I was thrilled to be asked to take part in Portia Lawrie’s Refashioner2017 blog tour. I’ve a couple of pals who have taken part before, so I knew it always had an amazingly creative line up of stitchers! There’s an awesome line up this year, and some amazing prizes if you’d like to join in!
Ok, so here’s the challenge:
“Refashion an old, unworn or unloved suit!”
Sounded like fun to me! Having spent many years altering clothes for Theatre Productions, and designing alteration challenges for The Bee, this seemed right up my street!
I started with some inspiration.
I knew I wanted to make a dress, as I love women’s tailoring, but have never worked anywhere that required this kind of more formal attire. Whilst I love the Rouland Mourat Glaxay dress, and the red DKNY dress, I’m not shaped for body con, so I began to plan something more fluid, so I could get playful with draping.
Challenge #1:- Finding the right suit!
In my head I hoped to find a 60’s or 70’s crimplene suit in a hot blue or pink. No such luck, in fact it took several trips to find something, and I had to abandon the idea of a blue, since the only blue suit I found was a prestine modern ted baker, and I wanted to leave that there for someone who may need a suit, not just want it to cut up! Finally I popped into Traid in Dalston, and bagged 3 grey suits on sale for a tenner each! Phew. I bought 3 suits to potential mix up fabrics, and to work on the bias. Ended up with just one suit used, so i’ll donate the other 2 back. Win Win for traid!! Next step for me was some sketching in my fashionary.
Challenge #2:- Draping a shape straight from the suit
I had thought that I would use one of the suits as a practise run, but this seemed a little pointless. I knew the trousers would yield the most fabric, and once legs were opened up I could use them diagonally around my padded dress form to create the skirt panels on the bias. Since i wanted to use some of the tailored features like the lapels and pockets, I started my process by Cutting the front jacket away, to utilse the lapels as a V back neckline. To create a more femine shape form the man’s jacket, I had to dart along the seamlines, to make a side seam. The centre back was used at a diagonal to form the draped part of the upper bodice. Once the skirt and draped bodice were cut, I patched offcuts to create a fitted inner bodice that would suppoet the skirt and front draping
Challenge #3:- Getting a draped shape off the dummy and stitched
Draping is a pretty fluid and organic process, and a deeply satisfying one. However at the end of the process, there are many small pieces of cloth pinned to one another that need to come off the dummy to be joined togther for real, without losing the shape. Had I been doing this for a client, I would have tacked out all my pleats for example. Of course I just marked with pins, which i later regretted as I lost the shaping around the waist, and had to start over. I worked in sections, very methodically, and marked on the outside of the pieces with iron off tailors chalk- LOVE THIS STUFF! You need to build up a mental picture of construction order as you’re draping the shapes. The back of the dress has 9 segments to seam togther…
Challenge #4:- Fitting by yourself
Ok, I’m not gonna lie- Fitting all by yourself is a little tricky! Top tip is to use saftey pins to mark up alterations. I usually fit inside out, which makes the re-sewing quicker, but since this dress is very asymmetrical I had to fit right side out and transfer markings to wrong side, I have an adjustable Prymadonna dressform padded out to my measures, and this was invaluable for draping. It meant the alterations were fine tuning. When fitting I work with 2 mirrors to see the back, and often make a pinch or mark where an adjustment needs to go, slip it off and pin properly then pop back on to check. Sleeves i just pop onto my arm and mark alterations as I go. I used the original sleeves, and ditched the frills after showing another costumer at the studio (also had hardly any cloth). I always use a dressform to set a sleeve, so i can get the pitch right and thread mark the new armhole shape. I kept all the canvas and chest padding in, so this meant having to take a bit of care when sleeves were set. I was pretty pleased with my nvisible zip insertion through the lapels and wasitline too!