Blue Nightingale Dress (Sewing-It-Forward)

This week I altered a blue Nightingales dress for the boutique at the women’s shelter. Two women commented on the dress as I left that day, with a twenty-something year-old expressing her interest in it if it was “a whole lot shorter”. The other woman, a forty-something year old, was still hesitant but agreed that the dress would be nicer if it was shorter. “I wouldn’t wear a mini-dress but you’d have to take off a good meter”, she finally said. A meter? I thought. ” You ladies are funny and exaggerating a little, no?” I half-heartedly joked. They both exclaimed “No!” in unison.

I brought the dress home and hung it up in my sewing space. How much to cut off? I thought to myself. The adventurous upcycler in me wanted nothing more than to separate the top and bottom, turning the top into a a fun peasant blouse, maybe add buttons or something, and the bottom into a circle or maxi skirt or even a pair of culottes (not quite shorts, not quite pants).

One thing I have learnt since starting to make my own clothes is that a woman’s measurements play a crucial role in where hemlines are the most flattering. I’m speaking from a purely mathematical standpoint as I recently read an article about mathematician Lily Serna‘s take on clothing hemlines. Serna has developed a formula to calculate your perfect hemline length- calculate your golden number here. I tried the dress on and played with the lengths. Everyone has their own style. Many women, regardless of their height, shape and proportions, like what they like. At the end of the day, just go with what you love. Although the dress has a tie to cinch the waist, the dress at full length hid my curves and created the illusion of a long bell shape that fell at an awkward ankle length. I’m 5’8″, this dress would have swallowed a shorter woman.


The most flattering universal length for most women is a hemline at the knee +/- according to their height and style. Since I’m trying to create outfits that would suit most women, I went with the at-the-knee length. It is a flattering cut that is suitable for all occasions from a job interview to a date. I chopped off 10″ and voilà, a really cute & flattering all-occasion summer dress!

Before & After Nightingales dress.
Before & After Nightingales dress.

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