Always a bridesmaid -- and you have the bank account and clothes closet to show for it. Yes, they may be pretty dresses, but something keeps you from wearing them again. To that end, here are five easy no-sew -- and low-sew -- alterations for after the altar. The silk-taffeta ensemble you wore only once need not sit in your closet till death do you part. Here's how to turn weddingwear into ready-to-wear.
What You'll Need
Slightly stuffy sleeveless top and full-length skirt minus the top
Fabric paint (Jacquard textile color), dharmatrading.com
Assorted sponge paintbrushes (sold at craft stores).
1. Put the skirt on a clothes hanger (clipping a length of kraft paper between its layers) and hang it from a door.
2. Using a yardstick, lightly pencil a straight line down the center front of the skirt to serve as a guide.
3. Now prepare the paint, adding enough water to the pigment to achieve the consistency of milk, and then use the sponge brushes -- one for each color -- to make vertical stripes. Start with the center band and work out from there, revisiting the yardstick if necessary. (It's okay if the edges bleed into each other a little.) If you have a dark skirt, try fabric spray paint in silver or white with stencils or, better yet, Katie says, "just graffiti it."
Ribbon Bib Cocktail Dress
"Because it's satin, this dress will still be a little formal, say for a cocktail party," says Katie, who hand-stitched ruffled ribbon in (impermanent) half-circles. "You could also sew the ruffle straight down, in rows, like a tuxedo front."
Flapper Fringe Swing Dress
If only Maria had come from a cathouse, and not a convent, the Von Trapps' dresses she fashioned from curtains might have looked like this. Katie cut the fringe curtain to approximately knee length, then again to fine-tune the hemline. Since the fringe is never attached directly to the dress, this can be a temporary change.
What You'll Need
An ankle-length navy blue strapless dress minus 24 inches of length
1 44-inch-wide fringe window curtain ($35 each, in Teal, from Mood Fabrics, 212-730-5003)
Fringe Dress How-To
1. Using a sewing machine or a needle and thread, shorten the full length dress. To maximize the flapper appeal (and to make the most of the model's great legs), Katie hemmed the dress at mid-thigh.
2. Cut the fringe curtain to about knee length (to make it more manageable).
3. Wrap the curtain around yourself, at your upper chest, and use a pin to mark the spot where they meet. Add about three inches to that circumference -- to allow for a light overlap -- and cut.
4. Sew one hook-and-eye set at the top of the curtain's band, at the pin placed in step 3; add another a few inches below, at the bottom edge of the band.
5. Put on the dress, then fasten on the fringe. Enlist a friend (boyfriend? Free leg show!) to snip the fringe so it's a little less than an inch longer than the dress hem. (You can do this yourself using a dress form or a skirt hanger.
"Maudissimo" satin heels, by Christian Louboutin (www.christianlouboutin.fr)
Strapless Bubble Dress
This classic and conservative cotton dress can become really edgy -- for just a night, or the rest of its life -- with little more than a yard of chiffon. "We used the dress as the structure under the chiffon, the way a hoop skirt is 'the cage' under a dress," Katie says. This wrap treatment works best with a sleeveless dress with a straight skirt, or a slight A-line, as shown.
What You'll Need
Strapless knee-length cotton dress
2 yards of chiffon (45" ombre silk georgette, from N.Y. Elegant fabrics, 212-302-4984)
Needle and thread
Bubble Dress How-To
1. Cut the chiffon to one-and-a-half times the measurement of the hem's circumference.
2. Starting at the zipper in the back, fold the chiffon over the upper edge of the dress, and pin in place.
3. Work your way around the top, slightly gathering the fabric and pinning in place. "This is a very approximate process," Katie says. "You have a lot of leeway, so it doesn't have to be perfect."
4. When you reach the zipper again, be sure the fabric does not overlap it, otherwise you won't be able to get in and out of the dress.
5. Try on the dress to make sure you like the way the top looks, then take it off and sew the chiffon onto the dress. Stitching from the inside, through the inner lip of chiffon and the cotton of the dress, but not through the outer layer of chiffon.
6. Repeat the same general process at the hem. Drape and slightly crisscross the vertical edges of the chiffon, so they cover the zipper. Try on, and stitch in place.
"Mogul" patent heels, by Bill Blass (piperlime.com)
Sophisticated Pleated Skirt
Subdued and straitlaced before, this icy-blue dress warms up a little bit with a pleated skirt. This salmon-colored silk satin isn't lined, which gives it a slightly crinkled, casual look that Katie likes.
What You'll Need
Bateau-neck top and floor-length A-line skirt, minus the skirt
2 yards silk satin (from Mood Fabrics; 212-730-5003)
Enameled shank buttons (from Mood Fabrics; 212-730-5003)
Extra-large snaps (available at fabric stores)
Pleated Skirt How-To
1. Put on the top and measure around your lower rib cage. Cut a piece of silk that is double that length.
2. Fold the silk in half lengthwise, and sew the ends together (so it resembles a large loop or sleeve).
3. Along the top of the sleeve, use an iron and pins to fold the edge over half an inch, then another half inch; hem with the sewing machine.
4. Step inside the loop, hold it at the height where you'll attach it to the top, and mark the length that you want. Repeat step 3 for the lower hem. "It's easier to get an even length when you hem it before you pleat it," Katie says.
5. Using the length of your hand as a standard width for the pleats, start pinning them in place. (The interior part of the pleat should be the length of your hand, then folded in half. Or folded back and then forward behind itself. Continue around the top of the skirt.
6. Sew all but one pleat in place by anchoring with shank buttons. For the last pleat, which will go right at the side zipper, sew a TK snap. (This lets you get in and out of the dress.)
7. Baste the skirt onto the top, and then stitch through the shank buttons once more, to make the attachment extra secure.
Similar dyeable satin flats, J.Crew (www.jcrew.com)