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Posts Tagged ‘refashion’

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.

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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.

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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.

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(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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While I was getting more comfortable with making shirt dresses, which I’ll be showing, I also wanted to keep trying some new things. The success rates for some of these varies, but I learned from making the attempts so figure it’s worth sharing them.

For a while, our local thrift store would mark older items down severely, so I was able to collect a number of pieces to play with for practically free. Several of what I made from them were more about trying to see what was possible more than expecting to get wearable items out of them. This sweater is one of the experimentals. The starting sweater was far too small for me but coordinated perfectly with a (also too small) plaid shirt.

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To make a plus-sized shirt it would have been possible to simply cut straight up the side and widen it and the sleeve together, but I wanted to see if they could be done in such a way that it looked a bit more like a design choice rather than simple enlargement. To do it, I cut up the side seams and fully removed the arms. (I often find that cutting out the seams is a better use of your time than ripping them. This is especially relevant when the seam has been overlock sewn as these were)

Panels were added to sides and another pair with equal width, at the top, was added to the sleeve. For the sleeve pieces, I cut down the middle of the top and added the plaid fabric in there. The sweater was knit, so to do an easy finish for the sleeve ends I added a band of the plaid. This gave it an even more finished look and prevented the ripple you can get from sewing knitted fabrics. (I also don’t have a Serger so this is one workaround)

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The sweater also had a turtleneck. It was too tight and I’m not fond of them so I cut a scoop neckline and grafted in the top of the plaid shirt. To do the graft, I cut the plaid part much larger and fitted it into the opening I wanted and then cut off the extra from the seam once it was in. It’s vital that you make sure you keep the grafted part with a big enough opening that it still fits over your head.

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Due to my generous use of the plaid, pretty much the entire shirt was consumed so it took a full two small pieces to make this one plus sized top.

Overall, I wasn’t in love with the finished product. I think the sleeve/sides work fairly well, but the grafted neckline didn’t end up the way I’d hoped. I think a prettier option might have been to go for a simple yoke neckline edged in the plaid, but that would be more work than I think I would want to invest in these starting materials.

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I started making long tops from oversized men’s shirts and while they were comfortable and did the job, they sometimes felt a bit too casual and the shorter length wasn’t totally within my modesty comfort range if I was out running around.1 I started to want something that would give me all the same benefits but would have more of “dressy” feel. (and yes, that word works both ways)

For my first attempt, I started with a Chaps men’s shirt in 4X. It had a lovely soft, strong fabric in a nice plaid and was very generously cut. (Higher end men’s shirts often have beautiful, comfortable fabrics that are wash and wear as well as typically coming with at least one pocket! They may not be all that common at the thrift stores, but are worth the hunt) It was quite large and long on me already so it was a fairly easy alter.

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The sleeves were too long so I cut them off right around the elbow. 2 I then removed the cuffs from the cut-off arms and the buttons. (I use a razor blade for most of my seam cutting but a seam ripper will do the job) I then lightly gathered the bottom of the new sleeve and reattached the cuff. About 4” or 5” of the sleeve, at the bottom of the arm, wasn’t inserted into the cuff but double folded over and seamed so make a hem for that section. This gives a bit of puff on the sleeve while keeping it roomy and the cuff is a low-effort finishing detail that helps sell the whole thing. If you have very skinny arms, and the cuffs are really large, you don’t have to add the hemmed space but can just pleat it all into the cuff. This process can be used to create whatever sleeve length you want.

I’ve seen examples where people have removed the sleeve and taken the length off the top, resetting it in the shoulder, which is an option, but for my plus sizes, I want to keep the room on the upper arm. (I also think that moving the cuff is less hassle than resetting a sleeve, but others may disagree)

The base shirt was large enough that I had a couple of good sized pieces left over after shortening the sleeves. To make things even more dress-like, I opened up the side seams from the bottom. The seam was cut high enough to match the length of the leftover arm fabric. Those pieces were cut into not-quite triangle wedges. I kept a bit of a flat line at the top and gathered it slightly. They were then sewn into the opened side seams. (I should mention that this particular shirt had a very soft, flowy fabric, so this addition just gave fullness without being too poofy) If you want to do this type of alteration but want as little emphasis on the hips, you can skip the gathering and just insert triangles, staring at whatever point lets you put the widest part where you want it.

Like many men’s shirt, this one had a downward curve that ran from the side seams to give extra length at the front and back. With the larger hemline from the side inserts and the already abundant length, I decided to simply cut it off. This gave me a straight line for the hem. I was going for a “dress” look so added a band of cotton eyelet lace. A fold-over hem ended the lace in line with the edges of the shirt so it can open at the front.

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All that was left was four simple darts to shape it at the waist and I replaced the buttons. The button change had a HUGE impact on the total look and I highly recommend it if you want to dress up anything you make with a shirt. In this case, I used antique mother-of-pearl from my supply stash, but any “pretty” button will do, just check to make sure they will fit through the buttonholes. If the perfect ones are a bit small and you don’t want to worry about them popping open, you can just run a seam down the front, so long as you keep the neck wide enough for it to be pulled on.

1I’m using the word “modesty” to describe my personal comfort point for having my body exposed. You do you, no judgment.

2I always want my upper arms covered. See footnote #1

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