The Refashioners 2017: suits you!

I am a huge fan of The Refashioners organised by Portia Lawrie of Makery.  I participate every year and I thoroughly enjoy the process.  It allows me to work within the tight parameters of the garment and think really creatively.

For those who don’t know about The Refashioners, let me enlighten you.  Each year, Portia chooses a garment and then asks a group of sewing bloggers to make something from an old, unworn and unloved item.  Once our minds have been truly blown by the bloggers, it is then thrown open to the wider sewing community.  I have entered for the past 3 years. I first refashioned a shirt, last year it was jeans and this year it’s suits.

Portia was recently interviewed about The Refashioners by Caroline and Helen of Love to Sew, it’s definitely worth a listen.  She explains about her love of charity shops and how her blog and The Refashioners came to be.

Some amazing bloggers took part in September. I thought I would share my favourite makes here. Wendy’s jacket: I am a big fan of Wendy Ward and I love her aesthetic.  Here she has taken 3 jackets and colour blocked them into this amazing coat.  Sasha’s suit: I love this uber sexy suit.  Sasha has removed the back, created a wrap with ribbon ties and refitted this jacket. The trousers are genius with the denim twist. Laura’s dress:  I love the geometric shape of this gorgeous pinstriped dress.  This Agate pencil dress pattern is from Named Clothing’s Earth Science collection.  Stunning!

My refashion:

I found a really lovely, single breasted, trouser suit in my local charity shop, it cost me $30.  It’s midnight blue with this really crazy pink candy striped lining.  The fabric is an Italian superfine luxury suiting.

The main thing I wanted to achieve was volume.  A tough concept when you have limited fabric, but as you know, I love a challenge. I also wanted to use every last scrap of fabric, to minimise my waste.  I decided to make a dramatic but very wearable dress.  Many sketches and much head scratching later I decided upon this, a Collins Top dress hack.  It has said volume, I have made it many times before and I wanted to add a shoulder detail to use up all my left over fabric.

The toile:

The pattern itself was pretty straight forward to hack into a dress.  I extended all the panel lines and then reduced the volume of the front side and back side panels to make the shape more A-line. The joy of this pattern is that it has many panels which lends itself really well to awkward fabric allowance.

Cutting & preparation:

Then it was down to some serious Tetris. I spend a long time planning this out in order to get the most out of the available fabric.  I thought it would be easier to illustrate how I did it. As they say “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

The deconstruction of the suit was my next challenge.  Having never pulled a suit jacket apart before I was amazed at the workmanship that goes into it. The pressure was on to do this suit the justice it deserved.

The back of the jacket had the perfect amount of fabric for the front panel of my dress.  I kept the centre seam intact.
This is the wrong side of the front side panels. I left the pockets intact but felt that I needed to underline these panels to clean it up a bit.  You will also notice that this panel is short and requires extra fabric.
I cleaned up the hem and then added the extra panel.
I had to patch the lining pieces together in order to get enough fabric to underline the front side panels.
I hand tacked the underlining in place (love the orange thread!)

The front side panels were the most complicated part (not that complicated really!) Making the dress from this point on was very simple.  I added facing to the upper body (neckline and arm holes), again utilising the lining fabric.

The back:

I am really in love with the back of this dress.  I wanted to add an exposed zip to add a pop of colour.  So, gold exposed zip it is! This continuous zip is from Who Says Sew.  I love this zip and I have wanted to use it for ages and never quite found the right project until now.  It’s my little bit of bling.

Shoulder details:

I had a few ideas for introducing some shoulder details into my dress, these images were my inspiration (I’m not serious about the candles, honest!)

Images: pinterest

In the end I decided to try this idea, looped shaggy fringe.

This glorious knitwear is by Danish knitwear designer, Laerke Bagger.  The key was to make a ‘sewing’ version of this idea. I settled on making rouleau’s, many, many rouleau’s.  A perfect way to use up all the left over fabric.  This did involve sewing tiny pieces of bias fabric together to make them when I became low on fabric.  I also had to remove large chunks of interfacing from the jacket in order to get more fabric.  I made about 80 in total, a long and laborious process.

Strips of bias fabric ready to be turned into rouleau’s.
Why waste these shoulder pads?

I decided to include the shoulder pads into my dress. The shoulder pads give the panels the strength they needed to take the rouleau’s.

I used Sashiko thread to hand stitch in place, I just fancied it!

I started out by pinning a few in place to see how I wanted them to work and then started hand stitching each in place.  I added 6 rows in total on each shoulder. I didn’t measure them so they are fairly uneven which I am totally cool about.

I left the ends of the rouleau’s raw, it needed to be edgy and I liked that it was freer and not so buttoned up.

So here it is in all it’s glory.

The shapes works well for me, it’s as much volume as the fabric allowed which is great.
Totally loving this, I am digging the shoulder details (a real labour of love)
I went for a shorter length, it sits just above the knee (refashioning favours the vertically challenged)
I think the party is in the back here
Gotta love a pocket, especially one that you haven’t actually had to construct yourself!
You can see the front panel lines here
I love the back, the panel lines work particularly well here
Reusing the shoulder pads was the right move here, it helps by adding that extra bit of structure.

Did I mention you can wear the pocket flaps in or out?  And, it’s already lined.  Too good.

The scraps! Some lining, some horse hair, the trouser waist band and bits of jacket lapels.  Not bad really.

I am super proud of it.  It was definitely worth the time and effort and I really enjoyed this creative process.  It has been the most challenging refashion to date.

Suits you!










54 thoughts

  1. WOW! This is gorgeous Kate! FABULOUS!

    You really did embrace Portia’s challenge. And you’ve got yourself a beauty of a finished make.

    Thanks also for sharing all that sleeve eye candy…the candles are beyond avant garde.


  2. I absolutely love this dress. The shape, the shoulders, the zip. It’s wonderful. At 56 I don’t think I could carry it off but I really would love to.


  3. That is so amazing, the shoulder detail is superb!!! I was about to spend some time in op shops trying to find a suit to refashion, but you guys are so amazingly intimidating, not sure I can keep up 😉 Stunning!
    And inspirational, I will go buy a suit, so amazing to see what can be done with it. And I will try the collins as a dress, what a great idea. My first Collins top is almost finished. Thanks so much for sharing your story


  4. Oh my gosh you are a clever clogs. What a masterpiece Kate, I’m so very impressed. I honestly never tackle refashions as I can’t see the forest for the trees (or the possibilities from the original). I’m in awe xxx


  5. Absolutely amazing! I love the thought process, that you’ve got virtually no waste and the immaculate construction. But most of all I love that it’s a totally wearable piece of art. Stunning!


  6. I love everything about this dress from the shape, the fit, the fabric, the pockets and zipper, the shoulder embellishment and how amazing that you accomplished all this from a men’s SUIT?! Gorgeous dress – so chic and well we can definitely say, Couture 🙂


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