It’s a new year, and there are another 360-something days to come of fresh memories, novel occasions, unexpected changes, and general happenings to be made for 2019. In my experience, where we begin the year is normally quite interesting and different as compared to when it ends. Thus, I thought it would be appropriate to start a new year of posting with a project similar to the way the world rolls from one year to the next…a refashion. Every refashion is a new beginning for something from the past which is remembered in a different manner by the time it is reworked. A refashion is a fresh start.
This particular refashion is quite basic and fancy at the same time. It has been – and now continues to be – my basic “little black dress”, which now takes a very classic vintage spin from the basic modern piece it had been! This is my fanciest refashion yet, I believe, as well as my most used. It is comfier than it ever has been thanks to my re-vamp, and it is versatile enough for a funeral, wedding, night out, or fancy party (such as this!). You name it, and in all probability this dress can step up for the occasion. To think…all I did was use something I already had on hand!
Of course, the happenstance of finding matching material was the only reason this refashion was possible. What I needed practically fell into my lap. This good luck does not come around often! When such an event does pop my life, I listen and act. It’s these good chances that help let me know I’m on the right track, especially when they come without my trying too hard to make things happen.
FABRIC: some sort is polyester knit, thick like a Ponte with limited stretch and more of an open mesh finish at close inspection
PATTERN: the few skirt pieces I added were based off of a year 1948 vintage McCall’s #7226
TIME TO COMPLETE: several hours were spent on one afternoon in the summer of 2017 to do this refashion
THE INSIDES: The original dress was serged stitched (overlocked)…but even my new additional seams were finished to match
TOTAL COST: $5 for one yard of new knit – the dress I’m counting as free!
The original dress was something that my mom had bought for me through a ready-to-wear catalog when I was in late teens. I appreciated the fancy neckline and the dressy but forgiving fabric that washes, wears, and packs like a breeze. She correctly figured that a “little black dress” was something I would find indispensable going into young adulthood. Now that I am a full-fledged adult (and mother to boot!), these last few years I realized my favorite dress now longer fit me as well as I remembered, but I loved it nonetheless. Thus, after coming across the perfect material, I took the ‘cue’ given me but still hesitantly cut it open and put it under my sewing machine to make it work for the “me” I am today.
Luckily, the bodice still fit so it was the only part of the dress (besides the armscye) that I left alone for my refashion. It is an awesome, well-designed upper half, anyway, for being an affordable RTW item! The square neckline was made with the pleated front middle that I have not seen the likes of again. The whole bodice was double layered, fully lined in the same fabric as the rest of the dress, and ends at an empire height. The skirt portion was an incredibly basic two piece skinny and short style which fit like a second skin, probably at least two sizes smaller than the bodice proportions. I suppose having kids really makes ones hips fill out – I remember the dress fitting like a nice pencil skirt when I first had the dress! The sleeves were also very basic and extremely small fitting for a ¾ length.
Firstly, the original skirt was cut off (keeping the bodice seam). I needed – wanted – a skirt that actually sits at a waistline for my idea to work. Thus, I drafted my own midsection panel to be the in-between connection to the bodice and skirt. This way there is a defined middle which is more complimentary and classic than an empire dress. The midsection is double thickness like the bodice, because it has to support a lot…this is a pull-on garment. The dress is all knit so a zipper would only mess up the fabric, anyway. I stitched everything in a zig-zag “lightening” stitch so everything wouldn’t pop – only stretch – putting this on.
Next, I cut a whole new skirt back half using my newly bought fabric from the most available vintage pattern…McCall’s #7226 happened to be out at the time so I used it. It has the basic, common 1940s three-piece skirt rear which I wanted for my dress’ refashion because such a design provides wonderful booty room and hip shaping. I re-used the original front half cut off of the dress and, after sewing the sides and hem, the new skirt was sewn to the bottom of the midsection. Now the hem falls at my favorite just-below-the-knee length. The skirt is the same length as on the original garment but between the better fit and added middle panel, it suddenly hangs better and has more swish in it. Perhaps this can be a swing dance dress, too!
Finally, the sleeves were shortened. The original ¾ sleeves were uncomfortably confining around the elbows and the length seemed weird compared to the rest of the dress in its partial refashioned stage. However, to match the little bias edging along the pleated neck front, I added the same detail to finish the sleeve edges. The sleeves were cut to end at the horizontal middle between the top of the midsection and the pleated front neck detail. It’s my mathematical geekiness coming out, sorry! The short sleeves really make this an all-season dress.
Accessories worn with this dress change literally every time I wear this, but for this picture I chose items I have from some of the people dearest to my heart. My husband had given me the amazing vintage hat you see on my head last Christmas. He picked it out from my very favorite vintage shop in town, which happens to be the same place my vintage Cordé handbag is from, as well. My hat has the label of the esteemed Henri Bendel brand, a women’s accessories store based in New York City which was open between 1895 and 2018. There is an amazing quality and design to this hat, but it also happily happens to be in pristine condition. The rich red velvet wraps around, over, under, and through the hat so that it looks different but still lovely from each and every angle. The thick, black wool is a wonderful contrast to the velvet, lending a richness to the whole hat. Of course, I did a twisted, complex, fancy hair up-do to match the hat and help keep it on my head! My necklace and silk scarf (filling in as my bracelet) are from my dearest Grandmother on my dad’s side. My mom had bought me my earrings (black jet in the middle of a twisted gold rope) as a Christmas years back to match with this black dress.
I have had plans on my backburner of sewing projects to make Marvel’s Agent Carter’s Season Two deep purple dress. It’s the one with the lattice detail at the neckline and sleeve hems that she wears to meet Dr. Wilkes at the nightclub for some dancing and a little undercover information. The way this refashion has turned out, however, secretly yet strongly reminds me of that dress, and although it is not the same, just might fulfill my frequent “need” for yet another Agent Carter look-alike. Do you see the similarity, too?
A refashion holds a memory of the past yet starts off with a fresh face and another beginning. A refashion makes the most of what we have and presents a challenge which is only an opportunity for us to shine. I hope all of you have a fantastic year ahead, with good wishes for some awesome sewing, fun fashion, and creative enjoyment as well. I have some exciting projects lined up for the next few months, not just for myself either, so I have a feeling my sewing skills and personal style will be taking an interesting turn this year. You might not see it on my blog just yet, but I wanted to let you know that it’s there and I’m excited. What are some of your inspirations and motivations for 2019?