There has been a really cool challenge just my kind of thing going on this month through Mia who blogs over at “Sew North” called “Alter It August” (read the full post here). The summary of the challenge is to “examine your wardrobe and bring life and love to unworn garments”, aka, those that do not “spark joy”. However, I agree with Mia – why perpetuate the “give it away, buy new, give it away, do it all again” vicious circle when you can fix up what you have until it does pass the Marie Kondo test?! This is my mini montage post of some of my most recent refashions in honor of “Alter It August”.
These are all pretty basic refashions, made using garments that are everyday essentials of today – a blue pinpoint oxford, a nightgown, and a denim skirt. These are all things that have been in our wardrobe for two decades now. Yeah, perhaps I should be embarrassed how long we keep what we have, but we don’t buy a whole lot except what is necessary. We are content enough to be happy with what we have as long as it is in good condition and working order. However, I am very sensible about my “yet-to-refashion” stash, never wanting to reach “hoarder” status and wanting to keep it down to only a few drawers worth of items, and constantly weeding out what no longer fits or is too worn from our wardrobe. All three of these pieces needed to go due to such reasons. Yet, I see our unwanted items as equal to having fabric on hand, exciting ingredients in the recipe for a new project. So, if it’s on its way out the door and I have the right idea with some free time, under the sewing machine it goes!
Firstly, I’ll start with my more polished refashion of the three I will be featuring. This one has been a long time coming. You see, I have been wanting a blouse made of pinpoint oxford blue shirting for the last few years. I just never could figure out what weight and tone of blue I wanted so I kept putting off ordering any material! Good things come to those who wait, I suppose, because my hubby’s standby shirt finally had the collar too filthy to clean with a rip in the sleeve and worn through cuffs. What a dirty, messy boy! It was mine now.
The collar was cut out into a simple round neck and the sleeves taken out. Then the front side chest pocket unpicked off as well as the buttons removed. It was being stripped! I used a tight buttonhole stitch to close up the buttonholes and make new ones on the right side to make it a female right-over-left closing. The same buttons were sewn on the closed buttonholes and when my blouse is on you’d never know the better. His shirt was a slim fit style but I still brought the side seam in a bit and re-cut the armscye to put the new loose cut-sleeves in, albeit shorter sleeves now. I used what was left from shortening the hem to make a skinny casing to cleanly bind the neckline and reposition down the front pocket.
I didn’t really want the refashioned blouse to look the same as any women’s oxford you can buy with very masculine features. All the men’s-inspired women’s oxfords I have tried on before are stiff and uncomfortable, always wrinkling up my body, and too stiff and proper. I wanted this one to be softer and unique. So I took the most liberty with the sleeves. I played around with several tweaks to the hem until I found what I liked. I made a handful of ¼ pin tucks up for a few inches to lightly puff the sleeves out and add interest and shaping, like a mock cuff. I might have seen something like this as inspiration, but I don’t remember where or if I did, so perhaps it was all my idea, so I’d like to think. This was pretty much just what I wanted without having a specific idea for the sleeves – something subtly standout that adds yet doesn’t distract.
My new sleeves did not fit very well after all was done – they pulled at the underarms. So I unpicked and added in a self-drafted underarm gusset. That was the perfect fix for a loose fit that grazes over my body and stays relaxed in wearing ease. Happily my self-drafted gussets turned out so much better than when I have to use a pattern. The mid-weight cotton-poly blend was really easy to work with, too, so that helped. Gussets are so hard to capture in a photograph! An armpit picture is rarely graceful.
The best refashions happen when I don’t force ideas but let what comes naturally into my head be translated through my sewing. It might not be the most complimentary thing I have made but I love it. This blouse is comfy and all my own design – no pattern! It is finally the blue pin point oxford I have always wanted with no cost on my part and one less item saved from the garbage!
My second project to be featured is something that will not be seen out of the inner household sphere. Two nightgowns that were now too small and no longer interesting for me were turned into one quaintly freshened up little dress for bedtime. I really liked the prints of both of the two and I had a housecoat to match the polka dot one so they were worth saving to me. The main issue was the too small bust and shoulders on both.
The tank polka dot one was too short for my taste so it was designated to be the add-on to the floral print one. I cut off the short little cap sleeves on the floral one and then cut several inches down into the side seam to open up the bust. Those old sleeves were used to re-draft new ones off of the tank nightgown, based on both the measurements of the new armscye and this stray vintage pattern sleeve I had on hand. My new sleeves disguise the fact that the sleeve is too far into my shoulder and they are generous enough to fill in for where the old ones failed…besides being so cute! The self-faced, fold-over style also saved me from having to do a hem!
Okay, so the fit was saved on the nightgown. Next was the challenge of figuring out what to do with the extra polka dot knit. I cut a total of four rectangle strips out of the leftovers and sewed them into one long continuous strip to make a giant ruffle for adding on the hem! The fun contrast of the two prints and the quaint frill along the hem makes this real treat because it is something I would not try for my real dresses and blouses. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, though, because I secretly have a crush on the “shabby chic” aesthetic. There’s nothing better than having your home clothes for relaxing being something which automatically cheers you up and makes you smile…exactly what my new refashioned nightgown does for me!
This last item to be featured is nothing special to look at, and very hard to see the real change my refashion causes. However, this simple denim skirt had the most memories attached to it compared to most of what I do refashion. I think I’ve had this skirt since I was about 13, and it was a go-to piece for my teen years. It is a “Cherokee” brand (anyone else remember how great this Target brand was?) heavy cotton denim, and is still in awesome shape for the amount of wearings and washings it has seen.
However, the larger size of my current “mom hips” have prevented me from being able to even button it closed for the last few years. I missed wearing it. Thus this refashion was nothing special, just something to adjust the fit and keep the appearance of it basically the same so I could feel like I had a mere updated version of my old standby item to still wear
Anyways, all I did was I cut off just over 8 inches the hem, and used that to add in a center back panel. What was a maxi length skirt was basically only turned into a knee length skirt and widened. The add-in strip was tapered in at and just below the waist for a better fit and a fit-and-flare shape, since this was a very straight and skinny skirt originally. The little bit of the button placket I had on the hem panel blended in perfectly with the existing waistband. When the center belt loop was sewn back on, I was very happy with how well the alteration is not noticeable. The raw edges were serged (overlocked) inside for a clean finish and top-stitched down in matching golden denim thread to further match with the rest of the skirt.
We all know getting rid of something connected with memories is hard, but with a refashion of a treasured piece of clothing, it’s the best kind of letting go. It’s like moving on and owning your life, past and present. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not about trying to keep my stuff forever. I’m always conscious not to stockpile things…we don’t keep what we cannot use. There’s no room for that in a small house and life is better without being bogged down by “things”. However, if you can make something you will use, do want, or even need from things that are already on hand, well how cool is that?! Something for nothing is good in my book. Besides, the current statistics of the percent of waste we are making is astounding, as well as the numbers counting up how much clothing is wasted and unwanted. At this rate we’ll ruin the earth just for our buying habits…hey, we’ve already got a head start in that, sadly!
I do not think fashion needs to be as consumptive and impactful a commodity as it is today, and I’m trying to do my little part to be a sensible solution within our little household sphere. Keeping up such wardrobe recycling practices, I’ll get around eventually to reaching my dream of a fully handmade closet!