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May 15

Polka Dot 80’s Refashion

Last week’s theme over on Sew Weekly was Family, or more accurately we were to sew using the theme of Mothers.  (My Sew Weekly Post is here.)  While I do get a head’s up on the upcoming themes, I have found that I’m actually only sewing 1 week before the deadline, and this dress was no exception.  I started this at the 11th hour on Saturday night for the weekly theme (and the blog post is officially due on Monday night).

Sometime last summer my mom gave me a garbage bag that contained a few old dresses; she thought I could hack them up to make something new.  She’d cleaned out her closet several times since the 80’s and I’m not certain how the dresses survived besides having to be some of her favorites.  The ones she gave me were very 80’s.  :)

To tie the theme together we were to post a picture of our family (aka mothers).  Hunting around in old family photos this is the only image I could find of my mom in this dress.

I always recall her wearing it to church and other events and here she is wearing it to a wedding shower in 1986 or 87 paired with light blue eyeshadow.

This is an image taken last year of yours truly wearing the dress, with shoulder pads and all.

I was playing around and thought it fitting that I wear sun glasses in my kitchen with the dress.

You can see how huge the shoulders and the upper half is on me, but the waist and hips seem to be a-okay.

This is my first refashioning project and as a result, I kept my modifications on the simple side.  I also wanted to keep the dress as intact and original as possible, yet also turn it into a classic piece that could be worn today as well as back in the 50’s.

I spent more time unpicking all of the neckline stitching than I think it took to make the alterations; there was 4 lines of stitching to remove along with the serger threads.  I ended up ripping out the entire neckline, armscye, shoulders, and a bit down the center back.

My Mods:  I ended up taking in the shoulder seams by 1.25 inches, and sadly it still wasn’t high enough to enable me to add the sleeves back in, so I had to make the final dress sleeveless.  Additionally, the chest of the dress was still too baggy on me.  The easiest solution I found was to extend the front waistline darts up into a princess seam dart that ended at the middle armscye.  This helped to reduce the gaping at the chest and some of the excess fabric at the arm opening.

I altered the neckline by making it a gentle scoop neck and in the back I lowered the V-neck by 2″ this included removing one of the back button fastenings.  In retrospect I should have lowered it a bit more, by 3″ perhaps but it’s fine as is.  I also reused the original piping and added it back to the neckline.

There still is a bit of weirdness happening at the neckline from excess fabric, but it’s not too bad as long as it’s sitting correctly.

Lastly I had to rehem the dress by a few inches since I’m even shorter than my mom is.  heh

Being my first refashion, I think the simple mods was a decent introduction for refitting and modifying a garment and I hope to get a bit better (& daring) over time.  I have two other dresses that I have to refit (no mods needed) that I got at the flea last year and I have 1 other 80’s dress that my mom gave me that needs an overhaul.

As a followup to this, have you guys read A Fashionable Stitch’s post on Refashioning?  After doing this polka dot dress, I can see where she’s coming from.  But I’ve also seen some amazing refashions lately, Cat Got Dressed Refashion for example.  In short, Cat’s dress is amazing… and takes some serious vision and creativity.  While I love remakes, I also really like starting on projects from scratch… I find them more fulfilling for some odd reason.  So far I’m 70/30 with refashioning vs. working from patterns.

Do you guys have any thoughts to share on Refashioning?  Or do you have a preference which you prefer to work with Pattern vs. Refashioning?

  1. Naomi / May 15 2012

    Super cute! Good for you :)

  2. Anna / May 15 2012

    It turned out really well, great job! I am not much of a re-fashion-er myself. Some people really seem to have a knack for it, but I can’t manage to turn anything into something I would wear and feel comfortable in. I have a whole pile of my husband’s old dress shirts staring me in the face though, so I’m just going to keep on trying!

  3. Tasha / May 15 2012

    That is really cute! And it’s really sweet that you now have a little history with the dress with your mom. :)

    I posted my thoughts on Sunni’s post, but basically I’m just not at the point where I feel confident attempting to refashion something, other than something simple like changing a hem length. I love the concept of it and enjoy seeing others do it, however.

  4. Shana / May 15 2012

    Love! Love! Love! It looks so cute on you. Good job!

  5. Elise / May 15 2012

    Ooh I was gonna say I kind of loved it the way it was but after seeing the restyle I love it more, great job! :)

  6. Ginger / May 15 2012

    Oh, this looks so cute! Great refashion! It’s so nice to have something of your mom’s– that’s really special!

  7. Donna / May 15 2012

    I love polka dots and the dress is adorable! I think it was so much more special that it was originally your Mother’s dress!

  8. Meg / May 15 2012

    I’m a big fan of both refashioning and creating from patterns. Refashioning makes me stretch my sewing muscles a bit – how am I going to make this shirt/dress/pair of pants fit? Where do I need to adjust? What do I need to add or take away? Patterns help me learn new techniques, refashioning makes me use those techniques outside of a set pattern and style. Refashioning is also a good way for me to try out a look. My grandma gave me a ton of large elastic waist pants. I took one pair and made them into capris – very fitted, very 1960s. I absolutely love them, and since they worked out so well, I might venture into making the Colette Clover pants.

  9. Meg / May 15 2012

    And I LOVE your dress by the way! You look mahvelous – the belt is a fabulous touch :)

  10. Bobbi / May 15 2012

    Wow – your refashion looks great! I wish I had skills to do something like that – Goodwill would be a lot more interesting.

  11. Jo / May 16 2012

    It looks so much nicer, it is lovely! I’m with you, I prefer the idea of making from scratch than re-fashioning :)

  12. Cherie / May 17 2012

    Wow, what a great job you did! You are so cute, and the polka dots so charming. A memory dress! Take that photo and make a collage with your mom’s!

  13. Michele / Dec 7 2015

    I do love a good polka dot pattern, especially on a dress. You did an amazing job. Cheers, Michele

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