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Redesigning for a Special Occasion

It is great fun to find new fabrics and shapes to update a dated garment.  So, when Katy, who I regularly design and sew for, brought me the dress she wore to her daughter’s wedding and asked for a redesign, I was all in.  She had a wedding to attend and wanted the 1996 dress updated if possible.

The mother-of-the bride outfit consisted of 2 pieces:  a periwinkle crepe skirt with chiffon godets and gold edging and a long tunic top with extended shoulders, cap sleeves and a chiffon capelet with hand painted embellishments. The capelet had a few discolored spots in prominent places that could not be removed.

photo from the 1996 wedding.

When she put the outfit on, it overwhelmed her and it quickly became obvious that a shortened skirt and top would be a good first step.  I also suggested we remove the capelet, attached at the neck, and use it as a base for a pieced Tabula Rasa Jacket (TRJ).  We got back together a couple weeks later after I had collected materials, disassembled the top and shortened the skirt from the waist to maintain the godet detail at the hem.

Revisiting the outfit without the capelet

It was a bit of a challenge to find fabric to complement the periwinkle and gold chiffon.  I visited my stash to find a few choices, then went to A Fabric Place, our local independent fabric store, to search for additional options.  The collection of fabrics was quite disparate. I fiddled with a number of fabric combinations and wrestled with the question of how to use the painted chiffon so the details were featured and the spots down played.

Once I decided to embrace the gold details, the jacket came together.  Collecting fabrics that were soft and drew out the gold color in the painted details led me to some chunks of silk ikat in blue, yellow and raspberry from Mekong River Textiles*.  It was complimented by the silk floral print remnants I had found earlier.  These fabrics became the body of the jacket, leaving the painted chiffon for the sleeves.  With the chiffon on the cutting table I started playing with the placement of the sleeve and discovered it would work on the cross grain, allowing the painted detail to gracefully fall down the arm.

Imagining the sleeve placement.

The original rolled edge could be maintained as the edge of the sleeve.  Both the length of the jacket and the length of the sleeve were determined by the fabric chunks available.  The capelet’s rolled edge hem was used to finish the bottom of the jacket and pull all the elements together.

Final sleeve pattern designed to sit on the fabric at hand.

I constructed the jacket with French seams so it would be pretty inside and out.  Because the bias crepe de chine ruffle that circles around the neck and down the center front needed to be pieced, I placed the ruffle overlaps at the same place the jacket was pieced.  Then I placed two pretty carnival glass buttons on each side anchoring a ribbon underneath to allow for a hidden closure.

Enjoy the front details

Many of the techniques, including the bias ruffle finish, are outlined in Swing Variations for the Tabula Rasa Jacket.  I love this small flounce of a ruffle.  It offers a very controlled finish while adding some drama and a very “on-trend” detail.

The finished outfit.

As often happens, the ensemble was easily finished.  Katy had two different pairs of soft gold shoes which pulled the entire look together.  At her request, I left the cap sleeves on the shell, put in a little armhole dart and shortened it so it complimented the finished jacket.

Katy says “Did I tell you how many compliments I received about my wedding attire?  The experience of working with you and the delight of refashioning a new ensemble out of a 20-year-old outfit from my oldest daughter’s wedding filled me with glee.”

I am grateful to Kate for letting me share this story about her new TRJ.  We are already planning her next one.  Why don’t you get out a beloved but outdated garment and start planning a refashion?  The current issue of Sew News included a checklist in my article “Ready-To-Wear Refashion” which will help you determine the feasibility of the project. See more ideas in my Craft U and Burda Style video “Getting a Better Fit.”

Be sure to photograph your restyling process and send us the before, during and after photos of your new TRJ so we can post it on Facebook.

Happy Sewing, RAE

*If you live in the Baltimore/Washington region, join Carrie and I at the Mekong River Textiles open house Sunday October 15.  We would love to shop with your for fabric at one of our favorite fabric sources between 2 and 4:30.

4 thoughts on “Redesigning for a Special Occasion

  1. This is beautiful and so inspiring- I have several pieces of silk kimono fabric and silks that I want to make a trj as a winter project-thanks for the great pictures.

  2. I have a navy and cream Japanese cotton jacket that I pieced and never finished. It looked like I was wearing a quilt, so it became a UFO. Now it will be a TRJ. I know that will work and be flattering and also something I will get a lot of wear out of. I will share when done.

  3. You nailed it!! You go girl!

  4. What a great transformation on a garment. I just came here to buy a jacket pattern and now totally inspired to dig in my closet. Thanks!!

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