From 'Safe' To 'Sassy'..!

Back in June, when I set myself the Summer Challenge, I had no idea what I'd do with the items of clothing I'd chosen for refashioning... I just knew there was something about them I liked, and that I wasn't ready to part with them just yet...

The 'Before' Shot
And I think that's the telling factor when you've made your mind up to customise or upcycle something, you have to ask yourself "Is it worth salvaging..? Is it worth the effort..?" - and only YOU can answer that..! So - I found myself asking myself that very question as I let my eyes rest on the long blue dress... Was it worth the effort?!

You'll be able to answer that better than I can, when you see what I ended up with..!

Of-course, this blog post would feel a little empty without a soundtrack to go with it, and today I've chosen Pink's Feel Good Time - cos it's fun and edgy, with a personality - which is how I now look at the dress!

And sew to business...

Out of all the items I picked for myself to alter, the long blue dress was the most simple. No fastenings, easy fabric to cut/sew, and a great length - for either keeping or chopping into. In other words, it was the perfect blank canvas for a new creation! The only possible limitation was me...

Now my thought-process is pretty straight-forward on this point, there's NO point in spending time creating a 'masterpiece' for yourself if, by the end of your work, it's perfect... but just not for you. It may well be perfect for *Eva Longoria (*or any other star who lives a completely different life from yours, in a different climate, with VERY diffirent proportions...) - but what use is that to you..?!

You see, I could've slit it to the waist - but I'm no Jessica Rabbit... I could've dip-dyed it and added tassles, but the last time I went to a festival it was by accident - and porta loos put me off that lifestyle much more than any rock band could reel me in. I could've died it black... actually, I could still dye it black - but where's the challenge in that??! So now I've laid out my stall, and explained why my standards are quite specific when it comes to upcycling, I'm going to share the 'after' photos... and explain how and why I did what I did...

Introducing macramé...

It's not that hard to do, and looks quite effective... in fact, after I'd finished the back of the dress, I found myself eyeing up everything else in my wardrobe with a 'would macramé work on that?' glint in my eye... So be careful, it's addictive! I found this fun step-by-step tutorial online, but it doesn't cover what I did to the dress, so I thought I'd explain what I did...

Prepare the dress by laying it flat, attaching the side seams to each other with pins down the side to make it stable for cutting.
Slit the fabric into 2cm wide strips down to the point where you want to stop (before the waist if you don't want to show your pants!), then unpin the seams so you're looking at the strips in front of you. Carefully stretch the material wide, so that the strips turn into cords. This works surprisingly well (you'd think they'd snap, but they don't!) - obviously it works much better if you're working with stretchy jersey material...

What happens next is much easier to do, than to explain... but if you think of playing cat's cradle, that's what it reminded me of!
Take the top cord and place is over the cord directly below. Pull the second cord through the gap, and let go of the first. Then repeat that step, taking the top cord over the cord below, before pulling it through and releasing the other... At the very end, sew the cord to the dress, so it doesn't all flip back out to the way it was... (What was that? Did I let mine unravel and have to start all over again? No - that would be just daft!

I then felt the front of the dress was lacking a little, so I thought I'd add some embellishment to the shoulder area... which came courtesy of an old t-shirt which was on it's way out to a charity shop. I could have bought some studs from a crafty shop, but you know what I'm like for using bits I already own! ;) Thrifty to the last... Thing is, it just didn't look right when I'd finished, so I had to sit and have a rethink... and then unpick what I'd just done...

What drove me to make the next decision was the fact the macramé had made the dress smaller. Now there's a hidden gem I wasn't expecting! Basically it went from fitting fine, to looking like it was a size too small. The answer? Add room... The way to do that? Well I figured it was as good a time as any to attempt adding panels into side seams. You'd think that'd be easy enough, right? As my Mum would say, I nearly divorced myself over that decision... (although she normally uses that expression with regards to painting and decorating, the sentiment works here too).

Stashed away...

By the by, what I found in my fabric stash was a large amount of similar fabric in a marl grey stripe, and thought it worked fairly well as a contrast to the navy blue. I cut it on the bias, the length of the dress, then opened up the side seams to fit it in. If I did this again, I think I'd make the effort to unpick the dress... it was, in retrospect, a mistake to cut up the seam... but you live and learn, and at least it didn't ruin the entire project! I also added some ruching into the arse area; if I'm making it for my body, I may as well make it 'roomy' in the right places!!

Finally, I finished the hem by hand... Now that's not something I'd usually do, but it does look 'cleaner' - the stitches are almost invisible. It took a lot longer to do than by machine, but as my Janome's out of action at the moment (feel like I've lost my left arm!), it was the only option available to me.

And so to the finished dress... I'm wearing it with a neon orange crop top underneath (if I was abroad I'd likely wear it with a bikini top...),

What do you think?

 Did I mention there's a side split..? Well there is..!

And what did I learn..? 

Firstly there was no need to cut the grey material on the bias, it seemed to make it harder to work with... having said that, it did mean the grey stripes fall in a diagonal way, which I like. Secondly although I've learned to trust my instincts, and the two different-coloured materials work well together (in my opinion), I would be more inclined to use a bright neon material for the panels if I had my time over (much like the crop top I'm wearing under the dress, even though the colour doesn't show so much in all the pics), for a sport luxe feel...

All in all I'm happy with it! Here's a Before and After Shot, you know how much I love those!

Is there a dress you'd like refashioning? Maybe a long dress you're bored with, but loathed to get rid of? Or a shorter dress that's no longer capturing your attention..? Why not leave a comment here, or e-mail me details on the dress, and I'll see if I can do something with it for you!!


  1. What an innovative idea ! Such a design, quite unique. Once again you have surprised me with your imagination and talent. How did I produce such a star !! Well done again, Gem. You should go in for design professionally (when you've dropped the other 6 jobs that is). Love you, Mxxxx

    1. What a dream that would be - doing this full time..! Not that I don't love all my jobs equally... ;D Love you too Mum x

  2. PS I think it would look also as a shorts/hotpants suit.

  3. I like the layout, could easily see it in a magazine, or on one of those scrimpers/upcycling programmes that seem popular now.

    One minor point, on the browser I'm using some of the comments in brackets jump to a small font.

    1. Thanks Brian, that'd be right up my street!!

      And yes, I think you might be experiencing some of my stranger edits... the smaller fonts are 'asides' I'm saying to myself... :D

  4. I know I view you through rose tinted laser corrected eyes but I do genuinely think you'd be a hit on such a show..

    1. Well I'll do my very best to make it happen then... thank-you Brian, for always being supportive :D

  5. i love the grey with navy, think it's chic!

    1. Thanks Zuza! Wasn't so sure when I was holding them up to each other (pre-sewing)... but I think it works too.. :)

  6. How cool is this?!

    1. I really hope that's a rhetorical question ;)


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