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Women's Clothing Discussion => Dresses => Topic started by: Elidh on December 20, 2017, 02:19:50 PM

Title: Altering a day dress bodice to low body?
Post by: Elidh on December 20, 2017, 02:19:50 PM
Hello SA!  It has been years since I posted (though I lurk frequently!)  

I will be attending the Genteel Arts conference in Gettysburg this year and would like something new-ish to wear to the Ball.  Several years ago, I made a silk dress using Laughing Moon's #111 Day Dress pattern.  I added an upright collar and plaid trim at the sleeves.  Because I don't wear 19th c. dress very often, and I've only worn this dress twice (!), I was thinking, instead of sewing a new dress, perhaps I can alter it to be more suitable for evening dress.  Is there a way to convert it to a low body?  I'd like to wear a sheer black canezou over it.  Would coat sleeves look odd with a canezou?  If so, should I make it short sleeve, preferably almost elbow-length (because I don't like to show my upper arms; hence, the overbodice  ;D)  Here's my dress: (

I look forward to hearing your opinions/suggestions!  

Title: Re: Altering a day dress bodice to low body?
Post by: EKorsmo on December 21, 2017, 12:39:00 PM
You should be able to convert it to a low body--hopefully Liz or Jessamyn will be along to advise on whether it's better to take cut down the existing neckline; or to drape a new toile, work out the neckline on that, then take apart the bodice and cut the new one from the old and reassemble it.  Do you want to keep the front opening or try to convert it to a back opening?

Also, do you have any extra fabric left over?

Most of the low-body dresses I've seen have short sleeves (to my detriment), but here are a few interesting ones with longer sleeves:

Wool challis c.185-1863 ( in the Henry Ford Museum.  It appears to have a boat neck, functional buttons on a front opening, and pagoda sleeves (or some open sleeve). 

This c.1858 French dress in the Met ( has coat sleeves and a low decolletage (but the neckline appears to sit higher on the shoulder than the boat necks usually do, hopefully someone has insight into this):


They have another in black velvet (c.1861, but I wonder if it isn't a little later) ( with the same neckline and elbow-length sleeves:

I also like this image from Godey's February 1861 (
The three left-most dresses are all described as being evening or dinner dresses--one with open neck and short sleeves, one with a square neck and long sleeves, and one with a high necklines and long sleeves. (The full description is on page 191 of the magazine or 211 of the document).

Good luck, and see you at Gettysburg!

Title: Re: Altering a day dress bodice to low body?
Post by: Maggie Koenig on December 30, 2017, 06:52:16 PM
There is one important stumbling point to changing a dress to a low body.  There is ease above your bustline on a regular day dress.  When you cut it down you will probably end up with gaping.  If you were starting from a fresh muslin you would cut the neckline down and dart to create a snugger neckline.  You then swing those darts down to the waist darts. 

Title: Re: Altering a day dress bodice to low body?
Post by: Elidh on January 07, 2018, 12:34:50 PM
Thanks for your comments!  After thinking about it more, I have decided it would be more practical (and a heck of a lot easier) to leave my dress intact and just fancy it up with a new collar and belt.  I found a vintage lawn and lace foldover crossover collar and vintage blue ribbon.  Any thoughts on the ribbon?  It has fine silver threads woven into it, so I wasn't certain if it looked too modern, but I like the pop of the blue against the burgundy silk fabric.  (I have a few buckles I can use with it.)  Here are some photos: (

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I'm not sure what to do to the bottom of the sleeves.  I will be taking the plaid trim off - should I replace it with a band of white lace or ????

Title: Re: Altering a day dress bodice to low body?
Post by: Ms. Jean on January 13, 2018, 05:07:42 AM
Your dress is lovely right now!

Re: sleeves.  I'm no expert, and can't find an image this morning to show this idea.  Can you open the outside of the sleeve & make a lacey or ruffled undersleeve to show through the split?

I am confident someone ( Jessamyn, cough cough) will understand and find us a picture.

Thanks for the pictures of your dress, Jean