Monday, July 9, 2012

Cutup Girl

After unsuccessfully listing this shirt on eBay 4 times - twice in a lot and twice by itself - I gave up on ever selling it and threw it in the Goodwill box. Weeks later, I was complaining that I had no purple tops--a fact which distressed me because I really wanted to wear some of those vibrant purple shoes that are so chic this season. Finally I connected the dots and pulled this top out of the hall closet and gave it a more critical eye.

I had originally rejected it because it was a little too big, the shoulders looked bad on me, and I hate turtlenecks—even lacy mock ones. I'm sure that is the main reason that the shirt didn't sell, since a turtleneck is not the kind of thing anyone is looking to buy when the temperature is in the 90's, and anyway, it's out of style. It does, however, have one thing going for it, and that's the lace layered over a solid fabric, which is everywhere these days! If I could play up that feature, I was pretty sure I could turn this rag into a wearable item.

In contrast with most of my other alteration projects, I didn't start out with a coherent plan. I decided to just start cutting and see where this one would take me.
  1. The obvious first step was to get rid of the offending turtleneck, which I did with a few judicious snips of my trusty scissors. I cut below the seam attaching the collar to the body, so only clean, lump-free fabric remained.

  2. To emphasize this shirt's strong point (its lacy layer), I cut the neckline deeper, but only on the solid liner layer. The idea was to make it look like a lace shirt over a tank top, so I left a  little fabric on each shoulder. I enlarged this cut several times, until it revealed as much of the lace as possible without revealing too much of the wearer's anatomy or undergarments. Later, after wearing the shirt for a day, I decided I could cut just a little deeper, since the lace really does a remarkable job of disguising while revealing.

    I also cut the back of the neckline just to smooth out the border between front and back.
  3. After a few cuts, I decided the shape of the lace overlay looked silly, so I cut it into a more boatneck shape. First, though, I tried the look out by stretching it into the right shape and holding it in place with safety pins, as shown below:

  4. The third try-on was definitely showing improvements, but the shirt was still fitting too loosely. While baggy tops are in style, they just don't suit my figure. I decided to modify the shirt in the style of the swingy tank tops of the current fashion--making it fit somewhat snugly around the top but flow freely near the hem. I made several trial runs, taking in the fabric at the top in different configurations, until I settled on two darts starting at the neckline and running about 6 inches down the back. At the end of the darts, this created a gathered look that I deemed a little bunchy, but acceptable.
    Here's how I did it: 

    And here's how it turned out:

  5. I was mostly happy with the shirt's new look by now, but there was one thing that had been bothering me--the sleeves. They were gathered a bit at the top and hemmed at the ends, making them bunch up around my shoulders. They needed to be set free! And the best way to do that, I concluded, was to slit them down the middle. Slit sleeves are not uncommon in today's fashion, but they usually come together again near the bottom. I decided to go all the way and cut them from shoulder seam to bottom hem. This was going to either make or break the shirt, so, with a little gulp and mentally crossed fingers, I set in.

    The result? Not bad. I made the cut about 3 cm down from the shoulder seam, which I now think was a mistake--I should have made it directly at the top. But not a ruinous mistake. I still considered the shirt wearable.

  6. The last step was just cleanup. I had some messy cuts that needed smoothing, and some seams sticking out that needed trimming. This was quite possibly the hardest part of the whole project! Have you ever tried to cut lace in a smooth line? It was so thin in places, my scissors wouldn't cut it at all, and in other places, it became suddenly thicker, causing my lines to waver. Eventually, I got it acceptably tidy, and I comforted myself with the thought that the differing thicknesses of the lace would probably hide the remaining inconsistencies in the edge...But a word to the wise: The next time you have to cut lace, make sure you have some really sharp scissors!
Here's how I wore the shirt today.

 Not my greatest achievement, what with the baggy, poorly matched grey slacks. And sadly, I still couldn't wear it with vibrant purple shoes because a) I don't have any and b) it's still the wrong shade of purple. I promise I'll do better next time.

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