Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Refashion (sort of): Dress to A-line Skirt (Ottobre 2007-5-3)

The dress I bought but never wore

The skirt I made from it

Ages ago -- it must be at least 2.5 years ago now -- a friend of mine let me know she was planning to invite me to her wedding. She decided to have a very relaxed dress code, and I got really excited for some reason about buying a rockabilly style dress to wear. Why, I couldn't tell you, since it's never been an ambition of mine before or since. Anyway, I bought this Hell Bunny purple polka dotted dress online for something like £30. It's pseudo-50s style with a tight bodice and circle skirt. I tried it on and... mostly liked it, I think? I mean, I didn't love it, I have to admit, because I am long bodied and so the bodice always looked short and boobtacular on me, but I liked it enough to think I would wear it. I was going to buy some kind of cover up to go with it and just roll with the overt cleavage. In the end though, I turned out to have bought the dress WAY too early and by the time the actual wedding day came around months later, it really wasn't what I wanted to wear. I'd also gained just enough weight that it still fit but it was now epically boobtacular. In the end I gave it a miss and wore something more boring but also less cleavage-y.

Polka dots and pockets
I hauled the dress out again a few months ago. It still didn't look like anything I'd ever wear, but I also still really liked the colour and the polka dots. I realize now that what I should actually have done is sold it, intact, on eBay, but: too late! As it is, I took off the bodice but unfortunately I then made a total hash of turning it into a circle skirt, and so I shoved it in the cupboard again and tried to forget about it. This weekend, I decided to try to rescue something from it. The circle skirt meant I had a lot of fabric, but unfortunately it's not actually great fabric, just a thin stretch cotton blend, so it really didn't hold up if anything was unpicked. Since the circle skirt had three seams, two pockets and a centre front trim with buttons, I knew not all the fabric was going to be usable.

The skirt in Ottobre 5-2007. Also: check out those boots!
I had already decided I wanted to make an A-line skirt as one of my four new skirts for my winter work wardrobe. I chose a pattern from Ottobre Design Woman 5-2007. It's a fairly basic A-line skirt with a yoke, but I thought it was overall both cute and simple. I quite like A-line skirts but only long as they are not too triangular. I was torn whether to alter the pattern on this -- there are four slightly different versions pictured in the magazine and some of them looked more triangular than others. In the end I didn't alter the pattern but made it up exactly as it is. Overall, I do think the finished item is a bit wider at the hem than I like so it looks more triangular than I like, but if/when I make this again it's a relatively easy fix. I'd probably want to redraw the line from the hip to be about 2cm narrower, for a total decrease of 8cm at the circumference of the hem.

The circle skirt I started with.

You can read my full pattern review here, but here are some extra details about the fabric and making it:

I started with the circle skirt, previously bodged together. Originally, I planned to use the front as the front, keeping the trim and buttons intact, and the back as the back. Revolutionary, right? Except, the trim on the front had not been applied on the grain, or even in line with the polka dot pattern. It didn't really matter on a full circle skirt, but it would matter on an A-line skirt and the way it was askew would just BUG ME as well. Plus, the more I thought about it the less I wanted the buttons-down-the-front thing on the A-line skirt.

Skirt lining
In the end, the only way I could get all the pieces out on the grain was if I could live with a centre front seam in both the skirt and yoke. I decided I could live with it, and cut out the pieces, with one tiny(!) mistake that I cut one of the two front pieces without a centre seam allowance. As it turned out, it made no difference, but I did sit there going aaaaaargh! for a few minutes. I decided to top-stitch all the seams to make it a tiny design feature of the skirt, and I ripped the patch pockets off the side seams of the original skirt and sewed them on the front of the A-line skirt.

When it came time to line the skirt I had a problem. I had one small piece of pretty purple paisley, and 1m of 110cm wide lilac lining fabric. Neither was enough on their own, so I had to combine them. It looks a little eccentric inside my skirt as a result, but I like it.

My zipper insertion skills: not amazing.
Nit-pickery (or, where I critique my sewing problems): I'm willing to wear this skirt in public, because luckily the two big problems are not visible when it's worn (unless you wear a shirt tucked into it, which is not a way I wear anything, ever). The first was the zip installation, which I didn't do very well although I certainly tried my best with it. Part of the problem is that I didn't read the instructions properly and used a normal zip when the instructions called for an invisible zip. Part of it is that I just find zips hard. So the back of the skirt around the zip looks a lot more ragged than I like and the lining around the zip has a weird bubble of fabric whose origin I can't understand. Both are hidden in normal wear (especially the lining problem) so I don't really care, but it does suggest to me I need to slow down and spend more time on my zip when I make my next skirt.

Cost-wise, well, I haven't done too well on this one if you think of the original purchase price of the dress. I probably would not have bought an A-line lined skirt it if had cost £30+, and I could probably have got at least half of that money back if I had sold the dress intact, but that ship had already sailed before I started this last refashion. On the other hand, I like this skirt enough that I will actually wear it, which is more than I can say of either the original dress or the circle skirt.  If you set aside the original cost of the dress though, my extra costs were pretty small, about £1 overall as the lining fabrics came out of my cheap bag of remnants that I bought, plus a cheap zip. If I had been starting from having the whole dress, it wouldn't have been a good use of resources. As it is, I think I've got a pretty good outcome for an extra £1 investment. I think I'll call it a win overall.

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