Dress alteration for Zero Waste Week

This week, as you may have gathered, is Zero Waste Week. The theme is reuse and I have chosen to focus specifically on reusing fabric. In today’s post I adapt an old favourite item of clothing so that I can wear it again…

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Despite enjoying a good old declutter, there were a few badly fitting items in my wardrobe that I hung on to for years, hoping that, one day, somehow, I would be able to fit into them again.

This is one such dress.

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I bought it from Monsoon at the start of my second pregnancy. The smaller size didn’t fit me over the bust (as I said, I was pregnant!) and the next size up was too big. I really loved it, so I decided to buy the dress and wear it when my bump had grown. Sure enough, when the time came, me and my wee one rocked that outfit. As soon as I was dressing for one again, however, my gorgeous floral number just made me look like a deflated balloon.

While other items were cruelly culled from my wardrobe during clear-outs, this one managed to hang on, waiting for its relaunch. Years passed, but after I recently attended a sewing class which taught me to upcycle a shirt to a skirt, I dusted off my dress and decided to (finally) make it fit. Or at least try!

I gave it an iron and made the decision to work with only the lower half of the dress. I was given advice in a beginners’ sewing class that informed me that the easiest way to go wrong with an alteration, is to mess up the waistline. My dress has an empire waist so I wasn’t sure where the advice fit in, but I pressed ahead anyway.

Luckily because the dress wasn’t designed as maternity wear, I didn’t have to deal with extra material in the front panel. I therefore simply worked out how much I wanted to trim from the sides and then placed a pin on each side as a marker.

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I then used a washable felt pen (another tip from sewing class) and drew a diagonal line from the waist to the pin.

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I then pinned the fabric to hold it in place and sewed down my line with my sewing machine.

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Only at that point did I realise that I’d forgotten to take account of the patterned band of material at the bottom of the dress. Very luckily I’d almost matched the pattern, and I decided that it was good enough to leave.   I took better care the next time though and pretty much nailed it.

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attempt 1                                                attempt 2

When I tried on the dress, and was satisfied with how much material had been removed, and that the fabric hung well, I cut off the excess material that was now part of the seam.  I then did a zig zag stitch down each side to prevent fraying.

As you can see from the top picture, my dress had a v-neck. I had been wearing it with a camisole top when it was warm and with long sleeves underneath when it was cooler, but (constantly drowning in laundry) I decided to see if I could sew a panel behind the v-neck so that I could wear it without involving any more clothes!

This was a bit of a leap of faith, but I was spurred on by the joy that I now had my dress back in working order. I also knew I could unpick any mistakes, should my experiment fail…

I went to my bag of worn out clothes and fabric scraps to see if I could fashion a panel from them. I found a t-shirt of my eldest’s that wasn’t wearable, but the bottom edge was in great condition – fresh and bright white. I roughly cut a piece of it off and hoped that if I added a pretty piece of lace trim, it might give me a camisole effect.

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I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous sewing lace onto jersey material – and no doubt there’s a sewing machine foot and a technique for that – but I just sewed the two pieces together with my machine and crossed my fingers! It was fine.

Delighted with myself, I then pinned my creation onto the v-neck of the dress. As you might expect this was a bit fiddly because I needed it to lie flat, but it probably only took about five minutes. I then sewed it on. That took at least two attempts but it was worth it.

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I have now worn the dress several times and the panel still looks great. The jersey fabric curled up at the joining seam but it hasn’t caused any problems for me. The alteration didn’t take me long at all, and, after buying so few clothes for so long, it’s great to have it back as a wardrobe staple!

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12 thoughts on “Dress alteration for Zero Waste Week

  1. Wow well done. Your sewing skills are coming on in leaps and bounds. Bet it was such a satisfying experience wearing your “unwearable” dress again for the first time. You should be proud of yourself. Well done x

  2. That is really cool, it is also really inspiring to see someone taking up sewing and going from strength to strength with it.

  3. What a great idea, I can never find a camisole when I’m looking for one!! (I stitched the v neck on a dress I wore to work this week so it wasnt too revealing, unfortunaetly the stitchs came undone during the day!!)

    • Oh that’s funny! Hope you work with girls! I like my fake cami and I got to choose where I placed it so I’m not flashing cleavage. Well done with your blog over ZWW, a great read 🙂

  4. You’re amazing. And I’m so glad you held onto that dress as it’s a beautiful print. LOVE that you altered the neckline too, to make it easier to wear. Woohoo!

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