Get Shirty – my idea for The Refashioners 2015

I was so excited when this year’s Refashioners challenge was opened up to the wider sewing community. It’s such a great idea, an inspiring and thought-provoking challenge, and a wonderful way to remind us that there’s already vast amounts of fabulous fabric out there in the world and we don’t always have to buy off the roll to satisfy our sewing addiction. Plus there is THE BEST PRIZE EVER. Seriously, I know I’m weird, but I get goosebumps thinking about how much amazing sewing stuff is in that prize. It’s ‘sewing-life’-changing in scale, I kid you not.

So the challenge is to refashion a button-down men’s shirt into something – anything – else. When I look back at my home life and sewing past, I can see that refashioning has always been something we’ve done – my mother made us dressing up clothes out of old nighties and scarves (my dressing-up ‘ballgown’ was a refashion of an adult bridesmaid dress; my ‘second best ball outfit’ was a petticoat from my grandmother) and our toys were similarly equipped. Favourite T-shirts became cushions for the garden, charity shop skirts became teenage vests and a little scrap of everything would in the end make its way into a patchwork spread of some sort. But by the time I was old enough to sew, we had become a girls-only household; there wasn’t a lot of men’s refashioning to be done.

My days of living in a quasi-nunnery are long gone; I now have a man and, thankfully, he has some clothes. But, slight problem: as men go, J isn’t the biggest. I mean, don’t get me wrong, his physique is divinely perfect and I wouldn’t exchange him for the entire contents of the Liberty haberdashery department*, but there’s barely enough fabric in one of his slim-fit shirts to make a gal a pair of knickers, let alone a whole outfit. And I feel personally that I want to respond to this challenge by eking what I can out of one single shirt, using up every scrap.

(*Well, probably not…)

So naturally I just had to pretend I had a gigantic secret lover, and go browsing through the charity shops of south London pulling out the largest shirts I could find. Oh boy, was I amazed by what I found. Men’s shirt sections of charity shops are incredible! There were top brands (Armani, Abercrombie, Boden), there were pristine swathes of cotton – there was a LOT of great fabric on those rails.

I also had to decide on the design I was going for. The men in my life so far have tended to be sartorially sober sorts, thus when I think of their shirts I think of crisp white cotton, candy-coloured stripes, and a smattering of gingham. The candy colours and the stripes conjure up the seaside for me (beach huts, deck chairs), and in turn I began to think of Victorian bathing suits…


… vintage playsuits …

30s romper

… 1950s beachwear…

1950s beachwear
The one in the centre even has a bodice cuff that resembles a shirt collar

… and I had an idea. I’m going to try to make a stripey lounge-wear playsuit, with an elasticated waist and cute tie-straps and buttons down the front and perhaps a frill, and maybe if I love it I’ll even make a whole heap of variations and foist them on my friends! Already I sense this refashioning business is dangerously addictive.

So I eventually bought this magnificent, dartless, stripey, ‘oh dear someone left a biro in their pocket’ bargain:


I had planned to use the tips given by Anna of RAILOclothing on Madalynne’s blog for ridding the shirt of any lingering scents. But I got impatient after the freezer session and just bunged it in a hot wash and in short, it’s now good to go. Next up: snip snip!


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