ethical fashion

Refashioning a 1980’s Dress into a 1940’s Pinafore

Refashioning a 1980's dress into a 1940's pinafore the artyologist

Do you ever have an idea of a project, and then when you do it, for one reason or another it doesn’t turn out anything like the original plan?

I got this dress a few years ago (yes. . . years) from the thrift store, with the thought that I would refashion it into something a little less “1980’s bag lady”. However, time went on, and I could never quite figure out what to do with it, as there never seemed to be enough material to do anything with. I loved the gingham print, though, and the fabric was¬†rayon, which I would much rather prefer to the poly/cotton blends that all gingham seem to come in. So, I didn’t give up on it, and finally, a few weeks ago, when the canola was in full bloom and I needed something to wear in the field, this gingham came to mind: it was the push to finally do something with it!

gingham refashioned pinafore before and after the artyologist

My first plan was a simple dress, like this sketch below. Simply remove the sleeves, dart the bodice in, hem it to knee length using the excess fabric from the hem to create a tie belt, and add some eyelet lace. It would be easy and simple and wouldn’t take too long.

Gingham pinafore inspiration and sketch the artyologist

(Something like this, minus the ruffles. I love the ruffles, but didn’t have enough fabric)

Yes. Well. Nothing in life is easy, and most definitely not refashioning garments. So, here I outline how I ended up, not with a sleeveless dress, but a pinafore instead. (And in the process, reveal all the wonky bits that didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I would’ve liked them to!) ūüôā

The first step, was removing the sleeves¬†and fitting the bodice. This was easily done, however there was a malfunction when I fit and cut the armscye. (Which, by the way, is the curve of the armhole, and is pronounced arms-eye. In case you didn’t know that already. I didn’t know that for the longest time and was going around tongue twisting “arm-sky”, or “arm-sis”, which are not correct in the least. So, now I have saved you embarrassment, or maybe I have just embarrassed myself, I’m not sure which.)¬†I cut the new armscye shape, and the cloth shifted when I cut it, and it ended up too low on one side. . . and so basically the bodice was ruined. Ooops.

So, now that the armhole on one side was too low, I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about it for a while, and then decided that gingham would be perfect for a pinafore, as a pinafore doesn’t have armholes¬†anyways. So, on to plan B!

I was looking through some of my sewing books, and through some vintage blogs. I came across the¬†picture above of a yellow gingham pinafore style dress which I liked, from one of my sewing books, and I also remembered this dress from that Solanah of Vixen Vintage wore a few years back that I had on my list of ‘dresses to make”, and I thought that I could make this dress¬†work.

gingham refashion how to cut bodice the artyologist

I ended up picking apart the bodice on the sides, and detaching it from the skirt, so I had two flat pieces to work from, rather than a partially constructed bodice (as that had already been proven to lead to disaster). Once I had the two pieces flat, I cut the neckline straight down at an angle, basically just cutting out the rounded corners, measuring each side to make sure they were even. (The straps were 2″ wide.)

Then, I cut out the new sides, leaving¬†4¬†inches up from the waist, which would form a fake “waistband’ on the side. I cut it at 4″, which allowed for 1/2 seam allowances on top and bottom for a finished 3” side panel. Remember to leave seam allowances for all of your seams. With this project I used 1/2 inch as I didn’t have much fabric to work with. For reference, the finished bib width is 13 1/2″ at the outer top edge¬†of the straps, and is 9″ wide at the bottom (where to the two yellow lines form a right angle in the diagram above).

I left the side pieces as a waistband, even though most pinafores don’t have a side panel. A few years ago¬†I sewed a¬†pinafore and it ended up looking so¬†much like an apron that I actually ended up turning it into an apron. For the longest time I couldn’t quite place my finger on why it looked like an apron instead of a dress, and I have come to the conclusion that¬†it is because the sides were completely removed. By leaving a couple of inches, it gave some structure for the skirt, and it looked more like a dress. Because even though a pinafore is an apron, I don’t really want people to think that I am actually wearing an apron.

After I had finished cutting the bodice pieces, I traced the shape and cut out two pieces of lining fabric, lining the entire bodice so that all the seams would be encased.

(This refashioned dress I made a few years ago, used the same technique as I did for this one, only instead of cutting the sides and neckline square, I curved them, so you can see how you could use this technique for a different style of dress)

button detail and bodice lining gingham pinafore the artyologist

Once the bodice was finished, it was time to attach the skirt. At this point,¬†I discovered that the fabric had, over time, stretched out of shape, and¬†the front button placket no longer hung¬†straight. I also discovered that when the¬†fabric had initially been cut, it was cut off grain.¬† This was noticeable as the gingham pattern revealed the fact, but there wasn’t much I could do to square it up, without sacrificing too much material. So, I¬†left it: I wasn’t concerned that it would shrink, as it was¬†a pre-owned and washed garment. I made the decision to remove the button placket on the skirt and just leave¬†the four decorative buttons on the bodice. Once the skirt was gathered and sewn¬†to the bodice, I inserted a side¬†invisible zipper. I would have liked to have used a white zipper, but I did not have one and the local store doesn’t sell invisible zips. So, I used a navy zipper, which worked out ok- it’s on the side anyways, so is not super visible. I was really in¬†a¬†“it’s¬†now or never” state of mind at that point (two days in). If I had to place the dress to the side, I don’t think I would have finished it, with the amount of frustrations I had already had with it. That, and the canola was in full bloom, and I needed the¬†dress now, not next week when it would be too late!

gingham and lace hem the artyologist

Now the dress was almost done, and needed only to be hemmed and lace attached at the bottom. This was the part where I was tempted to cry tears of frustration. Remember how I said that the cloth had stretched and warped over time? Well, it was completely out of whack, and I couldn’t straighten it along the pattern. I tried measuring down, I tried measuring from the edge, and every time I pinned it, it was crooked and hung down¬†in the back or the side. And nothing makes a garment look worse than a crooked hem. (Unless I suppose it is a train, and is done on purpose, which in that case is great!) Finally, after pulling out all my hair (oh and did I mention that I was doing this at 12:00 at night?) I decided to measure up from the floor, like those hem markers do. I placed the dress on my mannequin and measured up with a yardstick, pinning and pressing it into place to see if it worked- and it did! So, as you can see the hem does not follow the pattern of the gingham, but it is straight from the floor! And as long as I stand on level ground it will be so ūüėČ I decided that I would rather have a straight hem, than worry about the pattern of the fabric, and as it is at the hem, no one is going to notice it anyways. Well, I guess now you will. Oops.

lace and hem pinafore the artyologist

The last step was attaching the lace to the hem, adding the pocket, and then changing the buttons to white, as the other ones looked a bit dingy¬†with age. I made the pocket out of one of the sleeves, and edged with the same eyelet. There were originally supposed to be two pockets, but the measurement was off, and it would have run over¬†the zipper. So, I decided the dress¬†was good with just one pocket, and called it done! I placed the pocket at an angle, as the fabric squares wouldn’t line up, and also so you could see it on such a busy background.

back view and pocket, the artyologist

Whew. Somehow this project rapidly¬†went from a quick and easy alteration, to three days¬†of tears and frustration! But, it worked, and I am satisfied with it, as it turned out looking a lot like the 1940’s style pinafores. And, for all of the headache it caused, I love¬†that my “new” dress is¬†also keeping one more garment out of the textile waste cycle.

(Oh, and we got the pictures in the canola field too, which is why I started this whole escapade in the first place!)

Do you ever start projects and have to change to plan B, C or D partway through?

Do you like refashioning garments, or would you rather start from scratch?

walking away in gingham pinafore the artyologist

An Almost Vintage Skirt of Recycled Fabric

an almost recycled skirt of vintage fabric the artyologist

This¬†could also be titled¬†as “The World’s Easiest Skirt Pattern”. ūüôā¬†When I sewed up my dutch wax print skirt, and refashioned my black floral, I realized just how much I love pleated skirts. After completing Me Made May, I decided that I needed more of these skirts in my life as they are so easy to wear, and are comfortable and practical for everyday. When I was deciding what fabric to use, I remembered¬†this vintage sheet I picked up a a flea market a couple of months¬†ago, so I decided to recycle the fabric into a skirt. I absolutely love the pattern on the fabric- is it just me or were vintage linens so much nicer than today’s?

skirt construction the artyologist

I used the same easy method as the other skirts, which pretty much involves creating a curved waistband to fit your waist measurement, plus seam allowances. I have found that a slightly curved band is better than a straight rectangle, as bodies are typically not straight,¬†so¬†if it is curved in, the waistband will not gape on you. I didn’t use a pattern for this, I seriously just “eyeballed” the curve for this band and traced to create a mirror image for both sides. To this, I cut a front and back rectangle, and pleated it into the waist circumference (no real math at play, just pleating and fiddling until it fit!)¬†To create something different, so all of the garments in my wardrobe are not exactly the same, I decided to add ties to the waistband this time. I think they give a bit of a fun twist. I sewed the two ties separately, and then inserted them between the zipper (which I had saved¬†off another garment, hence the title of this post) and the waistband when sewing them together. Thus, the raw edges were encased, and the ties wrap around to the front. The skirt took me only about 4 hours start to finish. Well, not including the time that it took to cut the material, I guess. When I went to lay out the fabric, I discovered that somewhere along the way someone had used this sheet as a dropcloth or something, and there was orange paint splattered across¬†it! I had to do some strategic measuring and cutting to avoid all the splatters- but it was successful, as none of the paint shows on the final garment! The joys of vintage material I guess. ūüėČ I actually love projects like this as they recycle something¬†that would otherwise be discarded. The skirt turned out nicely and qualifies as a Make do and Mend garment, I think, as well as almost being vintage, as the materials to make it were. . .

waistband detail the recycled skirt the artyologist

So, onto the outfit! The skirts debut, the very next day, was for an afternoon of shopping on Edmonton’s Whyte Ave. My best friend came for a visit (as I already mentioned before), so we took the opportunity to go shopping, and Whyte Ave is a pretty fun place filled with lots of lovely little shops and restaurants.¬†(I also found the best little store called Rowena, which carries a whole host of vintage reproduction brands I’ve never been able to find in a brick-and-mortar store! I was like a kid in a candy shop- and I have an outfit post with the¬†dress I bought, next week!)

the entirely recycled fabric skirt the artyologist

the entirely recycled skirt the artyologist

We had a lovely time shopping, but I didn’t get any outfit photos while we were there, which is too bad as there are so many historical brick buildings that would’ve served as¬†a nice backdrop. I was too busy catching up with my friend, though, to stop for pictures, so we got these pictures later. I paired the skirt with a modern ruffled blouse, and my lovely vintage straw boater I got at an antique sale a few years ago. The lining in this hat is so shredded I can barely pick out any of the label, the only words left¬†read “Knox New York”. I did a google search and came up with this article about the Knox hat company, but as it appears they made men’s hats, I’m not sure of the history of this piece. ¬†It is lovely though, and in very good shape too, despite the label being in disrepair. I would’ve liked to have paired this outfit with my cognac kiltie loafers, but as they are not broken in yet, I thought an afternoon spent walking would be better suited to my tried and true brown flats. Sometimes style must be sacrificed for comfort, as much as I hate to admit it¬†ūüôĀ

Anyways, I’ve already worn this skirt several times since I made it, and it is quickly becoming a favourite in my wardrobe. Do you ever¬†find yourself gravitating towards sewing or wearing¬†the same things over and over again?

Outfit details:

Hat- vintage from an antique sale

Shirt- secondhand

Skirt- made by me out of a sheet from a flea market

Earrings- Joe Fresh from a year ago

Shoes- Josef Seibel

Purse- bought in England

vintage knox straw boater the artyologist

the entirely recycled fabric skirt the artyologist

an almost recycled skirt of vintage fabric the artyologist

vintage straw boater the artyologist

vintage knox boater the artyologist

Fashion Revolution 2016

the artyologist image for fashion revolution who made my clothes

On April 24, 2013 the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,134 and injuring over 2,500 people. This week, to raise awareness about the global fashion industry, in memory of this terrible tragedy, and to ensure that it never happens again, I am participating in Fashion Revolution. (Look I even got instagram so I could take part!)

The idea behind this event is simple: look at your labels, ask the brands of your clothing #whomademyclothes? We need to be aware of the fact that all of our clothes are made by someone, somewhere, and we play a part in ensuring that those people work in safe and fair conditions. We can¬†demand better care and safe working environments for the people who make the world’s clothes.

Personally I never used to think much about where my clothes came from, or who made them- they just appeared at the store as far as I knew. Who spun the threads? Who dyed the fabric? Did the people who sewed them work in safe and responsible conditions? These were not questions that crossed my mind. I thought that sweatshops and horrific tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911, were a thing of the past.

I first became aware of the reality behind¬†cheap fashion, when I read Elizabeth Cline’s book “The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”, but it was the Rana Plaza collapse that changed my view of the fashion industry and really¬†made me aware of the secrets that lay behind the tags on our clothes. Suddenly tragedies were not outdated, and the fashion industry had a face behind it. 1,134 people died that day. These were mothers, sisters, brothers and families suddenly gone, because of unsafe working conditions, in order for¬†wealthy consumers to be able to buy cheap clothing.¬†The garment and textile workers¬†are the ones who ultimately pay for the insatiable appetite consumers have for fashion.

And that is why I decided that day, that I would not participate in the cheap fashion trend anymore.

Yes, it can be depressing to hear about the devastation taking place in the name of fashion. Yes, it can be difficult to find fair trade clothing. Yes, it can cost you more money. Yes, it can be frustrating to try and fill your wardrobe while avoiding cheaply made clothing.

But can we really afford not to?

We each have a voice, and by the choices we make each day, we are shaping the world we live in. Each one of us is personally responsible for the choices we make.

So, even if you aren’t¬†taking part in Fashion Revolution, I encourage you take responsibility for the choices you make each day regarding the clothes you wear, be a conscious shopper and help to create a world¬†of¬†safe, ethical and responsible fashion.

A Refashioned Wax Print Skirt & Thoughts On Authenticity

 

the artyologist- image of chinese wax fabric and needle

The skirt in my last post was a refashion of a dutch wax print wrap skirt I found in a thrift store last year.

I have had my share of thrift store “remakes”. You know the kind where it “only needs to be hemmed”, or it “needs to be fitted”, or¬†“the fabric is so pretty, but the style is so outdated, but if I just did this” then it would be the most perfect dress/skirt/whatever. I go thrifting quite regularly and come¬†across many such garments needing to be saved, and I used to buy them all, until one day I looked around and saw the abundance (translation = piles) of 1/2 finished projects lying around and I realized¬†that I actually hate altering¬†clothes. As much as I love salvaging, as much as I hate throwing things away, and as much as I love breathing new life into old¬†garments, I just absolutely hate adjusting and altering.

So I created a new rule for myself that unless those “almost perfect” garments only needed an adjustment that would take me less than an hour to complete, or there was enough fabric to cut a new pattern out of it, I would pass it by.

So, when I found this wrap skirt I didn’t hesitate to pick it up, as I knew there was enough yardage to make something new, and I loved the African wax print material so much that even if I could only have made a pillow out of it I¬†would have gotten it. ūüôā African or Dutch wax print fabric is hard to find (where I live), so it was nice to find a piece.the artyologist- image of african wax wrap skirt made of chinese wax fabric

This skirt was kind of strange in how it was constructed- the front and the back panels had been completely sewn, lined and finished separately and then topstitched together right where the flange down the back is, with a triangular piece set in to create almost a train or kickpleat. The yellow ribbon was topstitched to the material, and fortunately was easy to pull apart.

the artyologist- image of african style fabric out of chinese wax fabric and pin cushion

Once deconstruction was finished, I was left with two large rectangles of fabric, minus the shaped cut away piece on the front. This was perfect as it gave me enough excess to make a waistband. Originally the fabric had been turned sideways to create length, but I turned it back to give more volume, since I had already planned for a pleated skirt.

I didn’t use a pattern for the skirt- I just cut the two rectangles¬†the¬†same size, and then it was a¬†straightforward process of pleating the fabric into the waist circumference. I just played with it until it was the right size.

First mistake: I made a slightly curved waistband to prevent it from gapping, but I forgot that the top of the curve would be smaller than the bottom (duh!). So, when I went to try¬†it on after basting the pieces together- oof- it was a bit tight!! Of course¬†I had measured once and cut twice, so I had to add a piece to my waistband. Good thing the fabric is so busy, because you don’t even notice it. Except that I just now told you about it. . . oops.

the artyologist- image of waistband piecing on african wax print skirt made of chinese fabric

The only other mishap- which I might add was my machine’s fault- was that I did a practice buttonhole, which turned out beautifully, then sewed onto my waistband¬†and the machine jammed creating a huge zigzag mess. Sigh. I could have left it, as again the fabric is so busy- but that would just be a disgrace. So I spent about 45 minutes picking that mess out of the fabric. At least after that, the¬†others went in properly and neatly.

the artyologist- image of african wax print style skirt waistband detail

(I would have been embarrassed to have this photo taken, if I had not corrected the error of my ways)

When thinking about what buttons to use, I thought that metal ones would look nice, and then I found these unique buttons in my mom’s stash. I stole them (thanks mom!) and they are perfect. So all in all, the skirt is exactly what I envisioned, and I love it to bits.

the artyologist- image of african style hitarget wax print fabric

When I took the skirt apart I discovered that on the selvedge was printed the manufacturing details. Now this was exciting, since I am interested not only in the “look” of African Dutch wax print fabric, but also the origins and history of it.¬†Dutch wax print fabric was originally inspired¬†by the¬†Batik fabric from Indonesia and southern Asia. At some point along the way, it was adopted by West African countries, and the designs and patterns were tailored to suit the African market. The majority of the fabric was, and still is, made in Holland. So I looked up the manufactures name of my fabric, wondering where the fabric was¬†from.

Ironically, I discovered the fabric was Made in China.

HiTarget is a Chinese factory creating wax print fabric, with traditional designs, to sell in African markets, at a lower pricepoint.¬†In essence it is “cheap fashion”.¬†Somehow I had just never thought about cheap fashion in places¬†other than Western/North American markets, and I¬†was¬†a little bit surprised¬†by the discovery that my “authentic” skirt, wasn’t so authentic after all.

However, after I thought about it for a while, I decided that even though the fabric itself is not Dutch or West African in origin, judging by the style of the skirt, I am guessing that this garment was sewn and worn by an African lady.

I read a bit about Chinese wax print fabric and found out that many African women buy the fabric, since it is cheaper for everyday wear, saving the good stuff for special clothes. So, I don’t think it is the same as me, a non-African¬†woman saying, “I want the look, without the price” and purposely buying cheap fabric, or worse simply buying a “tribal print” garment from a chain store, which certainly doesn’t respect the cultural significance of the designs, and comes with a host of other issues (sweat shops anyone?)

Also, I decided that as this was a cast-off garment, which I found in a thrift store, I was able to give it a new life, and keep it out of the textile waste cycle. The fabric came from China, the dress came from Africa (in style at least if not physically), and I found it in Canada. ūüôā Taking something that already exists, and creating something new from it, I believe, is a good thing anyways, which is why¬†most¬†of my wardrobe is secondhand or handmade. This skirt lands squarely in both categories.

So, ultimately, how do I feel about my “non authentic” skirt?

While¬†I won’t deny that I was disappointed at first, the more I thought about it, the fact that it appears to have been made and worn by an African lady, validates it’s authenticity, though it had¬†a circuitous route of arriving there. I¬†am going to wear this skirt with pride and enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the fabric and designs.

If you want to find out more about the history of Dutch wax print, I found these two great articles: Know Your Wax by Madame Tay & African Fabrics by Beyond Victoriana

the artyologist- image of african style wax print fabric skirt