edge of the presser foot as a guide to keep the next line parallel.
- Use a long stitch length when you sew.
- You can either sew in one continuous length, as the tutorial suggests, or backstitch at the beginning and end of each row.
Enjoy your new technique!