Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Denim Dress Restyle & How To

I picked up this pale denim shirt dress, as I've mentioned before, for £1 at a charity shop. It looked so shapeless when I tried it on, that it's been shoved in my "to sew" pile for nearly a year. (I kid you not!). But I really loved the light coloured denim and it's so lovely and soft. I knew I wanted to do something with it, just not what. New Year resolutions and the fabulous Project Restyle were the kick I needed to start working my way through that pile. This is the happy result of that kick up the....

I wanted to style a short cap sleeve instead of the long baggy ones. I marked the new cutting line with chalk and a ruler. (This was the length of sleeve I wanted + 1cm seam allowance). Once I'd cut the first sleeve, I laid the offcut on top of the other sleeve and used it as a cutting guide for the second sleeve. (This made sure that the "new sleeves" were as identical as possible)
I pressed the raw edge over twice with the iron, and then used a long basting stitch to hold it in place while I tried it on. Once I was happy the sleeves were sitting right, I sewed the new hemon the machine, pressed and removed the basting stitches.
I put the garment on inside out, did up all the buttons and checked the fit in the mirror. I wanted a much more fitted shape and decided to take the dress in and shape it at the side seams. I pinched the fabric in at the sides and marked the new shape with pins. I then removed the dress and marked the position of the pins with chalk before removing them.
I then laid the garment flat, inside out, and buttoned up, on my work surface. Working on one side only, I used the chalk marks (where the pins had been) as a guide to mark out new shape lines for the side seam and hem. I used a French curve to get smooth lines as I'm rubbish at drawing smooth curves freehand.
I added a seam allowance to my new side seam (I also altered the curve slightly after giving it some thought). Then folded the dress in half lengthwise. It's important here to line up the original side seams from the underarms down, and spend some time smoothing the fabric out. Basically you're using the marks on the topside of the fabric to cut all the layers of fabric at once so the two new sides match and mirror eachother exactly. So you want to make sure everything is lined upand smooth or it'll be wonky! Baste all the layers together with a long running stitch once you're happy.
The basting stitches will help keep all the fabric layers from slipping about when you cut. Then cut through all layers of fabric along the cutting line and remove your basting stitches. I used my basting stitches as kind of makeshift tailor tacks. Once I had seperated the top layers of fabric from the bottom ones, I used the bits of thread that were left in the bottom layers to lightly mark in the curve that I had already drawn on the top layer. Just so I had an accurate guideline for the new seam now marked on both sides of the dress. (Make sense or am I rambling??)
I then sewed both side seams on the machine, using the guidelines I had drawn. I  zig zagged my seam allowances a short distance from the seam line and trimmed the excess offclose to the zig zag stitching, as I don't have a serger/overlocker.
I then moved onto the hem. I'd already marked where I wanted the hem to be so all I had to do was add a seam allowance. Again, only marking one side of the garment.
Cut along the new cutting line up to the centre point. Then fold in half lengthwise again. Lining up the side seams again,and smoothing the fabric out.
Now cut the hem of the second half of the dress, using the cut edge of the first half as a guide. This should ensure that the line across the front and back is smooth and symmetrical.
Then just hem in exactly the same way as the sleeves, et voila! I'm really pleased with the outcome. I wouldn't have attempted this last year, so it's testament to how much I've learnt and the confidence it's given me to try my own ideas out. Great fun! I can definately see me doing similar restyles in the not too distant future....


  1. I love how this blog is taking on a life of its own! Now I feel comfortable to post my recontructed pieces too... that is one main reason why I thrift; to find cool old things I can make new again.

    Nice job!

  2. this is amazing!

    really amazing. seriously amazing!

    i wouldn't even attempt something like this. great restyle!

  3. I love your Project Restyle idea and your blog design is so cool.
    Thanks for the great how-to.

    Take care,


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