What’s Old is New – Thoughts on Refashioning

image source – a totally mind-blowing refashion

I’ve been working on a project for sometime now (OK, so I’ve actually been working it out in my head, but I’ve thought about it TONS) and though I can’t unveil it just yet, its been crazy hard for me. It has to do with refashioning a thrifted garment into something else. I tell ya straight, I’m no good at this sort of thing. I’ve tried it several times before now and every time, I feel like the finished result is well….taking a garment and refashioning it into something that it wasn’t really meant to be.

This is not to say that I don’t wear thrifted items, cause I do. I’m also not above taking in a side seam here and there, shortening a hem or sleeve, but that’s not really refashioning is it. That’s altering. When you refashion something, you actually cut up the fabric – or seam rip it apart (btw, I would rather jump off a cliff than do that!) – and make those pieces into something new and utterly amazing. It’s that amazing part at the end that I never quite get. Ha. I’ve also found several times, that there’s just not enough fabric, that hasn’t been claimed for something else, to work with. Well, except maybe if you were working with some gigantic dirndl skirt.

Friends, I need some of your thoughts here. Do you refashion thrifted garments into wearable garments for yourself? Are you happy with the finished result? Me, I’d just rather start right at the beginning and take a length of cloth and make whatever it was I was thinking about making out of the cloth rather than a thrifted garment.

Refashioning Yay or Nay?

  • Jessica - I find I have to be very careful about refashions – must absolutely love the original fabric (color, print, quality), and it must be something that I am sure I would wear as much as anything I make in general – i.e. no more refashioning for the sake of refashioning, if it creates a garment I’m not that crazy about. Then refashioning just becomes a displacement for what I’d really like to make and that’s no fun.

    But to all those naysayers, some of my favorite garments have been refashions. It’s like Lauren says, why do manufacturers get the best fabrics? Also, I do like the time-saving element of already-constructed hems (and whatever else I wind up keeping), as refashions generally seem to take me less time than scratch sewing.

    Mostly, I find refashioning takes some guts and imagination because most of my refashions need an extra step/tweak beyond what I’d initially imagined to take them from ‘meh’ to ‘awesome!’ReplyCancel

  • Gail - Mostly nay but sometimes yes. But I have refashioned quite a number of items for my daughter. I have an old Kashmiri wool scarf that by the end of the Aussie winter will be a shirt and a polo neck sweater that chokes me that will soon be a cardigan. I tend to find quite wearable jackets and jeans in my op shop without the need to transform them.
    Gail recently posted..Blouse factoryReplyCancel

  • Alicia C. - I’ve tested the refashioning waters by using the Alabama Chanin books to turn t-shirts into tank tops. Inspired by Casey of Elegant Musings’ refashioning of her husband’s old uniform shirt and a top one of my friends wore in some vacation pics, I then cannibalized two past season cotton button-ups from H&M to make tank tops as well. And the weekend before last I found a French cuff pinstripe button-up deep in my closet whose cuffs and lapels had succumbed to mold from my previous apartment. I seam ripped those sleeves off, cut a new neckline, and sewed it all neatly back together as another simple tank top. It’s a great way to stretch your creative thinking muscles a bit without buying new fabric, and while using some of those orphans in your closet! Yay from me!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I generally like to make garments from scratch not refashion them but I do occasionally like to make a men’s shirt into a spaghetti strap tank. I’ve have a few waiting right now to be refashioned.

    So what are you refashioning?
    Rachel recently posted..Fail on one of my FAVORITE patternsReplyCancel

  • tigergirl - I do refashion but I generally refashion the clothes I own – “what was I thinking” purchases (eg. wrap dresses with 10cm overlaps and bodices that just don’t sit right), clothes that are out of style, don’t fit properly or at all, no longer suit me or my lifestyle (maxi dresses – make my legs hot when it’s warm and don’t cover me where I need them to if it’s chilly) etc. Some pieces have been given to me for one reason or another – I remember refashioning some of Mum’s clothes when I was younger.
    I think I’ve only ever bought one piece of clothing with the intention of refashioning it (I don’t count huge clothes that I use as yardage) – I’ve got enough of all that sitting down in the sewing room just waiting for me to be inspired about.ReplyCancel

  • Dee - Refashioning can be very challenging, especially if you want a polished look in the end. I love refashioning for ecological and economic reasons. My current scheme is one refashion to every two “made from scratch” projects. This works very well for me, and keeps my interest level high for both types of projects. Please feel free to visit my blog to check out some of my projects at http://seamssustainable.blogspot.com.
    Dee recently posted..Semi Completed Project: Burda 8995ReplyCancel

  • Amy - this was a fun discussion! I’m kinda like you, Sunni. It sounds so fun in theory and I love reading about others’ amazing refashions but for some reason, I have a very hard time cutting things apart. Even if they’re falling apart. I’m also a precision geek and I think that it’s a different style of creativity than mine, so I don’t get the pleasure that others get. Re-fashioning seems to have a wonderful experiential type of creativity.ReplyCancel

  • Miranda - What a great comment thread! Like some of the other commenters, I began refashioning because what I lacked in money for new material, I made up for in a closet of somewhat unworn clothes. I took it item by item and tried to use what I already had (and didn’t wear) to create something that I would wear. Looking back, most of my first refashions were pretty stale, and have since been donated to Goodwill. But I gained so much understanding of garment construction, problem solving, and insight into what components of a garment are most important to me. I invested nothing but time into those refashion experiments, and came out a much improved seamstress.

    These days, I am much more picky about my refashions, and I can gauge my growth by the fact that they have become a regular and natural part of my wardrobe, rather than sticking out as the craft project of the week.

    I think refashions are a great starting point for people who don’t know how to sew clothing. If they mess up, toss it into the garbage bin (where it was just pulled from!) and try again! They’re also a fun challenge for someone with a ton of experience, like you!

    ps I hope it hasn’t stressed you out too much! I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - Oh man, I do not refashion. I think it’s great that people do and I see the appeal, but it’s not for me. I even bought a dress last fall (while thrifting with Lavender and Suriah at the Sewing Summit!) and I’m taking it to the DI today. It’s the coolest fabric, but there’s no way I’m ever going to do anything with it. Weird, huh?

    I do shop at Pibb’s and Name Dropper’s, but I only buy the stuff that actually fits.

    Love your site redesign, BTW! It looks great.
    Stephanie recently posted..iDye Poly Review / How I Dyed My Stove BlueReplyCancel

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  • the Button Up Refashion Swap - [...] the project I posted a little while ago. And this is also the project that I was talking about with my thoughts on refashioning. I’ll admit, I’m a little hooked on refashioning now. Can’t say that I’m [...]ReplyCancel