Button it!

Hello!! For the 3rd challenge in this season of the Refashion Runway, we were given 'Buttons' as a challenge... which instantly made me think of Pearly Kings and Queens.

You may have heard of Pearly Kings and Queens... but (as I wasn't) you may not be aware of the backdrop to the charity that most people associate with parades, button-adorned outfits, and East London cockney 'sparras'... it makes for very interesting reading, and really opened my eyes to something I've not questioned previously. From the male tradition of sewing, and all the emblems they use, I'm really pleased this challenge brought 'Pearlies' to my attention! And for today's blog post soundtrack I chose one of my favourite Beatles tracks... whimsical, beautiful, takes me back to days in the sun with Mum...

I trawled around local charity shops, looking for a black suit to convert into a suitable pearl-button encrusted 'homage' - and then I stopped suddenly in my tracks and thought to myself "WHAT am I doing..? Do I really have a need for a Pearly outfit in my wardrobe..? Is it something I can see myself wearing, walking Rod, going to work, meeting friends for coffee?? NO!". And that was that, I realised I needed to amend my action plan.

With Pearlies fresh in my creative mind I found this handmade dress in a charity shop, a floral polyester number; with lots of room for movement, and plenty of opportunity for refashioning ideas...

Here's a close up of the princess seams running through the front of the dress, up to the sleeves, and a self-made bias bound neckline...

I started by chopping the sleeves off...

...and assessed the 'roominess' throughout - including through the back...

With the dress on Dolly, inside out, I pinned through the princess seams up the front,

created back darts,

and took in through the side seams, by approximately an inch through each new seam. I then reworked the armholes, by continuing the princess seams up into the armsyce, into something a little more modern.

SO, with the dress now fitting me, I set to work with the pearly buttons, playing around with placement around the neckline and armholes.

Hellraiser meets Dressmaker. I had a sleepless night after this 'experimentation'!

Basically, I was looking to overlap the edge of the dress with the buttons - to create a faux scalloped edge, I think it works quite nicely when the light hits the pearly buttons.

I decided to continue the theme through the hemline. But I didn't want to lose any of the length, so I let the hand-sewn hem down...

You can see the original maker didn't 'finish' the hem with an overlocker, or pinking shears - as this fabric doesn't fray, and doesn't need to be finished, which worked well for me!

I ironed the crease out, and used a colander to draw around - to make deep scallops all the way around the hem...

...before sewing buttons at regular intervals all the way around. The good thing about this addition is that it adds 'schwing' - and makes the dress drape well...

So, that's why I thought doing the twist would be the perfect dance move to showcase it's movement... ;)

OK, less of that! Here are a couple of stills, what do you think..? A slightly blurry romantic one with Rod to start with...

and from behind... (you can just about see Rod's tail, as he heads down the steps to the river...)

I think this photo conveys the way the buttons highlight the neckline:

and then there's the full length view...

Now, I do feel this may be the end of the road for me, in this competition (as Beth hasn't yet announced who has been eliminated, don't ask why I feel like that, I just do!) - but I really am OK with it... To be honest, in last year's RR I was all about 'thinking outside of the box', what with my shower curtain dress, and settee throw maxi... this year I've felt much more... reserved, somehow. It is, in some way, a reflection of what's going on in my life at the moment, my head is full - and my schedule is rather punishing. As a freelancer, when it comes to juggling jobs, often it's a case of feast or famine, and I'm rather maxed out at the moment. I feel my contribution to the Runway has suffered somewhat because of everything else - BUT I set myself the personal challenge of creating garments that I will wear again, and therefore my time has not been wasted. I look at the other ladies' creations, and I feel utterly inspired by their creativity - each of them brings something unique to the refashioning table, and I'm chuffed to bits to be part of this line-up, whenever that ceases to be the case.
By the way, this is in no way a 'pity party' - I'm not saying "Look what I've achieved, in spite of my life!" - this is me being honest, saying I love this competition and what it represents, and wish I could give it my all, as I see the other ladies doing so admirably. :)
*EDIT - added 18:00hrs GMT, 20/08/16 - I have just this moment read that I have made it through to the next round... in the interests of being honest, I left the above statement in the post - but, suffice to say, I am very surprised to be through to the next round... So sorry to see Mary from Thrifty Chic go, her blog, and makes, are so inspiring.

So - to finish this post, here's the Before and After shot of my new Pearly-Kings-and-Queens-inspired-dress. Wishing you a wonderful end to August, may it be full of sunshine. :D

Now that Beth has posted the page full of everyone's Button makes, click here to scroll through them all, and vote for your favourite at the bottom!

Until next week... now to the 'Tunic' challenge... speak soon!

Gema x


  1. I'm glad I read this post because I didn't notice the buttons on the scalloped hem of Beth's post! Not sure how I missed that... The camera doesn't translate well with things like this sometimes. I must admit it's my favorite part of the dress now :)

    Truth be told... I don't wear ANY of the garments I made for our season of RR. I felt pressure to sew something "amazing" (and fell short, in my opinion) so I know exactly what you're talking about. It's nice to just "sew along" this season. My garments may not be as dramatic as the all stars but I know without a doubt I'll be wearing my velvet dress ALL winter :) It feels great to sew something I actually love without the pressure of a competition dangling over me.

    Keep up the good work! I had no doubt you'd make it this far. And I have no doubt you'll go further :)

    1. You're so lovely Laura! So yes, I agree with you, the buttons on the hemline don't shine as much as the buttons around the neckline (harder for the light to reach them maybe?)... And my iPad isn't a particularly professional piece of kit for photography ;)
      As for pressure to perform, I'm really pleased you agree- I felt it could have come across as a little over-dramatic when I wrote it; but to have clothes that are made for wear - and not competing - are much more what I'm about...and I can see that's what you're about too. (But hey, don't diss your purple reversible metallic number, love that!!)

      I'm keeping in mind that 'authentic' intention, as I consider the tunic challenge...and SEW looking forward to seeing what you come up with!! :D

  2. I loved your creation best. Though simple, it is elegant and wearable. The pearly buttons are doing something wonderful to that dress. it is for keeps. The scallop edge is great. i will do it on one of my dresses, one of these days. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting, and commenting Sana - what a lovely thing to say! As and when you do it, please send a pic - I'd love to see yours...and share it here too, if you'd let me..? :D

  3. This is a beautiful dress, Gema! I love the simple elegance of it! What a great idea to scallop the lower edge...great job!

    1. Thanks so much Susan, I'm really chuffed you like it! I'll definitely be using your tips on making a Breton striped top; love your buttons refashion too!!

  4. Absolutely beautiful! I love that you took something that was previously handmade and handmade it over! Love all the technically sewing you did here, the dress fits perfect and the buttons are an adorable addition!

    -Miche <3

    1. Thanks so much Miche, I'm chuffed you like it! And yes - I hope it doesn't come across like I've got complete disregard for someone else's work on their handmade dress?! x

      *goes off to think about that one*


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