I have had an appreciation for vintage clothing and aesthetic, mostly for the late 1950’s and 1960’s, for most of my life. I can still remember the feeling when I first saw images of Jean Shrimpton in the 60’s, and that having that ache you feel when you know you’ve made a connection with something. I so wished I could be her in that moment in time. It took me probably longer than it should have to realize that I could tailor my style that way if I wanted to. So, it was only a few years ago when I started to seek out and purchase vintage clothing. It took a bit of time to narrow down what I would actually wear, and find things that would blend into a modern wardrobe, be comfortable and not come off as ‘costume party’.
A good vintage dress can make you feel powerful, confident and invincible. Once you find one.
Vintage hunting can be tedious, frustrating and expensive. Things don’t fit, can be stained and damaged, or that one beautiful piece you are dreaming of just doesn’t seem to exist. What is a girl to do?
My solution to these problems on a few occasions have been to take charge of the situation…with a sewing needle.
Re-fashioning, altering or otherwise changing vintage apparel can be a hot-button issue for some vintage wearers. Some say that we should preserve the garments in their current form, as they are pieces of history that need to be saved. While I agree that some dresses should be left alone (the massacre in Pretty in Pink anyone? How horrid.), sometimes a dress needs a tweak or a change to fit, or better fit your style and thus giving it new life. People used to re-purpose their clothing many times in that day and age anyway.
For example, I found a gorgeous vintage satin spring dress that fit almost perfectly, had a great print…and had a ‘lovely’ 25 cm bow right in the middle of the chest. The bow went chop and the sleeves were let out slightly for fit and boom, a total revival.
Today’s dress was found in slightly rough condition, the neckline tie was falling off, the kick-pleat was hastily sewn closed and it hadn’t been pressed in a while.
I also found that, on me, while it fit, it was a bit long, and the slight flare of the skirt just wasn’t doing it for me.
After conducting the minor structural repairs, the dress was nice, but probably not something I would be willing to wear often. I didn’t feel invincible in it. To allow that to happen I made the decision to narrow the shape of the skirt to a straighter silhouette, and to take the hem up 10 cm.
I first took in the skirt by wearing it inside out and pinning. This way I could test that with the amount I had taken in if I could still walk.
I didn’t cut the fabric I had just taken in, this way should I (or any future wearers) want to open it up again it is as simple as picking the stitch.
For the hem, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut off the excess, so here too, I just rolled the hem up and did a blind whip stitch hem and pressed it (really well, there was a lot of fabric in there).
Now my dress will have many more wears in it’s lifetime. Simple refashions like this I think most people can get on board with. I have a more drastic vintage refashion coming this summer that might be a little more controversial…
What do you think about re-fashioning vintage clothing?