RTW Quick Fixes and Kwik Sew Bra Pattern Winner!!

“Do you think you could fix this for me? Because I didn’t pay a lot for it so I don’ t want to take it to the tailor. I’d pay more for the fix than I paid for the dress. I thought maybe you could shorten / hem/ sew / take in / alter it for me.”

Sound familiar? This has happened to me twice in the last six months. And let me tell you. It makes me SEETHE every single time it’s said to me. Here’s the thing, you want me to take my time to fix your Forever 21 / H&M garment for free? I tell you what….

Don’t get me wrong, I will occasionally help someone in a pinch. I’ll even teach you how to hem your jeans. If you already know how to thread a machine and just want some help, I’m happy to oblige. Teach a fish and all that.  But, telling me that my time and skills are less valuable than someone you would pay? All you get is the stink eye.

I bring this up because I bought a tuxedo dress from H&M a week ago. I originally saw it there a few months ago, but at $50 it was more than I wanted to spend for a dress that had some fit problems for me. But, I was able to get it for just $20 on clearance.

I needed the US 12 / EUR 42 to fit my lower half. But, it’s way big in the top. Not that I’m not busty. I just have a much smaller torso than my bottom.

You can see my bra from the back and the side.

And, I was getting awesome sideboob.

I realized it just needed a simple taking in at the center back neck — about four inches total. Not worth my $50. But, definitely doable for $20.

Twenty minutes of work later, I was able to wear it to a black-tie work event on Saturday night. Those four inches brought the dress up, took care of the cleavage and the bra showing too. I think it could also use small darts in the side seam (under the arm) but I am wearing a terrible strapless bra (one band size too big and three cups to small, and *painful*). I need to get one that fits before I make anymore changes to this dress.

Clearly the staff photographer at work. I cannot *wait* to get my DSLR back from the shop!!

So, for me, it’s totally worth a few tweaks to make a low cost ‘disposable’ RTW garment work. But, it’s not worth it for me to do it for someone else. Period.

Woot Woot. Thank you all for entering my little giveaway. Using the Random Number Generator:

#2 was the winner which is Jo K.!

It would be great to have these patterns! I am a flight attendant and my goal is to avoid the dreaded security pat-down in Eastern European airports because of my underwire. (!)


  1. Gorgeous on you and for $20. Way to go! I also hate when folks think my time isn’t worth as much as what they would pay. Heck, I would do a more careful job. I have a friend who machine quilts for a living and her adult children are constantly asking her to do things during the day for them because she “doesn’t work” She is busier than most and brings in more $$$ than her DH. Good for you for standing up for yourself on that one!

    • I knew a woman who worked nights as a nurse. People asked her ALL THE TIME to do things for them during the day, ‘since you’re not working’. That was her sleep time. Craziness.

    • I must join the chorus of complaints! I set people straight by starting with a ball-park price quote of “$25 an hour.” (I make more than that sitting at a desk all day, but $25/hr. shuts them up.)

      BTW, that white tuxedo dress looks terrific on you!

  2. The dress looks great!!!! Great save. You look beautiful in it.

    Yeah, those people who ask don’t even know how offensive they are being to us. Really???

  3. After the stink eye, you should follow up with, “And what makes you think I won’t charge you?”

    Some people!

    The dress is lovely on you! LOVE IT!

  4. Dress looks great! Recently a neighbor called (on a Sunday night) and said he needed me to sew some Indian Princess badges on his daughters’ sashes–he didn’t even ask, let alone offer to pay!

  5. Ha! Only yesterday I had a colleague (who’d already dropped heavy hints) approach me to ask if any of my sewing contacts did alterations. Which I knew meant she was asking if I did alterations. To chiffon/silk wide leg trousers. I told her straight. Alterations are a pain in the behind and chiffon a pig to work with. That’s why I didn’t know anyone to take on this work… It’s my bete noire also. I would never ask someone else to sacrifice their evenings and weekends on my behalf – and they’d never do it. Your altered dress looks great on you! I sympathise re the strapless bra. Wow, I hate those things.

  6. Great job on the dress! I’m lucky – very few people ask me to do alterations for them, and then it’s something easy and silly, like a torn pocket, and the person asking is usually a good friend, who is appropriately grateful. Alterations for co-workers? Nope. Not doing that.

  7. For myself, yeah, I’d do the alteration. For my husband-well, I do them all the time, he has an odd number inseam length and there are no trousers that fit him off the rack. For people that I barely know? Not a chance. Every time I’m in a fabric store someone inevitably asks me what I’m buying the fabric for and then comments “I should bring my _____ to you and have you finish/alter/fix/sew it”. Total strangers! I smile and tell them I start at $20 an hour for simple alterations like hemming…oddly, no one ever takes me up on it.

    • I simply can’t believe that someone in a fabric store would ask you to finish/alter/fix/sew for them! What has happened that sales personnel in fabric stores don’t know how to sew??? You would think that the stores could be picky in their selection of associates especially considering the economy.

      • LOL-well a couple of times it’s been sales associates but usually it’s another customer. I’ve applied at many of the local stores but they seem little interested in sewing experience, instead asking me multiple questions in interviews about what I would do about customer complaints. Clearly my answers did not satisfy as I remain shut out of my favorite type of employment! LOL!

  8. Someone, the Selfish Seamstress maybe?, suggested saying sure, I’ll fix your (insert PITA project here). You can clean my house and fix me dinner while I work :). And Colleen, I think $20/hour is pretty reasonable. Great dress, Cidell. I love the look on you.

    • I think $20 is reasonable too. Just goes to show how cheap people are. I have a stack of suits at the tailor now. I didn’t have the time or patience to do the alterations. The hemming was $15 and taking the jackets in $20. Could I have used the $100 for something else? Yes. But, the suits sat in a stack for six months. This was the only way it was getting done. I forgot about the ‘clean my house’ line! I’ll have to remember that next time!

      • It’s often easier to start a garment from scratch than it is to alter something, especially if it’s lined and tailored to begin with, because you actually spend three times as much time on it-ripping it all out, fixing the fit, then sewing it all back together. Not to mention how much more fiddly it is to press all those alterations in on a curved garment rather than a flat one. I probably would have done the same thing-$100 is still cheaper than having suits that have never been worn, and the hours you’d have to spend doing it surely would cost you more than that.

        Renee, I believe it is a reasonable hourly cost as well, but the shocked and almost offended look is so common that I really do think some people feel entitled to have their sewing done for them for free. I don’t think they see it as something requiring actual advanced skill and knowledge. (still grimacing over the thought of hemming chiffon silk trousers-not even for myself would I take that

  9. I say, “Oh, I wish I could help you with that, but if it were my own (pants, skirt, dress), I’d take it to the tailor. I just don’t know how to do alterations! Someday I’ll have to learn. It’s very different from sewing from scratch, you know.”

    Then I don’t have to get into the value of my time, whether I want to, etc., etc…

    And it’s pretty much true. I have a good friend who does alterations and the difference in what she can do and what I can do are vast.

  10. Awesome dress on you!!! Love the style and the fit is perfect. I sometimes like to shop at second hand stores and often will buy something that needs a bit of a fix – hem/new buttons/patch pocket removal. I’ve scored some really great pieces this way and for dirt cheap too. I chuckle at people these days that ask me to do their alterations. “It takes me 6 months to get around to hemming a pair of Justin’s pants” is all I have to say.

  11. Woot! Woot! Awesome…I will text you my info when I get back to the States, Miss Celie. I only wish I could have used the patterns a week ago before I left for my military charter to Germany, Italy, and Kuwait…the pat down I got today was cigarette-worthy @ Aviano Air Force Base. (!);-) Maybe next time…
    Many thanks for the goodies!

  12. Awesome save! The photographer really knows how to bring out your best smile, too. 🙂 Congrats!

    Re the stink eye – I must be much more intimidating than most crafters. No one ever asks me to do stuff. When I was younger (high school), my sister asked me to mend stuff for her. She was hopeless about actually learning to do it herself, but I made her sit with me and keep me company while I fixed her gear. After a few rounds, she began sending her stuff to a tailor, even for stuff like loose buttons. What does that say about me?!? LOL.

  13. I have one gal that I’ll do simple stuff for (and she also buys burp rags by the dozen fairly frequently), but she’s the only one I’ll do it for, and if she ever asked me to do something fairly complicated (taking in jeans I’m looking at you!) I’d direct her to an alteration place in the city. She couldn’t afford me (and I’d probably just take it to the alteration place anyway).

    As for your dress…..*DROOL* And I totally know what you mean about strapless bras–I’ve got one from VS that is a 38DD….I wear a 36DDD on the tightest hook, and am moving down to a 34F when the new bras get here. I had to safety pin my strapless on the other day to keep it up. Someday I’ll buy a new one, as soon as I can find one that’s comfortable. :eyeroll:

  14. My general strategy is that when someone starts down that path, I interject with the name and location of the seamstress who does all of my rtw alterations, and how worth it she is since (insert alteration here) is such a PITA and sucks so much of the creativity and joy out of my beloved hobby that I won’t even do it for myself… melodramatic yet effective.

    That said, I think barter is a great way to go if the other person has some kind of cool skill or hobby. However, it’s never the people with the cool skill or hobby who ask, is it? Those people know better.

  15. Your altered dress looks great! And oh man… I remember an acquaintance once overhead me telling a friend about the sewing projects I was working on and how I struggle to find even spare moments to sew anything for myself… and apparently all she heard was that I sew, because she was like “oh, tailors are so expensive, I have all these pants that need hemming…” I was like “sorry, I don’t do alterations–I barely have time to sew for my family!” I did recently do a little sewing for a friend but this is a friend who has done COUNTLESS things for me, like cooking for dinner parties, babysitting my daughter, etc.

  16. That looks so great on you! How cool you got it for $20 and were able to fix it so perfectly without much headache. And as far as people asking you to fix their things, how rude. 😦

  17. I’m happy to sew for other people when they ask nicely, when I have time, when they care how much time & effort goes into the sewing. I occasionally even get paid for my work. Alterations, on the other hand, with the exception of simple hems I turn down flat. Some people just don’t take no for an answer, though. I have someone i know who bought several ill-fitting suits and just assumed I would ‘fix them all’ for her for free like ‘now.’ She didn’t ask if i could, if i would, if i had time. Serious rudeness. (and no, I didn’t cave and do her alts for her).

  18. Great dress! And a sensitive topic! I once was offered $10 to shorten a man’s jacket and take up both sleeves with vents! AHAHA!! They really have no idea, do they. Also, when someone finds out I sew to order they sometimes say “Oh, I have to order something” before asking how much I charge. Does it mean they think that clothes I make are cheaper then the store bought ones? 🙂 Evil laugh.

    • That’s a good point. I had someone ask me about making an elaborate costume once because she thought I could do it cheaper than the mass produced ones. really??? lol

  19. I get that all the time…since I work in a men’s clothing store doing all the tailoring and alterations there. People can be so rude! The one I hate the most is when they bring things to you dirty, and when you tell them it has to be cleaned first they look at you like you’ve got two heads.. I just tell them it’s like brushing your teeth before you go to the dentist! believe me I have had some pretty disgusting garments brought to me. I love to do freebies though!!! but I want to be the one who decides who gets it free not the customer. Sorry I am on a rant…. Had that very thing happen to m,e at work today.

  20. Oh yes, how i hate this request for “quick” fixes…. This tuxedo dress turned out great. It really looks fabulous on you. So worth the time.

  21. The dress looks great Cidell – wonderful to get something like that and be able to make it look wonderful.

    I stopped the ‘could you just….?’ problem by taking projects professionally. When people realise they are going to be charged a market rate it makes them think a little more carefully. Doesn’t stop the occassional person thinking you work for buttons. I hear you Kimberly!

  22. WHOAH! You hit the nail on the head. It makes me SO ANGRY when people assume that because I have a domestic skill (translation: traditionally female skill), I will be happy to be subservient and do work for them for free, and not complain! Actually, I handled this more skillfully with a friend recently when she asked me if I hem pants. I said I can, but I don’t like to do it, and would take a look at them and advise her. She got the hint and said she could dust off her sewing machine or take to the tailors. I will remember the $15 to hem pants and $20 to do alterations, altho those seem low-priced for the headaches of alterations! And your altered dress looks amazing on you! Great job!

    • Heather, your comment made me remember an incident that happened to me when I was a VERY young (and fresh-mouthed) secretary. The head of our department (not even my direct boss) asked me to sew a button on his suit. My response: “What’s your wife for?” This was in 1972 and I was 19 years old. He laughed at me, and never asked again.

  23. It seems that you’ve hit a nerve! The dress is great and what an easy fix. I once got a Cynthia Rowley sample dress in a size 10 for my dd for her senior prom, I had been planning on making her a dress but $10 for all silk? Even though she’s a size 2 it worked because all I had to take in was the waist insert and the skirt. The bodice was a laced up the open back so just pulling it tighter made that part fit. Would I do this for anyone else? Hell no. I hate alterations but her Dad did all the ripping so I had the easy part.
    When Alex is home she will often bring something for me to fix or hem, but she prefaces it with I’ll clean the bathroom for you if you’ll hem this. It’s a good deal. Unlike most of the oafs out there she understands the value of my work.

  24. I totally agree with your post. My sister in law does that to me all the time. I am making my niece a coat, hat, purse ensemble for her birthday and she had the nerve to ask me if I felt like making her Easter dress. My brother bought her a very nice sewing machine (just like mine) for Christmas, so I asked her, what do you have a sewing machine for????
    I make sure I express to people, I do not sew for others unless I want to initiate sewing something.

  25. BTW- after my rant, I forgot to mention how well your alteration on the dress came out. You did an outstanding job for yourself :).

  26. So far I’ve never gotten these kind of requests but I’m always talking up the local alterations shop to people… just to let them know how fun it is to have good-fitting clothes and worth spending the extra $15 to have even jeans that fit. That dress is amazing!! What a gorgeous style on you. I’m such a sucker for anything remotely tuxedo-influenced.

  27. Dude, I am so freakin’ lazy, I take my self-made garments to the tailor for hemming. Sue me!
    P.S. I make $100/hr. as a contract attorney. I kindly tell all seamstress-skill-pouncing leeches my going rate: $100/hr. Sewing takes the same concentration as practicing law; any lower rate is not worth my time. You suckas offering $20/hr, WHAT? F that. Don’t worry about being “fair,” worry about instilling in others an appreciation for the very high value of your painstakingly-acquired skills.

    • LOL! Yes! I have a post in the queue about taking my suits in to my tailor. I’ve been telling her for *years* to increase her rates. I had a $300 bridesmaid dress a few years ago that I took in to be hemmed. I didn’t have time or want to do it myself. And, I need to srsly adopt your attitude.

  28. This is a very cute dress. I made a similar style from a BWOF pattern in preblog days. A girl I worked with once brought me a strappy cocktail dress that was about 3 sizes too small and asked me to make it fit her. It had little cups that … ran over .. I explained that I couldn’t make it bigger and there was nothing to let out. She snatched it back with a comment about how she ‘thought I could sew’ and her mother said that ‘anyone who sews can fix it’. I’m sure you know what my response was!

    • I’ve had friends call me from Forever 21 (srsly) and ask me if I can let out a skirt because it *almost* fits. I tell them I can’t add what’s not there and to just buy a bigger skirt. Crazy.

  29. Ummm…so I have a pair of jeans that needs a new zipper. Can I mail them to you? LOL! I had coworkers asking for fixes/alterations ALL the time, and when I DID do them, they would bring them to me dirty – one guy needed the butt sewn up on a pair of dress slacks and actually said “I’m waiting to take them to the dry cleaners until after you fix them.” Ick. One lady bought a size 10 wedding dress, NOT even on sale, when the one that WOULD have fit her was a 14. She wanted me to let the 10 out because she couldn’t bear to buy the right size. I finally got a stack of business cards for a local tailor and would simply smile and hand them a card when they asked for free alterations for their $5 purchases. And like everyone says – that dress is HOT on you!

  30. Loving all these comments. Once a woman asked me to take an entire pair of nicely tailored work pants and cut them down a size. I informed her that was much more work than making a brand new pair. It was halfway tempting to destroy her pants by taking her naive ideas about fit seriously.
    One other time someone asked me to hem a few pairs of trousers for work. Then he paid me by giving me a real Viennese Torte. Purchased in Vienna, still in its wooden box, with its little story about how this wonderful dessert came to be. Best cake ever. Hundred dollars for 16 tiny pieces. Cannot say enough good things about this cake.

    I’ve been asked by others too. For some reason it bothers me more when someone who has a machine of their own asks for sewing related favours.

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