I was really shocked by the amount of clothes we’re wasting here in the UK: the average woman has £285 worth of unworn clothes in her wardrobe, and considering the price of fast fashion, that’s a lot of outfits we are missing out on! As a country, we’re hoarding £30 billion worth of unworn clothes, and the amount of clothes we discard every year could fill Wembley Stadium!
This seems like a horrifying waste of the earth’s resources, the hard work of the people who make our clothes, not to mention our own money. Writing this blog has made me very aware of the contents of my wardrobe, but I still buy vintage bargains that aren’t quite the perfect fit, or take hand-me-downs or swaps that go straight into a “to fix” pile. Fashion Revolution Week isn’t about horrifying statistics, it’s about making changes; calling for companies to make their supply chains more ethical and transparent, and also working out what changes we can make to our wardrobes to make sure we wear and love all our clothes. I’ve made some quick and easy alterations that have transformed three maxi dresses that weren’t really wearable into versatile clothes that I’ll want to wear all the time.
As I unpicked the grey dress at the waistband, I realised the skirt and top had been made separately and then overlocked together at the waist. The overlocker (a four-thread sewing machine with a blade to trim the seam allowance off) had cut a few holes in the waistband, but it was salvageable. I hand-stitched the waistband back together (if you keep your stitches small but not too tight, it’s not too difficult to hand-sew a stretch fabric) then inserted a band of elastic (use a safety pin attached to one end to push the elastic through the channel) and machined the ends together securely.
Removed from the skirt, the wrap-over top seemed much too short, so I added a band of black jersey from my fabric stash, with narrower ties at each end. I machined a buttonhole onto the band that was wide enough for one of the ties to thread through, so the top would wrap around snugly and neatly.
The red dress itself was easy to alter; I just unpicked the shoulder straps at the front, pinned the new shoulder draping on my dressmaker’s stand until I was happy with the result, then stitched the shoulder straps back on.
The lining was another story; I put it on the stand to see how much fabric I had to play with; I pinned away excess fabric in the back and side seams, and gave the slip a nice neckline. I used the excess fabric from the side seams to make straps, and I was able to let down excess fabric in the hem so the slip is almost as long as the dress. A top tip that I used for both the slip and the grey skirt: use a synthetic thread if possible when you are sewing stretch fabrics; cotton thread is stronger but doesn’t have the “give” that will allow the thread to stretch with the garment.
I decided I wanted to keep the blue print dress a bit longer in the skirt than I had originally planned; this meant that I had less fabric to work with so I had to re-think my original design idea, which was to make a little bolero or shrug to go with the dress. Instead of making a separate garment, I cut the leftover fabric in half along the side seams, hemmed each edge, and used the pieces to make a very simple sleeve that also functions as a shoulder strap. I put the dress on the stand to work out a pleating pattern over the shoulders so the sleeves would drape down nicely over my arms, then machined the pleats into place.
These aren’t the most groundbreaking or elaborate refashioning projects, but I wanted to do something straightforward; showing that altering your own clothes doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. I didn’t draft any patterns, I just used what fabric I had, or pinned a new shape into place. Don’t be afraid of trying out an upcycling or refashioning project with an unloved item of clothing from your wardrobe. The worst-case scenario? You still won’t wear it, but you will have discovered new sewing skills. The best-case scenario will see you reunited with a unique piece of clothing that is truly “you”.
Here’s my haulternative video; please have a look, and support Fashion Revolution Week by taking to social media to ask brands “who made my clothes?” I’ll have some extra content up on my Instagram during the week, and back on the blog on Friday, so check back soon.