Refashioning My Own 60’s Style Babydoll Blouse

When the items I sew for myself no longer fit or work for me in some way, they are not given up on but treated just the same as – if not better – anything else in my wardrobe.  They either get refitted, resized, or mended.  If any of those three actions are not possible for one reason or another, they get refashioned.  This has especially been an important task for me to tackle since 2020.  Ever since that year, the reasons and occasions for which I leave the house has decreased, so I sensibly expend my sewing efforts on the wardrobe I do have versus only adding more new (me-made) pieces.  Just recently I refashioned a project I made almost a decade ago, and this has now turned out to be a much more appealing creation for me than when I completed its first iteration! 

I sewed up the original blouse in 2013, and it was a success, but never as interesting to begin with as I have turned it into today.  As I said in that original post, I struggle to like myself in peter pan collars, and overly sweet styles.  I liked it, to be sure, but never felt ecstatic over how it turned out enough to be ranked as a ‘favorite’.  I wore the blouse for only a few years after it was made since it quickly became too snug to be comfortable.  To be fair, I originally cut it out in a smaller size – I was severely short on fabric.  Long story short, I haven’t worn this for the last 8-something years and now that problem has been amended in the most fantastic way I could have ever hoped for! 

This is the old original top, for comparison.

Measuring the old top as compared to my current body, I realized I needed to add in about 3 inches widthwise to have this fit me comfortably again.  My main focus was on adjusting for my shoulders, and I (correctly) figured that a good fit for the bust of the blouse (which had been snug, too) would then follow, as well.  Aiming for about 3 inches was ideal because I had no scraps of any worth to use and needed to cannibalize from the current blouse itself.  Cutting off that much from the hem meant that the new blouse’s length would be just below my natural waistline…perfect!  The puffed sleeves do give a bit of leeway over the shoulders so I didn’t worry about an exact re-fitting.  If I would have added in much more than 3 inches my refashion would have been too dramatic and obvious of an addition, anyways.     

Most of the original blouse was left untouched, but the little bit I did do made such a bit difference!  My first step for this refashion was to cut 4 inches horizontally off of the bottom hem (the 3 inches I needed plus enough for two ½ inch seam allowances).  The side seams were cut off to make two rectangular panels.  Then I cut vertically down the center front and the center back, separating up the collar.  One of the two panels cut from the bottom hem went right away into the center back.  With this step, I was able to get my first taste of how my refashion would fit and look and I was so excited!  I realized ahead of time that the tiny polka dot print of the back’s added panel would be running oppositely of the main body.  The print is so small, I didn’t really care nor did I have much of a choice with what to work with.  I rather like the interest it adds to have the print contrast itself ever so slightly.  According to my idea, the front was going to have most of the attention so I like how the back is low-key appealing, too.

The front panel required a bit more effort than the back, since I had a grand idea for ramping up the femininity and eclectic detailing to this new version of my old blouse.  Luckily, I am quite organized when it comes to my sewing notions (not to brag, but I am proud of this fact).  Thus, I was happily able to find the little bit of aqua bias tape leftover from what I used to make the elastic casing on my blouse’s puff sleeved hems.  The bias tape was extra wide and double fold, so I found that opening it up fully made it just about 3 inches wide…I suppose you can guess how thrilled I was to discover this!  The solid toned bias tape, which was opened up and ironed out as if it was a cut of fabric, was layered over the remaining blouse fabric panel.  Doubling up here both used up all of my fabric cut off from the hem and kept the front from being see-through (the bias tape was tissue thin), besides lending some wonderful continuity to the overall look of the blouse. 

With the idea that “more is more”, I also sandwiched some vintage cotton lace into the seam when stitching on the front panel.  The lace is a slight ivory tone to complement the yellows and greys in the collar.  Then, I found a half a dozen vintage ivory pearled ball buttons from my paternal grandmother’s notions stash.  The buttons really filled in the big empty front panel and matched with the lace bordering the front.  It seemed to be a popular design element to have a decorative-only contrast chest panel to blouses and dresses of the 1960s.  I suppose I was kind of vaguely inspired by seeing such patterns in my own stash (such as Simplicity #6801) or through perusing online (see Simplicity 7736).  Honestly, though, my refashion was merely the best I could do with what I had available…which wasn’t much to begin with!  I wanted to add pintucks or some other sort of extra details to the front panel but I felt lucky to get by the way it was.  My blouse is immensely more appealing to me than how it first was, so good enough is as good as done for this refashion project.  

I wanted to keep the popover simplicity of getting dressed in this blouse, for all its extra elements it now had.  However, it turned so very boxy in shape with the new panels added!  I had to sew in four deep, curved, vertical darts to the bust of the front and shoulder line of the back for shaping the blouse.  I made sure to not take in enough to necessitate a side zipper.  I was trying to ride a fine line of having it fitted yet still staying as a popover-the-head top.  I never mind installing zippers (I half enjoy the process, really) yet if I can avoid doing so, I will in no way turn down the opportunity.

Not only is my refashion an improvement on the overall blouse, but I am thrilled over the way I love the collar so much better by it having a wide open neck.  Most babydoll style blouses (and dresses) have a peter pan collar that closely hugs the neckline.  It takes a very specific interpretation (such as the 1930s; see my “Snow White” dress) in a select few colors (see this 40’s “Candy Stripe” blouse I made) for me to like what a peter pan collar does for my face.   I can afford to be picky when I sew my own wardrobe!  Then again, taking such an approach helps me hone my taste in fashion and cater to my personality unlike a dependency on ready-to-wear could ever offer. 

Re-working something your own hands have already made not only is sensible, eco-friendly, and responsible, but also it requires a greater amount of creativity and determination.  I will not deny, there is a dopamine rush from the amazing process of starting a sewing project from scratch and seeing it go from paper laid out on fabric to a wearable garment.  Sure, it would be much easier to merely donate and move on, but landfills do not need a single more item added to them when a few extra hours of my time can give me back a new and improved version of my own makes.  

I find a more innate sense of personal pride in my every effort to alter, tailor, or otherwise extend the life of the wardrobe I already have.  For me, doing such actions also shows me just how far I have come with my sewing skills to be able to add significance and worth to what I have made in the past.  I am constantly mending, letting seams out and taking them in, darning sweaters, dyeing, patching or doing some other sort of garment care for me and my immediate family (even for my parents, too, on occasion).  This blouse’s refashion is merely the most visually stunning recent example of all the mundane clothing care that I do behind the scenes of my blog!  I hope this post has inspired you to “give a darn and mend”!   

White, Orange and Green

There is nothing 100% “from scratch” in the outfit that I’m posting this time, as this is (mostly) about a current refashion of a 1940s blouse I’ve already made back in 2013. Yet, I have paired it with a “new” woolen skirt that I refashioned after finding it chewed up during storage in our cedar closet.  Together, this is a fresh take on two existing items in my closet which needed some care and attention…and that deserves its own post, right?!  After my previous post on my Victorian skating ensemble, I thought I’d keep things simple and mix things up by showing how I keep up pieces in my wardrobe.  In order to earn its keep in my closet, each item needs to be something that fits as well as something I love.  I have no qualms about putting something I’ve sewn through a scissor and under the sewing machine to have that happen!  I made it, I can fix it up, too.  Beyond that, though, this set is the perfect colors to wear for St. Patrick’s Day – the white, orange, and green of their national flag!

I couldn’t help but title my post after the song that this outfit calls to my mind.  It is an Irish folk song which supposedly rose out of the 1919 to 1921 War of Independence but got a popular revival in 1989 from the album “Home to Ireland” by Spailpin (listen to the song here).  It is almost my favorite Irish song album – I have loved it since my childhood!  “The Rising of the Moon” song is not to be missed and “Three Young Ladies Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast” will get your toes tapping.  I am proudly very Irish through both sides of my family as well as my husband’s side, so this is not just celebrating a holiday which is alien to me but happily honoring my heritage!  Although some of my Irish ancestors may have preferred to sport orange for today, I align more with the wearing of green, so I love how this outfit unites all the colors just as the flag does.  (If you know your Irish history, you’ll understand this one without looking it up!)

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric for the blouse is from a seasonal collection of soft 100% cotton quilting fabric, lined in a matching rust orange color 100% cotton broadcloth

PATTERN:   Simplicity #1692, a 40s era re-release from 2013 (it’s one of their 85th Anniversary patterns), originally Simplicity #1093 from year 1944

NOTIONS:  I really had everything I needed on hand – thread, zipper, and bias tape.  The single button at the back neck closure is probably close to being the correct era for my vintage blouse, and comes from my special familial vintage button stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse originally (first incarnation) took me about 10 hours to be done back in October 2013.  In the fall of 2021, I spent another 5 hours to renew the blouse into its latest version. 

Both pieces have recently been discovered to be too small on me, but the skirt also had damage so I had more than one incentive for altering them.  Now that we are coming out of two years of isolating and staying at home, I have to get to know the full potential of my closet again.  A good amount of my pieces have not been touched in a while because of the pandemic, and although my body has mostly either stayed the same or lost weight through it, the same cannot be said for my upper arms and hips. In some of the cases, letting out my 5/8 inch seam allowances is enough.  In other garments I find that I will need to add in gussets, side panels, or re-work the bodice.  These have now gone to my “need to alter, fit, or refashion” drawer. 

I still like these items enough to want to give them TLC or perhaps a whole new spin in the future.  After all, I invest myself in everything I make and probably 90% (or more) of my wardrobe is self-crafted at this point.  I am happy with what I have and don’t need to start a project from scratch to use my sewing capabilities.  Taking care of what I have is sustainable and responsible, I feel.  I am just sad to see how my body changes add to my already large enough make-do-and-mend pile.  How have the last two years affected your wardrobe?  Do you find things fitting you differently or have your style tastes just changed…maybe both?  Do you enjoy altering and mending or is it pure drudgery for you? 

What was wrong with the blouse in the first place?  You may be wondering this because the blouse has ended up looking close to the same way as when I originally made it – just short sleeved.  Well, I wasn’t going for a different spin, just the same look in a bigger size.  The armscye was already close fitting when I first made the blouse.  Its sleeves were now uncomfortable, losing any ‘reach room’ and the hips were too snug to zip down past the waistline.  Also, at this point – since my sewing skills have improved – I was quite embarrassed by my beginner’s efforts at making a buttoned cuff on long sleeves.  Thus, the long sleeves were sacrificed to become side panels to add room.  It was easier than digging through my containers of scraps in the unlikely hope that there would be a remnant large enough to help my need for a refashion!  One sleeve was divided in half to make two panels for the bodice sides, while the other sleeve went towards the neckline (see next paragraph).  The original zipper was unpicked out of the blouse and re-inserted in between the front main body and the left side panel.

Just adding in width was not enough to fully open up the sleeves for more shoulder room.  I also unpicked the sleeves from the bodice and re-sewed them in at ¼ inch seam allowance (the original blouse had 5/8 inch seam allowance).  That was better but my big arms were still pulling at the neckline.  So I opened up the neckline, loosened up the center front gathers, cut the neck more open by ½ inch, and sewed over the edge a brand new bias band (cut from the second sleeve, as mentioned above).  This time I left lots of excess length at the back closure to the neckline’s finishing bias band so I can button it in a way that is more open.  This assuages my claustrophobia over tightly necked garments, and widens out the shoulders a bit.  I was able to cut two more small bias strips for finishing the two sleeve’s hem ends.

The brown all-wool skirt was something I have had since my late teen years.  I had forgotten about it in our cedar closet for the last decade and it was not properly stored.  I believe it was carpet beetles which found it, because moths make bigger chews holes.  Nevertheless, the skirt had most of its significant chews from the hipline up to the waist.  Being a long ankle length to begin with, I merely cut off the top 1/3 of the skirt (keeping the side zipper, albeit short now), newly tapered in the side seams, added darts to fit, and finished the waistline with bias tape.  Any tiny holes left can be patched up easily since the wool is lofty and loosely woven. This was super easy refashion.

Much better than buying raw supplies, I use garments I already have as material for my sewing ideas.  This time, these two items were more of a refitting I suppose versus a total re-fashion.  Both my skirt and blouse are much more versatile and wearable now more than they ever were, so this is not just about ‘saving’ them, I feel.  A mid-length skirt is more all-weather, just the same as making short sleeves on my blouse.  My blouse is double layered (lined in all cotton) and the wool skirt is cozy so shortening their length has turned them into something I can wear for cooler days in the spring and fall, not just for the cold of winter.   This way I have the opportunity to layer them.  Paired over my blouse to bring out the green is an old favorite store bought corduroy blazer back from my teen years. 

To conclude, I wish a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!  To read more on some of the ways I celebrate this holiday, as well as the fancy green-themed vintage dress I may pick to wear today, please visit this Instagram post (linked here).  The fact that St. Patrick’s Day is always immediately followed by the first day of the verdant season of spring always gives me an excellent reason to be on a spell of fascination for anything green.  Here’s your tip off as to what may be featured in my next blog post!

Dyeing and Over-Dyeing…

Sometimes something simple can sound tragic when different words sound the same.  Don’t misread my post’s title.  I have now discovered the joys of colored fabric dye, that’s all.  Now, let me go back to cooking up my next re-coloring job because this is quite a lot of fun to do and very useful!  I am by no means an expert on fabric coloring, I’ll admit, but this is a short recounting of my experiences in dyeing which started with this 2020 pandemic.

Yes, I’ve had a few other posts already for “Alter It August” 2020, but here’s one more squeezed in at the last minute because I need all the excuses I can find to spruce up my wardrobe’s unloved items!  This is almost a dual project post because when talking about my new adventures in color dyeing is summed up in two examples.  I not only fully revamped an old RTW shirtdress of mine but also dyed one of my son’s extra school polo tee.  As he is doing remote learning from home, and he had a plethora of school uniform tops which still fit, we needed his wardrobe acquisitions to be a more fashionable color besides white for them to be useful for the “new normal”.  My shirtdress was something I liked enough in its details, fabric, and general design to keep on hand for the last 12 or so years, yet I never wore it on account of the very blasé color, ill fit, and lack of a little ‘something extra’ to make it special.  After I addressed the sewing part of my dress refashion, I took two completely different approaches to give a new color refresh to each item, and ended up with a shade of green in both cases.

It is important to note how both items became green because dyeing is generally an experiment even if you think you know how things should turn out.  Just because the bottle you’re using says a certain color is inside doesn’t necessarily mean that is what you will end up with.  Every little factor in the dyeing process – from the fiber content, to the way you stir, to the continuous temperature of the water – seems to affect how your item will turn out.  It is fun, but always a happy gamble, I find.  When I am up for a dye job, I have the mindset of being happy with whatever the result is.  That’s when things are pretty desperate for the item to be dyed, and I am fed up past the point of tolerance for the way the original item looks.  It’s a dye job or it’s out the door!  Luckily, these two items for both me and my son were saved and now we can color coordinate our dressing, he he!

THE FACTS: Let’s lay this post out a little differently than the norm on my blog. 

FABRIC – Instead of ‘fabric’ (as this is a refashion project), I started with a store-bought, button-front, RTW “Land’s End” brand dress my mom picked up for me on clearance about 12 or 15 years ago.  It was cute enough, and I was appreciative, but the bland and dirty grey color of the shirtdress really made me feel uncomfortable with myself and down in attitude just to wear it.  I was always at a loss as to how to accessorize it to become cuter and more ‘me’.  It was borderline in the fit, too, as it was a petite sizing.  Thus, the dress has a slightly higher waistline on me which isn’t that obvious because it is very classic and vintage inspired, I think.  The side seams do have these super handy, super generously sized pockets that I love and the way they are hidden in the full skirt is fabulous to me.  This is a pretty dress I can wear to church or wear to play in other words, and versatile outfits are both hard to find and something that I can always use more of.

The fiber content is a soft and slightly stretchy shirting.  It is a blend of 67% cotton, 28% polyester, and 5% elastane.  For some reason it seems to wrinkle up more than is reasonable because “Land’s End” normally makes very well-known iron-free shirts for both men and women.  Even a thorough ironing job doesn’t banish the creasing.  There is a slight rustling sound when I swish in this dress so I guess the fabric – although over halfway cotton – is a poly shirting at heart.  Nevertheless, if there hadn’t been so much cotton in the content, my dyeing attempt on this dress would have been much more difficult and probably less successful.  If you have something that is less than 50% cotton or any other natural fiber (in other words, a mostly man-made material), it will not want to take to recoloring using the regular RIT brand dye.  I would have needed a special synthetic dye, which has a very limited spans of colors to choose from.  I just made the regular dye work with this dress!

My son’s school polo also came from “Land’s End” as well, and was in 100% cotton.  I did not change or refashion it at all, merely changed the color.  As he is growing in height, and seeming not in weight or waist size, his extra short sleeve school shirts that he no longer needs still fit him…for now!

PATTERN and NOTIONS:  For my dress refashion, I used no pattern – made it up as I went – and all I needed in notions was lots of thread and one long 36” coat zipper (which was happily on hand).  I let what I needed to do find better fit for this dress on my current body dictate how the refashion would go.  The dress was a size 2, and in a basic sense it did fit me, but was far too snug for a button-front shirtdress…if you get my unwelcome picture.  So, I cut off the buttons, and stitched up the buttonholes, and sewed a zipper down the front to give me just a few extra inches across the front.  All that I basically needed was some wearing ease in this dress.  As the side seams were serged far too close to the stitching line, my only easy option was transforming this shirtdress into a zip front dress.  Voila!  As easy as it was to find a better fit with this dress, next it was a bit challenging to take it to the level of looking finished and appearing as anything but a refashion.

My son gave the the zipper bracelet I am wearing! It’s so perfect for me!

I did have a giant sash belt that came with the dress, luckily, so I had a little bit of something extra to work without having to cut into the dress itself.  I snipped the sash belt in half, running down the fold and seam line, so that the width was divided in two but the length was kept as it was.  I used 2/3 of the length of the two long pieces to make a little binding to cover up either side of the zipper all the way down the front of the dress.  These self-fabric bindings cleanly covered up the top-stitching to the exposed zipper and also what was left of the buttonholes. The remaining 1/3 to the sash belt was sewn into tubes, turned inside out, and slipped into the binding on either side of the zipper right at the waistline.  This creates a sort of attached waist ties that perk up the dress.  There are thread chain belt casings at the side already, and the waist seemed rather plain without anything extra, so I thought I would use up what little was leftover for the attached tie belt.  This was a zero waste refashion – not a single scrap leftover!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The actual sewing portion to refashioning my dress did not take all that long – only a few hours.  That was finished on August 20, 2020.  However it ended up taking much longer because of all the steps I needed to get my dress in this new color.

TOTAL COST: These would have been free refashions if it hadn’t been for the cost of the dyes, color remover, and setting liquid – in total about $15 for the four bottles of items I needed.

For my dress, before I did any dyeing, I began with yet another experimental job – using RIT brand color removing powder.  I decided to try and do this in my wash machine, and I did not fix the setting correctly so that my dress did not sit in the liquid as long as it should have.  I will chalk it up to a beginner’s mistake.  However, as I did not follow the proper directions, the color remover did not work correctly and it only took out enough color to turn my dress into an ugly yellow.  Weird, right?

My next step was to color my dress.  I originally intended on dyeing my dress a blue so I had a bottle of RIT in blue turquoise.  Yet, as the color remover turned my dress into a yellow, and I was dipping it in a blue, I ended up with a bright sage green.  I know it makes sense under the principles of the color spectrum, but really – who would have guessed?

I was working with a bottle of liquid dye, and this has the best chance of turning out an even color as compared to the powder (mix with water).  Even still, it turned out slightly splotchy in certain places on my dress.  Why?  Any pre-existing stain, or flaw, or mark on the fabric will be amplified when that item is color dyed.  Yeah, not something to be excited over but definitely something to remember for any dye job.

Other than a few little marks that stayed with my dress, the color turned out very even for me.  I dyed my dress in our large stainless steel sink, so there was plenty of room to have enough liquid to completely immerse the dress, as well as do some good stirring to spread the color.  Technically, our sink is not the best place for dyeing.  With the RIT dye, the temperature is supposed to be kept at 140°F or warmer, yet not boiling either, for the whole 30 to 60 minutes it ‘cooks’.  That is why the best place to dye is in a pot on the stove because you can keep an even and constant temperature.  Yet, the bigger the item – like my dress – the more room you will need and so an ‘on the stove’ option was not exactly feasible here.  We made it work alright by starting off with a stronger water-to-dye proportion for quick color retention, and then add a small pot’s worth of extra almost-boiling water along the way to keep a relative constant warmth.

This is the richer color I had before putting my dress in the fixative liquid. Also, you can see what I was covering up by sewing down the binding on either side of the zipper – the marks of the old button closings.

The final step to any dye job that is a cotton, linen, rayon, or a blend of these is to set the color with a liquid fixative.  This is another 30 minutes of the same process as what the dye job was – stirred evenly in a 140 degree bath.  I hate the fact that when I go through the dye fixative step, the color becomes a tad lighter than when my item came out of the dye.  For example, when I first over-dyed these faded, true vintage items from my Grandmother, the colors were rich and just what I wanted…but that was before the setting liquid bath.  Boo.  When dyeing a nylon, silk, or wool, to set the color you merely run the item through your wash machine with an old towel and your regular detergent, and the colors seem to stay brighter.  Oh well, as I said above, any color improvement, even if it is not the most ideal one, is enough to make the item worth keeping if I’m doing this in the first place.

There are different add-ins with each dye job depending on the fiber content of your item.  I added salt and dishwashing liquid to the dye before adding my dress.  However, for some silk I recently re-colored using a bottle of RIT Kelly green dye (for a completely different project coming soon) I added dishwashing liquid and white vinegar.  It was into the dye bath leftover from coloring this silk that I threw in my son’s school polo.  This should have been a no-no because his shirt was cotton – it should be in a dye bath with salt.  However, I was not about to waste a whole bottle’s worth of dye without trying to dip something else.  Thus, the green dye bath only gave my son’s shirt a light minty green color rather than a deep, true, Kelly green.  Also, the water was hovering around 130 degrees by this time (as a second batch).  Even still, I think my son looks good in pastels and he himself is happy with how it turned out – so that is all that matters, right?!  Now we can go be twins in green for the win.

I jokingly have a little play on the fact that I am stirring up a steaming sink or pot full of opaquely colored ‘potion’ when I do my dye jobs.  A little witchy cackle is all that’s needed (and I do believe I am good at that) as well as a recitation of “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble” for a proper finish.  Hubby usually just shakes his head with a smile.  Yes, I enjoy how a simple color change – although a bit time consuming – can really perk up an item and is a creative way for anyone to personalize something with no sewing needed.

A few months into my dyeing exploits and I realized many colors became very hard-to-find or almost non-existent altogether, even looking through the internet shops (not counting the price-gouged items).  Apparently, I must not be the only one this year who is finding the fun and usefulness of color dyeing.  Have you done any such thing yourself?  Are you an old pro at it by now?  Do you have any great success stories or maybe sad disaster tales to share?  Maybe you have not yet tried it.  If so, I hope this post was useful.  Thanks for reading!

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?