The Summer Challenge Continues... with the Black and White Dress!

The upcycled dress I'm about to share with you had to be The Perfect Refashioning... Why? 

Picture it; last week I was sitting in a crafty classroom, making conversation with a seamstress when she asked "And what do you do..?" I said, thinking about the reasons we were there, "I have a real passion for refashioning!" to which she smirked to herself and replied "Oh. Well you can't be a perfectionist with THAT hobby... bet the unpicker's your best friend!". I laughed along with her, but felt a pang of... what was it..? I don't know... but I think it was INDIGNATION! Pah!

"That's it!", I thought to myself, "the next project I complete is going to look shop bought, no matter how closely anyone looks at it; this time I'm going all out... it's going to to look PROFESSIONAL."

Is that a squirrel I see? Can you give me a leg up?
That said, this took a lot longer than usual to make. Not because I'm normally slap-dash about it, just because I wanted to see how differently I'd approach it, being fastidious about every step in the process...

Here's the Before Shot, and with it the blog soundtrack to go with it - perfect for any dress, pair of pants, or any unwanted clothing  you're thinking of chucking out... STOP... and just imagine that clothing's singing to you; "You're Gonna Want Me Back...".

Thinking back to the Summer Challenge I set myself, this is the only stripy piece in the 'collection', so before starting I thought I'd find dresses with a similar stripy black and white print, see what Google images had to offer, then aim for that look... Ambitious? Possibly... Impossible? Never! In fact, if it came to it, I thought I could throw in a couple of dressmaking techniques into the mix using other dress patterns in my stash, so I wasn't too daunted by the prospect...

Below are the two 'finalists' in my search for inspiration; the first a panelled skater dress, the next a fitted off-the-shoulder slinky number... Guess which one I went for? As always, I asked myself which style I'd get more wear out of...

I also quite liked the bow-fronted versions below, worn with & without belt...

but in the end I remembered my aversion to wearing bows, they always make me feel a bit... 
Shirley Temple... 

And sew back to reality!

Firstly, I knew I wanted the neckline to be completely different, either off-the-shoulder, or even a higher cut; but the way it stood, it had to go! So too went the hem - slightly graduated, higher at the front than at the back... (I seem to have a penchant for that style since the dress into skirt refashioning. - I think it's quite a flattering cut).


I find it rather ironic that the smallest part of the dress took longest to do... the straps! I made a Version 1.1 which had contrasting pink straps (made simply from shop bought bias binding), but then it looked a bit... bare... you'll also notice in this pic, the neckline as it is before I've made any real changes; I decided to use the excess material to create new stripy straps, I started by doubling the width of the bias binding to find the width needed for the new black and white straps. Basically, I wasn't confident the stretchy material would hold the weight of the dress, so I decided to use the bias binding inside the strap to give it more strength; here's a pictorial 'how to insert bias binding into a strap' without me saying anything;
*makes a refreshing change!

Now comes the part that's hard to explain; I took the back panel (removed earlier), and sewed it to itself on a diagonal to create a chevron effect, before re-attaching it to the front... what can I say?
When you're upcycling, you may well start out with an off-the-shoulder idea, and decide to throw it out of the window in favour of a more vintage 70's vibe that grabs you by the throat, and won't let you go 'til you've sewn some chevrons together... That's one of the things I love about customising clothing, you really can do so many things...!

And Sew to the Finished Dress!

Starting with the now-compulsory Before and After Shot...

Yes Rod, it seems we are in fact surrounded by squirrels. Don't say a word, and they may not throw acorns at us.
And a general mix of shots, taken from various angles...

The yellow suede shoes are a crafty buy in the sales; I know Mum'll have something to say about the colour choice (!) but I'm not really into matchy-matchy, even a red or hot pink pair would work well IMHO...

One final thing to share with you... I'm going to wear this to an important TV meeting this week, hopefully it'll give me some luck! I'll let you know how I get on... if it goes well! If it doesn't, at least it's had an outing :)

Anything you'd like to add..? Any questions on how this came about, did I skim over anything..? Let me know if there's something you'd like me to customise for you - I've got two commissions in the pipeline, I'm looking forward to sharing them with you here soon, maybe it'll start you off on something you've neglected in your wardrobe? Share with me!!

Bye bye for now!

What's that Rod..?


  1. I love the detail at the front, brings the pattern out nicely and makes it stand out fromt he crowd. Well done Gem.

    And, I know they're not upcycled, but LOVE those shoes!

    1. Thank-you Alice!!
      And yeah, they're really comfy too... Got them in an outlet village, very pleased with myself ha ha!

  2. I LOVE what you've done with this dress! If I were to send some pictures of old dresses I love (but may have grown out of!?) would you be able to give me some ideas of how I could change them? (just ideas! I'm not asking you to actually do it for me)

    For example I've got a beautiful shift dress that's pretty much straight up and down. And it's a 'little' snug round the hips......could I rescue it?
    I have no idea how!

    1. Oh! Please let me do it for you Claire? And let me blog about it too? Love the sound of that challenge!! Let's chat about possibilities... Email me :)

  3. Gema, this dress is GORGEOUS!!! I love the front - and your shoes, too! Stunning combo.

    1. Thank you SO much Hannah, you never know for sure how these things will turn out (til the end!) so it's a relief somebody else likes it :D

  4. Gema, I've got loads of dresses that have been sitting in my wardrobe for a couple of years, hardly worn. I've been thinking about having a big old clear out and replacing them when I can afford it. Do you think I should try my hand at re-fashioning? I'm a bit nervous in case I re-fashion into last century.... I love what you've done with this dress. Do you take commissions?? Tee hee...

    1. The way I see it, if you've already chucked them out in your mind, you have NOTHING to lose by attempting to refashion them... what's the worst that can happen? And the BEST thing that could happen is that you're wearing something 'new'!!

      As for turning it into something from the last century, why not pick something (you own, or you've seen in a catalogue) for inspiration, so you know what you're aiming for? Or you could always hand it over to me.... :) Seriously, if you'd like, I can do it - and blog about it too, it'd be fun! Message me if you like the sound of that :)

  5. Lovely Gem. I always liked that dress on you, now it seems like a completely new dress. Love the before and afters (prefer the befores of Roddy!). A big hat would go really well with the dress. You're right what I think about the shoes, but have to go with the majority who seem to like them ! Well done again love.

    1. Thanks Mum! I'm pleased you like it :D
      And yes, I'd love to put a wide-brimmed hat with it... and bright red lipstick..! Then find somewhere 'appropriate' to go (race day? You're more used to glamming it up than I am...) x

  6. I like the refashion! It looked good before but a maxi dress isn't for everyone, or every occasion. And the black and white does call for a pop of color :-)

    1. Thanks for commenting Elaine, really pleased you like it - and yes, I feel it's more wearable now too :)


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