Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Giving New Life to an Old Dress

Over a year ago, I came across this cotton dress in the back of the closet.  

I would guess that this particular garment was completed approximately fifteen years ago.  The copyright on the pattern is 2000, and back then I did not have a large pattern stash and generally cut into a design soon after I purchased it.

I could not say exactly why I chose to spend all that time embroidering the floral pattern on a fabric that looked slightly dingy right off the bolt.  Unfortunately, because of that, the dress has not seen much action.  

When the dress was pulled from the closet, I noticed a few spot stains on the skirt.  Arghh!  My first thought was to dye the dress.  The only problem is that the embroidery is cotton crewel thread so I was afraid that might take the dye as well.  I also was concerned that the thread might be 100% polyester and would not take a fiber reactive dye.  And that white polyester zipper was definitely not going to take any color.  That left me with very few color options - all of which would have to be very pale or pastel.

So the dress sat in the to-do pile for an entire year.  Well, it has been mocking me ever since.  And with Fall rapidly approaching, I really did not want to put this project off any longer.  So I soaked it in an oxygen wash product.  That took the stains away, but the appearance of the "white" fabric had not improved.  The next step was to dye the dress.

The pale pink color that I went with is fairly subtle, but that white zipper was definitely a problem.  And the installation of said zipper was terrible.  (I have one other sundress with a zipper that is about 3/4" from the top that I made early on in my garment sewing adventures - not sure why I thought that was the proper construction, but I figured out a better way fairly quickly, thank goodness!)

The waist seam was also off by about 1/4".  Unfortunately, some of the embroidery was worked through the zipper tape, so it would have to be ripped out if I decided to replace the zipper.

I couldn't believe my luck when I went right to the old stashed crewel thread that was used for the embroidery.  Sometimes hoarding all those little bits pays off!

While I was in there, I went ahead and stabilized the back opening with some interfacing.

And I found the perfect matching zipper in my drawer of invisible zips.

Then I just needed to remember how to make a stem stitch and brush up on my French knots, and the project was complete!

I did get a chance to wear this before the weather turned, but I think it is time to say goodbye to the pastels for a few months.  But next year, this will definitely be on wardrobe rotation!


  1. Excellent save and much nicer in the pink. Love your embroidery. Enjoy it next summer!

  2. Wow! Now that's a save! It's very pretty as a pastel pink and the embroidery definitely makes it unique!

  3. Congratulations, that you can still fit a dress that was made 15 years ago!

    1. Overheard snit (lost count):

      "Someone was crewel to be kind."

      "And someone else was kinda cruel, pointing out at least 15 years worth of ammo in her arsenal."

      "I'm guessing she wore this the day she graduated from the 8th grade."

      "Now it's likely to attend any number of summer events."

      "Events she'll document."

      "Frockument - this is Laura Mae!"

      "Mmmm hmmmmmmmm."

      "We'll have to embroider our crying towels this winter in anticipation of her showcasing this number next summer."

      "That, or build our own wailing wall."

      "What ever we do, next year let's avoid low lying areas, so we don't drown in our own tears."

      "Frockadile tears would be shed out west if that were to happen."

      "Please, they'd be glycerin tears, and she'd make some statement about how FANimal cruelty is never justified, then turn her head ever so slightly for a slow close-up looking directly into the camera - and scene."

      "THAT Laura Mae!"

      "Yes, THAT one."

  4. Pretty pretty! What kind of dye did you use? I'm waiting for a bottle of rit (had to order it because I couldn't find locally) to dye color mauve a white linen coat that looks too much like a lab coat!

  5. A knitted shrug would allow the dress to be worn early in the Spring and would give you an excuse to buy some luxurious soft yarn. A little Chanel jacket without buttons would look cute too. I wonder if a floral print would complement the embroidery.

  6. What a great save! It looks very pretty in pink, and it highlights the print which I didn't notice in all white. The embroidery is fabulous, too.

  7. Lovely save! Sometimes a refresh can be the saving grace of an old project.