The weather has started to turn a bit. It's chilly - by no means is it winter coat weather yet (although I have seen a lot of that this week) but the season does feel like it's starting to turn and that always sends my emotions into turmoil. That's at least partly because I really hate having to wear layers and tights and winter coats - I'll be clinging desperately to my open-toed shoes for a while yet! So tonight I'm going to show you a project I worked on a few weeks ago, when the weather was still reliably warm.
It's not a new dress - this is a refashioned dress! Now I must admit, I'm not much of a one for refashioning or altering clothes. I'm always really impressed when I see others do it, but I kind of lack the patience to do it myself. Over the last year, most of my handmade dresses from the beginning of 2013 have been gradually packed away because they're now too big. I've given some away to friends and to the charity shop, but there are a fair few that I'm very attached to and I'm slowly working my way through altering them to fit my current size. One of them is the first By Hand London Elisalex dress I made - the Feckin' Birds dress. I love the Michael Miller fabric I used to make this dress, which I bought from Fabric.com, and it's been a source of some regret to me to have it packed away. Back at the end of June or beginning of July I took it apart and refashioned it, and I'm pleased to say that it's part of my wearable wardrobe again!
Refashion alert! Feckin Birds dress, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes and Ollie and Nic apple bag
So. Because the dress had sleeves and is partially lined, it wasn't really possible to alter the dress by just taking it in up the side seams. I've done this with a few other too-big dresses (both handmade and shop-bought) and while it's not the most elegant alteration it has worked really well where I have tried it. Anyway. That was a no go here. So I took the whole thing apart and started again, kind of from scratch. I decided that, beautiful and all as the sleeves are - and man, I was SO proud of them at the time - that this dress was going to get more wear as a sleeveless dress. So I re-sewed the bodice and the bodice lining, and attached them using the old burrito method so it was all neat and tidy. I thought I'd try something a bit different with the skirt and, rather than recreating the box pleats, I gently gathered the skirt. It's still tulip-shaped - which you can see more evidently in real life than in these photos - but it has a slightly different look to it now. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about how successful this change was because it does blouse out a little bit and it probably could be more flattering.
But, you know, whether or not something is 100% flattering 100% of the time is really not of huge concern to me and, as it is, this skirt has lots of room for a big dinner. On the night these photos were taken, we went out for dinner and cocktails with friends, followed by prosecco and maltesers in the park, followed by champagne and sweets in our living room. It did well on all scores.
The other change I made was to take a couple of inches off the skirt. The midi length worked when the skirt was pleated, but it just looked all kinds of wrong when I gathered the skirt.
The finished article isn't perfect: it's a little boxy in the bodice because I was feeling chubby when I remade this dress, basically, and rather than re-cutting the bodice pieces using the correct size, I just sewed them back together with extra large seam allowances. It's fine - and in fact, the extra ease made this dress cool and comfortable to wear when the weather was humid - but I know it would have looked better if I had taken a slightly different route when sewing it. Still: I'm calling this a win because I loved this dress, and I'm really really glad to have it back in rotation. This fabric is still one of my favourite prints.
Rescuing this dress has inspired me with a few other too-big dresses and I have a dismantled Lobsterlex dress awaiting the same treatment, probably over the weekend. Alterations are tedious but, having spent time and money and poured love into making these dresses, it's totally worth taking the time to give them a second life.
This photo doesn't show you anything new about the dress. But Nic tried to take about 7 photos of me on these alternative steps, and I had my eyes closed in every single one. I think mainly here I was thinking about the dinner and cocktails that were ahead of me and I was blissing out about the whole thing.
Anyway - that's my refashioned dress! I can't say I'm going to get into refashioning in a big way - I find the lure of the bright, shiny and new a bit too hard to resist - but this was undeniably satisfying. I love my dress.
...me after a night on the cocktails, prosecco, champagne and fizzy laces...