Re-fash-ion. verb \(ˌ)rē-ˈfa-shən\
: To remake, to alter.
Example of usage:
I refashioned that dress into a skirt.
I am not a great seamstress. Traditional patterns, in all their tissue papery, multi-line goodness, tend to overwhelm me. I have trouble sewing armhole facings. I get intimidated by zippers and buttonholes. For all these reasons, I tend to be a “refashioner” rather than a “sew from scrapper.” As I understand it, refashioning clothes means seeing the potential in an existing garment to become something better — whether in terms of fit, embellishment, or a full on genre switch.
I don’t always have tutorials with all of my refashions because many of them evolve organically or I’m so full of trepidation when I start that I forget all about optimistically taking pictures in case things turn out! Still, I think that ultimately refashioning is starts with a state of mind. With some vision, rudimentary sewing skills, and a little help from our friend Google, transforming an existing so-so garment into something you really enjoy is both doable and rewarding.
Interested in extending or revamping your wardrobe through refashioning? Here’s a few tips and resources to get you started!
“Seeing potential in your “before” garment:
I have two kinds of “before” garments: ones that I resurrect from my closet and ones that I purchase with intent-to-refashion. I find many of my “before” garments when I’m doing my semi-annual closet purge and trying to be objective about items I haven’t worn in recent memory. Then, there’s a good number of my “before” garments have been clearance or thrift store purchases. The low cash output on the front end makes me more willing to experiment and less heartbroken if it doesn’t work out.
What usually happens in the latter scenario is that I’ll end up pulling a dress or pants or something off of the rack with the unreasonable expectation that it will be PERFECT. And cost less than $7. Of course, once the hanger comes completely off the rack, I’ll realize that what I thought was a top is actually a dress, that the pants are too short, etc.
In either case, here are a few questions to ask to determine a “before” garment’s potential to become a refashion “after”:
- Why was I drawn to this item in the first place? Was it the print? The color? The stitching detail on the hem?
- What about this is not working for me?
- Is it a fit issue? Too long, too short, too wide, gaping waistband, waist in the wrong place, no shape, etc.
- Given my level of sewing skills, is this something that I can fix?
- Keeping all of that in mind, what can I do that preserves the part of the garment I like and addresses the parts that I don’t?
Several years ago, I picked up a black, 100% cotton strapless dress from Wet Seal, of all places, for $10. It fit me well, it hit at the knee (which was a shocker, since it came from a junior’s store), and it had a fun, pleated skirt. Well, turns out that black strapless cotton sundresses don’t really have many opportunities to come into play in my normal life demands. I wore it to a an outdoor beer festival, a picnic, and once I tried layering something underneath it, but didn’t really like the vibe all that much. I realized that what I did like about it was the skirt, and I even blogged it once, wearing the dress as a skirt. So…I chopped off the bodice, leaving enough behind to create a wide waistband with a seam allowance, saved the zipper, pressed and hemmed the raw edge, and voila! A full black skirt that has already added a delicious new proportion to my wardrobe.
Another 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 the nifty hem detail of multiple, parallel lines of stitching. And, there were pockets! What I didn’t like about the dress included the fact that the color was not very flattering by my face and the whole thing ended up being too bunched and too short when belted. So, the refashioning mission? Save the bottom part of the dress. The answer? Make it into a straight-ish skirt with an elastic waist and paper bag effect. Better fit, better length, better look overall.
My refashions have included:
- Making a skirt from a pair of jeans
- “Skinny-ing” jeans (see video link in post for a useful tutorial)
- A draped sleeve, knee-length dress from a sleeveless maxi dress (full tutorial)
- Adding a skirt (with pockets!) to a tank top (full tutorial)
- Shortening trousers into bermudas
- Shortening trousers into winter shorts
- Lengthening a skirt (explanation included)
- Making a paper bag waist skirt from a dress (explanation included)
- Adding wide straps to a spaghetti strap dress (explanation included)
- Embellishing a cardigan with appliques (full tutorial)
- Making a full skirt from a strapless dress
- “Editing down” an embellished cardigan and repurposing the embellishments elsewhere.
- And, most recently, lengthening a dress
Some useful off-site tutorials on basic refashioning skills:
- Taking in jeans at the side seams
- Taking in jeans from the back (and part II)
- How to hem jeans the easy way
- How to make ruffles
- How to sew an invisible zipper (doable, but still scary to me!)
- How to skinny jeans
What resources have you found to be most helpful when you’re refashioning? How do you determine the refashionability quotient of a garment?