Refashion no. 3 – denim shirt dress 

So… at it again! I’d had this image of Cara Delevingne pinned for some time and had been planning to adapt my sleeveless Granville to recreate it from scratch.

But on my rounds of the neighbourhood charity shops a bleached Hollister shirt caught my eye… and got my refashion cogs turning!

Sorry for the dreadful pic – limited computer and internet access means this is a photo on my phone of my camera screen… (to be replaced)

London is plunging headlong into autumn and that’s no place for bleached denim. So I dyed the shirt using Dylon’s machine blue jeans dye, unpicking the pockets first to avoid any patchiness. It came up darker than the packet suggested and of course the top stitching stayed resolutely pale, but both of these features became things I liked and decided to keep (the top stitching eventually chimed with the flowers on the skirt).

I then cut off the sleeves and the bottom part of the shirt to the waist, but leaving the entire length of the placket in tact. I cut the waistline higher at the front, almost empire line, and to my natural waist at the back, to be more flattering.

I tacked new side seams, used these to pinch out small bust darts, then finally stitched up the sides; the dye job seemed to have made the denim slightly stretchier and more forgiving so none of this was as taxing as it sounds. It also meant the collar became a surprisingly good fit.

I reduced the size of the pockets and reapplied them over the bust, ploughing my poor machine through some hard-going layers.

The skirt was cut freehand (aka in a hurry) based on the shape of an existing skirt of mine: roughly a 3/4 circle, with a very slightly gathered waist.

The skirt cotton is from Sew Over It. I umm-ed and ahh-ed over incorporating new fabric into my refashion as it didn’t seem quite in the spirit, but after again scouring the charity shops and coming up empty-handed, I realised that the most important thing was creating a garment I would really want to wear, not merely another entry for the competition, and if that entailed adding in a new purchase, well – there are worse things.

The hardest part was attaching the button placket to the single front skirt piece. I cut a slit down the skirt centre front and pressed the two sides under – but one had to be stitched to the underside of the placket and the other to the top. Fiddly faddly I can tell you! The slit doesn’t extend the full length of the placket so the tail end is lightly hand-stitched to the outside of the skirt.

The armscyes were too large, so after shortening the shoulders I added in small triangles of the skirt cotton to fill the gape at the bottoms. I rather like this little touch! I feel it brings the two halves of the dress together…

So once again I am thrilled with my refashion, particularly because the challenge brought to fruition a dressmaking idea I’d been harbouring for some time. It’s a good thing I’m now on holiday as I was starting to see potential refashions left, right and centre! The great thing I felt with this one was the freedom that comes from working with used fabric – I wasn’t always entirely sure how (or if) it would work out, but I knew that even if the worst came to the worst, I’d have learned a new lesson and a charity would be a little better off. It was a hugely liberating realisation.

I know I’ve waxed lyrical about The Refashioners extensively already, but really – who’d have thought such a simple online challenge would stretch my skills, bring me snazzy new outfits AND such oodles of fun?!


6 thoughts on “Refashion no. 3 – denim shirt dress 

  1. Hi Nina, that dye worked a treat; I’m a sucker for contrast stitching. You’ve done a great job. It’s often more work than it looks with refashioning as we have to work around the limited dimensions but at least we don’t have to make the button plackets and I like the idea of using the original length.

    I like your clog sandals.


    1. Thanks and thanks! Totally agree re. refashioning – it’s perhaps more work but also more fun to use the existing features rather than simply regard the shirt as a source of fabric.

      The sandals are from Aldo – they’re actually amazingly comfortable!


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