I like browsing in the high street fashion shops – do you? I rarely buy an outfit but I need inspiration. Also, when the sales are on, I do sometimes buy oddments either to wear, alter or copy. This week in Top Shop I bought
- A deep red vintage silk blouse (it was a cut down man’s shirt, slimmed at the side seams with the sleeves, cuffless and cut shorter. £12.50 for lovely, heavy silk
- A large pair of white cotton shorts with lace on the hems. I pulled up the elastic waist and now have a nice pair of summer PJ bottoms £4
- A blouse from a firm I like called Miss Patina, reduced from about £45 to £18.
- I also got a really nice quality beige suede coat from Warehouse for £60. I bought a large size (16) as the 10 was just too skimpy in the skirt. I removed the belt carried and have a better belt and it looks really classy, with the too long sleeves pushed up.
Then I popped into H&M and saw a shell pink, fit and flare dress with interesting darts. Well about 14 copies of this item remained. They had loads of them. Made from a sort of crepe polyester jersey with 3 per cent Elastane, the garment is fairly stable with a little stretch, and the sad selection was pretty grubby. They had been £40 (made in China), but now reduced to £20. I looked for my size, thinking of dying it maybe, and found that every last one was an 8 or a 6. I didn’t expect the 8 to fit but tried it on anyway.
Sadly it was much too tight. I needed the 10 or 12. I nevertheless photographed it in the changing room, with a plan to copy it. The assistant said there was no hope of getting a different size.
That night I searched the internet, hoping to find a bigger one. But no luck.
But luck came the next day. I found myself near H&M again, and decided to pop in. Now all the remaining sales items had been moved and I sauntered up and down the racks hoping my dress might have appeared in the right size, perhaps returned from the changing room or from the store room. No. In fact the large stock had reduced down to about 4, and the price had dropped too. Just £7. I took the dress to the counter to confirm the dress really was just £7. The girl checked and told me it wasn’t £7 – it had now gone down to £5.
So I bought it.
I thought “I would pay £5 for a pattern, even in the wrong size. Why not use the dress as a pattern?”
So, as an experiment, rather than drafting this dress from my dress block, I tore the whole thing up. It was pretty quick to unpick. It only has four pieces and a side zip, and I had the idea that rather than tracing it and enlarging it at several points I might just add width at the side seams. The great advantage of this was that I didn’t even need to transfer the pattern to paper. I would be able to pin it to the cloth and then add a bit of width and length using my tailor’s chalk. A bit of a risk I know but while the dress was tight on me, it more or less fit in terms of where the seams and darts lay. Also my life (and blog, and approach to life) is all about learning, and I will be using a fabric remnant, and I will see if it works. If it doesn’t, so what?
I know the side seams are a bit hard to discern in the photograph, but I have used chalk to add 3cms to each side seam and 5cms to the hem.
So far the most challenging thing was deciding what to do about the grain. Some of the seams have stretched out of shape as I ripped this open fairly fast.
The fabric I chose is also a slightly stretchy polyester crepe, but it is much softer and drapier than the original which is rather stiff. Here is the dress pinned together, on Camilla. I think it looks great – a really nice bit of creative pattern cutting, and it was such a quick and easy process.
It has a combined neck and armhole facing – which I haven’t cut yet. I am not sure if this is going to lined or not. I will stitch it up first and then decide.
Have you ever unpicked a RTW garment and used it as a pattern?