I’m so excited to show you my project for this year’s Refashioners community challenge. The Refashioners challenge organised by Portia Lawrie was the first community challenge that I participated in when I started my blog four years ago. For a little throw-back you can read about the shirt refashion I did back then here.
This year the theme is “Inspired by” which means that instead of focusing on a specific garment to refashion the aim is to be inspired by a look and then to try and recreate it through refashioning any type of second hand find. Since I have more time for sewing than usual at the moment I decided I wanted to participate again. However, this brief is a tricky one. From years of experience with thrifting I know that it is impossible to go into a thrift store with a specific idea. Instead you need to go in with an open mind and see what’s available. So I went into this challenge with the attitude that I would only participate if I could find something that matched my vision. As soon as the theme was announced I knew exactly which look I wanted to recreate, the Bonnie Young dress that Daisy Ridley wore for her 73 questions interview with Vogue (you can watch it here if you are interested). I’m not really a party dress person, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head. The colour, the shape, the movement; I just loved it. But, would I be able to find something suitable to recreate this look?
I was visiting my sister in Chemnitz when I decided to check out some second hand shops and see what I could find. Amazingly I hit gold in the second shop I went into. This dress below might not look like much but I was perfect:
- Made from a linen viscose mix it would take dye easily and the original fabric already was a grey/green so it wouldn’t distort the forest green colour I was going for.
- It was several sizes too big, which meant that there was room to play around with the fit.
- It had a back zip and other details which I could re-use.
- The skirt was wide enough to create a voluminous ruffle.
The first thing I did was to remove the weird buckles and then throw the whole dress into a forest green dye bath. As expected the fabric took the dye beautifully and it came out in a nice dark green. Next I cut off the top part of the back bodice including the straps. The original dress has a lace up detail on both sides, which I removed, hoping that the bodice would not be too small when sewn back together without it. I hand basted the bodice together and amazingly the bodice fit like a glove (below a picture of the first baste fitting). No further adjustments were necessary, it’s like the dress was made for me! Situations like that are the reason why I love refashioning so much. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to re-use some of the original details of a garment.
The original dress had some lovely piping along the top edge and while I was able to preserve that feature at the front I lost it in the back where I had cut off the top part. So I unpicked the piping from the straps that I wouldn’t be using for anything else and re-sewed the top edge of the back inserting the piping. The straps for this dress are the ties from the original lace-up detail, so no need for making fiddly spaghetti straps, yay!
Next I moved on to the skirt, which I cut in half horizontally, keeping the bottom part for the ruffle. Then I had to make the top part of the skirt more fitted. I was determined to keep the back zip in place so I worked around it. The rest of the skirt, however, was detached from the bodice. I interfaced the skirt section to make sure it would keep the shape and that it would be able to support the weight of the ruffle. Then I added darts in the front and the back, aligning them with the princess seams of the bodice. I joined the side seams and cut off the excess fabric (keeping the leftovers to construct the waistband). Finally, I re-attached the skirt to the bodice, evening out the pointy shape of the front bodice in the original garment.
For the ruffle, I re-stitched the blind hem that was on the original dress as it had started to unravel. For the fringe detail I ran a line of stitching along the top and pulled out the horizontal threads. I didn’t know that making fringes is so much fun; I should definitely add more fringe details to my clothes! To attach the ruffle I hand-basted the gathers in place, using maths to distribute the fabric evenly. While that took longer than using two rows of stitching and pulling the threads to create the gathers, it gave me a lot more control and the gathers turned out nicely.
Since I didn’t have a lot of fabric left over, I had to piece the waistband, matching the seams with the front princess seams. The fringe is made from several strips of fabric that I sandwiched between the waistband and the bodice like a piping. Finally it was time to add the contrast stitch details. I believe the original dress uses some machine top stitching in yellow. However, I was keen to try out the sashiko needles from my Summer of Basics prize package and decided to do the details by hand. With some yellow embroidery floss, I stitched once around the whole waistband and twice along the fringe of the ruffle. When I was done I felt like there was still some detail missing on the waistband so I added two rows of stitching along the mid-line in a dark teal colour.
Et voilà, after many hours of unpicking, fringing and hand stitching I had my final dress. Is it exactly the same as the original? Of course not, I had to work with what I had (the colour doesn’t match exactly, the bottom ruffle isn’t wide enough and I took some creative liberties with the embroidery) but I would say it’s damn close. I squeezed out every centimetre of fabric and only had a small pile of random scraps left over. Also, I re-used as many details of the original dress as I could. So I would call this a big win.
Best of all, the final dress makes me feel as elegant and cool as I imagined it (a clear up-cycle). It’s the perfect amount of ruffle for my taste (However, too much for my husband still. His comment “why is there a curtain at the bottom of the skirt?” Haha.) and I’m surprised by how much I love the fringe and embroidery details. I’m so glad I participated in the Refashioners this year (I hear it might be the last time this is being hosted) and I’m excited to see what everyone else comes up with (the feed for the hashtag #therefashioners2018 on Instagram is already super inspiring). Thanks Portia for, once again, hosting a wonderful event!