Time for a bit of remodelling?

I can’t say I am a great fan of remodelling existing outfits. I had a go last year as part of the SWAP contest, and was pretty underwhelmed with it. It took forever to reclaim the fabric and then I didn’t much care for the outcome. But on Instagram there are a few people who put up before and after pictures which are a lot of fun. I could give you a picture of some fabric, and then show the outfit, but it is fun to see someone looking ridiculously swamped or hideously dated, and then – a few days later – we see a picture of the horrid hippy blouse turned into a gorgeous sexy top – for example. These professional photo shoots normally work best on fantastically pretty girls – the remodelling will always need to be smaller than the starting garment so it helps if you have nice, slim legs and a washboard tummy. One person I follow is Sarah Tyau a petite Korean-American who does this all the time.

Which reminds me. One of my dear friends is a big supporter of the Museum of London. He met the person responsible for all the clothes in their collection, who explained the small sizes of many of the items in their collection. Aparently this was not due to people being much smaller than they are today, but due to them constantly being cut down and remade for smaller people, including younger adults. It’s obvious really.

Using the “changing room selfie” method, standing in sad, grubby, overly lit, faux wood changing room, I had a go myself. Complete with recycled plastic hangers and a charity advert and a particularly washed out complexion. In a moment of madness I bought a suit in a Traid charity shop that is currently unwearable. Certainly over my trousers it’s a bit of a shocker. The shoulders, in particular, are much too big for me. The suit is size 44 (UK s16) so it should be possible to make something of it.

1980s multicoloured suit
1980s German suit

Of course what attracted me to this suit is the lovely colours and the fact that it is mainly made from wool, with a bit of polyester. I think I will be able to remodel the skirt fairly easily – not sure what to do about the jacket. Maybe a nice hat?

Multi coloured 1980s jacket
Close up of 1980s suit

What do you think? Do you think I can make something nice from this? Just the skirt? A coat? A suit? Has anyone every restyled a jacket – is it likely that it will yield enough cloth?

I would appreciate any feedback – thank you.

37 Responses

  1. felicia

    I’ve seen that suit before, I swear I have. I wonder if it wandered across the pond at some point in its life. Student on an Rhodes scholarship? Anyway, surely you could make a sleeveless jacket from the jacket? You can resew the shoulder seams easily enough … and if you really want a hat, you could use the sleeve material for that. A stovepipe kind of hat?

  2. Esme

    NOT A WAISTCOAT!! It’s hideous as it is. If you are going to make something out of it, which I’m sure you could, please go subtle on the shape, and amount you use…!

  3. Freya

    How about a 64 top from Merchant and mills? You might have to
    piece the front and back but I think it would show off the partern to its advantage and you could wear it with a long slim skirt…

  4. Sew Ruthie

    It would be fairly easy I think to make a waistcoat and more fitted skirt from this. The question is would that be something you would want to wear because for me that would be the driver. when they do those challenges on the Sewing Bee they don’t have to wear them afterwards!
    You seem to wear quite a lot of little skirts so that part is probably worth doing. Potentially you could remodel the jacket into something more like a little fitted bolero jacket, or you could take the two together and make a straight dress (of a style I have seen you sew) though you might need lots of seams/panels, in particular a waist seam.
    Another option (if you wear them) could be some tailored winter shorts to wear with tights in the winter.
    Its not in my palette but I’d probably go for a knee length skirt and a collarless jacket, but maybe wear them separately rather than as a suit.

  5. Vivien

    Maybe shape the skirt to a tight pencil, just below the knee, with a little kick pleat at the side? The jacket either a waistcoat, or a sleeveless jacket (the lapels and collar seem too well made to discard) perhaps with a belt? But don’t wear the skirt and top together!

  6. TamsinW-P

    You may have already come across her, but Sally from http://charityshopchic.net/ often refashions ghastly things into amazing pieces. I was thinking a bustier/waistcoaty thing and a short skirt with some kind of flippy bit on it. Not great descriptions but my brain isn’t working this morning!

  7. Stephanie

    I was going to mention Sally, too. She does some great refashions.

    I laughed so hard at Esme’s comment. I have to admit that I’m on the same page. This is pretty terrifying fabric! That said, I don’t have any “vision” to speak of so I am sure you will surprise and amaze. I kind of liked the idea of a pair of winter shorts.. but not a waistcoat! 🙂 It could be a decent pencil skirt with a back godet or something like that, and a nice outfit worn with a more muted/neutral top…but will you wear it?

    • fabrickated

      Great thoughts and suggestions Stephanie. Many thanks for this comment, and your loyal commenting (don’t feel you have to!). Shorts. That is a great idea (and I agree about the waist coat, although waistcoats can be nice). I would definitely wear this skirt if it fitted, just as it is. I love the colourfulness of it. That is why I bought it. It has a whole bunch of colours I love to wear in it. Ideal for wardrobe building.

    • Stephanie

      I felt badly after I made the comment about the fabric – it’s not so bad, really, and the colours are pretty. I also like waistcoats, and in some combination a waistcoat in this fabric would also look nice. You always impress me with how your outfits coalesce.

      • fabrickated

        Oh please don’t apologise. It is a bit terrifying. I like being scared though – the sewing equivalent of going on the Big Wheel or a Dracula movie. In fact beige is terrifying – I like the challenge of creating something very interesting and exciting with such a non-descript colour.

  8. Barbara J

    I’m with Esme and Stephanie in advising you to go lightly with the fabric. Why not use it in pieces in conjunction with a solid in a fitted dress that has style lines suitable for color blocking? There are hundreds of patterns you could find for that type of silhouette.

  9. Mary

    I am a very tall size 40/42 and ‘harvest’ material from charity shop garments often. When I look at your coat I think I would try to unpick the shoulders and the lapels and try to make a dress bodice. Since you embrace the open look of seams by including selveges you could flat sew some of the seams to include a raw edge or two across the front. Recut and Reset the sleeves, attach the skirt in a dropped waste style, and you just might have a dress. It could be a conceptual art piece/wearable garment if the echoes of the former jacket are evident by including the line of the lapels. This probably sounds baffling but I can see you wearing the finished dress in my head! And I just live that fabric. Good luck!

  10. Annieloveslinen

    I’ve just had a look at your VW jacket and that fitted style suits you, maybe you could do something similar, with a revere collar, a solid contrast at the back neck would look good. You could slim down the existing lapels. You might feel the urge to insert a godet at centre back and use the contrast there too.

    I’m loving these Westwood posts.

  11. mrsmole

    It is indeed a colorful piece so looking at it as vertical strips in the skirt, I’d slice the skirt vertically into pink square strips and only blue square strips. Then with the pinks in a pile and the blues in a pile, you can sew them back together and have a bright pink chunk of yardage and a blueish chunk of yardage. Yardage…just realized, you don’t use that term so would one call it metreage? Remove the sleeves and do the same thing, pink pile, blue pile. Now you have the basic bodice with pockets…it might be less confusing and give you some ideas. My heart wants to bring in some solids but maybe that is against the rules?

    • fabrickated

      This is so creative and I love it as an idea. I just don’t have much fabric so, as you say, I would need to extend with something else. We say yardage and meterage, but me I usually say yardage (and I tend to use inches when I am making my own patterns). And there are no rules. Just what I fancy. I may let this one simmer for a bit.

  12. Hazel

    I would make a sleeveless knee length shift with yoke and rolled collar and exposed back zip. Maybe cut the yolk on the bias and insert a narrow leather piped insertion when attaching to main part of dress.

  13. Anne

    A Vivienne Westwood inspired dress? Maybe adding a bit of solid. Though I do see a skirt and waistcoat but I don’t have to face Esme! I do see where she’s coming from, though.

  14. Jay

    I like the colours a lot. My suggestion is a dress too. I think there will be plenty of fabric to play around with and a slim fitting dress would be a great use for the plaid.

  15. Realale

    When I saw the suit I instantly thought of the VW jacket on your inspiration pic for SWAP! Or a VW skirt with overlay and hooked up. Which idea would you wear is more to the point. No use making a garment you wouldn’t feel happy in.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Realale! I think I would feel happy in a brightly coloured skirt with a deep front drape. Or a jacket. But probably not both together very often! Lots of people have suggested a dress, which I am warming to.

  16. Kate

    I have to say, I often find this trend really annoying. Not when it’s someone who’s fallen in love with a fabric etc and has to use it, or when it’s a case of it being close in size but not quite working (which I think this situation fits both of those criteria).

    But a lot of the remodel before pis are posed in a ‘look how unflattering and terrible this garment is!’. Yes. Because the wearer is a size 8 and the dress is a size 18. It’s hard ENOUGH to find wearable plus size clothes in thrift stores and vintage stores without smaller people chopping them up. I went to a vintage fair the other day and there was a woman who makes a whole living going around and buying up larger vintage dresses, chopping off the sleeves and half the skirt and making them minis. I almost cried – I would give my eyeteeth for a vintage dress that fit me, and here they all were chopped to bits.

    Whoops I guess that was a bit rantier than I expected! I think it’s 50% the ‘that was a garment I would have worn and now I can’t’ and 50% ‘that was a garment I could have worn and this person is basically making fun of how huge and frumpy it is, and then is being smug about making it teeny tiny, when she could have wrapped a sheet around herself and gotten the same effect’. Without that final 50% of smugness I think it’s an exercise in ingenuity and skill, even if it’s something I can’t participate in since I’ll never find anything BIGGER than my actual size in a thrift store)

    • fabrickated

      Dear Kate – I absolutely love this comment. I think I feel the same as you about some of the remodelling I see, although I am not sure they are actually making fun of larger sizes, but there is a high degree of self-admiration going on. As you say most of these young women would look good in a bin bag. I hadn’t thought about the demand for larger vintage outfits – but that is a good point. Actually the cutting up of nice old things to make skimpy trendy things must be due to there being a market for them, rather than just enjoying the originals. However much recycling these days is of rather ordinary, mass produced stuff. The seamstress is often successful in putting together two or more not very beautiful fabrics to create something rather pretty. But often dart free and thigh high.

  17. Nia

    Me, I am the crazy lady who would pick that jacket apart at the seams, and re-cut a new jacket from it. Although, it may have contrasting sleeves (black) or something because that is a lot of color going on at once and I am fun sized.

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