The Refashion Runway All Stars Edition!

Hello! So, if you haven't heard the news yet; this is my first submission for the brand new season of Refashion Runway, All Stars! Take a look at the fab line-up of bloggers taking part over on Beth's site - as each week passes, voting will take place, and there will be one less refashioner, as we inch ever closer to the final in September. And everyone wins something! Really, the taking part is much more important (case in point, I have no idea what the prizes are) - as each week will mean I have something 'new' hanging in my wardrobe - AND I get plenty of inspiration for future projects, from my sister sewers. (I might use that expression more often)

If you've read the 'Welcome to the competition' post, you'll know that this week, the first week in the five weeks of challenges, is VELVET. Why? Because it just is! So here's a VERY fitting blogpost soundtrack for today - a remake of a classic... Blue Velvet by Lana Del Rey...

So what's the good news about it being a velvet challenge? I do love velvet, it feels beautiful to wear, and generally looks expensive! What's not-so-good about it? Well, it can be difficult to work with (in terms of nap, and also going through the machine) - and it's definitely proved hard to find in charity shops. Why? Well, it's summer. I mean, when I think of velvet, generally I associate it with winter months, in jewel tones, and maybe even with a gothic feel. My search for inspiration, charted on my Pinterest page proved much the same. BUT then I found this article in the Telegraph, almost written specifically to convince me that velvet CAN be done in the summer!!
Be that as it may, for all the inspiration staring me in the face, my refashion was dependent on having a garment to work with, so I thought it better to find the piece first, and let that set the tone!

Although local charity shops proved less than useful on this occasion, I didn't have to look too far... the 'before' piece was sitting right under my nose! (*and as I write this, for some reason I can imagine my Mum saying "Oh no Gem, that was a beautiful dress, what a shame you had to cut it up". She might not say that AT ALL, but that's what I'm imagining!)

I made this velour dress using a McCall's pattern, for the evening do of a wedding I went to back in November, in Hong Kong. (*did you know that 'velours' is the French word for Velvet? They invented it... that's for you, fact fans!) 
That was an incredible trip, what an amazing place! I wish I'd made of an effort with my hair, I completely lost my patience and was in a rush in the end... but there's not much I can do about that now..! And, whilst the dress 'did me proud', I wasn't sure I'd have much opportunity to wear it again. I didn't give it enough of a chance to argue with me, haha!
To be fair, although it was comfortable to wear, the 'shawl' part of the neckline was a little fiddly to position right, and wouldn't stay where it was supposed to - so that might have put me off wearing it again...

SO - as the bodice was the bit I wasn't too keen on, that was the first bit to get the chop!

The rest of what you'll see is made up solely of the skirt of this dress - with a small amount of the fabric from the bodice used for the straps (explained later on). 
I decided to make it less overwhelming than the 'original' around the neckline; I wasn't completely convinced an off-the-shoulder dress was what I wanted... but it was a place to start!

After sewing up, and chopping off the excess from the side seams, I figured I'd add some elastic around the top part of the dress, to give it something to help stay up. I did this by sandwiching elastic between the dress, and the lining (oh yes, I was definitely keeping the lining!).

This was a bit of a rookie error; if I had my time over I would add the lining last. It was a rather unhelpful feature when it came to adding darts, draping, straps, and decoupage... But hey, you live and learn!!
SO - that was the basis for the dress I've gone on to make; and it's gone through a few iterations in the refashioning process. I started by toying with the idea of adding a lace insert to the neckline. I found a pink dress I haven't worn in AGES, and separated the lace from the main body of the dress.

I thought it would make for the perfect new neckline for the velvet number... but I was wrong; it still looked very 'wintry', and that just wouldn't do!

So then, in the middle of running a refashioning workshop with teenagers, I was struck by inspiration - the dress I was wearing had lots of flowers on! I could cut them out, and use them to customise the velvet dress!

But it just wasn't working for me... I liked the idea, but the flowers were too dissimilar from the velvet, in terms of fabric... and it looked a bit 'off'!

Back to the drawing board... I then remembered the flowers I always have hanging around, that I normally use to make flower fairy lights with!

They'd be perfect!! I played about a bit, to make sure it was the look I liked, but as I still wasn't convinced about the severe neckline, I tried draping some fabric in an asymmetrical style across the front - and in the end I found a certain look that looked fine on Dolly...

...but looked really naff on me! At least the small darts I'd added around the waistline gave it some shape, rather than just hanging loosely, in a not-particularly flattering way!

I then experimented with doing something less heavy-handed with the neckline; I cut up 1" wide pieces of fabric from the chopped-off discarded bodice, to create spaghetti straps... and then sewed them in place at the neckline, in a halter style (to be looped around the back of my neck) - and went on to add a few flowers...

I also took the skirt up by a few inches at the front waistline, stitched in place, and used the drape at the hips to make a 'faux' pocket. Basically I wanted to keep the high-lo hem, and proceeded to cut the uneven edges off, before hemming by hand. (I tried using the blind foot, but it chewed up the hemming by hand it was!)

Even though the challenge was 'VELVET', I realised, whilst I was making my new dress, that I was also set on creating something that also said 'SUMMER', which I think I managed! Funny to think it was so 'set' as an evening dress for a winter affair, and now it's more fitting for an outdoor summer wedding...

When we were taking the photos, I got a bit demob happy (Mum's expression, very fitting here) - I think it was as a result of finally finishing the dress..! I got it into my head that a video was absolutely necessary, to show the movement of the dress (which the photos don't convey). SO! As there were no suitable dance partners to hand... here's Rod, reluctantly obliging...

It matters not a jot what happens this week, or who is eliminated from the challenge, I've loved being tested creatively - and am desperate to see all the other submissions!! Also, whatever happens we must all make and submit the next refashioned garment... and next week the challenge is METALLIC!

Until then, to vote for your favourite - which I'm sure will NOT be an easy task - head to Beth's site, and pick your fave!

Until next week.........

Gema x


  1. Well done, that material obviously enjoys being used in a hurry after its HK experience, the resulting dress would be ideal at a summer wedding and would grace any formal event, hope you go far this time, I'm sure you won't be oiled by the metallic contest..

    1. Thanks Brian, and haha, 'oiled'...! ;)

  2. I, too, struggled with the winter feeling of velvet and the contrasting summer feeling outside (over 100F here in Texas!). I love that you saw that line and just danced your way right over it!

    1. Oh wow... I can't imagine even sewing in THAT heat! And I love your two creations too - especially the velvet collar-ed dress, so inventive!!

  3. What can I say. As usual a total success !! I loved the original 'wedding -in-Hong-Kong - dress and I love this one too. You are SO CLEVER!!

    1. Thanks so much Mum - you saw me struggle with it, so it didn't come easy... not that clever, just lucky! x

  4. It was a beautiful dress but I think you've refashioned it into something you'll get much more use (and pleasure) out of. Well done!
    Loving those flowers :)

    1. Thanks so much Alice! Really pleased you like it- and yes, I think it'll get more airings now! ;)

  5. Wow! I loved the original dress so much that I was a little bummed that you were going to refashion it into something else, until I saw what you did with it. Gorgeous! Love both versions! Great job. :)

    1. Thank you so much Jen!

      Some friends yesterday told me they preferred the 'Before' dress, but I was chuffed anyway - seeing as I also made that, haha!! As you said in your post, it's about what will get more wear, and I think this will...even if it's just a couple more times :D

  6. Great job Gema! I loved reading about the process you went through to get to the final result. Both dresses look fabulous on you. Good luck with the competition!

    1. Thank you so much Susan, and good luck to you too!
      I always feel my house is a complete mess when I'm doing these projects; but at least I'm not working with a digger and dirt at the same time!! Can't believe you're doing all that work, whilst doing this...what a refashioning star!!


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