Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Colorful, Lacy, Shirty, Dress

I have a specific sewing goal for this month, buy no fabric. I already have quite a stash. So the plan is to just use material from I already have, all month. One of the first things from my stash to use up? The 5 men's shirts I got to use for The Refashioners 2015. Last week I started off by making my little sister a dress from a very large grey/silver shirt. This week it was my turn. I started out with this XL shirt,

Intending to make it into this dress.

I thought I might need 2 shirts to make this dress, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had enough fabric in just one shirt!
First I cut the button placket off most of the shirt, just leaving it attached along the top few inches. Then I chopped off the bottom of the shirt, about mid arm hole, and put what was left on my dress form.

My plan was to make the bodice similar to this shirt I have.

So first I cut out a yoke. Then used the shirt sleeves to drape the bodice front.

Now I don't drape things. I'm pretty attached to using patterns as the starting point for whatever I make. So this was really out of my comfort zone!
I draped the upper bodice front, then cut the back out using a pattern. For the lower bodice front I had a plan that didn't involve patterns or draping.

The cuffs and collar stand were lined with this bright print. I thought it would be fun to showcase that print somewhere on the dress. So I used the cuffs, inside out, as the lower bodice front. I sewed the inside of the collar stand across the back of the dress, giving the illusion of a brightly colored belt around the dress.

The bodice went together easily, then it was time for the sleeves. Those sleeves took more time than everything else put together. I had some blue lace I wanted to uses for the sleeves. So I sewed the strips of lace together, cut out the sleeves, and sewed them on. Then I tried on the dress. The sleeves just weren't going to work. Why? for several reasons, but the first one I tackled was the shoulders. The dress was too narrow in the shoulders for me. So, I removed the sleeves and got to work. I took apart the collar and used it to extend the shoulders.

On the front I folded the bottom of the collar to get it to lay flat against the bodice the way it needed to.

On the back I just trimmed  the excess fabric off. This didn't work well. It left me with weirdly puckering, baggy, back shoulders once the sleeves were sewn on, so I had to make a tuck about halfway up the arm hole.

It's not pretty, but atleast it got the bodice to fit right in the shoulders.
Once I had the arm holes all fixed up, it was time to figure out the sleeves. I started with straight, almost half-length, sleeves , like in my sketch. Those didn't work for me. They were too tight and allowed very little movement. So, I tried little cap sleeves instead. I still couldn't raise my arms. Next I tried slightly puffed cap sleeves, the fit was better, but I wasn't sold on the look. At this point I was seriously considering just leaving off the sleeves all together, but I had already cut up my lace to make these sleeves. So, by golly, I was going to have lace sleeves on this dress! Finally, after a lot of sewing, seam ripping, pinning, re-sewing, re-seam ripping, and re- pinning, I came up with 2 possible sleeves variations, that were both comfortable and relatively cute.

Flutter sleeves and puffed cap sleeves. Well, I decided the flutter sleeves were the most comfortable and most flattering, so that's what I went with.

I took apart the puffed sleeve, and re-made it as a flutter sleeve. Oh, and did I mention, every sleeve variation I attempted (atleast 5), was made using to original straight lace sleeves? I took appart and re-sewed those lace stripes together more times than I care to remember. But in the end it was worth it, I had cute sleeves and even had enough lace left over to add some to the skirt hem.   

Now, the skirt. I made it from the bottom of the skirt.. Remember how I had cut it off mid arm hole, rather than below the arm hole? Well, I had a reason for this. The bottom half of the arm holes was perfect for pocket openings. I hemmed the edge, and then used what ever fabric was left from the original skirt to make pockets.

I sewed them on like patch pockets, only on the inside rather than the outside. 

Once the pockets were in, I pleated the skirt onto the bodice. I re-attached the button placket to the skirt.I had to add an extra piece of fabric (the original shirt pocket) at the bottom since the button placket wasn't quite long enough.

I bound the neckline and arm holes with some bias tape I had on hand. Last minute I decided to add some lace to the bodice, this blue crocheted lace that I had one small scrap of, less then a foot. It doesn't match the other blue lace, but I think the bright colored waist band ties everything together.

I'm very happy with my lacy, colorful, shirt dress. This project really challenged me between the draping and the sleeves, but it came out better than I'd hoped.

The goats certainly seemed to like it!

Another challenge in this dress? Inspired by the flat felled seams in the original shirt, I made this dress with a mixture of french and felled seams, so the inside looks professionally finished. While finishing seams may not be the most advanced of sewing skills, it's something I very rarely take the time to do in my modern sewing. At best I pink, or occasionally zig-zag stitch, my seams. So a garment with completely finished seams is quite an accomplishment for me! Hopefully I'll take the time to do the same on future projects.

This is a dress I'm proud of, now onto the next shirt it the pile. I'm not sure I can beat this dress, but I'll try!

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