Many times when I want to try something experimental in my fashion, I like to start with something I’m not as completely invested in as a sewn ‘from-scratch’ garment. Therefore, if I don’t find something unwanted from my existing wardrobe, I often resort to re-sale and thrift store offerings. They are low-cost, there are a plethora to choose from, and I feel like I need to do my part in making a dent with the unwanted and uninteresting leftovers from our modern fast fashion industry. Here is my latest re-fashion attempt, made for a special family occasion. As a frequent vintage wearer, I am rather surprised how taken I am by this…it makes me feel so on trend with all the latest off-the-shoulder looks this summer!My husband actually thinks it reminds him of the character Naomi from the television series “Mama’s Family”, although my dress is green and not her favorite shade of yellow. For some reason, this attribution to Naomi makes me sigh, half-smile, and feel ever so slighted even though I know she was a great character in her own right. Hubby is right, though, this is something she would totally wear! I mean, she even wore an off-the-shoulder dress for her wedding to Vint! Yet, do I think this dress reminds me of the peasant and hippie styles of the 1970s and 80’s especially with the hem ruffle, but maybe it’s the vintage lover in me which only wants to find a past decade to associate with. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to peek-a-boo shouldered garments, starting from the late 20’s ‘til now, as well as a board for the Peasant look, if you’re interested in looking at more past twists on this modern trend.
FABRIC: a rayon knit big-box store sundress
NOTIONS: nothing but some thread…
TIME TO COMPLETE: Making this dress took me about 2 or 3 hours and it was finished on July 5, 2017.
THE INSIDES: cleanly overlocked (serged)…more on this below.
TOTAL COST: I only paid $2 for this dress about 2 or 3 years ago
I have been waiting for the perfect re-fashion idea to hit my mind for the few years since I bought this dress. After simmering on the back burner of my projects list, it was only recently that I suddenly came up with this idea which felt ‘right’. I went with it (as you can see), and was so pumped to dive in that a picture of the original sundress was forgotten before it became re-fashioned. Oh well – it was very boring and basic after all. The original dress was just an empire, under bust sundress with spaghetti straps and very long skirt which had two ruffles at the bottom hem. There were inseam pockets – one on each side – at a very awkward, low hip spot. It was pretty much shapeless and uncomplimentary, but the fabric is a wonderful rayon knit with a nice color and print, so I figured it was worth saving.
My first step was to cut off the bottom of the two large hem ruffles. Most of this became the shoulder ruffle. I couldn’t have asked for an easier refashion here – I kept the gathers at the top of the ruffle when I cut it off, so all I had to do was hand tack it to the spaghetti straps and the neckline front and back centers.
There was just enough left over from the shoulder ruffle to make a new, wide, middle body waist band so I could have more shaping than just the high empire seam (which gets covered by the ruffle anyway). The skirt was cut off at the empire seam and my new middle waist panel was sewn in there instead. It extends down to my natural waistline so the skirt could be re-sewn on at that point. I did cut off an extra several inches from the top of the skirt portion, just so the inseam side pockets could be at a natural height for my hands at mid-hip. Next, this was stretched while sewn onto the bottom waist seam of the middle body panel, giving the dress a nicely controlled and loosely gathered skirt.
As this is a ready-to-wear item originally, I departed from my normal dislike of serging (overlocking) seams and thought I would give it a go again just to match with the rest of the finishing inside the dress. This is a knit so I figured I probably would not need to really change, adjust, or otherwise tailor this too much in the future…but hey, this was cheap enough to buy and no skin off my back if it didn’t turn out.
Since I do not have a serger, I made a visit to my wonderful neighborhood sewing room. It’s a place equipped with every sort of machine, notion, fabric, pattern or necessary supply I could ever want sewing-wise and the best creative, happy, and friendly atmosphere one could ask for…with a kitchen and wash room to boot. I pay a ‘per hour’ rate and get sewing done while relaxing and enjoying the company of interesting, fellow sewing enthusiasts. There are many such places popping up all over – I suggest you search and see if there is something like this in your town…if there is, please support it; if not at least do what you can to connect with other sewing friends! Apart from my diversion in topic, I now had the perfect reason to spend more time at my local city sewing room, and used the sergers and large cutting tables there to make and finish my dress. I totally had much more fun making this dress than it is to wear it.
Don’t get me wrong. My dress is great, and I do like it, but I am not just 100% won over by this off-the-shoulder trend. I plan to try some more versions yet, to find one I like the best. As elegant and airy as it is, I feel like I’m always loosing something down the sides of my arms…apparently I’m not used to it. For those of you that do wear these off-the-shoulder fashions, I need to ask you some questions. Do your ruffles ever happen to have their hems roll up on you when you lift your arms up? (This is a “problem” with my dress.) What do you do if you are chilly – do you like sweaters, loose shawls, or jackets over your off-the-shoulder ruffle fashions? (I haven’t yet found something I like to cover my arms against some air conditioning which is cranked up like the inside of a refrigerator.) Also, to get technical, does anyone know whether an off-the-shoulder ruffle is really a sleeve or not? Just wondering. If anyone can let me know what they think or know, it would be much appreciated.P.S. – Does anyone else (like me) get the biggest kick out of the character of Naomi from “Mama’s Family”? I just couldn’t achieve her second season massively fluffy hair the day of our pictures, unfortunately…