Hello, Marilla here! I’m so excited to be included in this year’s ‘refashioners’ line-up and have totally lapped up the challenge. The practice of refashioning garments is so close to my heart and actually how I started making clothes. The first wearable thing I sewed was a waistcoat made from a pair of my brothers old pyjamas when I was about 13!
I chose to go and select/buy a shirt of my choosing (Portia also offered to send everyone something blind) and had a clear idea of what I was looking for before I set out. It was either to be a chambray, linen or large check I was looking for and it had to be from the largest size racks to give me maximum fabric. Other than that I was open to what I may find, but I found it helpful to have a guide before setting out. I was able to walk in and out of charity shops very quickly and was lucky to find a good quality (barely worn) large check M&S shirt. As a side note, I expanded my refashion plans after finding the shirt to include an elasticated waist skirt I have had for a while, as they go well together.
My first thought was to make something Japanese and simple in style. The fabric reminds me of lovely Japanese check fabrics I have seen online and imagined it looking great as a basic, boxy garment, but ideas are not set in stone and with the recent #internationalannaparty happening over on Instagram, I was lured in a different direction.
Refashioning is all about going with the flow in my experience and taking your time to let the garment speak to you. I started by removing the sleeves and cutting up the sleeve seam to open them out and also cut up the shirt side seams to get an idea of the fabric I had to play with. The biggest pieces of fabric were in the sleeves, the main back and the fronts (unsurprisingly). I got my BHL Anna dress pattern out and started to lay the pieces over the shirt. I found the bodice fronts seemed to work best on the sleeves (with a centre front seam added to the pattern)…
The back was the hardest bit to place really, as the shirt back was not quite wide enough. I wanted to sew the back as one piece and remove the centre back seam (to make life more difficult). I could have made the shoulders narrower on the pattern, but didn’t want to, so after some thought cut the back yoke away from the main back and added the shirt front with the buttons as a yoke instead with the button strip running across the shoulders (if that makes sense).
This gave me the extra width I needed at the shoulders and also made a nice feature of all those lovely buttons. There was a nice back pleat at the yoke of the original shirt that was lost in dissecting it, so I put a new pleat at the centre back waist in place of back darts as a shirty design feature/homage.
Other than those considerations, everything else was fairly straight forward. The construction of the Anna bodice is nice and simple, so no worries there.
The next stage is where the pleated skirt was going to come in! I thought of cutting off the waistband and simply attaching the sunray pleated skirt to the Anna bodice. This would have looked lovely I’m sure, but I didn’t want pleats going over my tummy. I then planned to make a fabric yoke for the top of the skirt portion from the remaining shirt fabric and went about cutting some panels. I had no choice but to cut with the straight grain and decided to cut extra width, so that I could sew and fit at the same time. After attaching the panels to the bodice I realised that this was not going to look great at all. It may have worked cut on the bias (not an option), but was quite unflattering fitted across my tummy cut on the straight grain. The solution was to keep the side seams of the panels open. It creates a mini and unusual peplum that has a slight wrap either side that is secured by a tiny button. The peplum edges are finished with a double turned hem. The Anna blouse was born!!!
The skirt remains untouched, but my new top makes it so much more wearable to me. Win, win, win!!!!
Once the shape was finalised I then added a button fastening to the bodice side seam using the original button placket and set about sewing on all remaining buttons to anything that looked like it could be a feature!
This is not my usual ‘everyday’ style of clothing, but certainly something I feel more than comfortable in. It’s kind of got the look of a vintage dress with all the little details you don’t find anywhere else, but without the restriction or discomfort I sometimes get from ‘true’ vintage.
That’s the main construction covered, so now onto a barrage of pictures!
The back is the only part of this that has not quite panned out how I would like. There is a lot of excess fabric there that I really should remove, but I’m just not sure what to do with it. I may release the back pleat and flatten the back out for a looser fit. There is enough peplum width to do this, but I’m just sad to lose the pleat at the moment, so haven’t gotten around to it. I also don’t know if I’m really unhappy about the extra blousy fabric!
Look! Here it is laid out flat in all its pleated splendour. Notice the breast pocket is still present on the peplum piece? Love that bit!
I tried to use as much of the shirt as possible and actually (unintentionally) made it my mission to use any interesting design element somewhere within my garment. I hope that this comes across as interesting and intricate and not costume like, because this is a very wearable piece. It’s important to me to take as much care as possible when refashioning items of clothing that are otherwise perfectly serviceable.
After all, this would have found a good home in some mans wardrobe had I not come along with my scissors. Not that I want to pass on a sense of guilt if you’ve tried a refashion that’s not worked out to plan! 😉
This challenge has been brilliant and really got my creative juices flowing. I hope this inspires you to look at clothes you may no longer wear and unlock any possible potential. Refashioning is a great way of entering the world of sustainable sewing without having to spend a lot of money, plus it’s good fun thinking outside the box from time to time and can lead you to unexpected and wonderful outcomes!
Happy refashioning everyone and thanks for reading about my project! xxx
Wow Marilla! ! See?!!…using patterns in refashioning IS NOT cheating, lol!! Shirts can be just a source of fabric from which to cut your pieces. Ultimately you’re still transforming that garment; and using any possible means at your disposal to do so. What a great take on the Anna Pattern and the whole thing looks so authentically vintage and feminine it’s hard to believe it was once a man’s shirt! One of my favourite details is the original button placket running horizontally across the back. Although there are so many great details it’s hard to pick just one!
You can find Marilla here and here. her Maya Pattern and the Anna Pattern from By Hand London are just some of the amazing prizes to be won as part of The Refashioners 2015 Community Challenge. So grab a shirt and get refashioning! You have until Sunday 27th Sept to enter! Stay tuned for more inspiration throughout August!