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Tight can be right, but not if your dress makes you feel like a straitjacketed Hannibal Lecter in the opening scenes of "The Silence of the Lambs." Charismatic psychopaths, superheroes and wrestlers can get away with looking like they are about to burst out of their sleeves. The average gal, not so lucky. A good tailor or a simple home-sewing fix can transform a boa constrictor dress into a comfortable, bulge-free garment.
First, turn your dress inside out and size up the seams around the shoulders and armholes. If the seam allowance is generous, zip over to the dry cleaners and tell the alterations person to let out the seams and resew, then carefully iron away any traces of the old seam lines. Clever souls with sewing machines can do this at home -- just don't get too overzealous with the seam ripper and poke holes in the fabric.
Get a Gusset
Seams too stingy? All is not lost. A gusset, a triangular or square-shaped piece of fabric, can be sewn into the underarm seams of the dress to ease tightness and allow you to wave your arms without suddenly mooning people with your naked armpit. In a similar fashion, snug strapless dresses don't have to result in jiggly spare boobs that spill out of your gown -- gussets can be placed in the side seams. Gussets fashioned from stretchy fabrics allow even more freedom of movement. "Y.M.C.A," anyone?
More on Gussets
Different gusset shapes address different fit dilemmas. If choking off armpit circulation results in wrinkles across the bust, go for a football-shaped gusset. Rectangular gussets work best for all overall comfort in the arms, bodice and back, while rectangular gussets that taper to a point at the top of the side seams give you breathing room without making the sleeves slouchier than the Snuffleupagus.
Check Your Bra
A body hugging fit around the upper arms and shoulders gives you that sleek, Emma Peel "Avengers" vibe, but it is also unforgiving. Before shoehorning yourself into a super-trim dress, scrutinize your bra. A too-small, badly fitting bra causes you to spill up and out of the sides and cups, pushing extra flab and boobage up into the armpit area, so the dress looks and feels even tighter. A seamless bra with high-cut sides or a bra-camisole combo reduces the likelihood of dreaded armpit cleavage.