It’s something of a shock to stumble upon photos of yourself from years past, rocking very different clothes to the ones you wear now. You might feel nostalgic for outfits that reminded you of good times, or incredulous that you ever wore such a thing. Even past purchases that we thought would stand the test of time might end up lurking at the back of our wardrobes unworn, because we are unhappy about how we look in them. Rather than requiring a complete wardrobe overhaul if our bodies change or we need to dress differently, we can alter our clothes to change and grow with us, making sure they always look flattering and work with our personal style.
When I first started reading fashion magazines I was aware of the advice to buy ‘statement pieces’ that would form the basis of a ‘capsule wardrobe’, but as a teen scraping together pocket money and meagre Saturday job earnings to go searching for bargains in Brighton’s vintage shops, this was not advice I heeded. I was well into my twenties before I could start to think about buying clothes that would be a good investment, and I was still developing a personal style.
Fast forward a decade, and I’ve refined my personal style, but there’s still room in my wardrobe for clothes I bought with my first permanent employment paychecks. Unsurprisingly though, my body has changed over the years, as has the nature of my job. I’ve gone from mostly standing to mostly sitting, and (purely by coincidence, I’m sure) I now have a couple of dresses that are uncomfortably tight fitting over the hips, and the lack of room for movement causes them to ride up, meaning that they aren’t suitable for wearing out and about!
As well as this waxed linen Aquascutum dress, which I’d bought for a bargain price in TK Maxx and was really reluctant to give away, I also had a grey jersey dress, acquired in a Reiss sale but well-worn. I loved the woven jersey panel that stretched across the back like wings, but I was self-conscious about the length. It was too short to wear on its own, but there was too much fabric to tuck into a skirt or trousers.
I shortened the grey dress to high-hip level, so it would be just long enough to tuck in. Jersey clothes are usually hemmed in a factory using a coverstitch machine, but you can achieve the same two lines of stitching, and a stretchy hem, by using a twin needle in your domestic machine. Use two spools of thread, thread up your machine as normal, fold the hem allowance under and pin, then stitch your hem from the top, using the measurement gauge on your machine as a guide. The bobbin thread zig-zags between the two needle threads, creating a neat stitch with plenty of stretch in it.
I shortened the blue dress to the same level, but had to shorten the zip too, so the end of the zip sat above the new hem level. To make sure the zip still functioned efficiently, I hand-stitched a new ‘stopper’ at the point where the centre back seam started so the zipper itself couldn’t slip down too low, and stitched a little fabric patch over the cut edge of the zip to stop it fraying.
I turned the hem twice and topstitched it, using a single needle this time. This top is designed to sit over the waistband of a fitted skirt or trousers, not quite a crop top, but with a slightly boxy shape to balance out the volume of the sleeves.