Friday, February 1, 2013

It's sew time!

Yesterday I had a burst of inspiration and pulled out every vintage dress from my closet that was in need of repair or alteration.

I always fall victim to a beautiful print before I'm willing to accept that a dress is 5 sizes to big - "I'll just take it in" or "I'll just take it up!" It's always with the best of intentions, but just never seems to get done!

So today I found 4 of my pretties that were in need of some love. I was surprised there weren't more in there - then I remembered that I had boxed some up and put them down in the garage so as not to feel like a total failure with a wardrobe full of unwearable garments. That monumental task can be for another day!

Task 1 - replace some buttons.

I bought this gorgeous green dress from a Facebook page called Drowning in Decadence. Buying clothes on Facebook revolutionised my procrastination experience in my final years of study - I also got many pretty dresses from my commitment!

I thought I would start with an easy repair - can't get much easier than replacing buttons. That is, if you have the right buttons. The buttons on this dress are nothing short of incredible. 

I remember exactly where I was when I lost the two missing ones - one while out stuffing my face at Yum Cha (yep, popped a button!) and the other much later when lounging about the house. I know I kept the buttons to sew back on - but do you think I can find the prominent place I put them to inspire me to sew them back on? NOPE!

Secretly hoping I had stashed them in it, I approached my favourite box in the house - the buttons box! 

But they weren't in there. I did find some substitutes in these neat yellow round buttons (which still had attached some shreds of whatever clothing I had reefed them off) or these cutesy worn wood numbers. There were also some yellowing square ones - but of course I could only find a set of 3 when the magic number was 4.

They all paled in comparison. I couldn't do it. So I took to the internet in search of some green and gold tone vintage buttons that could fit the bill. I'm not sure how I'm going to cope when I return to work and won't have time to scroll through 16 pages of buttons on Etsy. 

After all that, I didn't find what I was looking for - but I did find a cute green sixties dress from an Etsy store based in Chattanooga - which put Chattanooga Choo Choo in my head - which lead to some unproductive but entertaining Andrews Sisters YouTube viewing.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

It took a while, but task 1 was a complete fail. NEXT!

Task 2 - fix/replace a broken zipper. 

The zipper on this dress broke the first time I got to wear it. I purchased this dress on Facebook too - I think it was from from the Gary Pepper Vintage page. Resistance was futile against the sailor collar tie and the soft flocked polka dots.

At first, thinking my zipper was doomed, I envisioned transforming this dress from a zipper closure to a button down back. That would have been super cute - and really hard - I forgot buttons required button holes to make them work effectively...

Not knowing what to do, I turned to my almighty source of supreme knowledge - YouTube. Under the guidance of the lovely Claire Louise, Theatrical Wardrobe Mistress (BEST JOB TITLE EVER), I had unpicked, re-alligned and re-fastened my original zipper in about 5 minutes flat. Soak up her knowledge here!

Total success. Not a zipper tooth out of place.

Task 3 - repair an elasticated side seam that had split. 

The cause of the injury - way too much lounging. I took for granted the roomy elastic waist and the worn soft cotton of this dress. I think I wore this dress every single weekend until the injury. I got this one from one of the huge vintage stores in Harajuku, Tokyo called Chicago

This task was harder than I thought - working with elastic and I couldn't quite reverse engineer how all the pieces were joined from the inside hems. So I just freeballed and hoped it wouldn't look too bad from the outside. And it doesn't look all that bad - even though somewhere along the way the elastic got twisted - but only a knowing eye could tell. 

The main thing is that this dress is now back on lounging duty. Although I might have to lounge a bit more carefully.

Task 4 - alter a boxy 1940's style tea dress in some way.

With sewing confidence at an all time high, I tackled my final challenge. I bought this dress from the Woolloongabba Antique Centre. This is a classic example of love at first sight - I'll do what I have to do to make it work.

The top of the dress is dreamy - I love the collar detail and sleeves. The skirt was a disaster on me - too big in the waist and the pleats started too low on me. The length was lovely - but combined with the waist and pleat situation - it wasn't doing it for me.

It was either make the chop or sell it on eBay. So I took a dramatic breath and cut it straight across the middle. I simply unpicked the hacked skirt panel from the waist hem of the top and sewed the hem up again. Having learned all about zippers earlier in the day, I was also able to salvage the zipper down the back!

Voila! A lovely sheer coat top thing.

Looking at my new top, I knew it would look perfect over a simple shift style dress. I love dress separates! But alas, I didn't have enough fabric from the offcut skirt to make such a dress. The skirt was still salvageable though - if I could make a super high waisted skirt to sit under the top it would look just as good.

So I hemmed up a new waist on the skirt section and threaded some elastic through. Not only was this the easiest option I could think of - it was the perfect solution for the size issue - the extra fabric now made a fuller flowy skirt pulled in at the waist. I also didn't have to loose too much length to do it.

So here is the new skirt!

And the new separates outfit (worn with a slip underneath as the original lining was a casualty to my creative cutting). I think my unwilling cameraman may have been more taken with the gladiolis than with my sewing skills.

All in all - a successful day of vintage fix ups! Now to clean up all the mess I made!


  1. I love seeing how other people alter clothes, what you did to that tea dress was sheer (get it?) genius!


  2. This looks great and such a great idea!

    Love the dress design and colour :)