23 May 2010 – Paper bagging it

May 24th, 2010 § 25 comments

22 May 2010 – Paper bagging it, originally uploaded by academichic.


  • Navy tank: Target
  • Earrings: Wet Seal
  • Belt: Gap Outlet
  • Ring: c/o La La B
  • Skirt: refashioned from a Target sack dress
  • Wedges: Naturalizers, via DSW

End Notes:

Last week was my “week off” for the summer. Nothing to turn in. No meetings to attend. No need to go on campus except to return my piles of library books. Baby e. and I had a fun week of gardening, visiting the art museum and zoo, and shopping. I also had time to do a couple of garment re-fashions that I’ve been wanting to finish for a while.

This paper bag waist skirt was one of my projects. I saw this gray dress on the Target clearance rack a month or two ago for $4. That’s right, $4. Two of my sisters-in-law actually own this dress in other colors, and it looks terribly cute on them, so I figured that I would snatch up this gray version and try it on once I got home.

Target dress before, originally uploaded by academichic.

Once I did try it on, I realized it was all wrong on me. Too short. Not that flattering of a color near my face. Too bunchy when belted. But rather than returning it, I thought I’d try to take advantage of the parts of the dress I did like — the pockets and the hem detail — and refashion it into an elastic waist skirt.

So I did.

Paper bag waist, originally uploaded by academichic.

(And will you forgive me the wrinkles, since we took these photos after returning home from a picnic?)

It was a fairly simple refashion. I cut across the dress just under the armholes, pulled out the zipper, and sewed the back seam closed. I turned over the raw edge 1/4″ then folded it over 2″ to create the wide top hem for the “paper bag” effect. Since I didn’t have enough length to create a casing for the elastic below the 2″ top hem, I sewed a wide ribbon in a coordinating color onto the skirt, just below the 2″ seam and left an opening through which I could thread my elastic. (You can’t see the casing in these pictures since I’m wearing a belt.) I took some pictures of the process, but I don’t think they serve that well as a tutorial since the directions are so specific to the particular garment I began with.

But what I will suggest is that if you are interested in the idea of refashioning clothes — taking an existing garment and changing it into something special or entirely different — then you must check out the Wardrobe Refashion blog. Basically, Wardrobe Refashion is a community of folks who have pledged (for different lengths of time) to not buy any new clothes in favor of thrifting or creating their own garments. (See the rules here.) The result? An aggregation of lots and lots of folks posting their creative re-imaginings of garments from their closets and fabric from their stashes. Although not all posts have related tutorials, the sheer volume of creativity and vision evidenced by these crafty folks is enough to get me seeing the potential of existing garments to become something entirely different.

I really love this idea of seeing something new in something old, of capitalizing on the good points and good craftsmanship of an existing garment to create something new-to-you. I’m not capable of a fancy waistband with zipper, for example, so I turned a pair of jeans into a skirt. I’m not confident enough to sew an entire knit dress, but I sure can turn a belt into a pair of wider straps. And I may not have the steady hand to create even hem details or to make inset pockets, but I can chop up a shift dress and turn it into a high-waisted skirt. For me, re-fashioning is a prime creative outlet, enabling me to create something from not-quite-raw material.

La La B Ring, originally uploaded by academichic.

22 May 2010 – Paper bagging it, originally uploaded by academichic.


§ 25 Responses to 23 May 2010 – Paper bagging it"

  1. Melanie says:

    Your blog post title totally reminded me of my favorite children’s book “The Paper Bag Princess.” Perfect skirt for outsmarting dragons!

  2. Clare says:

    Oh E., the final outcome is so gorgeous!! As I read this post I started brainstorming about all the pieces I have that don’t fit quite right that I might be able to alter. I also really love the simplicity of the final outfit!

  3. Ris says:

    I just love this skirt! Bravo!

  4. Sally says:

    Wow, E, way to go! The refashioned skirt looks fantastic.

  5. Madeline says:

    I really like the paperbag look. This turned out awesome!

  6. Licia says:

    Creative and perfectly lovely.

  7. Angeline says:

    That’s awesome. I love your tutorials!

  8. charlotte says:

    Absolutely lovely!
    I was a bit disappointed to see all the drama over at Wardrobe Refashion – I would love to contribute my refashions but that atmosphere is not what I’m looking to incorporate in my life… it’s a bit odd to build a community around not spending money and then announce that you’re going to start charging money for the community.
    At any rate the blog led me to some wonderful Flickr groups in which I hope to find the inspiration without the lamentations of betrayal. Thank you!
    Your refashion looks wonderful and you shouldn’t be afraid of the zipper, just ‘frog stitch’ (as they say) along the placket and shorten to your new length. Next time (if you want). I think that’s the other upside to upcycling, so many opportunities to try new things with minimal outlay in cash.

    I’m too wordy, so here’s my summary: Well done!

  9. Franca says:

    looks fantastic, great job!

  10. angie~* says:

    Looks lovely! I love the part above the belt. So cute!

  11. Elle Sees says:

    This turned out cute!

  12. Joy says:

    I love all the tutorials you gals have. Thanks!

  13. Kaitlyn says:

    Awesome! I have that same dress in green that I’ve been not wearing for forever because it’s just been too much green. I’ve been saying that the top half is the whole problem but I never thought to cut it off. Maybe I have a project for this weekend.

  14. Holly says:

    Your skirt looks fantastic! Way to go.

  15. Those Tricks says:

    nice save!
    looks really cute.

  16. design_SMITH says:

    I LOVE this skirt – what a steal, $4 and a little easy sewing. I ought to get to the Target sale rack.

  17. Diana says:

    What a great refashion! I love paper bag waist skirts, although it took me a while to come around to them, and they are surprisingly flattering once you figure out what tops go with them. I’ve actually recently been contemplating turning some too-long, weirdly fitting skirts into paper bag skirts – since I’m short waisted and an hourglass/pear shape, most skirts want to ride up over my waist anyway, so why not make it deliberate?

  18. Bonnie says:

    Wardrobe Refashion is a neat concept. I guess I’ve been following it without realizing it–I think the only new clothes I’ve bought in the past 2 months were for a job interview, which is exempted from the rules. Everything else was pre-loved or handmade.

  19. Future Lint says:

    Awesome! I have a few tent/smock dresses that I thought I could make work, but I’ve just accepted the fact that they look terrible on me. Now I can fix them! Such a great and easy idea!

  20. wow, totally impressed! will have to add this to my growing list of projects that seem doable, even for me.

  21. Michelle says:

    Weird. Such a timely post. I have this dress in green, and I believe I have only worn it once. It’s way too short and way too billowy for my petite frame. Just the other day I was thinking of how I could recreate it. I would love to see your detailed picture tutorial…since I’m working with the exact same dress! :)

  22. [...] Target Black belt: Charlotte Russe Brown belt (below): Gap Outlet Skirt: refashioned from a Target clearance dress Sandals: Target Orange pumps (below): Dolce Vita, via Sole [...]

  23. Beth says:

    I had two of those Target dresses handed down to me and eventually just gave them to Goodwill. Your refashion looks great!

  24. [...] Paper bag skirt via Academichic. I did this using the exact same dress from Target. This is now one of my favorite pieces. [...]

  25. [...] example would be the dress-to-skirt refashion I did from a shapeless dress plucked from Target’s clearance. What drew me to that item was [...]

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