Up until about 5 years ago, most of the sewing I did as an adult involved tweaking and reworking clothing I found at thrift stores. I was particularly found of turning muumuus into summer dresses and still wear a few of them to this day, even if the quality of the sewing embarrasses me now.
I used to be a thrift store bandit; I even ran a business selling vintage on Ebay for a year or two. Buying secondhand was the best way for a fashion-loving lady on a 20-something budget to play with clothing and develop a sense of personal style. When I started sewing in earnest again, from actual patterns using actual fabric, the siren call of thrift stores faded to less than a whisper. Once I realized I could simply make vintage dresses from scratch, rather than praying all the way to the dirty changing room that the gem I had stumbled on actually fit, my bi-weekly visits to the thrift shops of Montreal ended rather unceremoniously.
While I don’t miss the universal thrift store eau de parfum (do they all use the same delousing spray?), the terrifying florescent lighting or the grimy hands after a few hours at the racks, I do miss that little tingle you get when you spot something possibly precious in between hangers of stretched out turtlenecks and pilly acrylic sweaters, and the satisfaction that comes from taking something someone else rejected and turning it into something beautiful. When Portia asked me to join the Refashioners team this year, I was excited to relive that moment with Dixie DIY, my shirt trade partner.
For a few weeks, I sketched ideas for ways I could rework men’s oxford shirts in preparation. But when Dixie’s package arrived, I didn’t get what I was expecting. Rather than big cotton shirts, I received a big…. poly chiffon shirt! Oh Dixie, you little devil.
Oxford plan out the window, I stared at the shirt. And stared at it some more. It hung in my studio for weeks, mocking me. Taunting me. What the hell was I going to do with this sheer iridescent plaid? The fabric was pretty, but I have avoided poly chiffon ever since I made a caftan out of the stuff a few years ago and wore it in Cuba, which was basically like wrapping myself in a sweaty sheer prison harder to escape than Alcatraz.
I realized that in order to come up with a plan of attack, I needed to break it down into usable pieces and take it from there. Half way into deconstructing the shirt, I remembered I had to take a before picture. I pinned it together as best as I could. This is what I was working with:
The shirt was double layered, with a sheer navy poly lining. And boy did it fray. It was essentially decomposing while I was cutting. I tried draping it on my dress form and came up with a few ideas, but all of them involved me wearing poly chiffon close to my skin, an untenable idea after the aforementioned Alcatraz caftan. Luckily, I had recently purchased and printed out the Tessutti Alice pattern (http://www.tessuti-shop.com/products/alice-dress-top-pattern) and realized it would be the perfect choice. I could use some rayon challis in my stash for the yoke, thus avoid having polyester around my sweatiest bits, thus making an actual functional garment I would actually wear, thus saving the refashioning day.
The gathered portion of the Alice top is basically one long rectangle, so I removed the bust darts from the shirt front and did what I could. Unfortunately the front and back pieces were around 3” shorter than the pattern demanded, but I forged ahead, anticipating a little leeway due to the ease of the garment. I used the existing shirt hem and layered the navy poly lining underneath, basting and gathering at the top as if it was one.
Construction was a total snap. While the hem juust squeaks past my hips, I am fairly happy with the final result. I love the armhole bands and shoulder shape of this pattern; the silhouette is old fashioned and modern at the same time.
While I don’t think the transformation is that dramatic, I’m quite pleased to have recycled this poly chiffon beast into something I’ll actually wear. The addition of rayon challis makes it possible on warm days but I suspect this top is something I’ll be more likely to pull out in the fall with a pair of jeans and ankle boots.
Thank you for the challenge Portia! It was a bit of a head scratcher but I think I pulled through. And Dixie, your bolt of revenge iridescent poly chiffon is in the mail and on route to you. I expect your assignment on my desk within a month’s time.
Ha ha! I love the idea of a revenge bolt of fabric winging it’s way to Dixie! What a way to turn something from frump to fab though! Effortlessly cool as ever Heather Lou! A classic and simple shape that I can really see styled up with jeans 70’s styleee. Big chunky cardi , and leather boots like she says. If you’re not using a pattern then lopping off the top portion of a shirt and adding your own yoke is a quick and simple fix to a shirt. But the Alice Pattern that Heather used, well it could almost be made with a shirt refashion in mind! The sleeve and yoke pieces could quite easily be squeezed out of the sleeves of the original shirt and you can choose to flip the original body of the shirt round to create a button back detail! Hmmmm….may have to look into this one myself!
You can find Heather Lou here and shop her pattern range here. She has also very generously added your choice of Closet Case Pattern to the prize package!! Take a look at ALL the amazing prizes to be won as part of The Refashioners 2015 Community Challenge. So get involved for a chance to win!!! Grab a shirt and get refashioning! You have until Sunday 27th Sept to enter! Stay tuned for more inspiration throughout the WHOLE of August!