Introduction: Cotton Dress - Cloth Refashion!

About: Just a girl sharing her DIY journey.

Hi! In this project i will be transforming this dress into something more trendy.

I have been trying to limit my buying, and the best way to do that is to refashion clothes which I no longer love. For this dress i raided my mothers closet and found this lovely kurta (a garment worn very commonly in northern India). It is made of some beautiful cotton, and to be honest I would have loved to wear it as is, but it was a size too big for me to look flattering.

So lets get into it.



A Sewing Machine

General Sewing Supplies

Step 1: Decide on a Dress Style

This is my favourite step of sewing.

To get inspiration, i look on Pinterest and for this project i found a perfect dress from Madewell. I would have added a photo, but i did not want to get possible copyright issues for the image, so you will have to made do with the sketch i made.

Step 2: Draft the Pattern

For all projects I use the basic bodice pattern I have. I have attached a sketch that will help you create one for yourself. However, if you are not comfortable with drafting you can trace out any existing piece of your clothing.

I altered the pattern slightly to better suit the dress design. This design will have two front bodice pieces, overlapping in the front. I wanted to keep the neckline on the conservative side hence kept the overlap to be 4 inches. You can adjust this dimension based on your preference. More overlap = a smaller neckline, and vice versa.

Since this is going to be sleeveless, i lessened the shoulder width and also added a dart in the armhole of the front piece. The design calls for rouching in the underboob region, so i will not be adding a dart in the front.

Step 3: Seam Ripping and Planning

Whenever i refashion any cloth, i first seam rip every component to figure out what i am working with. Obviously if you are working on fabric you will have no such issues.

For this dress, I had the pieces as sketched.

For the front of the bodice, I want one panel to be black and the other to be the khaki in the peekaboo panel in the original dress. However the khaki was not wide enough, so i had to add a joint in the middle. But it was fine as it was not visible after the overlap.

Another thing i needed to do was to split up the back skirt into three panels, in order to accommodate the split in the middle. As a single stitch line in the back will look weird, i decided to break up the skirt into three pieces.

Since the dress was already beautifully finished, i wanted to keep as many of the original components as possible. So i wIll be retaining the back neckline and also the pockets.

Step 4: Some Sewing Basics

Since the fabric i am working with is black, it is very difficult to photograph.

So to make life easier for anyone who is following this tutorial, i am adding hopefully useful illustrations on some sewing techniques i will be using for this project.

1. French Seam.

These are done in order to get no fraying edges on your garment giving it a finished professional look. You first place the fabric wrong sides together and sew with a small seam allowance. you then turn the fabric over so that it is facing right sides together and sew with a larger seam allowance. This is done so all loose edges are encapsulated inside the seam. And viola!

2. Bias Tape Seam

These seams are made on a curved edge, like on necklines and arm curves. There are bias tapes that you can buy in rolls, but i prefer to cut from the same fabric i am using. To make your own you have to cut strips diagonal to the grain of the fabric.

To make the seam, place both cloth and tape right sides together. Once sewed flip the tape on the inside of the garment and hand close the raw edge up using a blind stitch.

3. Perfect darts

This is a neat trick i learnt long ago on a Youtube video. In order to get perfect darts, start from the wide part at a normal stitch length. Once you are about an inch away from the apex of the dart, lessen you stitch length to as small as it can go and stitch all the way up. Once done, leave a good length of threads loose from the end, and tie them in a knot. This method will give you a great dart.

Step 5: Construct the Bodice

I start out by creating my patterns on newspaper because i did not have any pattern paper at hand.

I traced then on the cloth pieces and cut them out. While cutting i make sure to mark things like darts on the piece.

I then finished the back by adding darts. I did not need to finish the neckline as i was using the existing finished neck.

As i needed to construct the khaki front panel with two pieces, I attached them with a french seam. I also finished the neckline of both front pieces using a bias seam.

I then attached the front and back bodice pieces at the shoulder and side seam using - you guessed it- french seams.

After these are done, i would suggest you wear the bodice and decide where you would like the armhole darts to lie. I find every fabric lays a little differently and the darts need to be adjusted accordingly. So it is best to do this whilst it is on you, so as to get the best fit.

Once the darts are placed, close the armhole with a bias seam. Also add two parallel basting stitches (placement shown in the image) on both front pieces so as to gather the fabric.

Step 6: Finish the Bodice

Instead of adding gathering under the bust area, I decided to add small pleats.

Another thing needed to add was a belt on the waist. I didn't have a piece that was long enough to go all the way round, so i made it in three pieces. I used fabric from the sleeve and the khaki panel.

When i tried the bodice on, i felt it was a tad too long, so instead of cutting it first, i sewed the belt on a bit higher, so that i had the option to increase the length if need be.

And the bodice was finally done!

Step 7: Make the Skirt

I first made the back piece of the skirt by attaching the three panels. To adjust the waist, i just increased the seam allowance at the top.

For the front i added two pleats. which looked very deep when i was pinning, but in the end i think i turned out great.

I attached the front and back by stitching up the sides. At this point i also attached the pockets to the side seams.

Step 8: Attach the Pieces

The final step was to attach the bodice and the skirt.

Step 9: All Done!

I LOVE how it turned out. Initially i was apprehensive about the Khaki panel, but i am glad i did it, because i thing it really keeps the essence of the original dress.

The design i was following had two buttons in the front, but i didn't have any cute ones at the moment. I will attach them when it is safe to go out.

I you get inspired by this, please do share images!

Till then, happy sewing :D

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