Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hashtag "Repurposed"

This dress has been living in my closet for a long time.  The label is Eileen West, and the style screams 1980s.  I believe my Mom purchased this at a garage sale years ago and it ended up in my closet.

I sometimes feel guilty about altering clothing (in twenty years will vintage enthusiasts curse me for destroying originals?), but the shoulders of the dress had considerable sun damage – I would not have felt comfortable wearing the dress as it was.  Also, the gray color was not doing me any favors.  The silky cotton twill, however, was just too lovely to ignore.

My original intent was to dye the fabric, seam rip the dress, and use the yardage to make myself a new dress (because the design is rather voluminous, there is plenty to work with).

But it only seemed fair to wear the dress out and take a few pictures to memorialize the original before cutting into anything.

Part of the reason the dress looked so frumpy on the hanger was the waist closure.  There was one button, two buttonholes, and a bent hook & eye.  My best guess is someone needed more room in the waist, so they moved one button, eliminated the second altogether, and added a small hook & eye that was sewn on for dear life (it took me five minutes to remove the darn thing).

Since Tulip Liquid Dye worked so well on the gloves for my gala gown, I purchased a bottle of navy blue for this project.  It is always hard to tell exactly how a dye job is going to come out, especially when working with a colored fabric.  And it was not clear if the hashtag/pound symbol/number sign print would be lost in the darker dye, but it seemed worth a try.  And it worked!

Then I had to find two buttons that fit the existing buttonholes.  As you might imagine, I have quite a few lying about.  But the size needed was absent from my collection of orphaned buttons.  I finally found the two remaining buttons from this project - perfect!  The sleeves are a very awkward length, but if I am going to harvest the piece for fabric in the future, I do not want to cut anything off, so I just rolled them up for the day (pegged pants were popular in the 80s, so why not pegged sleeves?!).

The dress is so easy to wear that I am having second thoughts about its destruction.  So for the moment, I am not sure what will become of this dress.  But it feels good to rework a piece that, for me, was unwearable in its original condition – all thanks to a bottle of fabric dye.

Dress:  Eileen West, repurposed by me
Shoes:  Hinge
Coat:  Banana Republic
Earrings:  1928
Bracelet:  Borrowed from mom


  1. I have to laugh at myself. The dress has grown on me. My first thought at that grey dress was...."jeepers... (in everyone's best interest I won't finish that sentence) but as I scrolled down (and then up again) and then down (and then up again) and then down to your final picture (fabulous dye job by the way!) I think I quite like it on you. Well done on seeing something in a dress that I clearly would have missed.

  2. The dye really turned it around! Have fun deconstructing or not deconstructing this one, that's a good thing about sewing, you can always make a decision later!

  3. With the fresh color, this is such a flattering, softly romantic dress. You may well decide to put down the seam ripper and enjoy it. Brava.

  4. I agree, love the dress as is and it looks great with the color change and corrected buttons. Nice job on the quick breath of new life. ~shannon

  5. While I would almost certainly never wreck or severly alter a perfectly intact vintage garment (especially a pre-1960 one), if a damaged piece can have new life breathed into it by a bit of sewing room TLC, then by all means go for it. You really rejuvenated this great 80s frock. I love the dye job. That colour, coupled with the feminine lines of this frock, helps make it all the more 1950s looking now.

    ♥ Jessica

  6. I like this dress on you -- the color change was a good choice and you carry the volume off well. Enjoy it!