Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Another of the shirt/skirt merges to make a plus-sized dress. This was a case where I used a skirt that had a very dramatic pattern but paired it with a fairly dull man’s shirt and they balanced each other out to make a professional looking dress.deco2

The base shirt was a men’s 3X, so it needed very little widening at the bottom and fit loosely around my chest and upper arms.

The skirt had a small waistband but flared out to a full bottom and had a strong pattern. In this case, I was able to figure out what length I wanted the finished dress to be, which was to my knees. I cut the skirt off at the length I needed and then measured it’s running length. That gave me how much I had to open the bottom of the shirt. Long triangles were made out of the top section of the skirt and were inserted into the sides of the shirt below the waist. (If I’d wanted to push up the formal look of this one, I could have put in some fitting darts above the waist but since my life is mostly casual, I opted for a more relaxed fit) The bottom of the shirt was cut to a straight line and has a simple folded seam over the top edge of the skirt cut-off.deco4

The sleeves were cut off at just below my elbow and then I made simple straight cuffs for them out of the leftover skirt top.

It was still looking a bit dull so the existing pocket was taken off and replaced with more of the skirt scraps. Using a piece from the top waistband gave a nice finished edge to the top.deco5

The collar was removed and then closed to make a simple mandarin look. I was lucky to have a set of buttons in a turquoise that matched the skirt so they were swapped in to tie it all together!

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This was one of the simpler attempts I made of the shirt dresses. I had a men’s plaid shirt to start and paired it with a hand-dyed cotton tier skirt. The skirt had a knit waistband and while small at the top, had a widely flared bottom.


The shirt was tight around the waist but fit fine on the arms. In this case, I kept it basic and cut the arms to just above the elbow. To finish them, the skirt’s waistband was removed, cut in half and then attached to the sleeve ends. The knit was pulled slightly when sewn to fit it to sleeves. This gives a bit of soft gathers on them.


The top section of the skirt was also cut off, just leaving the bottom tier. The side seams of the shirt were cut out and large triangles taken from the skirt top were added in to open it up. (the lighter colours of the skirt top were a much closer match to the shirt than the bottom tier of the skirt) The bottom edge of the shirt was also cut to a straight line. The skirt had a rougher style and that was retained by sewing the skirt bottom around the bottom of the widened shirt with it’s top, raw edge still exposed.


The collar was left alone but I did change the buttons to fun teal ones that matched some of the skirt colours. The soft, floaty skirt fabric, knit cuffs, bright plaid and rough seams give this a much more casual look than many of the other dresses but it is also lighter and is really comfortable in warmer temps.

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Men’s plaid shirts are so comfortable that I love making them into dresses. I had one that was red and grey that was such a great match to a soft, light sweater that I had to try combining them. Both were too small for me but I thought I’d be able to make them into something my size. The sweater was quite small, but a soft, fine cashmere mix.

In my usual fashion, the long sleeves were cut off to elbow length and the sides seams were also cut away, all the way to the end of the bottom of the sleeves. The sleeves were widened by inserting part of the removed forearms. The cuffs were reattached to the bottoms of the sleeves and the rest of the sleeve finished with a rolled hem.


To widen the sides, panels were inserted from the sweater. They were cut from the upper sections of the front and back and folded over to join them to the bottom falls. I do not have an over-locking sewing machine, so had no way to do that style of sewn seams for knits. I got around this by using the existing cuffed edges of the sweater along the bottom of the dress. The front and back lower panels and the sleeves gave me enough in total to almost fill the new size. The last leftover bits of the shirt sleeves were used to fill in the rest and add detail to the front.


While this dress is very soft, warm and cosy, the pull of the soft gathers of the sweater cuffs, along the bottom, and the cuff details in the front don’t look great when worn. In the end, I sewed the front edges closed and this is now one of my mothers favourite nightgowns. I haven’t done much more with incorporating sweaters after this piece.

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After having had success with using a salvaged skirt and men’s shirt to make a plus-sized dress, I started making more. They were very comfortable and I liked how it was possible to keep them more casual or dress them up, depending on the base parts used. This was one of the more casual ones I’ve done so far. The base shirt was a brown plaid and was Abercrombie and Fitch. (I used it because I really liked the plaid fabric but it gives me a special joy to be a fat woman in one of their pieces since it bothers their fat-phobic CEO) A light cotton embroidered skirt was a perfect colour match so I used it, even though it was almost too small to work.(there were a couple of cheats I used to squeak by with it)


A and F runs small on their sizing (shocking, I know) so even with it being a large, the men’s shirt was too small in the arms but at least it was long-sleeved. The arms were cut to elbow length and then the side seams cut out, including down what was left of the arms. The leftover sleeve pieces were attached to the bottom of the arms to widen them and the cuffs attached at the bottom, along with a bit a rolled hem to finish.


The skirt was so small that I wasn’t able to take any length for the side inserts. It was however lined with a light cotton in the same colour. Since the dress would be worn over leggings, keeping the lining wasn’t necessary so it was removed and I used it for the side widening panels.


The skirt had most of it’s embroidery detailing along the bottom and I only wanted to add about 8” of length so was able to use the most interesting part of the skirt. There was a minor problem in that the run of the shirt bottom came in a bit shorter than the enlarged bottom of the shirt. I didn’t want to shorten the bottom to get more fabric, and even if I had been willing, it wasn’t gathered enough that I’d be able to make the shortfall anyway. Luckily, the leftover top section was also just over 8” long and there was one section that had the embroidered flowers over it so I was able to get the needed 16” or so from it. The original bottom hem was a simple rolled one so duplicating it on the added section was easy too!

The shirt already had great contrasting white buttons, so in this case I left them.

The light-weight fabrics make this dress very comfortable in warm weather. It has a casual vibe but is dressy enough that it’s fine for wearing when I’m helping people in the gallery. (I also used some of the scraps to make a cute, co-ordinate bow hair clip)


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After making a prototype plus-sized 20’s flapper style dress for myself from some scarves and a refashioned skirt, I felt confident about trying another and using the “better” scarf. What I liked about it was that it had a very period appropriate, Art Deco pattern and sparkly details. I’d also found a black satin, tiered skirt to use for the bottom.

Having had a trial run at the design, I knew exactly the length I needed for the front and back panels of the dress. This scarf was a bit shorter than the “practice” one, but was the same width. I still cut from the middle, but this meant there was a bit less left-over for the sleeves.


To finish the top, the cut seams were sewn together to close the shoulders. I then cut out the neckline, working around what looked good with the pattern and my comfort. The scarf looks like silk but is polyester, so I was able to finish the edges of the neck-line by careful burning. This is a great trick when it works but you MUST do fabric tests before risking a bigger piece. It’s also important to keep safety in mind at all times when setting fabric on fire!


The sides were done with pieces of a fine black crepe from the stash. I used the same fabric for most of the sleeves but was able to edge the top of the sleeve slits with what came out of the middle of the scarf. A vintage black button with a white rhinestone, closed each sleeve slit.

A pretty black silk burnout scarf was used to make up the dropped waistline. It had beaded details on each end as well as long beaded fringe and a pair of small black fur balls on each end. All of these were perfect for the period and I wanted to show them off as much as possible. To do so, I figured out how much I’d need of the ends to get the look of a knot and some swing. Those pieces were cut from each end. The centre piece was then roughly hand-sewn down to a strip of black satin along the top and bottom edges. The satin was slightly narrower than the scarf so it has some bag and movement, to further sell the look of the waistband being a scarf. The centre wasn’t long enough to cover the whole waistband but I had another black silk scarf and I was able to cheat and use it on the back. The removed ends of the scarf were shaped into a knot and then hand- stitched back on to the waistband.


The light satin skirt that was chosen for the bottom started with 3 tiers of fabric. The top tier was too small to use so it was taken off. The gathering along the top of the second tier was really helpful because it made it very easy to exactly match the width to the bottom of the waistband. I just had to let the gathering out enough to line them up! Losing the top layer also kept the length from being too long. It came to below the knee on me, but would be almost floor length for a shorter person.


We had some beaded trim in our supply stash that not only matched the beading on the waist scarf, but also tied into the bead and sequin details on the skirt! A line of the trim was added between the top and waist and again between the waist and the bottom skirt. There was also a fine fringe on the main body scarf that was left and it falls over to further accent the beading.

This design came together very quickly with the waistband details being the most complicated sewing involved. The finished dress has great swing and flow and is light and comfortable to wear. There is still the issue of the burnout in the velvet being see-through but I just wore a camisole under it and that worked perfectly. I realized after you could tie in any other colours you wanted by wearing a close-fitting tank or even long-sleeved shirt underneath and it would show through.

I made a headpiece to go with it, but that will get it’s own post.

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I wanted to keep trying some new shirt refashioning design concepts and this was one of the more experimental shirts. It started with a very plain grey shirt, in a polo style. I mixed it with a pair of small men’s shirts that both had some teal and black in their patterns. A small length of fabric in black and white was added in as well.

The central grey shirt was cut right up the side seams and the sleeves fully removed. The collar was also taken off and a v-shaped yoke cut in.

Large, roughly diamond shaped pieces were added to the sides. The tops were not pointed but flat, to enlarge the arm holes. I put in one of each of the donor patterns and let the bottom points extend below the hem of the central shirt.

Big, blousey sleeves were made using the donor plaid shirts. Each one had a large strip of the black and white fabric as the top with the plaid along the bottom. They were gathered slightly into salvaged cuffs with a rolled hem space between the edges. The contrasting cuff was used for each sleeve and the sleeves contrast with the side inserts. (so the sides and cuffs match)

The drama level of what was done to this point meant that the neckline needed to stand up so a large ruffle was made from the black and white fabric which was soft and flowy. There was enough of the darker plaid left to edge the inside of the neck and tie it all together.

This turned out to be a little too busy, even for me, but it was a possible way to use smaller amounts of fabrics. The other flaw was that the lighter plaid fabric wasn’t wash-and-wear, but needed ironing after every wash. That was too much trouble and this one didn’t end up getting worn very much.


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Having succeeded with my first refashion of a men’s shirt to a skirt graft, I was looking to make another plus-sized dress in the same style. The second attempt started with a men’s 3X plaid shirt. While it was in mint condition, the dullness of the colours had kept me from using it as one of the basic tunic tops. A pretty little black linen skirt looked to be a good match so I put them together. The skirt was quite small, a 6 or 8, but had a very wide flare to the bottom so I was able to keep around 8” and still have the top edge line up with my shirt hem. I really liked that the skirt looks like it has a couple of layers due to the edging of black eyelet lace on it’s bottom.

There was enough room in the shirt that I was able to do some shaping around the waist. I put in a pair of darts below the breast-line as well as taking in the side seams slightly at the waist. This was done before altering the rest of the shirt.

Once the waist shaping was done, I cut out the side seams to just below where I’d come in at the waist. Then, a pair of triangle inserts were cut from the skirt fabric and sewn in. They give both some accent to the sides and a bit more swing to the hemline.


The bottom of the shirt was cut to a straight line, folded over and sewn down to the skirt cut-off.

The shirt was more than wide enough on the arms so they were simply cut off at 3/4 length.

It was starting to look pretty dressy at this point so I decided to run with it. I had a black silk velvet scarf in the stash and used it to both trim the sleeves and make a new top for the collar. As before, the original collar was removed and used as a pattern for the replacement. In this case, I wanted a bit more drama to it, so I kept the same shape at the bottom of the collar but expanded it at the top. To do it, I traced the original on some craft paper and then sketched out some possibles. Once I had something I liked, I folded it over and cut the second side to make sure they matched. Since the new pattern had stayed the same at the bottom, it fitted perfectly. Black interfacing was needed, due to the transparency of the silk velvet.


Finally, a set of fancy buttons finish the look. While they look great, they are a bit too big to fit through the buttonholes so the front was sewn down and the buttons sewn into place over their buttonholes. Making them completely decorative was optional but the sew-down should prevent future ironing problems.


(I want to mention that while the pictures make it look like the skirt is significantly lighter than the collar and trim, it really isn’t. I had to fade the pictures out a bit so you could see any detail on the skirt due to the intensity of it’s blackness!)


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Realizing that I was moving towards more complex clothing modifications, I started collecting a broader range of “donor” items. This was also during the days of occasional deep discounts at our local thrift store. While my collecting looked (and was) kinda random, I was still sticking to a few basic guidelines.

Starting pieces for me need to be (in no order):

  • good quality fabric that feels nice (there is no point in investing your valuable time in low quality materials)
  • in a limited colour range that suits me
  • generally at least a “large” or “XL” size and preferably long sleeved.
  • a fabric type that is reasonable to both sew as well as wash and wear
  • cheap enough that I can accept the risk of failure/loss
  • not too damaged or worn/faded
  • built in such a way that it can be fairly easily remade. (Simple, boxy/flowy things with few seams are much easier to work with than detailed, fitted items made up from many small pieces.)

There will always be a few exceptions here and there, but I’ve mostly stuck to these limits.

The basic colour palette was especially helpful in that, over time it meant that I started to have pieces coordinating with other. Much like my prior assemblage art work, once the stash got to a certain size, I was able to start matching things up from it. One pair, a skirt and shirt, lead me to make the first of a dress style I’ve come to really like.

men's shirt before being refashioned

I have not been good about taking “before” pictures but I did grab a few (terrible) ones so you can see one pair that was matched in the stash. A dark taupe basic men’s XL shirt and a plus sized linen skirt. While the skirt was in a size that would fit me. I don’t like short ones and would not wear it as is.


The base shirt was a pretty good fit on the top for me. The top of the arms didn’t bind and it had room across the chest but was too tight around the hips and it was also shorter than I wanted.

The base skirt was short but had a full, flounced bottom that was able to provide all the additional length I wanted. I cut into it just above the edge of the flouncing and opened one of the vertical seams. I then measured the length of skirt I had and figured out how much I could widen the sides of the top.

Measuring the bottom hem of the shirt and subtracting that from my skirt length and dividing what was left by 2 gave me the bottom edge of a triangle insert into the side seams of the shirt. I was able to make those inserts from the rest of the skirt leftovers, but had to piece them. At least the fabric pattern was forgiving!

a fat woman wearing a plus- sized dress upcycled from a men's shirt and a salvaged skirt

The opened edge of the vertical seams on the skirt were both folded over and finished and then the whole thing was added to the bottom of the expanded top. The donor shirt had a straight bottom hem so I just set the raw skirt edge behind and sewed them together that way so it has a very clean look with a single line of stitching.

plus-sized dress made from refashioned shirt and skirt

I was very happy with how it was coming together and decided it was worth investing a bit more work. I had been able to remove the skirts waistband intact and was able to use it to edge the sleeves, which had been shortened to my preferred 1/2 length. There was also just enough of the skirt left that I could replace the top of the collar. The trick to making that work is to remove the existing one and use it as the pattern for the replacement. (we also had scored a bag of assorted interfacing so I had lots of bits on hand) The last thing was to swap out the buttons for some vintage mother-of-pearl circles.

The finished dress is very comfy with great range of movement but still reads a casually dressy and it has a lovely swish to it’s bottom that makes me happy.

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