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Posts Tagged ‘refashioned’

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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With the refashioning and remaking of men’s shirts, I’ve been mostly making casual and “work” wear plus-sized dresses but that’s not all I’ve needed. One of the other problems with finding suitable plus-sized clothing is when you have an special event or need things a bit more costumey. Last fall I was going to a 20’s themed event and wanted a period flapper style dress. There are some places doing repro dresses, but I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size so making it became necessary. I did a bit of research into period dress styles first to see if I was going to have to invest in a pattern but looking at how big the range of variations was, I decided it was possible to get away with just upping my modding game.

We had a couple of beaded/sequined jackets in the stash and the original plan was to salvage panels from them, mix the panels with silk or crepe fabric and make the bottom from another skirt or a scarf. We had a couple of black silk burnout velvet scarves but went looking and found another silk scarf and 2 large polyester velvet ones.

As I was laying out the various possible parts, and sketching some options, I realized that the scarves were large enough that we could just skip the whole plan of fussing with the beaded stuff and use the scarves as the upper body of the dress. The 2 polyester scarves were quite large and rectangular and had designs that were already very 20’s while the new silk scarf was long and narrow with a great chevron pattern and beading that coordinated with some beaded trim in the stash. I had seen a few period dresses that used a faux scarf detail as the low “waist” so that seemed like a good way to transition to a skirt and complete the dress.

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It seemed like a good design concept, but I was concerned about how well it would work out in practice and I wanted to be sure that the fit would be right. Rather than making a muslin prototype, I figured that we had 2 of the big scarves and a pair of possible skirts so I might as well go ahead and make a second dress.

The first step was basic math. I measured the scarf in both directions and then myself, both around the widest section and then down the front to get the dropped waist length. The scarf was quite a bit longer than needed for the top so a section was taken out of the middle, leaving 2 pieces the right length. (and handily with finished hems on 3 sides) I calculated the size for a pair of fabric inserts for the sides. They were a bit narrower at the top, and slightly curved there since that was the bottom of the arm-holes. The thin black crepe that was used for the inserts also made up the bottom of the sleeves. The sleeve tops were done using the left-over section of the scarf. The split-top style really appealed to me since it gives a sense of being sleeveless without actually exposing the upper-arms and is still period accurate.

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For the bottom of the dress, I used a pleated black satin skirt. It was small, but I only needed the bottom 1′ or so and there was enough flair to it that it fit just fine. It had some nice button details on the waist band so that was removed and used as the front panel of the transition section. The back was cut from some black satin we had in the stash.

The donor scarf was dark pink/purple as well as black and we had some beaded trim that matched so a line of it was added between the bottom of the scarf and the top of the transition section.

The neckline had to be hand-finished with a rolled hem but I cheated on the inside of the sleeves and did those with the machine.

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The whole thing came together really quickly and mostly had simple straight seams. Making the trial version helped out since this one came out a bit bigger than needed as well as too short for me. I also found the beaded trim more of hassle than expected but figured out how to work with it by doing this one. It didn’t help that the trim was on a bright pink ribbon so any spots where it wasn’t perfectly caught are super obvious.

The biggest issue is that the burnout velvet is partially see-through. I’m wearing a sports-bra in the pictures, which is an option, but any black or colour coordinating slip, tank or camisole worn underneath will work.

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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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This is showing how I remade a regular sized men’s plaid shirt into a cute plus-sized ladies top. I may very much enjoy “dresses” I can wear over leggings, but I do live in Canada and the winters are cold. Since there is a chunk of the year that I have to wear real pants, I also need tops to go with them. Plaid is lovely stuff for winter with it being so soft and cozy but as usual, finding nice options in plus sizes is difficult. I also wanted a bit more a feminine feel than most men’s plaid shirts provide. I’d seen examples of ombre bleach fading and I liked how it both softened the look and added a bit of style. It seemed simple enough that I had to try it.

Finding a few suitable starting pieces took a bit of hunting but I came across this beautiful rainbow plaid from American Eagle. It was an extra large, but their sizing runs small so it was too tight for me, including the arms.

The first thing was to do the ombre fade. I tried a few levels of bleach dilution and realized that you have to start with pure bleach. I used a spray bottle, outside on the cement driveway. To get a visible fade, I never went below 50% dilution, but just finished the fade out by lighter spraying. As soon as it was where I wanted, the whole thing was rinsed several times in clear water and then dried. (if I had realized exactly how I was going to alter the sleeves, that should have been done before the fading)

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It needed to be made quite a bit larger so the sleeves were cut off to the elbow length and then I fully cut out the side seams, including down what was left of the arms. The sleeves were enlarged by adding some of the cut-off forearm along the bottom. It was then finished along the top with the salvaged cuffs and a rolled hem completing the space between the cuff edges.

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The fade helped to soften the style, but I wanted to make it even more feminine and used a cream cotton eyelet lace to make the side inserts. (it also matched the lightest bottom of the fade) It was quite long for eyelet, but was still only about 2/3rds of the length of the sides. To make it fit, I layered a second panel over the first. This gave a bit of ruffle feel to the sides without adding much volume and it meant there was a second layer of fabric under the higher eyelets which made me more comfortable.

In this case, the buttons were left since they read as more decorative on the lightened fabric.

I love this top! It’s so soft and cheery and the swing of the expanded size combined with it’s bright colours and lace accents make it read as quite fun and feminine.

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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.

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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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The first round of serious clothes altering was when I started making myself some very plain shirt dresses. While you’ll see a number of dresses that look like they are a slightly altered men’s shirt they are pretty much only for the typical “model” body type. I had never found any in plus sizes or anything remotely close.

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I was looking for tops that I could wear with leggings while working at the shop or around the house/garden. There were a bunch of boxes any possible item had to fill.

It had to (in no order):

  • be easily washable and not need ironing
  • be a light, breathable fabric but not see-through or clingy
  • print, plaid or mid-tone colour preferred since it might get smudged
  • have mid-length sleeves so I don’t have to keep pushing them up
  • not be constrictive or limit movement
  • pull-over preferred
  • needs to cover my butt
  • cheap enough that I won’t cry if it gets ruined (paint, putty and sharp objects are all risks)
  • hopefully at least “cute” if not high fashion

Not really an excessive list of demands, but I wasn’t having any luck. Instead, we found a few really good quality, brand new, 3X and 4X men’s shirts at our local thrift store and they seemed a good place to start. They were all under $5 each so there was little risk in jumping right in. The collars for that size of shirt are proportional for a man so were very large. To keep them from looking too weird, we just cut them off and made either a v-neck or a simple curve. One v-neck ended up a bit too deep for me so a small insert was made from the left-over bits. They were all big enough to be pulled over my head so the fronts were sewn down. The ones that were not short sleeved already had the sleeves cut off and finished with a straight hem. To help the flow and keep them from catching on my hips, I opened up the side seams and finished each side with the same straight hem. This gives a more tunic-like look.

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The only other thing was some light darting to give a bit of shape around the waist. The trick with those was that I put it on inside out, pinned the darts; top, bottom and depth, on one side. Then slipped it off, matched the other side so they lined up perfectly and did each as a single sewn line. While it’s very fast and easy, the darts are what really sell these as dresses, not men’s shirts. Of course, if you want and it better suits your body, it’s also easier to not bother with the darts, although you way want to take the bottom seam of the sleeves in a bit so they don’t gape. Those with a very large chest might find it works best to take it in a bit along the bottom for the same reason. No matter what you need, pinning it while it’s inside out should work to help adjust the fit. It’s all about what suits you best!

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I decided it was time to start talking a bit about one of the areas of altered art that I’ve been playing with the past couple of years and it’s going to get personal so I wanted to start with a general explanation of how and why I got into it and why I’ve decided to blog about it.

I am, and have been for all of my adult life, fat. I’m also tall, nearly 6′, and broad-shouldered. As a result, clothing has pretty always been difficult for me. Finding comfortable, affordable, flattering things to wear is a constant nightmare. Add in that I also want them to be easy to care for, durable (both in style and wear) AND to match my own sense of taste, and it becomes almost impossible.

Working as a custom framer for years meant that I had to keep to a business casual/suitable for retail level and one that met with my bosses approval. Luckily, it’s (rightly) viewed as an “artistic” profession, so a bit of personal flair is acceptable. I mostly got by on long skirts, blouses and dresses.

Becoming my own boss has opened up some more options for me. I’ve gradually become more comfortable with expressing my personal taste, when it comes to what I wear. The rise of “disposable fashion” seems to have made the plus-sized clothing options in shops even worse, which I didn’t think was possible. That has driven me to modify/make even more of my clothes. As my daily wear has become personalized, I feel more confidant and relaxed about myself and I’ve had more and more people compliment my clothes and/or ask where I got it. Considering how many people have wanted to know how I’ve been making my stuff, I thought it made sense to start showing how it was done. I am not that accomplished as sewer, but most of what I’ve been doing doesn’t take much skill, you just have to be willing to jump in. I’m not going to do too much in the way of details, but if you have any questions, always feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer.

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