The Refashioners is an annual series and competition organized by Portia (blogger at Makery) celebrating and offering inspiration for the art of refashioning. If you haven’t come across it before, it’s definitely worth checking out as there are always a wealth of ideas and some of them are down-right incredible. Last year’s challenge was to work with jeans and this year the attention falls on suits.
The Original Suit
Not having any suits to hand I trawled the local charity shops where initially I found only pricey and shiny polyester numbers. Then I found this 100% wool, personally tailored, fairly large two piece with a horrible brown/cream polyester lining. Thanks to a few moth holes it was purchased for only £5.
The first thing I did was put the whole thing in the washing machine to see how it faired (and to get rid of any lingering moths) and then I set about unpicking it trying to get as much usable fabric as possible. The process was fascinating, having initially dismissed much of the handiwork – the trousers were unlined and scratchy with no internal seam finishes, I was impressed by how much work had gone into the finish of the jacket, using construction and tailoring techniques I’ve not really come across before.
The plan was to use as much of the original suit as possible to minimize waste, so I set about trying to create a mix and match three piece women’s suit from a two piece men’s suit. There was also a fair bit of procrastination that went on about what to make – but I decided on the route that I felt would create garments I would actually wear rather than something more original that might end up languishing back in the charity shop!
The Moto Jacket
I’ve been meaning to find time to make a moto style jacket for ages, I have a RTW one that my sister bought me several years ago that I have worn so much it was falling apart. Luckily that meant I didn’t need to look for a pattern as I just used the old one as a template. Unluckily that meant unpicking another jacket, and working out the construction order required a little extra thought.
A large man’s jacket has a surprisingly small amount of fabric that is easy to use as there are a fair amount of darts, seams and pockets everywhere. This meant creating quite a lot more seams in the moto jacket (such as the centre back seam, or the extra square at the back of the waistband). I thought about trying to reuse details such as the pockets, but they seemed either too big or at the wrong angles so I decided to create new welt pockets instead. The original details I did keep were the sleeves- which I just reshaped along the inside seam and at the sleeve head and all the original interfacing. By cutting all my lapel pieces from the already interfaced front jacket piece I didn’t need to add any of my own.Knowing there wasn’t enough fabric for the inside of the lapels/collar the navy blue cotton velvet scraps I had leftover from making my daughter trousers were a natural choice, and is probably my favourite detail of the refashion. The rest of the inside is lined with a viscose lining fabric.
Whilst I kept the original sleeve buttons, to give the jacket more of a moto style, I added heavy duty snaps for the collar and d-ring buckle details on the side of the jacket.
The Pencil Skirt
For the skirt, I used a block that I’ve made and have used as the basis of many skirts/dresses over the years. This time I made the skirt quite high rise – up to the natural waist in order for it to meet the cropped moto jacket, and also tapered the seams in slightly towards the knee to create a subtle pencil shape. (I don’t find the more dramatic pencil shape is that flattering on me). Due to the limitations of the refashion the skirt is made with both side, front and back central seams. I cut the four pieces out of the upper leg portions of the original trousers (just!), with the waistband made from some of the lower legs. As a consequence there was absolutely no way I could add vents to the back of the skirt. I usually don’t really like a split at the back of a skirt without a vent so was considering adding one with other off-cuts, but in the end decided I didn’t mind it on the below knee skirt in this fabric.
As with the jacket I fully lined it (that wool is itchy!) with velvet on the waistband and viscose for the skirt. The closure is an invisible zip and heavy duty popper to match the jacket.
In my original plan I was going to make a dress to go underneath the jacket, but decided on looking at the fabric that in order to make one, it would have to be pretty short and would then probably not get worn that often. However, once I’d made the skirt and jacket there were just a few small pieces of fabric left over and as I wanted to rise to the challenge of using as much as possible, thought a top that could be worn to create the look of a dress might be a fun idea.
Of course, the pieces were really very small so as a consequence the top is too and realistically it’s unlikely to get much wear, but as all the other parts are most likely going to be worn nearly all of the time I don’t think that matters much.
To create the shape I used an adapted version of Ralph Pink’s Corselette pattern. I altered it a little, raising the height of the cups and the underarm area, adding a halterneck strap and lengthening the bodice so it would tuck neatly under the waistband of the skirt to give the illusion of a dress. At the back I used the original fly closure of the suit trousers to close the top. Panels of thick powernet where used on the back to allow the top to fit and because there really wasn’t any more fabric at all.
Refashioning a garment definitely takes longer and poses more challenges/frustrations than creating something from a piece of uncut fabric. That said, those challenges can throw up solutions that make for a more interesting final garment, and the process of taking something unused and unloved and turning it into something that will be both used and loved is incredibly satisfying.
I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.