sewing

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

Me Made May 2016; Now That It’s Over. . .

me made may roundup the artyologist

So, the month of May is over and with that comes the end of the Me Made May challenge! It was a neat experience participating in this online event for the first time, and it was fun to see how many people were taking part over on Instagram. (The majority of the photos are gathered under #mmmay16, if you want to go and see)

Now that the month is over (and I am a week late in writing this) (and really where did May go so fast!!??) it is time to think about what I learned from the challenge. I wrote about my reason for joining in in this post here, and over at Zoe’s¬†blog you can read about the whole thing. The main idea is to evaluate your wardrobe, and show the garments you’ve made a bit of love and appreciation. My challenge to wear each of my homemade garments was a good challenge for me, because I have some homemade garments I literally never reach for, so it was good to wear them and evaluate, “Why don’t I wear this? Why is this not the first thing I reach for when getting dressed?”. Here are my thoughts, and lessons learned, as well as what I need to focus on now in my sewing projects. . .

me made may roundup 2 the artyologist

  • I grabbed a dress first almost every day. For me, dresses are my go to: they are so easy. I don’t have to worry about coordinating my separates, or the fact that my blouse is coming untucked, or try too hard to get an ensemble that looks “put together”. I just throw on a dress, grab some shoes, maybe a hat and a purse¬†and I’m done! I¬†wore my handmade dresses, such as the seersucker dress, and black rayon dirndl dress, over and over throughout the month (I just didn’t take a picture each time haha!) So, I definitely need to add more dresses into the list of projects. And as far as what kind: full skirted dresses are my first love!
  • I work from home, so I don’t get dressed to the nines each morning, with fancy¬†dresses, petticoats, hats, gloves, and high heels. When I am at my desk, comfort is key. BUT, I still want to look classy and put together!¬†I found that my pleated skirts are two of the other garments I reached for over and over again. I often paired them with a solid t-shirt, or peasant blouse. Are t-shirts vintage? Nope, not really, but on a casual stay-at-home day, or a really hot day where I think I might just melt into a puddle, t-shirts are great. If I pair them with a vintage style skirt though, rather than jeans for example, I still get the “look”, but I stay comfortable. Those two skirts I made were sooooo easy to make. I really need to whip up a couple more.
  • I have a wardrobe that is¬†full of patterns. I love patterns, but unfortunately, most of the patterns are different florals that don’t coordinate with each other. I need to focus on bringing some more solids into my wardrobe, so the patterns can shine and not compete with each other. On that note, the two hats I made, only coordinate with a select few garments I have in my closet. So, either I need to focus on making hats that will go well with lots of my garments, or make more garments that will coordinate with my hats. I hate it¬†when you don’t have a hat that “goes” with an outfit, and yet you know that the outfit would look so much better if it did have a coordinating hat!

me made may roundup 3 the artyologist

And lastly, what did I not reach for?

  • Like I said, fancy party dresses are not something I wear¬†on a consistent basis. (Maybe I just need to go to more parties. . . .) I definitely wear them on occasion, and I do like to dress up a bit fancier for church, but even then, I would be more likely to wear a rayon or brushed cotton, than a taffeta or silk. I never once wore my¬†beautiful floral “garden party” dress during the month of May, but I do have an event coming up in June that I am planning on wearing it to. I still definitely want to keep these¬†few fancier options in my closet, for those few times a year when I need a cocktail dress, however, perhaps my sewing hours would be better suited to sewing some more “everyday” garments, before I start focusing on the fancy dresses.
  • I never once reached for my pants. I only wore them on the last day, so that I could say that I had done it! ūüėČ I just find dresses and skirts so much more comfortable. (which is funny considering that most people consider pants to be more comfortable. . . ) Obviously I need pants for occasions like: digging up the garden, walking through tall grass and weeds where you don’t want your legs to get all scratched up to shreds, or going tobogganing (for example), but for daily use, I just don’t wear them. However, when I did wear them, I liked them well enough, so maybe I just need to take note to remember to wear them more often. I recently purchased Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers, as I have heard good things about that pattern, so perhaps¬†I should sew those up sooner rather than later.

Overall it was great to participate in the challenge, and I certainly did pay more attention to what I have, what I wore, and what I should make to fill in those “holes”, so I would consider the challenge a success! Have you ever taken part in the Me Made May challenge? Or have you ever stopped to do a thorough evaluation of¬†your wardrobe?

me made may roundup 4 the artyologist