Cool in culottes...Not!

So back in late October (yes, I am taking that long to write everything up!) I went to talk at another Swishing Event, in Ealing (West London) - namely on the benefits of refashioning. The basis for my presentation was to talk about this year's Refashion Runway, giving a shortened version of what happened, what I contributed, and any take-aways I had from the experience; hopefully whilst providing the audience with something to work with themselves, inspiration-wise. I had a fab night! The women who turned up were so responsive and complimentary; one lady even turned up with trim she'd saved especially for me, and jokingly challenged "Come on then, what would you do with THAT?!" - it did make me laugh!
It's not my first time talking on behalf of West London Waste Authority - but I was nervous, nonetheless! The photo above is of a competition they ran on the night, giving away a beautiful handmade leather clutch bag...I think you can tell I don't really want to hand it over to the winner, Grace! And today's perfect pre-refashioning blogpost soundtrack? I can't go for that! :)

This came only weeks after another swishing event I spoke at, in a members' club in central London, both of which meant I had to wear something I'd refashioned; obviously I like to prove I practise what I preach in real life..! And I didn't want to wear the denim dress I wore last time (much as I love it, there may well be one or two of the same people in attendance!) - so it was a good reason/excuse to start looking for something to refashion, and these beautiful satin culottes spoke to me when I tried them on in a charity shop in Richmond...

They said "Go on, try us on, and then wonder when on earth you'll wear us, and what with..!" I've spoken before about how wide-leg pants are NOT flattering on my body; past refashions include the jumpsuit I converted into a maxi dress, and the stretchy flared trousers I made into a skirt for the Boho Chic week... And yes, MAYBE the dutsy pink pair of culottes has you fooled - are you thinking "Oh they're not that bad..." - really?? Then TAKE A LOOK AT THIS.

Hey - I'm going to give you the ugly truth, even if it means showing you my enormous behind..! They're just not right as culottes on me, and that's that. So what to do? Well I loved the material (which is why I picked them up in the first place) - made from a really lovely thick satin, what you'd expect to feel on a plump scatter cushion on a princess's bed. Not that I'd know... But I didn't WANT a cushion, I wanted to see how they'd translate into a skirt, especially as I thought it wouldn't be that hard to do... I started by cutting through the inside seam, from the inner knee right through the crotch, down to the other knee (yes, I took them off first...).

I used pinking shears, just in case the fabric started to fray before I had the chance to sew it back together again - but I needn't have worried (*see earlier princess cushion statement) - this fabric was really quite sturdy!

Having opened the centre seam, I flattened the culottes from the side-on position (as opposed to looking at them front on), and proceeded to pin the two open seams to each other, front panel to front panel, back to back; pinning a new front seam, to create a smooth line,

and pinning halfway down the 'seat' through the back, to create a new kick pleat.
I didn't unpick the original stitches above the new seamline I was sewing down to the hem - I thought it would be a safer bet to leave the original work where it was, rather than risk creating a 'fault line', and resewing. Would you have done the same..?

You can see from the photos that the material is almost cardboard-like, showing creases, that don't easily fall out. I was toying with the idea of making this into a slim-fitting wiggle skirt, but I don't think the fabric is suited to that, do you?

I wore this to the Hospital Club swishing event (above) - and changed into it at the last minute, just to avoid creases - but that's not real life, is it? I mean, I can't change into a skirt at the last minute every time I go out (!) so I did end up questioning the wearability of this piece. I may well change (or re-refashion) this skirt, so you'll be the first to know when I do! But, I think, better to get even just ONE more wear out of an abandoned garment, rather than resign it to landfill. After all, the main point of these swishing events is to highlight the repercussions of fast fashion - and give tips as to how we can all avoid falling into the trap of creating waste...

But what do the expressions 'ethical fashion', or 'fast fashion' mean to you? Obviously there are so many resources for finding out what they mean, how they affect us directly now - and what the consequences are for the future, but this blog post by Tree Hugger is a great starting point for understanding the meaning of ethical fashion.
In terms of fast fashion, cheap high street shops are often made out to be the main protagonists of creating throwaway clothing, but what of high end designers..? Are they not in some way to blame for releasing collections every season, thereby making cheaper high street stores follow suit, offering a more affordable option..? Indeed, are they not at the top of this pyramid, in creating the need for new clothing, the latest fashion, or what the celebs are wearing..?

Having said that, if we were to buy just one piece of designer wear a season - the expensive original,  not the knock-off version - would that garment last so many years, that it would more than justify the original cost..? After all, surely the craftsmanship and materials are better..? And they are now making much more of an effort to be 'green', seeing as that has also become fashionable... Also, you'd think that high-end designers would not want people to go and buy looky-likey garments at a cheaper cost elsewhere, surely they want people to buy their clothing? If you follow that argument, can they really be blamed for their cheaper high street copy-cat-cousins doing so well?

There are so many moving parts, and changing arguments, when it comes to discussing these topics - but personally, I think the only people to blame for the nature and popularity of fast fashion, is us - the consumer. Being aware of the processes designers and manufacturers use, our style tastes, and spending habits, makes us much more influential in terms of changing what happens - and encouraging ethical fashion to be standard practice. But this is a long-term goal, in the meantime, if you can get more wear from refashioning an otherwise dated/defunct garment, it's irrelevant if it cost £1 or £1,000 originally, you are postponing adding to landfill (obviously there are other options, like donating it to someone you know, or a charity shop). Hey - I've got a lot of ideas, not all of them make sense together (!) - but what does make sense to me, is we should all make things well - whether you're an haute couture designer, or the happy refashioner; otherwise WHAT is the point?!
And sew to the After shot! (*finally!)

It doesn't look A-line here does it..? I think it's because of how I'm standing... this shows it better, I think, plus how the kick pleat works at the back;

My apologies for the awful photos; it's so dark and stormy at the moment, it's hard to get good natural light to take the shots... But in general, I'm happy with how this easy project turned out - and it'll definitely get more wear as a skirt, than it ever would have as culottes..!

Speaking of making things to last, I wanted to share with you the dress I made for the evening do of a wedding I went to last week, in Hong Kong! Yes, you read that right!

Made from stretch velour, using McCall's Pattern M7407, I'll tell you more about that whole process soon, including me finishing the armholes IN HONG KONG, THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING. Oh yes, I also need to share with you the coat I refashioned for my sister's 40th... and my plans for a Christmas cape...
In the meantime, enjoy the final moments of November, avoiding the storms where possible! I look forward to hearing your comments on culottes, fast fashion, hotel room sewing, or whatever takes your fancy :)

Gema x


  1. I love this skirt. I'm not sure how to prevent wrinkles. Such is life.

    1. Thanks Chickie, chuffed you like it! And you'd be a millionaire if you came up with a solution for preventing wrinkles... :)

  2. I like the satin of the skirt... then again looking at it and wearing it are completely different. I think the color suits you very well. You did all the same steps I would've done (not sure that's a good thing or not, lol). ;)

    Can't WAIT to see the velour dress & your sister's coat posts :)

    1. That's EXACTLY it! Looking at it, and wearing it, ARE two very different things... I'm drawn to the fabric, but how suitable is it for a) this weather and b) my lifestyle..?! Then again, I'd just resign myself to wearing jeans all the time if I played it safe ;)
      And that is a good thing, if you'd have gone about it the same way! And your advice helped with Rebecca's coat coming together... she loves it :D

  3. Skirt turned out great, and that dress you made for the wedding - wow - beautiful.

  4. Really great refashion! There is something very 'now' about the length even if it's not the original culottes! Loved reading this and cannot wait to see more of that velvour dress....

    1. Thank-you so much!! Always love your creations, so I'm chuffed you like it! :) The velour dress was not without its issues tho...... Got to be honest about these things, right?!

  5. Hi Gema!
    To start with, the back on that velour dress you made is fantastic!!! I wish I would've seen your post a few weeks ago when I was making a "refashioned" dress for an upcoming Christmas party. I would've totally attempted to make one just like yours. The dress looks amazing on you!!!
    Also fun to hear about how you're spreading the word about refashioning!!! Have a wonderful holiday season!!!!!
    The Renegade Seamstress :)

    1. Hi Beth! Thank-you so much; actually I've shared the best bit first (was that a bad idea?!) - the cowl back was the easiest part of the dress to do, I'd recommend the pattern, you'd definitely find it a breeze to make! And yes, I'm slowly spreading the word about refashioning, and your fab Runway :) You too, Happy Christmas (early, but keep it for now!) X


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