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Monday, March 25, 2013

H&M Dress Refashion

It must be the official (not to say in any way actual) first day of Spring last week that made me have a bit of a tidy up of my closet. That or I was avoiding doing something else, which is when I usually find myself getting all organized. For example, at peak marking times I get the overwhelming urge to do things like alphabetize my sock drawer.

All I did was re-group everything in the closet by length and then by colour which makes it much faster to find something to wear in the morning. (Really Gil? How exactly do you sort an all black winter wardrobe by colour?)

As usual I found some items I hadn't worn for a while. Some were nice surprises, some were headed for the charity bag, others I still had hope for. One of these last items was this (cough) black H&M dress.

When I really stopped to think about it, I realized I have only worn this dress once - about 4 years ago in LA. I'd needed something that could pass as a LBD for an alumni event, but seeing as I rarely wear dresses I didn't want to spend too much. Hence the cheap H&M purchase.

So why did I only wear the dress once? Well, the cross over neckline reveals more cleavage than I am comfortable wearing public and the length cut right across my pudgy knees. It was either too long or not long enough. Either way it was not right.

So why had I kept it? Simply because it actually fit well otherwise, I really like the empire styling and the material is a soft heavy rayon and spandex jersey. And I am such a sucker for rayon jersey. Seemed like this would be a good item for a refashion session!

My plan:

I have a 'girls' trip to Arizona planned for May - can't wait. I'm thinking that an easy to wear, easy to pack knit maxi dress would be a good travel item for this vacation. You know, for swanning down for drinks on the terrace. And due to the simple skirt of this dress, it would be easy to add more length. Colour blocked clothing is in, so I could add some colour to the dress and I could also do something about the cleavage revealage.

I headed out to Fabric Land to find some compatible fabric. I couldn't match the weight of the existing fabric (of course) but they did have a good range of colours of a lighter jersey and it was on sale for 6 bucks. That's always good. I decided that the skirt extension could be a double layer to give the right weight and opacity. A couple of metres would do the job. I was torn between an intense blue and this coffee colour. Glad I chose the brown.

Here's how you can do it too: 

This is a pretty simple refashion that you could could do with a t-shirt dress or tunic from your own closet.

1) Fold the dress in half and trace the skirt onto paper to establish the angle and length needed for the extension - a quick paper pattern. Remember to add seam allowances on the top and sides and hem allowance on the bottom.

When I went to trace out the skirt it became obvious that it was massively asymmetrical. Yup, there is a reason that clothes are so cheap at places like H&M! So I ended up opening the whole side seam on one side and recutting the skirt to be symmetrical. Ripping out several feet of black on black overlook stitching on drapey stretchy jersey is not my idea of fun.

2) Cut off the existing skirt hem and open the lower side seams about 4 inches.

I actually cut off a bit more than just the hem to get the right proportions of black and brown. You'll have to judge this based on your height and the length you have to work with.

3) Sew the new skirt pieces to the front and back of the existing skirt, and then sew up the side seams .

I used my serger for this - but jersey doesn't fray, so you could just use a stretch stitch or very narrow zigzag on a regular sewing machine.

4) Make an inset for the deep neckline.

I made a rectangular piece 'cause it was easier than working out the correct triangle needed! I top-stitched the upper edge of the double layer to give it some structure.

5) Pin the insert in place while wearing the dress to make sure it is in a flattering position. Sew the insert in place, then trim away the excess fabric.

I basted the insert in place before sewing by machine due to the multiple layers of fabric in the cross over area. This is something I hate doing, but it was all too much and too slippery to manage well with pins. The ease with which it went through the sewing machine made it worth while. In this case I also needed to stitch the entire cross over closed, since it gaped. (Another great moment in H&M clothing.) When I wore it originally I'd had to pin it closed.

6) Hem the dress. Or because it won't fray and jersey edges roll so nicely, you could just cut it cleanly off at the length you want. I'll go this latter route because I am lazy and because I know the double layers of fabric will give me some considerable grief otherwise.

Ta-Da! My finished dress is a bit regency in style. I glammed it up with some bronze and black beads at the waist. It needed something and this did the trick. Because I want this to be washable, the beads had to be removable. These are strung from a black ring through which the ties can be threaded.