Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Made Up Initiative: shirt dress refashion

I'm sure that by now most of you will have heard of the Made Up Initiative launched by Karen of Did You Make That, and that your blog readers and social media feeds are filling up with completed challenges. Are you taking part? Here's my contribution!

I'm always happy to get behind a good cause like the National Literacy Trust, even more so if supporting it also involves some sewing community fun. As I was going to be away for part of the fundraising month, I didn't want to set myself too big a challenge and instead pledged to tackle a project that I knew I wanted to do, but otherwise might have been pushed aside - refashioning a denim shirt dress that I picked up in a charity shop. Here are the before and after photos...

I feel slightly like I've done what magazines always do when they're doing makeovers - the before shot was taken in a rush on a gloomy day, whereas the after were taken in lovely sun and with pretty accessories. This wasn't intentional though, and was more due to the fact that I needed to take the before photos so I could get on with the actual refashioning so didn't have the luxury of waiting for better lighting.

As I said, the dress came from a charity shop and cost me the princely sum of £3. I knew when I bought it that it would need some alteration because it was 3 sizes too big for me, but the denim was so gorgeously soft that I thought it would be worth the work.

It seemed like a good candidate for my Made Up pledge because I always have good intentions when it comes to refashioning, but tend to get distracted by new patterns or fabric and the refashioning gets neglected and forgotten about. This would give me the incentive to actually get it done!

Here's a brief summary of the changes I made:

- Added 1 inch tucks at each of the 4 waist darts
- Removed the arms
- Took in the side seams of the bodice
- Trimmed away excess fabric from the shoulder, tapering to nothing towards the underarm
- Finished the armholes with bias binding
- Chopped 3 inches off the bottom and re-hemmed the dress
- Replaced the dark metal buttons with rainbow beauties (these ones!)
- Added backwards buttons at the waist to prevent gaping

I'll admit that this was largely done based on guesswork! The tucks at the waist were inspired by the ones on the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress; I really like the shape that they give (my version's here), and I thought that doing something similar would be a good and, more importantly, easy way of taking the excess width out of the waist. I basted them first just to check I wasn't being completely insane, and thankfully for me it worked brilliantly.

The sleeves/shoulders definitely needed work, and I decided that the easiest thing would be just to get rid of the sleeves entirely. Plus that gives me the option of wearing it on its own in the summer or layering it with t-shirts pinafore-style when it's colder.

I judged how much to take out of the side seam by putting the dress on inside out and pinning where I wanted the stitching to be on one side and then mirroring that over on the other side. Possibly not the most scientific way of doing it but it worked!

Sewing all the new buttons on was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole process but I'm glad that I did it. There wasn't anything wrong with the original buttons, but with them and the denim both being quite dark it wasn't exactly an exciting combination. The rainbow buttons are much more fun! They're refusing to be photographed close-up, but hopefully you can see them a bit in the photo above.

All in all, I'm glad I chose this as my Made Up pledge so that I had the incentive to actually get on and sort out the dress. It feels lovely to wear, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it'll become a real favourite in my wardrobe. Maybe I should take that as encouragement to get some more refashioning done!


  1. Gorgeous refashion! :) I love the new buttons. Definitely well worth the time. :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, they were definitely worth it - they brighten up the dress well!

  2. This is brilliant! I thought the pleats looked like the Vintage Shirt Dress before I got to the bit where you mentioned it. And I love the rainbow buttons. Pledges like this are such a great opportunity to try something different.

    1. Thank you! I thought I might as well take inspiration from a dress that I knew worked well for me, and I'm glad I did. And yes, I'm glad I pledged to make this - otherwise it would probably have been neglected for months!

  3. Fantastic refashion and those buttons really lift it. Flattering and practical what more can you want?

    1. Thank you! Yes - it's a great combination of flattering and practical - I'll definitely be wearing it a lot!

  4. Fantastic refashion and those buttons really lift it. Flattering and practical what more can you want?

  5. You look great! I refashioned a charity shop shirt dress earlier this year that was too big, I love it.

    1. Thank you! Refashioning charity shop finds is quite rewarding isn't it? I should remember that and not neglect the refashioning so much!


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