crafts · fashion · outfits · Sewing

11-26-2010: thoughts on refashioning

Dress: Thrifted and refashioned/altered

Velvet Jacket: Express, circa 2005

Tights: DKNY (via TJMaxx)

Boots: Nine West outlet

Lately I’ve been doing a great deal of altering/refashioning thrifted clothing.  I took the wardrobe refashion challenge last year, though I didn’t really do much refashioning then.  It’s only since deciding that I don’t like myself in pants that I’ve started to be hardcore about making my thrifted items work.  Before I started sewing I literally had three dresses in my closet.  I’ve worked hard to create a wardrobe that makes me feel good about myself – before, I had too many clothes that I was hiding in!

Occasionally I tell someone about this hobby, and I’m often met with the response “Oh, but alterations are hard!” or “I wouldn’t know how visualize a new look!”  I’m here to tell you that you can do it!  I was afraid of alterations, even after I took up sewing for myself (I know, crazy!)  One day I forced myself to sit down and just try to make it work – and to my surprise it not only wasn’t hard, it was actually fun!

Most of the alterations I make are not hard.  Want the dress shorter?  Mark a new hem and chop it off!  You don’t always have to hand hem – I’m about 50/50, depending on the style of skirt.  On some knits I don’t even use a hem, since they won’t ravel!  The hem is probably my most common alteration.  I like my skirts right above the knee, an alteration which often takes a dress from dowdy to fabulous.  I think everyone has a magic hemline length – the one that almost always works for you.  For some people it’s right below the knee, others shorter than mine.  Heck, maybe you can convince me about a mid-calf hemline.  If you find that magic length it takes some of the guesswork out of hemming.

My second most common alteration is to take in the side seams.  I will buy a dress or skirt up to 3 sizes too large.  In fact, too large is always safer than too small, if you can’t try the item on (or don’t want to… it was madness at the thrift store today with a 50% off clothing sale on!)  Any bigger than a 2-3 inch alteration and you’re looking at shaping issues, though I’ve seen some ladies really make it work (see: New Dress a Day.)

And in the event of a large dress?  Belts are magic.  Seriously.  Let me tell you about the dress in today’s outfit.  I bought it last Sunday.  It’s Faded Glory, which is a Wal-mart brand.  Usually I avoid wal-mart clothes because the quality is awful, but I go this since it was 100% cotton and plaid!  When I got it inside out I realized it was terribly sewn – loose serger thread all over the place, exposed elastic in the sleeves, half the hem machine stitched in red thread for some reason etc.  It had a really sad little self-fabric belt, which was actually sewn to the dress twisted (perhaps why it was donated?)  I removed the belt and the belt loops – I like my belts wide, and those loops wouldn’t help a bit!  Then I loosened the hem and restitched it with a more appropriate thread color.  I didn’t have to shorten the dress this time.  I took in the side seams by 2 inches total (so, I sewed the side seams 1/2 inch in from the serged stitching on each side.)  I left the sleeves alone because they seemed small.  After that it wasn’t exactly fitted, but it’s not that sort of dress – time for belting!

I used to have a major case of belt phobia.  It has required some intensive therapy to cure myself!  I recommend trying all different types of belts.  I like to buy them cheaply – Forever 21 is my favorite!  They can be thrifted, but I don’t have the greatest luck finding them in decent shape.  I prefer elastic backed belts, but that’s a personal issue – I find them easier to sing in.  I also find that I like really wide belts, and I like to belt a bit higher than my waist.  Experiment with different types and widths, wear them in different places, and you will find what works for you!

I’m wearing three different shades of purple today.  We went to a second Thanksgiving at my in-laws, and my MIL loves purple.  It’s one of my favorite colors too.  We got to see my niece (they live in Wisconsin – the last time I saw her she wasn’t talking yet, and today she knew my name!)  She spent all evening pointing at my tights… perhaps the sign of a fashionista in training?  Or just that she likes purple more likely!

I hope some of you feel inspired to try some alterations.  I haven’t touched on more complicated changes, but I will later on!  I’m going to start taking before photos of my refashions, and hopefully I can give a little inspiration.  I know that all the fabulous refashions online have been a great help to me!

4 thoughts on “11-26-2010: thoughts on refashioning

  1. Well, well, the things I learn from your blog… just amazing. I have belt phobia, indeed I only wear one if it’s absolutely necessairy to hold up my pants, never have I worn one as a fashion accessory. I must look into that… 🙂

  2. Your outfit is gorgeous as usual. You are definitely right about hemlines; some of us have nice knees and some of us have knock knees, etc. Your hemline is perfect for you.

  3. I think you should get a blind hemmer, if you find yourself doing a lot of hems on wovens to refashion them. Mine was under $300 on and it makes such a perfect hem!

  4. Lovely post, I really enjoyed it and I’m sure it will encourage many potential refashioners to give it a whirl. As you say, the simplest changes like raising a hem or adding a belt can radically alter the look of a garment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts xxx

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