Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Multi-purpose poncho

A poncho is not the most flattering garment on a broad-shouldered girl such as myself, but sometimes I just can't resist the allure of elegantly flowing clothes!

When I saw these two gorgeous butterfly tops on for 3 dollars each, I knew I wanted them. I hoped that the fabric would be sheer enough that you could see through it, mitigating the body-widening effect of draping any piece of clothing off the widest part of one's body. Failing that, I figured I could cut some strategic holes in them and turn them into flutter-sleeve or open-shoulder tunics.

Sadly, the ponchos were even worse than I had originally thought. It was immediately clear that they had been cheaply made. The neck holes were finished with a hideous shoddy stitch in obtrusively white thread, and the neckline itself was wavery and uneven. I could have returned the disappointing schmattes, but I still could not resist their allure. I was compelled to find a way to repair them.

First off, I let them sit in my Projects Box for around 9 months. Then I upgraded my Projects Box to a Projects Cart and let them sit for a few months more. When spring approached for the second time, I knew I shouldn't procrastinate any longer. 

Part 1: A better poncho

When it came time for action, I was remarkably decisive.

With hardly any trepidation, I set into the blue poncho. I cut off the ragged parts of the neckline, and shaped it into a circle. I felt this would be more flattering on me, as wide necklines help downplay my shoulders.

Once that was done, I had to find a way to finish the raw edge. I considered and rejected a rolled hem (too uneven in my artless hands) and a bias-tape covering (too stiff for the sheer fabric), before deciding on a lace edging.

I happen to have a number of ribbons of semi-elastic lace seam tape, so I found a nice, almost-matching blue one.

I pinned it along one edge so about half the width overlapped the raw edge of the neckline and sewed it down, then I folded it over the raw edge and sewed it down again. 
This means that one side of the fabric has two visible rows of stitching—I keep that side on the inside, but the stitches are hardly noticeable, so it really doesn't matter.

I now had a nifty poncho that I could turn in any direction (shown here in a trial run with the corner of the fabric coming to a point in front) and still have a symmetrical neckline.
For something that took me a year to get started, the four steps it took to finish were really almost embarrassingly easy!

Thinking I was done, I prepared an outfit featuring the poncho to wear to dinner on Saturday night. However, thanks to a miscommunication, I found myself waiting interminably for my boyfriend to be ready to go, and the longer I waited, the more I began to second-guess my outfit.

It was hot. The forecast for the evening predicted cooler temperatures over the hours we might be out...but on a second check of my weather app, not as cool as I'd originally thought. And it was muggy. The near-100% humidity following Saturday's rain showers was making it feel warmer and stickier than the 73 degrees on the thermometer would have you believe. As the minutes ticked by, I kept taking off and putting on the poncho, becoming increasingly certain that it was the wrong day for me to be going out in pants and a full-coverage top. But what if it did get cold!? If I needed the security of arm coverage, I would never forgive myself if I failed to bring the poncho. But if it stayed warm, I would also never forgive myself for wearing too much clothing when I didn't have to!

The mental back-and-forth continued for longer than you'd ever want to know, until finally, during one of the many removals of the poncho, I had a realization: the neck opening was wide enough that I could fit it over my hips. That meant...I might be able to wear the poncho as a skirt!

Part 2: An optional skirt

The poncho looked pretty cute held up by my waist, flowing gracefully with all its uneven edges like a gypsy skirt.

I found I could secure it in place reasonably well with a coconut sarong tie (and a rubber band for security).

This was the greatest idea I'd had all day! Now, no matter what the temperature might do, I had a plan! If it did get colder, I could remove the sarong tie and go back to wearing the poncho as a top. But if it stayed warm and humid, I could happily wear the poncho as a skirt all evening. I made a few modifications to the outfit to better suit that paradigm, switching from a black to a pink tank top, and cuffing the leggings to keep me cooler and look better under a skirt.

By the end of the night, my skirt had stayed a skirt, and I had gotten one compliment from a stranger about it. So I'm happy to conclude that even if ponchos aren't the best choice for my build, the two ponchos I currently own will not go to waste, as they can always serve me in the role of a skirt instead!

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