After And, Er… Before?

I have learned my lesson: before and after makeovers are much more impressive if you have a picture of Before.

I took the sleeves off my favourite dress last summer – despite the seams being both sewn and overlocked they were still coming adrift in places – and happily drafted a post about it. Only to find that I had no pictures of the dress from the four plus years I wore it avec sleeves. Despite wearing it probably twice a week, year round, all through that time.

Unclothed woman behind question mark sign
What DID that dress look like?

Imagine this, only in a rich chocolatey brown. That’s what it looked like new, in August 2015. Now it looks… well, pretty much the same, only with different buttons, a faded shade, and without the sleeves. Plus a couple of patches and a partially disguised bleach stain. (The more you love a garment, the more changes it survives.)

I wear it over a collared shirt which I have been hoarding right through my Dresses Only years, certain that a) this day would come and b) I would struggle to find such a suitable shirt again. I was also delighted to find I could wear the dress sans shirt in the heat of summer, since the armholes fit closely enough not to gape inappropriately.

After that experience, I was prudent the next time serious sartorial surgery was called for. Before taking to the scissors, I took this photo. (Still not a full length photo, alas. I do have one, but it’s somewhat occluded by the garment I am wearing over the top.)

dress with hole worn in bodice

You can see the problem, can’t you? (Besides the lack of ironing.) I’ve patched this dress before, but a discreet round patch in the seam at the base of a zipper is one thing, and a patch right smack on the bodice is another. I was – for me – remarkably decisive. A pair of scissors, some wide elastic, and a few days later, and voila! the dress is now a skirt.

Actually, it wasn’t that simple. I had several goes at getting the waistband to work. The relative width of the elastic and the fabric above the pockets (of course it has pockets!) was the main issue, and not letting the waistband leave the hem uneven was another. Even now it’s probably a bit wonky, and certainly a bit wrinkly. But it works, and it’s wearable, and all I need now is more than one shirt to wear it with, because not every occasion is a Kung Fu Panda occasion (and the one hoarded shirt really doesn’t go with the skirt).

I can’t say I enjoy having sudden holes appear in my clothing, but I do like making the best of the situation and salvaging something wearable from the unwearable. And sometimes (as with my unexpected sleeveless summer dress) it could even be considered an improvement on the original.

What have you exercised your ingenuity to salvage lately? (And do you have before and after pics?)

6 Replies to “After And, Er… Before?”

  1. I have begun unravelling a much loved multi-coloured, checkerboard jersey that I knitted in 1986. A friend has been telling me for at least ten years to throw it away, but after considering turning it into a woolly cushion cover, I decided to reknit the wools. It, like most of my hand-knitted items, has associations, of where I was living, working or rehearsing, when I knitted it. This one reminds me that I used to listen to the radio a lot that year, as I had no TV. I could knit one square while listening to a 30-minute classic radio comedy. Now, each square has become its own separate small ball. Still planning what to do!

    Have you thought about learning to make your own bodices, to sew onto an easy A-line skirt?

    1. What about a really really long stripy scarf?

      I’m certainly planning to make dresses, and some of them will likely be bodice + skirt styles rather than princess line. But I don’t fancy trying to find fabric to match an existing severed skirt – or trying to match other garments to a multi-fabric dress. I believe there is scriptural precedent for not reviving old garments with new fabric. 🙂

      1. Naturally.
        You can either use the same material or two different fabrics that coordinate, to make a new dress, with a basic A-line skirt and a nice fitted bodice (perhaps you can find a pattern maker who can measure you and draft a basic bodice that you can use).
        Stripy scarf – a la Doctor Who?

        1. I do have a book for drafting patterns, and a number of commercial patterns I have my eye on – Scroop Patterns’ Robin Dress, for example. But I still don’t fancy a dress cut in half by change of fabric, not being hugely tall or thin.
          I did realize this morning, though, that I could wear the newly created skirt under my green front-fastening dress, open from the waist. Rather like this, except with a higher neckline and rather fewer encrustations of pearls.

What do you think?