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You Shall Go To The Ball DIY

Posted by Liv Heeney Oxfam Fashion blogger

16th May 2013

Go to the Oxfam Online Shop

Since I started High School I have been looking forward to the infamous Leavers Ball which occurs after all the year 13s have finished their final exams. Even the idea of going to a ball conjures up ideas of Disney princesses in fairy-tale dresses. Disney did however fail to mention that beautiful ball gowns come at quite a cost. 
As a ball gown is something that many women buy, wear once and never wear again, I believe it is unnecessary to spend so much money on something you are going to wear so little. I therefore decided that I would start my hunt to find my Leaver's Ball dress from Oxfam.  During the summer I found this beautiful handmade 50s dress; it was perfect! I tried it on and the fit was a bit hit and miss but, as it was handmade, the dress had generous seam allowances so I knew I would be able to work with it. Here's what I did...   


A Sewing machine 
Thread which complements the colour of your dress
An unpicker (probably) 

I started by unpicking both of the side seams of my dress which also involved removing the zip. This allowed me to get a better idea of how much material I was working with. The bustle part of my dress was also connected via the side seams so this I removed that too. 


I pinned the seams of my dress to half of their original measurement all the way round, which was roughly half an inch on the top and an inch on the bottom. I was very lucky to be working with such large seam allowances, which is something you must bear in mind whist choosing a dress to alter. 

I then machined the seams of my dress back together leaving room for me to put the zip back in. 

I reattached the bustle part of my dress, by this point the pleats in the bustle had started to come undone so this also required me to make new pleats. 


I tried the dress on again before I added the zip and realised that my dress was still too small on the waist. I used some so of the excess length of the dress and added it to the side seams.

I then reattached the zip. Unlike in its original form, which had a hidden zip, I chose to use an exposed zip to give that little bit of extra room which is important for all that dancing and dining the dress will be subjected to.

Whilst reworking the dress, a small amount of fraying occurred, to amend this I simply hand stitched to bring the two sides back together. 

A great range of unique ball gowns can be found on both the Oxfam Online Shop as well as in your local Oxfam shops. 

Dress modelled by Isabelle Heeney (my sister)

Blog post written by Liv Heeney

Oxfam Fashion blogger

More by Liv Heeney