One of the best things about knowing how to sew is being able to extend the life of my garments and alter them to get the best fit for my body.
The blue skirt I have pictured here is a beautiful vintage piece that had some places where the seams or stitching was worn out and the length was too long to be flattering on my legs.
I decided to hand sew both the zipper and the new hem in order to stay true to the general aesthetic of the skirt.
The zipper is a classic lapped zipper that creates a little "L" with the topstitching (visible stitches). Some of the topstitching had come undone as well as the seam below the zipper.
I reinforced the seam below the zipper as that area tends to get a lot of wear and tear throughout the years.
Some of the top stitching on the zipper had come out so I pulled out enough of the original thread to anchor it with a knot so that no more could come loose.
To finish I topstitched the little "L" on the right side of the garment.
I pulled all threads to the inside of the garment and tied them off.
I played chicken and folded up the bottom of this skirt to where I wanted it to hit me rather than cut the fabric. I do this out of habit so that I can give myself more options for future alterations as well as lower my risk of making a permanent mistake.
I secured the hem with a simple Hand Blind Hem stitch because it is hardly visible from either side of the garment and by now I've had enough practice that it took me half a 30 Rock episode to do it. I finished off with a light steam around the hem and voila!
What to look for when shopping for quality vintage items: (please note that this is not an exhaustive list and purely from a seamstress's point of view)
If the garment doesn't fit, can it be easily altered using existing seam lines or will you need to add darts or other fitting measures? Will these changes alter the overall aesthetic of the garment?
Are there stains or weird smells? Can they be washed out?
How is the garment holding up? Will you need to mend this before wearing it? If so how much mending would this entail?
What is the type of fabric? Is it comfortable to wear? Is it worn out?
If you find something that is made from wool or a wool blend--GRAB IT! The beautiful thing about wool is it lasts for forever (just don't wash on warm) and ages fairly well. This particular skirt is a wool blend that came from my mother's closet when she was my age and it was a thrifted item when she got it--so it's basically like wearing a piece of history.
During the late 70's the world fell in love with polyester, it was supposed to be the fabric of the future; it's not. Often thrift stores are full of this material. On the bright side it doesn't wear out very easily. On the dark side it doesn't breathe, gets insanely hot to wear even during winter and tends to be a bit difficult to sew on should it need alterations. Watch out for this material in its different blends/forms.