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Even grown-up women harbor fantasies about living like a princess, and scoring a dramatic ball gown for a wedding or other social event is one way to indulge. Once you buy the dream dress, you might have second thoughts about the over-the-top design. Don't ditch the dress; tone down the poof for a more subtle A-line. Altering a ball gown is not an easy feat, so stick to the skills of a professional dress tailor instead of dusting off your old needle and thread.
Before you make any changes, you've got to get savvy about silhouettes. Ball gowns are distinct for their dramatic bell-shaped skirt that flairs out at your natural waist. A-lines also rock the figure-flattering flare, but it's much more subtle. Instead of a big poof moment above your hips, A-line flares stay fitted through your waist and then gently flare out over your hips to a wider skirt at the bottom. When you're altering a ball gown to resemble an A-line, your primary challenges will be moving the waist line of the dress and removing fullness from the skirt so that the top and bottom shapes of the dress are more balanced.
A well-placed waistline is a critical component to a figure-flattering dress. Ball gowns place emphasis on your natural waist, just above your hips. If you want to change the shape of the dress to a more A-line design, you'll have to lower the waistline so that it's closer to your hips. If the dress is a single fabric like satin or silk, lowering the waistline involves removing under fabric from the skirt of the gown right below the waist and taking in the seams so that it hugs your body through the hips. But most ball gowns employ a more dramatic distinction between the waist and skirt, either though a switch in materials or a switch in detailing. If the skirt is a different pattern or material than the gown bodice, a seamstress will have to add in a panel of fabric to lower the waist instead of simply taking in the seams.
Skirting the Issue
The signature element of a ball gown is an over-the-top skirt filled with layers of delicate fabric like tulle. A-line skirts skip the bountiful bottom in favor of a more subtle flare. Taming the fullness of a ball gown's skirt is a major part of transitioning to A-line. If the skirt gets its poof from layers of tulle, removing a few layers, taking in the skirt seams and raising the hem will push it into A-line territory. Old-school ball gowns feature a more structured hoop, so swapping out the hoop for a few layers of tulle will tame the bell of the skirt. In either case, removing loose panels of fabric, tightening up seams and pulling up the hem will ensure that the new fit is flattering.
Devil in the Details
Transforming a ball gown into an A-line dress requires incredible skill, and some of the details you love can make the task even trickier. Beading or lace are arranged to specifically complement the shape of a gown, so if you start chopping up seams, you'll mess up the pattern of the detailing, too. Some ball gowns visually separate the skirt from the bodice with a ribbon or belt that will have to be carefully removed and resewn into the new waistline of the A-line version. If the bodice of the dress has boning or a corset back, dropping the waistline will be particularly challenging, and the bodice may need to be remade entirely to fit the skirt. Your best bet is to consult with a seamstress or tailor with expertise in gowns to get a professional opinion before you decide to slice up the goods.