It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sewing Adaptive Clothing - Mom's Wrap-back Dress

Much of the  sewing I've done this past year consisted of attempts to make clothes for my Darling Mum who, at 96, is still a positive inspiration in my life.   Her bones & muscles are rather wonky, thanks to rheumatoid arthritis, which has left her body pretty weak, but her sense of humour and her dignity are still fully intact - my goal in sewing for her is to help her keep that dignity as much as possible, and help her maintain a healthy level of independence.

Her favorite piece of clothing at the moment (and pretty much all she wants to wear!) is a dress I made her a couple of months ago; the dress I'm blogging about here is my attempt to fine-tune the pattern, and give her a break from wearing the same thing all the time!  ;-D.

Here's the basic idea:  She needs help getting dressed, but during the day, she can walk around on her own (with a walker), and use her commode on her own, but she simply doesn't have enough strength in her hands to grip a pair of slacks & pull them up - we tried light weight fabric, easy zippers, different elastic waists; while those solutions worked for awhile, they didn't last long.   We tried a wrap skirt, but decided that the waistline needed to be higher than her waist, so that didn't work well.  The best solution at the moment seems to be an open backed dress, which allows her to simply pull the sides forward when she needs to, and then let them fall back into place without any extra effort on her part.   The main trick with this is getting the ends of each side easy enough for her to pull forward, and yet giving full coverage when it falls into place.   A classier & public-worthy version of a hospital gown, if you will....

Some folks have asked me to document the details when I made another dress, and I'm delighted that I finally have a day to devote to making it!   I hope this will help anyone who might be in a similar situation....

My starting point was an OOP pattern, Butterick 4607.

The main thing that drew me to this pattern was the pleats in the front of the skirt, which allows for a nice fit, given the Mumsy's very narrow shoulders & bust, & wider hips & belly.  It also has a nice neckline (w/o the collar) - comfy & just about where Mom likes it.  Everything else about the pattern got pretty dramatically altered.

Mom is quite lop-sided, with a very rounded back & forward shoulders, so a lot of adjustments were necessary to get a reasonably good fit.

For the back,  I cut the left side of the upper back and the skirt to end near the center back, & cut the right side to overlap the left by....well, by a lot....just a couple of inches short of the side seam.

These pics of the facings & bodice show the different widths of the right & left side in the back, & also give a sense of the lopsided fitting differences between her right & left sides:

It's all cut out now - more to come tomorrow when I start sewing!

Tuesday Update
The dress is finished!   I may not get pictures of the dress being worn until tomorrow, but here's the progress/process report.

Here are a couple of shots (on a dress form that is unrelated in every way to the Mumsy's body!) showing some of the dress parts:

The curve on the bodice is deceptive - this ends up being much straighter when the Mumsy is wearing it.   The skirt front is pleated, allowing for a comfortable fit with a bit of a tailored look.  The skirt back is gathered a bit.

Bodice Back.  The left side comes to the center, & the right side overlaps the left by several inches.
Showing the back in "closed" position.    I  needed to take a small dart in the overlap piece at shoulder blade level - her rounded back created a gap there.   I need to figure out how to avoid that the next time around.  

Semi-finished Dress - skirt & bodice sewn together & ready for a fitting! (hems & closures are still not done)

Back of Dress (still unfinished) - the right side overlap is folded under, just to show that the left side ends at center back all the way from neckline to hemline.

Right side of back in "closed" (i.e., just pinned at this stage) position.  The right side extends just to the shoulder seam at the neckline, & then angles down to the waist, adding several inches, which gives better coverage.   Closures will be at the neckline, mid back, and waistline.  The waistline is a tad higher than her natural waist.

The following photos come with a warning!   Please do not gasp; this was never meant to be a pretense of anything resembling couture sewing!   This is a quick & easy prototype, designed to be functional, and look good on the outside; maybe not so much on the inside. ;-)

I serged the raw edges of the hems & armhole seams, & the closures are all easy-to-use Velcro.   Oh how I hate the way every little detail shows up in close up photos - sort of like those facial wrinkles that are so easy to ignore until the harsh lighting of a flash bulb!   :-o
I used Velcro Closures at the neckline,
center back, and Waistline
SA's were staystiched & pinked, armhole seam was serged.

Here's the Happy Mom in her new dress!  The front fits well, looks good:

We're discussing some trim options to liven it up a bit, and we decided that  a pocket would be a good addition for her as well (she likes to have her kleenex always at the ready!)

The skirt back is fine, but the bodice back has some issues 

I curved the edge of the right side from neckline to waistline, & ended up with some fitting issues.  First I had a gap created by the curve, so I put in a dart, which created a pucker.   Also, the top corner (at the shoulder/neck edge) just has too much going on - it's a fairly hefty fabric, & with the facing & the turned edge & the velcro, it was entirely too much bulk!

And here she is, all trimmed & pocketed & dressed I need to talk her into going somewhere!

The trim is a vintage cotton trim, snipped off from who-knows-what-or-when-or-where, found in my trim/lace stash (sometimes I love those little boxes of  treasures-not-trash that have weathered my clutter-clearing purges!)

The Mumsy always used to dress very nicely, until getting dressed & going shopping just became all too much for her.   It's really a treat for me to be able to give her something to feel fresh & new in again :)

All in all, I would call this project a success!   I still have some minor issues to work out, but I can branch out into some variations & Mom will have some clothes that both look good & work well for her needs, so everyone here is smiling!  :) :) :)

Next up:  UFO's!!!   (one down, one to go.....)


glorm said...

This is a good idea. You just need to fit it once, then for future garments just make some variations.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful dress! I love the elegant color. Thanks for the closeups; very helpful.

Sharon said...

This is a very good idea and what a wonderful thing you're doing. And just for the record I didn't gasp - I'm a firm believer that sometimes it doesn't have to look pretty on the inside. Oops, did I really just admit that :-)

Jilly Be said...

I heard that!

janet said...

What a terrific idea---you should be very proud.
I'm just about to start an outfit for my mom to wear to my daughter's wedding. Your site came up while looking for an adjustment to patterns for a rounded back. My mom at 92 fell while in the hospital and her T10 vertebrae was unknowingly broken, until it healed with quite a round bump.

Elaine said...

I have only just found your blog (via a post on and I want to say what a fantastic job you have done for your lovely Mum.

Doesn't she have a great smile? .... as well she might in such a great dress made by a very caring daughter :)

Jilly Be said...

Elaine ~ Thank you so much for your kind words - they really do mean a lot! :)

Anonymous said...

I love the dress and your mom looks like such a sweet lady. My mom is in the nursing home and I am trying to figure out some tops that overlap for her. Thanks for the helpful ideas and pictures.

velosewer said...

I like how you've worked out a dress that suits you Mum's needs and that she's happy with. I enjoy doing the same and I've just found your blog so I hope to keep in touch. You Mum looks very happy.