A Skirt-Blouse and a Dress-Skirt

The second installment for my 2020 “Alter It August” is a featuring of this crazy but coordinated and happy display of me wearing things in the wrong place.  Ugh – that just sounds like need to relearn how to dress.  No, I just like the sewing success I find when thinking a bit differently when attacking my tucked-away mending pile.

What I started off with were two vintage pieces in their own right.  I’m wearing what had been a skirt from the 1990’s as a newly refashioned blouse of the 40’s WWII style.  Then, I also salvaged what was left of a true vintage 30’s era dress into becoming a skirt which pairs nicely with my new blouse.  Yes, I’m all over the decades and every article of clothing I started with is now something else.  Yet, somehow, what I ultimately ended up with is these wonderful separates that I can wear and enjoy for years to come.  I think I can rock this sort of upside-down dressing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft cotton with a hint of spandex is the fiber content of the skirt that became my blouse, while the true vintage dress that became a skirt is a lovely rayon gabardine finished off with a matching color modern cotton sateen

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4528, a year 1943 vintage original pattern from my personal stash, was used for the blouse

NOTIONS:  some interfacing scraps, thread, two true vintage buttons for the blouse, and a vintage metal zipper for the skirt.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It only took me about an hour or less to clean up the dress and turn into a skirt.  The blouse was finished on August 1, 2020 in about 4 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The insides of my blouse are cleanly bias bound, while I kept the original (pinked) seams of the vintage dress-turned-skirt and merely finished the waist.

TOTAL COST:  FREE!

My true vintage skirt was more of a salvage than a refashion like my blouse.  I had an acquaintance had passed to me this piece that someone had given her because they knew I am a smaller size and would be capable of restoring this to a wearable state.  The bodice of a cream-colored, rayon gabardine 1930s dress had been roughly cut off midway through, the side zipper ripped out, and the amazing duo of large pockets halfway hanging on.  I can’t help but hopelessly wonder what the full dress looked like originally.  It might have been wonderful to have the chance to save more than just the skirt, but really – I shouldn’t complain!  This was a wonderful gift and an honor of a challenge.

I started off with the basic preliminary tasks – trimming the bodice down to the point where I would sew on a waistband, taking off a handful of belt carriers, re-stitching down the pockets, and setting in a side zipper.  Next I used a cotton sateen from on hand (because hey, it was something I didn’t have to buy and it matched in color) to sew on a waistband and a hook closing.  That was all it needed besides a basic cleaning and pressing.  There still are some very slight stains I need to get out but overall I am very ecstatic to have saved this piece.  I am amazed that for all this dress had went through before it came to me, there were not any obvious stains or even a hole, rip, or tear in the skirt (it is pristine).  A very good vintage find finally all fixed up deserves a great new top to pair with it, right?!

I had a plaid skirt which had hardly ever been worn, even though it has been in my wardrobe since circa 2000.  I had bought it second hand back then, so it must be from at least the 90’s, judging by both the style and how the label inside proudly claimed to be completely “Made in the USA”.  Maybe I should not call it fully vintage…just ‘dated’ for now.  Nevertheless, it became a blouse of a different ‘vintage’!  The skirt’s plaid was cute enough to me that I held onto it for this long, yet the style always screamed too “school girl” for my taste and so was rarely worn.  No doubt the fact the hem ended right above my knees added to that impression.  It has a low-riding hip yoke with a deep-pleated, flared skirt below and was fully lined.

A refashion can feel like a giant uncertainty, so it helps to use a pattern that you’ve used already and which has turned out successfully before.  It gives an extra confidence level.  I used the same pattern that gave me one of my current favorite vintage blouses – this “Australia” movie inspired creation – and merely shortened it to waist length because of the limited amount of fabric I was working with.

There was so much fabric in the pleated section below the hip yoke, all I needed to do was cut that part of the skirt off and it was like having a long 2 yard by 20 inch section to work with.  There was imperfect plaid matching in the skirt to begin with, and I did not have any extra fabric to be as choosy of a perfectionist as I like to be with geometrically printed fabric.  Yet, I do think I made the best of it!  The belt strip to the original skirt became the waist tie attached to the bottom hem of my new blouse.  This tie front feature helps the top stay down on me and is also a nice feature to perk of the pretty, but still a bit plain, ivory gabardine skirt I am wearing with it.

I was sort of aiming for a pre-WWII casual 40’s kind of look here, but I’m happy it ended up looking pretty timeless after all.  The skirt is in a feminine and comfortable bias cut so it is obviously 30’s era, but a well done cut and style like this never goes out of style.  After all, the giant, interesting pockets hold my Android phone just fine with room to spare…how modern is that!?  I personally like large blouse lapels and cannot lie, however, they do rather give the blouse away that it’s vintage.  Yet, crop tops are quite popular now, the tie waist is an unexpected detail, and the plaid is quite fun, so perhaps all this outweighs the collar for a contemporary appeal.  I paired my outfit with my Grandmother’s earrings and my comfy Hotter brand tennis shoes.

Even though “Alter It August” is drawing to a close, it’s always a great time to whip those unusable clothes into shape and make them work for you!  You have the sewing superpowers to create…now use those same gifts to take care of what you already possess on hand and make sure it is something useable that you love.  A refashion from what’s on hand is something new for nothing, with the added happy benefit of knowing you both succeeded at something challenging and helped counteract the global harm of the wasteful fast fashion industry.

I don’t know about you, but at the rate I am going out and about these days, I really don’t need a whole lot of anything new coming in the house besides food in the fridge.  That doesn’t stop me from continuing to be a ‘maker’, though, and this sporty little outfit was just the sensible, thrifty little pick-me-up project to be useful, keep me creative, and clean the house all in one.  Maybe I haven’t been out enough for me to even think of turning a skirt into a blouse, after all, though?

Fresh and Exciting!

Finally, a peek into what I was secretly working on behind the scenes at this time last year!  I was both the pattern maker and sample garment seamstress for a local independent designer, helping her launch her “Potion 23” line of modern clothing with an old-style aesthetic.

Victoria Cates has designed feminine dresses, wonderful separates, and lovely accessories inspired by the 1930s, and 40’s.  They are made in quality fabrics – many of them in rayon challis, vintage remnants, and her own self-designed prints.  They are all made-to-order here in town, offered in multi-sizing so anybody can now wear vintage style!  It was so exciting to be a part of this enterprise.

I now have pieces from her collection for myself – the two separates, the “Rapture” tie-front cropped blouse and the “Harp” pleated split skirt.  During the preliminary process of testing, I was happy to have the opportunity to try on one of the original aqua angel print “Rapture” blouses in my size.  Please believe me when I say this is a must-have item that is so cute, so comfy, and so classic.  There is a zipper in the back for ease in dressing, a custom buckle, a bottom hem band to keep the blouse from riding up, and bias cut puff sleeves.

Having an arrangement with “Potion 23”, I was able to make my “Rapture” blouse out of my own custom chosen fabric.  This summer I chose to use Gertie’s year 2016 lemon print cotton sateen with the bottom band in a solid black broadcloth.  I used a true vintage buckle at the center.  It is the perfect cheerful and bright summer top for me – it matches with my swim skirt (which you see me in our backyard inflatable pool) as well as many of my self-made bottoms (such as these 50’s shorts or these modern Burda Pants).  Remember, folks, however – this is a one-off item.  If you like what you see, you need to go to “Potion 23” and purchase off of her site or even message her and see what she can do for you!

For my own “Harp” pleated split skirt, I used the heavier, textured material Tori and I were experimenting with during testing stage.  Thus, my shorts have a stiffer hang than the lovely swing that her “Harp” shorts now have as being offered in a soft cotton.  I took them with me on our summer trip to visit friends in Memphis, Tennessee last summer…because clothing that goes on travels with me always gets attached to the best memories!  There I used them as a cover up over my swimsuit, but also wore the split skirt with this drapey 40’s top I made years back.  I highly recommend these summer bottoms – they are super cute, sneaky shorts that are very classy.  The details are top notch, too, with an invisible zipper hidden in the back pleats, a lovely notched closure tab, and superb pleating.  “Potion 23” also offers the “Enigma” shorts in a dark navy with custom embroidered angel wings over the pleat openings for those of you who want clothing with a ‘little bit of an extra special touch’.

Of course, the part of her collection that was the most challenging for me is also the most fabulous – 30s style beach pyjamas, “Potion 23” “Archangel” jumpsuit.  Most recently, Danielle Colby from the “American Pickers” reality television series was raving (see this post here) about her recent purchase of the “Archangel” jumpsuit…doesn’t she look amazing wearing it on the beach?!?  Whether or not you have a beach in your life, this jumpsuit is perfect for having a glamorous summer with very little effort.

As often as we rave in America about the importance and impressiveness of small business, it is a humbling source of pride to both see and be a part of it.  Now is more important than ever to support such small businesses, so forgive my advertising plug here, but please go check out “Potion 23” site today.  She also makes unique ruffled face masks of vintage fabric scraps if you merely want something practical which will keep you both looking pretty and staying safe!  See if there is something that tickles your fancy or strikes you as an item that would cheer up your day to be able to wear.  This is the closest you can get to clothing that I drafted!  Really, though – this was all because of the ideas and efforts of a woman in town that had a will to make a dream come true and found a way to make it work.