Thursday, June 14, 2018

A blazer, a vest, and a bird-covered dress

This hand-me-down blazer didn't seem a likely candidate for my permanent collection, what with its puffed sleeves and extremely tight fit, but it did have something going for it: a cute neckline. I liked the curved lapels and neatly cinched waist. If I removed the sleeves, I thought it might make a useful vest.

What follows is my favorite method for converting a sleeved shirt into a sleeveless one.

Since the place where the sleeves meet the bodice already comes with a neatly sewn seam, it makes a really nice edge for the new armhole.

Cut off the sleeve, leaving a half-inch or so attached to the bodice.

Sometimes, I double-fold the hem to completely protect the raw edge, but that's finicky, time-consuming, and hard to get right on the first try, so for my own convenience (especially when sewing something I'm not sure I'll like anyway), I usually just leave the raw edge uncovered and zigzag stitch over it to help stop fraying (in the picture, it's the row of stitches on the right—pictured after I'd already finished the project.)

Once the raw edge is somewhat finished, I fold the fabric to the inside of the armhole, pin liberally, and stitch it down with a narrow hem (Photo shows the bottom of one of the armholes after sewing was complete).

Normally, I'd call it finished right about here, but with this particular garment, I wasn't quite done, because it was tight as a corset! To buy myself a little more comfort, I opened up most of the seams around the sides and back. They had been originally made with two rows of stitches (shown in picture), so I removed the innermost row on each of four seams, gaining about an inch of total breathing room.

Since the remaining seams were rather weakly serged, I reinforced each one with a single row of straight stitches.

At the bottom and top of each seam, the construction was a little more complicated. To do it right, I would have had to pick out and re-sew a number of seams. But I did it the lazy way and just left those parts untouched. So if you're looking closely, you can see puckering where the parts I opened meet the parts I didn't open. Later, I may revisit those seams to see if I can taper them more gracefully, but for the vest's first wear, I kept them as-is.

I finished this project in the fall, but I don't have much use for vests in the winter (as I mainly use them to cover up bare shoulders and backless dresses), so the vest's first day of employment came in June, when I wore it to office-ify a spaghetti-strap sundress. 

I love this dress—I love the birds on it and the high-low hemline (even though those have mostly gone out of fashion again) and the way it flows in the breeze...but I'm not sure I love it with this vest. I thought the tailored vest would help anchor the dress into a more business-casual aesthetic, but after wearing the combination for a day, I'm pretty sure they still look like mismatched pieces I tried to kluge together. Maybe I'll try again with a less fanciful dress, but the future's not looking bright for the wearability of this vest.

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