Weekend Workshop: E.’s Guide to Refashioning

February 5th, 2011 § 13 comments

Target dress before Paper bag waist

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!

9 April 2010 28 June 2010

“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?

For example:

In Which I Resemble a Christmas Ornament

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.

11 June 2010 - Two Ways Target dress before

My refashions have included:

Cardi Before 9 November 2010 - Grellowvy
16 December 2010 - Oh Hi There

Some useful off-site tutorials on basic refashioning skills:

What resources have you found to be most helpful when you’re refashioning? How do you determine the refashionability quotient of a garment?

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§ 13 Responses to Weekend Workshop: E.’s Guide to Refashioning"

  1. Sarah says:

    Love it! i can relate to so many of the things you said in this post! And that gray dress to skirt is so well done.

  2. Rachael says:

    Do you do most of your refashioning sewing with a machine? I own a 1970s Singer sewing machine that came with a manual, except that the pages are water damaged and all stuck together! I don’t know how to use a sewing machine well enough to justify buying a new one (hopefully with more automated features than the old one) but I can’t learn if I don’t get a newer machine! I feel like my refashioning attempts would be much more successful with a machine than the wonky stitches I produce by hand.

    • admin says:

      I agree with Beth! My mom had a 1970s Singer, and that’s what I learned to sew on. Steady and reliable. I bet you could find a manual either online or on eBay. Or, see if your local sewing store has a class where you can get the basics and then figure out how to translate them to your own, older machine.

      I have a simple, non-digital Janome machine, and it serves my simple purposes more than adequately.

  3. Beth says:

    Rachael- Don’t let go of that machine! I bet you can find a manual on-line or better yet, there might be a class you can go to. The old singers are the BEST…my mom has a ’70s singer and she bought me a new one. In three months I have broken and replaced it twice in normal garment making.

    E- I love all these tuts. One of my favs of yours has been the winter shorts tut. I used that to it’s full advantage.

  4. Alisha says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, E. I just started sewing a few months ago, and refashioning is something I enjoy doing.

  5. Annelise says:

    I have that target dress!!! The lack of a waist is seriously killing me. I got it for $4 so maybe I will refashion it into a skirt…

  6. A-C says:

    I love this! My favorite re-fashion that I’ve ever done is take a pair of jeans and turn them into a denim skirt. I’ve thought of doing the cardigan + applique tutorial but the cardigan that I have is way too shapeless for it to work. Any idea on how to make a short shapeless cardigan less shapeless?

  7. AJ says:

    I love all of your refashions! It makes me feel inspired to go do some refashioning myself and see what potential I have just sitting around in my closet. Great post!

  8. Nanne says:

    This is such a great post, and I really feel inspired to refashion some garments that are just sitting in my closet. First will be making a dress into a skirt, and then I’ll take in a pair of jeans, thus prolonging its life. Thanks!

  9. Alisha says:

    Great post! I am a serial refashioner myself; in fact, my blog is dedicated to that alone.

  10. [...] Why not try refashioning them into items you’d re-incorporate into your wardrobe? Check out E’s Guide to Refashioning for some great tips and [...]

  11. [...] of a good sale, but I’ve also rediscovered my love of thrifting and uncovered a penchant for refashioning existing garments and helping to organize clothing swaps. S., L., A., and I all have different personal convictions [...]

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