Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Julie Finn1
A Refashioned Dress from a Graduation Gown and Formal Dresses
If you’ve read CAGW for a while, you might know that every year since she was four, my younger daughter designs an outfit, I create it from thrifted and discarded clothing and other fabrics, and then she models it on the runway at our town’s annual Trashion/Refashion Show.
If you haven’t read CAGW for long enough to know this, then welcome to the madness that is my life!
My daughter entitled this year’s design The Phoenix. You can see her sketches here, but basically she wanted a fire-themed dress, with flames running up the full skirt, feathers falling down from her sleeves, and hair and makeup that resembled flames.
You see? Madness. That’s my life.
To make this refashioned dress, I thrifted and solicited cast-off clothing from family and friends. My daughter wanted only formal-weight fabrics, so that meant silks, velvets, tulle, and brocade. We seriously lucked out when my mother-in-law sent us my husband’s graduation gown and sash.
His school colors? Red and yellow. Yay!
Although my daughter REALLY wanted the fitted bodice on her garment to be yellow, I simply could not find a yellow formal gown or skirt with enough fabric to suffice–people don’t like to wear yellow to their formal events! Who knew? I did find a light tan corduroy jumper (barf, right?) and I tried to dye it yellow, but it turned out puke green instead.
Barf, indeed. Fortunately, my daughter okayed a red bodice as a Plan B, and there are PLENTY of people in this world who wear red to formal occasions! My absolute favorite thing to do with refashioned clothing is to work the original garment’s original closure into the new garment (my most shining triumph with this was in the Prom dress pants that I refashioned, also for a Trashion/Refashion Show), and so the button closure on the back of this red velvet bodice is original to the red velvet dress.
Fortunately, the lace top that we thrifted took to being vat dyed with standard acid dyes like a champ!
It wasn’t the feathers that my daughter originally wanted, but when you refashion clothing, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and we both agreed that the fringe, feather-less as it was, did turn out lovely:
I created the pattern for a circle skirt whose waist would just fit the bodice, then cut paper templates out for every 45 degrees. My daughter cut up the remaining formal wear and her father’s graduation gown (the red fabric, below) and layered it on each pattern as she wanted, tacking it down with glue sticks:
I sewed the pieces together directly on the paper backing, free-motion stitching flame shapes as I went, and then my daughter trimmed each piece to size and I pieced the skirt together:
Unseen under the skirt, but visible when she twirls, are two entire sheer curtains that likely used to be on somebody’s dorm room window. Thank you, Anonymous Orange Sheer Curtain Lover! I cut a piece of webbing to the size of the bodice, sewed the ends together, and then pleated the curtains as I sewed them to the webbing. I then basted the webbing to the top of the skirt to make a petticoat to add fullness to the skirt.
If you’re interested in the staging details of the garment–the hair and makeup, the runway walk, etc.–you can check out my blog post on the 2016 Trashion/Refashion Show, or you can check out their website to see photos of the other designs. Keyboard bodices, my Friends! Bedsheet hoop skirts!
And yes, my kid has ALREADY started dreaming of next year’s design, so check back in twelve months for my next couture runway construction!