There are a few requests I simply cannot deny: "Can I have some more broccoli?", "May I do the dishes?", and "Can I do my homework now?" But right near the top of the list is this one: "Sister Wells, can you help make my prom dress more modest?"
As the mother of three (soon to be four!) girls, I am heavily invested in making modest both lovely and popular. And when faced with a young woman from church who wants to feel comfortable at prom while still wearing this gorgeous dress of her dreams, how could I say no?*
The situation was different from last year, however. Chloe (from last year) had a high enough front, but felt exposed in the back. Sarah's strapless sweetheart neckline (and I wish I had taken an unmodeled before picture) made her feel uncomfortable in the front. Luckily, she needed eight inches hemmed off the bottom (of that fantastic tucked and gathered skirt--LOVE it!), which was the perfect amount to extend her bodice (the plain black in the picture below) and add two gathered sleeve portions.
Both the front and back additions were simply tucked into the bodice and handsewn into position. (I didn't want to risk the beading with my sewing machine.) The pink camisole in the picture below was something Sarah wore during fittings to show me what she would like covered, if possible.
I didn't use the same pattern as last year because the issues were different, but this worked out to be just as simple. I measured the bodice from one princess seam to the other (at the neckline). This was ten inches. I knew that Sarah wanted 4 added inches of coverage at the front center, so I wanted the extension piece to be at least 6 inches tall. Then I measured from one underarm seam to the other (I don't remember what that measurement was), and created this drawing.
See the orange trapezoidal shape? That's the bodice extension. I made a pattern with the correct measurements, plus 1/2" seam allowance, and cut out one piece of the dress fabric and one piece of lining. Since I had a long 8" strip from hemming the dress up, I simply cut two long (probably 8"x30", just to be safe) rectangles from that strip, and hemmed the other side of the rectangles, and gathered up one short side on each "sleeve". I put the two trapezoids right sides together, with the sleeves between the two pieces, centered on the top rounded corners, and sewed the piece. Slap that sucker into the top of the dress, and BAM! instant modesty. (I have some concerns that these instructions are about as clear as a gravel pit, but I promise it was not hard. You could do it. If you can run a sewing machine, you could do this.)
If I can get some prom pictures from Sarah, I'll post them here. They'd have to be more elegant than the loveliness of my sewing room.
*However, I'm not going to imply that I didn't have some SERIOUS anxiety over this dress. Every time I sew for someone else, I have nightmares that I am going to flub it up horribly. This was no exception. The night before I realized this solution would work, I dreamed that I had cut a huge chunk out of the front of the skirt to drape artistically over one of Sarah's shoulders. Dream Sarah had been sobbing about her dress being ruined before Dream Emilee realized that probably hadn't been the best solution.