Guest Post: Sara Tries Refashioning

Hi, everybody!  This is Ashley and I’d like to introduce this guest post from a good friend.  She refashions thrift store finds into wearable (and pretty) clothes.  I admire her vision and her drive and her ability to take a dumpster fire of a dress and make it look like it came from Anthropologie.  TELL ME ALL YOUR SECRETS, SARA!  So without further ado, welcome Sara to talk about her impressive refashion projects.  [Important Note:  Besides this introduction, Sara wrote this whole post – I just want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.]

I get asked a lot how I refashion clothes.  Where do my ideas come from? Do they just leap into my brain fully-formed? Was I BORN with these skills? The answers, in order, are: through lots of practice, not usually, and absolutely not.

I refashion clothes because I love making things – it’s thrifty, it’s satisfying, and living in a small town being able to thrift shop and change clothes gives me lots more options than our local Ross.  It helps to enjoy and have an eye for clothes, but I honestly believe that learning how to refashion clothes is like anything else.  It can be learned and people who do it with any skill have practiced and trained their eye.  The purpose of this post is to give you a jump start.  Here (in order) are the questions that I’ve learned to ask when I’m shopping for clothes to refashion.

1. Do I like this Fabric?

When refashioning clothes you have the ability to change almost anything about a garment.  One of the few things you can’t do much about is the fabric.  If the print is ugly or the fabric is pilly and stained, you’re out of luck.  On the other hand, keep an open mind.  A fabric that might look very dated because of the cut or shape of the garment might be modern and beautiful in a different style or silhouette.  Find a garment with a fabric that you like the look and feel of.  Once you’re there ask yourself the practical questions.  Will I able to work with this fabric?  Will it wash well? I occasionally find dresses made with beautiful silk, but I know that I don’t have the skill or patience to work with a fabric that slippery and delicate.  Find good workable cottons and jerseys, especially as you’re starting out.  Make sure it’s fabric that you can iron so the seams will look crisp and professional.

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2. Do I have enough to work with?

This one is simple.  It’s always easier to work with a dress that’s too big than to try to eke fabric out of a dress that’s too small.  The more fabric you have to work with the more options you have. I have broken this rule, but only if there’s enough fabric in another part of the dress (e.g. it’s a maxi dress, so I make it knee-length and use the extra skirt fabric).  Some people might go out and buy other coordinating fabrics to add to the dress, I generally don’t do this for a number of reasons:

1) I am too lazy.

2) Finding fabrics that work with the color, weight, drape, shape, and feel of the dress is difficult.  It’s always better if you can just work with what you have.

3) I don’t want to spend more money on something that might not work out.

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3. What’s making this dated?

This question is the one that helps me see potential in clothes the most.  A lot of people get hung up one what a garment looks like now.  I grab a dress and the friend I’m shopping with pulls a face because it just looks soooooo 80s and not in a good way.  Yes, but the reason it looks so 80s is because it has shoulder pads, a bodice that’s too boxy, and a v-shaped waistband.  Fix those things, and you’ve got a totally modern dress. Start asking why a garment looks outdated and you’re well on your way to knowing the if  and how to fix it.

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4. Is it okay if I totally destroy this?

Here’s the truth about refashioning: sometimes it will not work out.  Sometimes you will make a cut in the wrong place or you’ll realize that you didn’t have enough fabric to work with, or that ambitious dye job just did not work out.  This is okay if it’s a dress you found at Goodwill for $5.  If it’s a gorgeous hand-embroidered dress you bought at Anthropologie for $250 that’s never fit quite right, find a tailor.  It’s worth it.  Make sure that you’ll be okay if it doesn’t work out.

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5.  Can I handle this?

Start small. Know your limits.  If you don’t know how to sew and don’t have a sewing machine, you too can refashion! Find a skirt that would be super cute if only it were knee-length and hem it by hand, or grab a dress that has crazy shoulder pads and snip them out. Small things make big differences. The internet is your friend.  There are so many tutorials, tips, and tricks available.  If you’re more advanced and have made dresses from patterns and have a sewing machine, the breadth of what you are going to be able to do is much wider.  Whatever skill level you’re at, start with something you think you can pull off.  The sense of accomplishment and confidence you’ll gain from a finished project will give you the push you need to keep going and keep trying harder things.  I started small, and continue to push myself to try new thing and learn new skills. Now go make ugly things awesome!

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