That sentimental dress. That heirloom blanket. That nostalgic sweatshirt.
How do items seem to hold memories for us? I have no idea, but they do. It makes it hard to part with them through donating or throwing them away. So we keep them, "save" them, but generally, don't take the time to appreciate them.
I firmly believe that we should love the things we have, use and enjoy them. Recently, three different people brought me those things-- the sentimental dress, the heirloom blanket, and the nostalgic sweatshirt-- and I made each into an item that they will see, use, and enjoy everyday.
Here they are:
Sara brought me a blanket that had been passed down through her husband's family. Unfortunately, it was tattered and torn beyond repair so could no longer function as a blanket. I made it into a set of pillows for her home and her mother-in-law's home so everyone can appreciate and enjoy this bit of family history.
Lara had an old Sorority sweatshirt that, although no longer worn, she could never quite part with because of all of the fond college memories associated with it.
Finally, was Julia's project. Julia decided that instead of retiring her wedding gown to the back of her closet or a box to preserve it, she would continue to enjoy her dress in every way she could! While she lived in another state she had her original wedding gown shortened into a cocktail length dress:
However, the dress had a substantial train which Julia also saved. She brought it to me and here's what happened:
It was important to Julia that the pillows were reminiscent of the style of the gown, so a pleated detail was added much like the bodice of her original gown.
As a rule, I only work with apparel, but I always seem to make an exception when it comes to a sentimental upcycle, and I'm glad I do :)
(continued from Part 4)
Before I knew it, prom was here!
Excuse me while I swoon........
Okay, well if you want to see the rest of Lea (and Noah too) on her prom night, Click HERE to check it out!!!
I hope you enjoyed the journey of Lea's vintage gown, from 1979 on her eighty year old great grandmother to her high school prom today!
So, in February, high school junior, Lea, contacted me with an idea for a project. She wanted to use her great -grandmother's gown and turn it into her prom dress with some big updates. (Read about it HERE) Anyway, it was a big undertaking to transform a classic 1970's style gown worn by a woman in her eighties, into one a teenager would want to rock at prom, today.
With some BIG vision, Lea and I came up with a plan:
...and a sketch:
Here's what needed to happen:
I decided the best method to really give Lea a picture of what the dress would look like was to, well, just start cutting. There are some projects that the only way to start is to start!
Once all of the extra fabric was gone, I did a bit of tweaking for fit, shaping with darts around the bust to eliminate a lot of the bulk in the bodice.
Then Lea went home. And I got to work.
So my most interesting clients are the ones with a vision for a restyle. What I mean is they are able to see the potential in an old, out of date garment and come to me wanting to give it new life. I find that these clients and I tend to feed off each other's creativity and ideas to come up with something that is both a satisfying project on my end and a stellar garment for them.
Recently, Lea, a junior at a local high school, contacted me about a dress that her great grandma wore in 1979-- when she was 80! I decided this girl MUST have vision. and boy does she ever!
We set up a consultation which quickly become a first fitting. All systems are a go for this project which Lea plans to wear to her prom in April! Here is where we started:
Lea loves the pleated skirt, but is unattached to the top. We intend to remove the cravat (!) and sleeves and use the sheer fabric as a new illusion neckline. Then bedazzle the heck out of it for some truly Prom-style sparkle.
Sylvie and her (now) husband, Phillip, met while they were out swing dancing. It was only fitting that swing dancing would be a centerpiece at their wedding reception and Sylvie needed a dress she could boogie in! BUT she wanted to get married in a more traditional looking wedding gown. AND she didn't want to have two gowns-- after all a wedding dress is only worn once, and who wants to shorten its already minuscule lifespan?
She arrived at my door, with this very lovely dress. She liked the movement and thought maybe there was a way to customize it so she could get married in it long and then dance the night away in it short. Additionally, Sylvie wanted her dress customized on the back to express her personal style more so than the original plain halter strap top that it originally had-- as pictured in the stock photo-- the first one below...
So, we got to work, first adjusting it for the perfect fit. Then we took a look at Sylvie's ideas for straps (she brought sketches, this is a lady with vision!) She wanted something a bit more interesting than traditional straps and came up with lots of variations. Here I am trying a few things out and the end result:
We thought that the direction of the straps flowed nicely with the direction of the shirring on the bodice.
That'a all well, good and very lovely, however, the BIG thing was how to transform a traditional wedding gown into a dress suitable for swing dancing!?
Basically, I created a bubble by engineering a hidden loop and tie system, the ENTIRE way around the gown. For even more fun and to test my problem solving ability, the gown had a built in tulle petticoat underneath which was necessary to give the dress the proper body when long, but when the dress was bubbled, it made it look like Little Bo-Peep. (No there are no pictures of this, you're welcome, Sylvie.)
To get around this snag, the petticoat got sliced off at the thigh (above where the puffy tulle started) and snap tape was attached to both pieces. This allowed the petticoat to be snapped on while it was gown length and detached before the dress was tied up and made swing dance length.
It was quite the undertaking, but here are the results! Totally worth it, especially considering that not even the groom knew about Sylvie's dress-shortening plans and was completely surprised that he would get to swing dance after all!
Gown length for the wedding...
Swing-dance length for the party!
As a bonus...
Sylvie, married in early October, decided not to pack away the gown-turned-party-frock, in moth balls. Instead, she decided to wear it again, for Halloween....
(photos courtesy of Sylvie)
Please join my in congratulating Sylvie and Phillip and wishing them a lifetime of happiness and swing dancing fun!
If you are a bride with BIG visions for your wedding dress, drop me a line! I love a challenge!
When Holly brought her wedding gown to me, I knew one thing about her right away, this was a woman who loves sparkle. It was a gorgeous, trumpet style lace and tulle gown by Maggie Sottero. It was lovely the way the Holly purchased it, but she wanted something more unique and originally her.
We decided to make a few changes to make the dress Holly's perfect vision of a wedding gown. First, she wanted the existing halter strap changed to standard straps that went straight back. Next she preferred the romantic look of the corset back to that of a more formal looking buttoned up back. Finally, she wanted to add a bit of color, nothing too bold, just a touch to really highlight the lace and bead work on the skirt of the dress and coordinate with her fiancé's suit.
I got to work. Here is the gown before we started:
First, Holly chose what she wanted to use for straps, (some amazing rhinestone banding) and color (taupe and champagne chiffon and tulle). Also, the champagne fabric had more beads on it. Did I mention that Holly likes sparkle?
Next I added the colored layers into the existing layers of dress, it looked a bit silly while I did it, but trust me, Holly didn't have to wear it like this...
Next came the corset. I removed the zipper, buttons and loops. Holly opted for Champagne colored grosgrain loops and ribbon for the corset. Originally, the loops were placed 2" apart, but due to the amount that the bodice pulled around Holly, we decided to add in more loops making then only 1" apart. It can be seen both ways throughout the pictures depending on when the photo was taken.
Then it was time for those amaze-sauce rhinestone straps! The original halter strap was tulle with some lace on it. We decided that a gradual switch from the tulle and lace into the rhinestones would look pretty swank, so I made that happen, though I never got a good picture of the front of the straps completed:
Here are a few more pics of the dress during the process and fitting:
A few adjustments for fit and Holly was ready to get away to Vermont, to the picturesque Williams River House.
Isn't she stunning!? Holly would have been a lovely bride in the dress as it originally was, but with a little bit of time and effort, the dress was not only perfect, but perfectly her!
Join me in congratulating Holly and Ryan!
So I should mention that I am praying that this dress fits my mother. I know her size generally, but, since I am doing this on the sly, I don't have her measurements. I used a dress that she lent me a few months ago and figure I can fit her and do alterations to the dress after I give it to her, for a better fit. I am confident that it will fit her as well as a dress off the rack at least.
So continuing from my last post, I used the muslin top and cut out the printed cotton sateen and silk organza and stitched them together flat, so that the pieces of cottom and silk could be treated as one. I also decided that a tulip style skirt would be the best bet since I didn't have an exact waist measurement to use, and that silhouette is quite forgiving, in case I'm off a little in the hip area. Plus, I know my mom likes the "rouched to the side" look, here are the patterns for the skirt as I was working on them:
Also, I decided to stitch the lace together for the caplet then lay the pattern pieces on it so the "stripes" of lace aligned with each other on the shoulder seam. The caplet is shaped around the shoulders so that it holds the dress up-- it basically acts like a halter strap. Because this is an actual part of the structure of the dress, I reinforced the shoulder seams and neck edge with 1/4" twill tape to strengthen the seams and prevent stretching. Here are a few pics of the cape coming together:
So I feel like this raglan front/caplet back could be a lovely look for a wedding dress with a boho or vintage romance feel, but I digress.
Anyway, I continued to cut the bodice and skirt, and stitched it all together...
I also decided it needed a belt. I used another piece of cotton lace to bring it farther into the design. I created a flower from pieces of the silk organza. and BOOM, done! BUT WAIT! I realized that the dress doesn't have any "glam factor" which I know is important to my mother. So I created a second belt, a Chic Pink belt, which has a rhinestone buckle, and put it to a vote for my Facebook fans...
The voting got intense and although the two options started out neck-n-neck, Chic Pink pulled away with a victory by a 3:1 ratio!
So to summarize:
I really hope my Mom likes the dress and is pleasantly surprised, since of course I mentioned to her that I chucked the whole thing! I realize it doesn't look bridal anymore, but that was part of the goal.. a lovely dress that can be worn to "typical" dressy occasions while still paying homage to a dress that held so much sentimental value.
A very happy anniversary to my parents! I kinda wish that brown velvet tux that my dad wore was still around for me to have a ball with! I'll be sure to post pics of my mom in the dress on my Facebook Page, so stay tuned!
I rearranged the studio and plugged my machine back in at a new (temporary) location while I work on the creative projects I have slated for June. All this while dust and destruction are happening in the studio!
I have a very special project that I'm working on, that I don't want my mom (or dad) to know about yet. But first a bit of background on my parents.
My mother and father will celebrate their 40th (!) wedding anniversary this July. They are a great example of what (IMHO) a beautiful marriage should be- a partnership that is generous, caring, and loving with out condition. I wanted to so something special for them for their big milestone anniversary, but what?
Earlier this year, my mom gave me her wedding gown to see if I could "do something" with it... perhaps restyle it into a modern gown, just to use as a portfolio piece, something along those lines. Well, I took the dress which was in pretty bad condition, disassembled it and soaked it in Oxy clean for way longer than recommended. (I figured it would be worthless as it was, so I had nothing to lose by soaking it). All this time, I told my mom that I tried to use it, but it was in fact, pretty useless and chucked it (sometimes white lies have to happen to keep surprises fun!). Really what I have been doing is designing and planning a dress for her to wear for her 40th anniversary! (and the Oxy clean worked, it's no longer yellow and spotty)
My parents, married in 1974, look like it. They were beautiful, and this photo and the clothes they wore definitely date their wedding to this era. Mom wore an Edwardian style, long sleeved, high neck, organza, A-line gown, trimmed in cotton lace. Here are my parents on their wedding day... (and yes, my dad is in a brown velvet tux!)
My mom always said if she had to do the wedding dress over again, she would do it a bit more glam, so I'll see if I can't work in some sparkle somewhere...
Anyway, I wanted to create a dress she would want to wear again, and hopefully wear more than once! A short dress with a more fitted silhouette would be ideal, since those are the types of dresses she prefers for more standard dress-up occasions. Also I wanted to use the original dress fabric, but break up the white. I considered dying it, but wanted a print in some fashion, so I came up with another plan.
I created a custom print with Spoonflower to use as the base of the dress, under the original organza and lace. I wanted the fabric to have special meaning, even though it wasn't originally part of the dress, so I chose a wedding photo and made a print from a picture of my mother's wedding bouquet... here it is:
I then took the 4th picture (farthest to the right) and had it printed on Organic cotton sateen in a very large scale, so the flowers are pretty much big streaks and spots of color, very abstract, which is what I was going for. Here is the resulting fabric:
Back to the design of the dress. I knew it was to be:
I fiddled around with the dress fabric first, then came up with sketches. They are not set in stone, just a few ideas. As I am draping and sewing, I see places where the design needs adjustment, which is why one drapes and sews before diving into the real fabric! here's my fiddling and sketch page:
And here is some of my draping and sewing progress (only in muslin right now):
The caplet will be out of the cotton lace, rows and rows of it sewn together. The front will be seamed with the pin-tucked organza going down the center. At least that's the plan for now. The skirt portion will sit at the true waist (I need to lengthen my muslin a bit) I am thinking the skirt will have a high-low hem line, I was originally kicking around a tulip skirt, but I think it might be too much.
Anyway, that's all of my progress for now. And please, don't tell my mom!
You may have noticed if you read my blog normally, I have started a personal campaign to make fewer purchases. I am trying to buy better quality items that last. Adjsuting them to meet my needs is a much better use of money than buying lots of cheap junk that needs constant replacement. This conscious consumption benefits not only my wallet, but also the environment and stands to oppose "fast fashion" which exploits many workers in under developed nations.
That being said, buying better quality (champagne taste!) means shelling out more dough up front. That can be difficult on a beer budget. Some of my clients have come up with a great solution, they buy their clothes used.
Yes, yes, we all know that Good Will has diamonds in the rough, but shopping there is time consuming with a "hit and miss" experience that can be frustrating, especially when you need something specific. Enter modern technology. These clients use online consignment. Online consignment allows you to filter by size, color, garment type, budget, etc.
A recent client purchased a skirt (which retails for about $110) for about $16. It fit her well, but not as perfectly as she would've liked, so I did my thing- which was $38- and she got her flawlessly fitted skirt, at her desired length for about half of what she would've paid for it new and not fitting exactly as she preferred. Oh and this skirt will last. The zipper won't break, and the fabric won't pill because it is a very high quality garment, in a classic silhouette, made in New York City. Think about what $54 get you at the mall- a (fleetingly) trendy skirt, made (in a factory of questionable safety?) in Bangladesh, with flimsy fabric and findings (I'll have to replace that zipper for you next year anyway!)
This isn't to say that those same fleeting & flimsy pieces aren't on online consignment sites (they are, and in abundance), it is just that there is generally a much larger selection of high quality pieces to choose from as well.
I don't have a single online consignment site to recommend, (so far I've only used Thredup), each has benefits and drawbacks. It's importatnt to know the shipping and return policies for each of them as well, so read that fine print and spend some time reading the FAQ. Here are some sites that were recommended to me:
In addition to buying clothes you can also sell (* or donate) clothes and clear out your closet while getting some cash as well. If you have experience with buying or selling with an online consignment site, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below! I recently signed up for Thredup.com and made a purchase (which I am waiting for). If you use the link below , you get $10 of credit, and I do too. No pressure to sign up, I just thought I'd offer.
Finally, if you live in the State College area, you can shop LOCALLY and try on the pieces before you bring them home. Some local resale shops include:
Clothes Mentor (Misses clothing, shoes and accessories)
Plato's Closet (Junior's and Young women's clothing, shoes and accessories)
St. Vincent DePaul
and for kids:
Kid 2 Kid
Rugrat's Resale (semi-annual sale)
Just Kids Resale (semi-annual sale)
2. A woman who buys an expensive dress and changes it, often with disastrous result, is extravagant and foolish.
Nearly everyday, some woman brings me an expensive dress and asks me to change it. Many times it is just for a better fit, but many times, the style doesn't suit her completely, so I change necklines, silhouettes, hemlines and any other number of things to better accommodate her tastes and comfort level. This is, after all, the mission of Restitch Studio and the reason I set out to do what I do!
However, I won't sit here and say that Elsa Schiaparelli is wrong. She isn't. As a designer, she is speaking with an intimate knowledge of the creative process and what goes into developing a design, even one that is seemingly straight forward. I think the key to changing a dress successfully is to understand the designer's point of view when the dress was created in the first place. Is the design supposed to be powerful? airy? contained? romantic? Staying true to that idea when changes are made, keeps garments that are changed from looking like a bad hack-job. Change the dress, not the feeling that goes with it.
Erdem Moralioglu's dress that Kristen Stewart wore as a mini-dress is a great example of failing to stay true to the designer's point of view. Erdem's designs are incredibly feminine and romantic, yet very modern. They are also impeccably cut and fit. In the picture below, (where Ms. Steward is presumably turning to show her best angle) You can see the poor fit, the digging at the waistline, the fabric stretched around her hips. I am not bashing Ms. Stewart. I am stating that the choice that either she (or her stylist) made to turn this airy, flirty, frock into a snug and short revealing mini-dress doesn't stay true to the idea of Erdem's collections. Ms. Steward wearing this dress doesn't look like a picture of modern femininity at all, she looks, well, uh, yeah (it's that thing about if you don't have something nice to say...)
I think the original Erdem dress would have suited her much better. And I think with what Elsa Schiaparelli's commandment 2 says, she would have agreed with me as well.
I'm Denise Meyer, apparel designer in State College, PA, saving the world one clothing problem at a time!