Monday, May 30, 2016

Dress to skirt to shirt

Remember the Indonesian Princess (Gypsyish) dress that I later made into a skirt?

Well, after all that work, I still wasn't happy with it. Or, more precisely, I wanted to try out a new trend (the sheer long skirt over the short inner liner that I've gushed about so much) using that skirt as my guinea pig. Sadly, it didn't work. In a tragic miscalculation, I cut the liner way too short, making it entirely inappropriate to wear in public. Since I didn't have any other liners lying around to replace it with, I decided to go in a completely different direction with the overskirt (which I still loved for its dramatic and romantic floral design), turning it into a blouse.

Lately I've been really into the loose, baggy, see-through tops that you can wear over a camisole. I recently got two in knit or crocheted varieties, but I thought the sheer fabric from the former-skirt-former dress would make an especially nice baggy layering top.

Fortunately, it was really easy to do.

I laid out the fabric, pulling it slightly up in front so that the front would be shorter than the back.
Then I stuck some pins in it where I thought the shoulder seams should go, trying it on in the mirror to see how I felt about the length. I was OK with that, so I sewed the shoulder seams in permanently.
Next, I picked out a few inches of the side seam using my seam ripper, to make arm holes.
I cut off the top portion above the new shoulder seams.
Then I cut a nice rounded hole for my head to go through!
The bottom hem of the skirt had originally been sewed without any overlocking or finishing of any kind, so I didn't feel bad at all about doing my arm holes and neck hole the same way.
Here's the shirt after it was finished—basically it's just a big rectangle with some holes in it!
But it looks so elegant when you're wearing it! As long as you're not paying too much attention to the long threads that are fraying everywhere because none of the hems are actually finished!

I found a bamboo grove for my final photo shoot...and naturally couldn't resist trying to climb it! The red welts that are now all over my legs say I probably should have resisted.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Not-So-Great Wave

What's the good of a dress if you're always wearing it with pants? Especially a dress with a graphic print on it that's really too casual for most occasions that call for a dress!

That's what I thought about the Great Wave of Kanagawa dress that I've had for two years and worn only sparingly.

So I decided to turn it into a tank top. I've converted many dresses in this way, usually just lopping a few inches off the bottom and sewing a new hem. But, much like my top-down T-shirt trim last summer, the best part of this dress was on the bottom and I didn't want to cut it off.

So here's a top-down tank-top trim!
My first step was to carefully pick off all the binding tape that lined the armholes and collar. I was going to re-use it to line the new armholes and new neckline.

Once it was time for refashioning, I began by holding it up to my body so I could decide on an appropriate length.
Then I marked and cut new armholes at my chosen height. 
I sewed new seams where I wanted the tops of the straps to be.
Then I tried it on to see how I liked the fit. Oops, still too long.
After the addition of many incrementally lower shoulder seams, I finally had a length I could live with.

Then I marked and cut a new neckline.
Reattaching the edge binding was difficult. I ended up with a very wavery-looking edge. But fortunately when it's stretched, you can't see the imperfections!
The last step was to create new side seams. The original dress' hip area was now at waist height, so this entailed quite a bit of taking in. You can see it took a few tries before I had it narrow enough.
I wore my newly created tank top for the first time, very appropriately I thought, for a day of beach-hopping in Hawaii!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wedding on the Beach

I've actually owned this dress for 3 years without wearing it. Normally when I have an article of clothing that's gone unused that long, I would consider it unwearable and let it go. But I knew that someday, some day, I would be able to attend an event worthy of such a dress, and finally the event came in the form of the second of two weddings for the same couple. This time, the venue was a beach on Hawaii, and the color scheme was unspecified, so I was able to wear the green dress as planned.

Of course, I had to do a ton of alterations first—sew in some pads so I could wear it without a bra, shorten the straps, lift up the plunging V-neckline, and sew the sash down at the waistline so it didn't sag.

Since I was heading to the tropics and wanted to celebrate, I didn't skimp on the summery pastels in the rest of my outfit. Mirroring the pale pink gems in the buckle, I wore a pair of pink glittery jelly sandals.

I put on pale green butterfly earrings. The outfit also went strikingly well with my favorite green cat-eye sunglasses!

After the party was over, one of the wedding guests nicknamed me Tinkerbell, for my propensity to flutter around on the dance floor.

This had nothing to do with the contents of this cup in my hand, but everything to do with the pink ribbons they gave us to wave at the bride and groom after the ceremony. You can't give a girl a handful of streamers that perfectly match her outfit, and expect her not to act like a fairy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DIY Beach Dress

This refashion ended up being so complicated, it was almost like sewing something from scratch, without the benefit of a pattern!

It begins a whole summer ago, when I was at the beach. Tired of fighting with sun hats and umbrellas, I decided I really needed a swim cover-up. It's my arms and shoulders that take the brunt of the sun, so I wanted something that would keep them protected. That meant I needed something long-sleeved, but light and airy enough that I wouldn't get hot while wearing it. I explored the shops. Ocean City has no shortage of cover-ups, I learned, but they are mostly sleeveless or strapless, and wouldn't do at all. I checked a few outdoorsy websites and a few fashion websites, but still couldn't find anything to meet my exacting standards. So, I decided to make my own!

I started with a sundress I already had in my closet. There wasn't anything wrong with it, but I didn't love it, and the last time I'd worn it, both the straps had broken off, so it was due for some alterations anyway. I was just going to alter it way more than it could have ever imagined!

There was plenty of fabric in the bottom tier to make sleeves out of, so my plan was basically to remove the bottom tier and move it to the top.

This, however, would necessitate lowering the bodice, so first I had to pick out all the smocking in the back. The straps just kind of fell off at some point during this task. No photos of this step, sorry!

Next step was to remove the bottom tier, which I did the quick and dirty way, with scissors (as opposed to a seam ripper!)

At this point, I decided I wanted new dress to have an open front, so I could throw it on and off like a robe. I decided to open up one of the existing side seams for that purpose, which meant it was time for seam-ripping.

If I had had some foresight, I would have noticed that the lace trim strips between each tier were sewn all around the dress and were joined at one of the side seams, so I should have opened that seam. But that didn't occur to me til later, so in the end, I also had to cut through each piece of lace.

Now the former dress was basically one big long infinity scarf (the bottom tier) and a sheet of fabric made of three pieces (everything else). 

I wrapped the sheet around me to get an idea for where I wanted it to lie when finished, then measured how much distance there was between the top of the fabric and the top of my shoulder. 

Measuring yourself while holding a voluminous piece of fabric around you and while wielding a heavy camera is not a task for the faint of heart, but after all that effort, I determined that I would need my fabric to be about 10 inches long, to form the yoke. 

I laid the fabric next to the existing bodice to determine the width.

Then I marked the height, adding an inch (for a total of 11 inches) for seams, and cut the two pieces of fabric out. They  were still joined by part of the original side seam, so I had to rip that out after the cutting was done.

Next, the neck. Since I was going to have an open front, I didn't want to create a neckline for the front yet, but I would need a neck opening for the back. I used a shirt with a neck opening that I thought would be a good size, and traced around it. Then I cut, setting it in by a half-inch to allow for a shoulder seam.

Finally, the time for cutting and seam-ripping was done, and I was ready to start sewing! I began with the shoulder seams. In fabric this thin, it was really hard to determine which is the "right" side and which is the "wrong," but I did my best to put the "right" sides together and then pin and stitch across the top of the shoulders, using the longest stitch my sewing machine has. Later on, I planned to reinforce those seams once I was sure I liked their placement.

I cut down the middle of the front of the yoke to create the front opening.

Then, I set about attaching the yoke to the skirt. Since this fabric is so light and slippery, I used safety pins rather than my usual stick pins which kept falling out. (Shown here before pinning)

Then I tried it on in the mirror to see how it was turning out. Looked OK, so I went ahead and replaced the safety pins with stick pins, and sewed over them (again, with a long basting stitch) to make the attachment permanent.

Now it was time to attach sleeves. I debated with myself about whether I should cut proper inset armholes, like a normal shirt, or just add them to the existing boxy thing I had. Ultimately, I decided on the latter because it would be simpler, hoping that with such a drapey fabric, it wouldn't matter that the sleeves were attached somewhere past my shoulders. And if I didn't happen to like it, it would be easy enough to remove the seams and try again.

It turns out that the bottom tier of the dress was just tall enough to fold in half to form a sleeve. I measured enough length to make a sleeve that would at my natural shoulder, knowing that I would not need quite that much since the shoulders of the dress were already so extensive. Then I used that piece as a template to cut the second sleeve.

Turns out the sleeves were just a tad smaller than the openings I'd left in the shoulders, so I sewed up the side seams to reduce the arm opening, then attached the sleeves to the shoulders, finally sewing the seams in the bottom of the sleeves.

I now had something recognizable as a dress, albeit with a lot of raw edges! I had to decide how to do the front closure, so after a few days of thinking about it, I decided I would use ribbons to tie it in two places: once at the bust, and once at the neckline, for a nice, high, sun-protecting (but optional) collar.

That meant I first had to cut the square front into a round neck.

Then I finished the neckline using a rolled hem. I'm not very adept with a rolled hem yet, but I do appreciate how easy it makes hemming a thin fabric. Just fold it over, stick it into the curvy part of the rolled hem foot, and start sewing! One of these days, I'll figure out exactly how do a rolled hem so it's not all wavery, but I'm just pleased I got it at all.

My next step was to finish most of the remaining edges. Empowered by my "success" at the neckline, I chose to do another rolled hem down the front, which resulted in more wavery lines, but whatever. I can only go forward now!

To make the ribbon tie, I used one of the original side-ties. 
I cut it in half, sewed up the raw end, and attached it to the neckline in such a way that it would look natural when hanging open. 

Then I did the same for the tie in the bust area. 

Now the front was finished, and all the was left was to finish the sleeves.

They were excessively long, but I kind of liked them that way (a sun shield for my hands!). At the same time, I knew they would get in the way and wanted a way to pull them up when needed. For that, I went with more ribbon ties, this time using the original straps. 

First I hemmed the ends of the sleeves by folding them over three times, creating a tunnel in which to house the ribbons.

I lost or didn't take any pictures after this point, so you'll have to use your imagination.
Using my bodkin, I threaded the ribbon through the sleeve hem, then, because the ribbon wasn't quite as long as the circumference of the sleeve opening, I sewed the two ends together so they couldn't get drawn back into the sleeve.

Now I can wear the sleeves long and natural, or tug on the ribbons to gather them up above my wrists, as you can see in the two photos below!


I had to wait a whole year before I could wear this dress (as you might have guessed, I don't go to the beach much!), but finally I had my chance in Hawaii.

Here it is with both ribbons tied

And here it is with the collar open for an easy-breezy look!
It didn't fall apart, so that's a plus, though after all that work, I'm honestly not sure how much sun protection it actually affords.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Going out in cropped flares


I made these pants.

Well, kind of.

I had a pair of old jeans, and seeing as cropped flared jeans, holey jeans, and jeans with fringed hems are all "in," I decided to work my DIY magic on my old pants. This post will not be about that process (because it was kind of a long story, and I thought it best to break it up). Instead, it will be a simple share of the outfit I wore when I wore the newly altered pants for the first time.

It's simple, so I won't go into too much detail, but I will note that because the jeans were a little large on me, I opted for a very fitted tank top to balance out my upper and lower portions. Beyond that, it's your basic jeans-and-a-t-shirt! With flare!

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Seasonal Switch

As you probably recall, the seasonal wardrobe switch is when I take the upcoming season's clothes out of storage and put the old season's clothing away. Since this event is one I anticipate with entirely too much ardor, and I am constantly tempted to jump the gun, I have to make strict rules as to when it can happen.

Surprisingly, though, I've never really written the rules out, so I'm constantly changing them. This is the year it all changes. This is the year I detail the exact circumstances under which each wardrobe switch can occur. 

Rules for the spring switch

  1. The transitional wardrobe (consisting mainly of short-sleeved and lightweight longer-sleeved shirts) comes out in the spring, and the winter wardrobe (the bulk of my sweaters, anything corduroy or fur-trimmed, and my snow boots) goes away. In this and all switches, a few pieces from the previous season are kept in back corners of my closet, in case of travel, or freak spells of unseasonable weather.
  2. I must wait until the daily highs have reached at least 60­­°F for a week before making this switch. A week consists of seven consecutive days, not necessarily a Sunday through Saturday.
  3. If the switch has not yet occurred by April 1, I can make it as soon as the forecast highs are above 60 for a week.

Rules for the summer switch

  1. Summer clothes (consisting of sandals, sleeveless clothing, and shorts) comes out during this switch. Any remaining winter clothes and boots must be put away.
  2. This switch must not occur until forecast daily high temperatures have reached 75°F for a week.
  3. If the transition has not occurred by June 1, I can make it any time.

Rules for the fall switch

  1. Transitional clothes come out at this time, and summer clothes get put away.
  2. The fall switch must not occur until daily high temperatures have dropped below 75° for a week. In the spirit of true summer loving, I do not make any kind of allowances for an extra-long season of warm weather. I would happily keep my summer wardrobe out all year if I could!

Rules for the winter switch

  1. The winter wardrobe comes out at this time, and the transitional wardrobe is put away.
  2. This switch must not occur until the forecast peak highs have dropped below 60° for a week.
  3. If the switch has not occurred by December 1, I may make it any time.
You'll notice the winter and summer switches only require a forecast of temperatures meeting the threshold, while the spring and fall transitions require those temperatures to already have been reached. The reason for this is that my transitional clothing collection is worn two seasons out of the year, so I prefer that those seasons are as short as possible. Secondly, my transitional clothes are just plain boring. They really only consist of a few items that are too warm for summer, but not warm enough for winter. With such a narrow selection that fits those criteria, it's not surprising I get tired of them quickly.

This year also marks a revision of the temperature threshold for summer. Highs 80 and above previously defined the summer season, but I have now expanded that to highs 75 and above. I am perfectly comfortable in sandals and tank tops when it's 75 degrees out, and it would be nice to have those options available for evenings and weekends (even if they would surely not be warm enough for mornings and days at the office). Plus, my summer collection is also my most numerous, so this rule change would allow me more time to wear it.

This year, ironically the year that I finally wrote down the rules, is also the year I threw them all to the wind, unpacking the summer clothes on May 5, when the weather was still rainy and barely topping fifty degrees. There was method to my madness, however; I was about to embark on two almost back-to-back trips to warm climates—New Orleans, Louisiana, followed by Hawaii just 4 days after my return. Because both of those trips would necessitate the wearing of lots of warm-weather clothes (and because by the time I'd returned from both, it would surely be summery back home), I had to bring out my summer wardrobe early.

For New Orleans, I did hold back the collection of new clothes that I'd been amassing over the winter, but while I  had my little break between travels, I got to enjoy that moment when I lay all of them on the floor and admire them before slowly trying to work them into my daily rotation! A few of them came to Hawaii with me, and just may show up on a fashion blog or Facebook near you!

That's 4 new dresses, 1 skirt/top set, 1 vest, 5 shorts (all too big, sadly), 1 vest, 10 sleeveless shirts, and 2 summer sweaters.
Can you guess which item was a gift from my boyfriend?

And then there are the shoes. I really went overboard over the winter and bought the same pair of sandals in two
neutral colors. I was thinking they might be good replacements for the black wedges I've had since 2012, but who am
I kidding? 5-inch heeled sandals will never replace a 3-inch wedge. Yet another unnecessary purchase. Sigh.