Friday, October 12, 2018

Skirting the Unsatisfactory Dress Issue

Earlier this year I took a unusable dress out of my wardrobe and turned it into a skirt, and I began thinking about how it was the fourth time I had done such a thing, and that perhaps I should write a blog post about the process. And here we are.

The fabric above belongs to a dress I used to have that I must have made circa 2005 or so. I loved the fabric on sight and still love it.

Here's a shot of the dress as it was. Not only did I love this dress, but it had history. In its day, this dress went to an Elvis wedding in Las Vegas in 2006, and to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2008, and to the office, and to parties, and probably a number of other places I'm not thinking of now. But... by 2016 the style had become dated and too young for me and I no longer cared to wear it as was. Yet I couldn't bear to give it to a thrift shop. So I came up with the idea of cutting it down into a skirt in order to get some more wear out of it.

Here's the skirt, which passes for current, and which I will likely be able to wear until it's worn out. Turning a jersey dress into a jersey skirt takes very little time or skill. Figure out where you want the waistband of the skirt to be, mark the spot, cut the bodice off 1" or so above that, make a casing out of that extra 1", insert a piece of 0.5" wide elastic into the casing, and you're done.

Here's another former jersey dress now living a new life as a skirt. In this case, the dress was nice (I don't seem to have a picture of it anywhere), but the wrong cut for me. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that I do NOT look good in an empire-waisted dress. I remember cutting both of these dresses down into skirts on the same day. I think it took half of an afternoon.

Here's another dress that was unsatisfactory as was. I made it years ago before I clued in that I need to lengthen the bodice of my dresses to provide vertical room for my chest. I loved this dress and the lovely crisp fabric it was made from, but the waistline sat well above my actual waistline and looked terrible, and consequently the dress was basically unwearable for me. In short, it was another candidate for skirt surgery.

The dress above reincarnated into a skirt. This is a woven fabric rather than a jersey, which made the conversion process slightly more complex. First I ripped the bodice off the dress. When I came to the zipper at the back, I first made sure the zipper tab was at the bottom of the zipper and then simply cut through the zipper. Then I searched through my pattern collection to find a particular favourite skirt pattern that I know fits me well, and borrowed the waist facing pattern pieces from it. I compared the facing pattern pieces to the top of the skirt, and found it was a little wide, so I ripped open the side seams, cut them slightly to taper them in so that they would accord with the pattern pieces, and then stitched the seams back together.

Then I cut the facing pieces out of the bodice. I had to cut them lengthwise, against the grain, but that didn't matter in any practical sense -- they're only facings after all. I interfaced the facing pieces and otherwise prepared them just as I would if I were making a skirt from that pattern, and stitched them into the waist of the skirt. The shortened zipper ends of the former dress-length zipper were stitched into the "waist and facing" seam at the top so I had a skirt-length zipper without having the work or the expense of putting in a new one. And then I had a skirt that looked exactly as though it had been intended to be a skirt all along.

And here's a fourth skirt that was originally intended to be an empire-waisted dress. In this case, it was a dress I never even finished as I realized that it wasn't going to fit or look right. It had been a fairly expensive dress by my standards and once I faced up to the reality that there was no possible way for me to make my original plan for a georgette dress work, I decided it was better to have a pricey skirt than expensive garbage. Just as in the case of the dress above, I made some waist facings out of the bodice (in this case I think I made my own waist facing pattern pieces out of paper by tracing around the top of the skirt pieces), and sewed them in. I think I had to piece the facing pieces on the inside because I just couldn't get both facing pieces out of the bodice pieces, but then no one but me will ever see that.

If you've got a dress that's unwearable for some reason but the skirt part of it fits and is in good shape, I'd suggest cutting it down into a skirt. As you can see from this post, it can be done without more expense than that involved in buying some elastic or interfacing and thread, and in such a way that no one will ever know that the skirt was ever dress.

Unless you decide to write a blog post about it and effectively tell the whole world, of course.

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