Fixing a Red Chinese Silk Dress

In tutorials on 1 June, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Mending a Red Chinese Silk Dress Working with silk is not exactly what one would call fun. It’s akin to going to weight watchers, waiting for your weigh-in, knowing that you went out three nights last week, drank wine, ate pasta, and generally had a smashing time – there isn’t even the remotest chance that you will have lost any weight. You can’t even hope for maintaining your weight. It’s a guaranteed loss.

Enter, a damaged Chinese silk dress from a client. She is of a petite build, reaching only my shoulders in height (I’m only 1.66m). This beautiful red Chinese dress was too big for her upon purchase in Singapore, specifically around the waist area. She took it to a dress maker to fix, who charged her a lot of money to not take enough in. The dress was still too big. Her mother then attempted to fix it for her, and what I’ve received tells me that she got the fright of her life upon putting a needle into the fabric, and attempted to do as little damage as she possibly could. Her reaction is neither unfounded, nor uncommon. These are pictures of some of the damage I was to fix.

This is the sort of thing that makes you want to lunge for the whiskey bottle at ten am. I didn’t touch this dress for days. I thought long and hard about how I was going to approach this, having had the conversation with the client that this may not be fixable. I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud, because the stubborn little girl in my head said, “uh-huh? We’ll see about unfixable.” She’s not always the most helpful little girl.

I settled on a two-fold attack: fray hindering glue, and fusible interfacing, over which I would sew the seams back together. The reason for the glue is that this fabric frays faster than I do at a shoe sale, and generally with no assistance.

chinese silk unravelling

If I was going to work with it, requiring ironing, some tugging, and just a little sewing, it was going to need to be stable. The glue worked a charm, but what I found is that it bled into the fabric a little. Fait accompli, I’m afraid, but a lesson learnt nonetheless.glue bleeding ext view






Ironing the interfacing on re-introduced my sewing kryptonite – always check that you’ve got the right side down, otherwise, you have to clean the iron. At this point, the stubborn little girl had gone off to look at something more interesting at the back of my head, and was pointedly absent.

front dart interfacing



side seam interfacing



From the outside, this approach worked. The seams appeared fixed, and would hold provided no weight was gained. Not even a gram. My next concern was how to make it look prettier on the inside, given that interfacing needs stabilising on both sides. This concern had to take into account that you can’t do slip stitching on this fabric. Next battle commences.

I ended up simply trimming the interfacing on the dress side, and overlocking the two seams together, was the least messy of the options.

side seam finished fix int view



It’s worked, and everything looks very neat.

side seam finished fix ext view

front dart finished fix ext view






What I’ve taken away from this is the necessity of seam binding in the form of ribbon. The same client has asked for a similar dress to be made out of blue Chinese silk; I’ll make the pattern so that the dress fits her body, and will bind every seam with silk ribbon, given that these seams won’t be lined, and will be visible when the dress is inside out.


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