Hello! Casey from Elegant Musings here. I am so excited to be participating in this series—it was such a fun idea (thank you to Portia for asking me to participate)! When Portia sent me the garment to refashion, I was quite delighted with this challenge. I had been thinking this summer about remaking a “dressmaker” suit (meaning a suit that doesn’t have the traditional tailoring we associate with a suit) into a cute, 40s-inspired number. This original garment proved just the piece to test my ideas on!
I usually begin refashions by loosely sketching an idea and sometimes playing with various ideas on the dressform (straight and safety pins are a great way to test!). I find that this helps me envision the order of construction (or deconstruction!) rather than chopping away at a garment blindly. I wanted to take this suit from ho-hum to something that evoked the look of the 40s. I had a pattern in my stash, as well as some images on my computer, that proved to be the inspiration for this piece. Sometimes refashioning is not so much about creating a new garment, but rather refitting an old one to your aesthetic and size!
To start the transformation and refit the (several sizes too large) suit, removed the sleeves from the jacket and set aside. (Note that in the before pictures I had to clip the suit in the back because it was too baggy for my dressform.) I unpicked the collar from the neckline, and removed the shoulder pads and opened the neckline facing away from the jacket. Trying on the jacket inside-out, I pinched away the excess fabric at either side seam and the shoulders (which brought the darts up to approximately the correct level) and pinned. It took a few tries to get the fit just right, but once I had I sewed the new seams and finished with serging. I also took this opportunity to redo the hem of the jacket and add a nicer (thrifted hem tape!) finish.
Next up was the fiddly part of redoing the neckline. I pinned an approximate outline while wearing the jacket, and then marked the outline in chalk. I added a 3/8” seam allowance, blending it into the back neckline. The neckline was trimmed to this line, as was the neckline facing. I sewed the facing and the neckline pieces right sides together for a smooth (and easy!) finish.
Adding the sleeves back to the jacket was perhaps the easiest step of this refashion! I measured the new armholes, and found a pattern with a sleeve cap measure of approximately the same. (In this case my trusty Swing Dress pattern). Using the original hem on the sleeves, I cut out new ones and sewed those in.
Finally, the jacket needed a few new details to add a bit more of a vintage flair. I dug through my button stash and found these two, beautiful vintage glass buttons to add to the front. They were slightly too large for the original buttonholes, so I slip stitched those shut, attached the buttons overtop and added snaps underneath. For the neckline, I wanted to add a bow, and used the piece that was originally the jacket collar to fashion this. This was permanently tacked to the overlap side of the jacket, and then secures on the underlap neckline with a snap.
To redo the skirt, I just drew a new a-line skirt pattern directly on the wrong side of the skirt. This was really winging it, but I wanted to keep the original hem intact, so using a pattern would have been a bit tricky (since the hems on even modest a-line have a definite shape). But, it would have been easy to just pick apart the entire skirt and use a simple a-line pattern. Redoing the skirt involved have to take out the old zipper, reinsert it, and add a waistband. I used some leftover pieces of the skirt fabric and Petersham ribbon for this to face the waistband.
This was probably one of the more extensive refashions I’ve done in a long, long time! It was quite worth it and I enjoyed the challenge of giving a rather ho-hum garment my own spin. I think if there was one additional adjustment I wish I had made, it would have to be overdying the fabric. I thought about it, but decided not to even try because of the high polyester content in the material—I didn’t want a splotchy dye job!
A big thank you again to Portia for asking me to be a part of The Refashioners!!! This project turned out to not only be a challenge in refitting, but also opened my eyes to some new possibilities when it comes to refashioning. Off to raid my stash of thrift store find that need altering to see what new life I can breathe into them…
Crikey, this looks so authentic! Absolutely gorgeous. Who would ever know this started life as a frumpy 2 piece?! Thankyou so much Casey. You’ve inspred me to tackle a vintage suit jacket that’s been taunting me!
STILL more to come people so stay tuned!