In this instalment of my Alterations story I am going to outline how you can take an old garment that may look out-dated or tired and re-awakening them with some fresh ideas. I love these projects, they stretch my creative thinking and give new life to much loved items and is a real joy to do – I wish you could see how happy clients are when presented with a newly revived garment that they have hung on to because they loved it so much the first time around, they love it all over again.
There are some very simple and cost effective changes that can be made to garments with a little thought and a play with some fabrics. I have a pretty vast library of fabric pieces both large and small and I often have a good sift through to find something delightful to decorate garments with.
I bought this skirt from a charity shop some years ago because I loved the shape and the fabric is really nice – if a little conventional for me. Using 3mm satin ribbon I stitched on swooping vines and then zig-zag stitched lots of circles in different colours of silk.
My client found this cashmere sweater in a charity shop too and brought it to me to brighten it up a bit, I hand stitched on some covered buttons and oriental mirror embellishments.
This blouse was quite pretty before but had a missing belt and a couple of the black buttons missing, I replaced all of the buttons for mixed vintage red ones, put some in the centre of the flowers for good measure and made a new belt with satin ribbons and a vintage shell buckle.
I could see the potential of this dress as it is a lovely shape, however, it had the ugliest buttons I have ever seen (so much so I binned them, they were too hideous for words) and using some polka dot fabric leftover from a dress I bias bound the collar and decorated the skirt and replaced the buttons with pretty red polka dot ones.
This is a skirt I really loved the first time around when I first bought it when at Uni, but I got a bit bored with it. So, slashing some of the seams un-evenly I added some fluted frills to the lining and made it much more interesting. It swished beautifully, I loved it and literally wore it to death!
Remember my friend who’s wedding dress I made into a suit for her brother’s wedding; well this was originally one of those very long floaty skirts, and being quite small it really swamped her. I took off the top two frill sections, turned them upside down creating a new waistline, added a waistband from another old dress, then put on straps and fluted cap sleeves – she wore to Ascot as far as I know.
These are all relatively swift additions and changes and all took between 1 and 5 hours, the next projects are much more involved, making new garments out of old ones. These projects can take from 10-30 hours depending on the complexity.
My client called me and asked me to make a jacket for her out of some of the dated items in her wardrobe after she saw something I was wearing that I had re-loved. The turquoise is an old pleated skirt and the mauve was a two tone dress with a chevron detail. I used the skirt for the body of the jacket and the dress for the decorative details.
There was just enough of the dress to make the revers, collar, inside cuffs, half belt and the cheeky box pleat in the back.
Originally this was a men’s antique silk wedding kimono, these were produced very interestingly with narrow panels with parts of the pattern that are fitted together for the whole patterned design. I made this long waistcoat and added a contrast lining and piping in silk. To give weight and added stability to the antique fabric it is interlined with lose weave raw silk and falls beautifully.
This is one of my all-time favourite projects and was such a privilege to work on. I was given an antique opera cape belonging to my client’s Grandmother and asked to design a formal jacket for occasional wear at formal functions. Taking the silk velvet trim I made a soft jacket using Mutka Silk with silver Lame threads, the upper sections are cut on the straight of grain and the lower are cut on the bias to make it twinkle in evening light; the trim I used in it’s entirety to make a deep collar and edging and to decorate the cuffs. It is lined in silver crepe backed satin silk to pick up the silver lame.
This is the back and the skirt is a remake of an antique liberty print silk skirt also belonging to a family member from decades past.
These are a good show of what can be done making one garment into another, but what if you had a garment that was completely unsuitable for you and wanted made into something more useful, or you had something other than clothes that had fabulous fabric that you thought might make great clothes? Here are a couple of examples of that kind of idea.
My Aunt was bequeathed a reversible cotton jacket by a very dear friend, however, her friend was over 6’ tall and my Aunt is 4’ 11” so it swamped her totally. I made it into a bag using the plain mauve side as the outside of the bag and decorated this side with turquoise satin ribbons.
And this side with mauve ribbons to suit her mood; these are her favourite colours.
Then the patterned side of the jacket I used for the lining of the bag and saved the pockets to make all the pockets to put things in. It is now a lovely keepsake and every time it is used it makes my Aunt smile and remember her friend.
When my Mum met my lovely Stepdad, he had in his possession around 10 metres of fabric from the curtains he had had made only a few months prior to moving in to my Mum’s. Instead of giving them to a charity shop he gave them to me to use for something nice. Two of my clients saw the fabric when visiting with other work and asked about it. I have now made a jacket pairing it with turquoise satin for the lining and piping; and this stunning, full length coat that also has a big hood, matching covered buttons all the way down the front and raspberry lining and piping.
You can see the inside of the hood here and the piped half belt. There is no pleat in the back of this coat but the skirt is much fuller than my standard coats. It looks amazing on and comes right down to my client’s ankles – it is her “big hug in a coat”.
I hope this has given you some food for thought, have a riffle through your wardrobe and a little ponder.