There’s nothing like the feeling of trying on a new lolita dress for the first time. The joy of holding a treasured print in your hands, the delight of hidden details you didn’t know, and the crushing defeat when it doesn’t quite fit the way you expect.
I just had this experience with my new dress purchased just in time for Halloween: Alice and the Pirates Rosy Night’s Masquerade JSK. This high cut dress fit on my body, but the bodice sat slightly higher than I wanted. Worse, the straps have button holes on them instead of having buttons on them, which made them less accommodating if I wanted to wear them longer. Though I considered modifying the straps to permanently lengthen them, but I really didn’t want to cannibalize the waist ties so quickly. I was resigned to my fate of a slightly ill fitting dress when I remember, “Hey dummy, strap extender exist.”
I whipped up two strap extenders in about 45 minutes with supplies I had at home. If you don’t have a sewing machine, this will take a little longer but it’s still a project you can finish in less time than it takes to watch Kamikaze Girls.
Ribbon, scrap fabric
Button x 2
Sewing machine with button hole stitch (optional)
- Measure your straps and determine how much additional straps you need. I only needed another inch or two, but I decided to make my strap extenders work for multiple dresses. My strap extenders are about 5 inches in total.
- Cut your ribbon or scrap fabric to length. I used ribbon, but this ended up being a little flimsy. Adding some stabilizer or interfacing to your strap extender will make it a little more robust, which is definitely a plus for something that’s keeping a dress on your body. If you are using a polyester fabric, be sure to finish the edges with a zigzag stitch or seal the edges with a lighter.
- If you’re hand sewing, sew up a button hole with a button hole or blanket stitch. Set up your sewing machine for sewing a button hole stitch. For my Singer Heavy Duty 4452, I set my stitch type to “button hole”, my stitch length to “button hole”, my width to 6, and my tension to 3. I changed out my normal foot for my button hole foot, and put my button into the slot to measure my stitch length.
Important! When you are stitching your button holes, make sure you are measuring them for the button that will go in the hole. This will NOT be the button you are sewing on the strap extender. I made this mistake, and while it ultimately didn’t matter for my project, if you use a button that is dramatically larger or smaller than the button on your dress, your button holes won’t work!
- Test your button hole stitch on a scrap piece of fabric and make adjustments as needed.
- Sew your button holes. My machine does most of the work for me, but I did mark the end of the button so I knew when to stop. Repeat for as many button holes as you’d like on your extender.
- Trim your threads and open the button holes with a pair of sharp scissors.
- Hand sew a button to the bottom of the extender.
- Repeat for the other strap extender, being sure to careful measure so they’re both even.
- Attach to your dress and enjoy a few inches of extra length in your straps!
Permanently lengthen your straps is a great option if you have the skill and the fabric to do so. For dress where that’s not possible, try strap extenders! They’re an inexpensive, reversible modification that can help you love your dresses.