2 posts categorized "Circular Fashion"

Vintage Clothing: Repurpose With A Purpose

If you know anything about vintage clothing it's that, for the most part, true vintage clothing runs on the super-small side. Sourcing a vintage dress that would fit a modern size 12 + is pretty much a modern-day miracle. The lack of larger sized authentic vintage clothing has actually created a niche for retailers who focus on reproduction vintage: Unique Vintage, ModCloth, and Hell Bunny to name a few. Some sellers, like BERRIEZ, focus on more modern vintage from the late 80's and 90's, when the plus-size market was finally, after decades of being ignored, embraced by designers & retail giants.

Combine that with the fact that few today know how to thread a needle, never mind use a sewing machine. I was in Junior High when "Home-Ec" was taken out of the curriculum "for lack of interest". Without giving away my age, that was c.1979. Thankfully, my grandmother was an amazing seamstress (that's her and my grandfather in the picture below a year before they wed) and did her best to teach me how to make simple alterations and repairs to clothing to both accommodate my changing form and extend life due to wear and tear. She was born in 1914 and lived through some of the leanest days of American history, so nothing was thrown away.  Ever. It was repaired, repurposed, given to a friend or neighbor once no-one in the family could make use of it, and last but not least, went into the rag pile where it would be used for cleaning, polishing, and sometimes wiping down a new-born calf in the dairy barn. Like I said: no waste.  Ever.

 

1936 Gram & Gramp year before wedding
My grandparents in 1936, a year before they wed.

 

I have to admit that, at times, this miserly outlook was a bit embarrassing. I practically grew up on the farm, I knew the hard work and diligence it took to run a dairy in a dying farming economy. I knew that, even though our family owned a lot of land and a lot of livestock, the stress of staying afloat outweighed what appeared to others as a very successful family business. But I was coming of age in the 1980's, an era of crazy indulgence and excess. More was MORE. New was BETTER. Excess was COOL. Waste was EXPECTED.  I can't tell you how many times during my waitress years I would find expensive bottles of champagne practically full after a lavish party of four moved onto their next party. (Thus, my exquisite taste for fine champagne.) I was fighting an inner battle between the standards and ideals I was raised by with the modern world of luxurious excess that seemed so inviting. I'm certain my grandmother sensed it. It wasn't until after she passed and I inherited her vintage clothing and jewelry that I realized she, too, had felt trapped between two worlds. She fell in love with a tall, quiet Swedish man who was a dairy farmer. I'm certain she knew that didn't translate to a life full of elegant parties, dinner and dancing to live orchestras and extravagant shopping sprees in the best fashion houses. But she had a wardrobe that would have said otherwise. Thus began my love affair with vintage clothing.

 

1937
My grandmother on her honeymoon in 1937.

 

It didn't take long for me to regain my senses. In 1988 I sent a letter to the editor of Elle Magazine, outraged over the placement of an Hermès ad followed by a story about the homeless in their March issue; it was published  I suddenly had clarity of mind about issues that a decade of excess had attempted to cloud. My foundation held and my adulthood became grounded in the ethics and standards of my childhood training. I reconnected with my grandmother on an even deeper level; one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Years later, my aunt sent me my grandmother's sewing machine. I set it up and just stared at it for a long time. So many memories. So much I didn't know. I felt polarized by my lack of know-how and the potential I knew it held. I dreamed of my grandmother that night. I could smell her Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream, feel her arthritic hands in mine, hear her contagious laugh. I didn't want it to end. But the next day, I threaded that machine and started practicing on scrap pieces of fabric. And slowly, I relearned how to do the things my grandmother had taught me so many years before. I mended, darned, hemmed, let out seams and took them in. And finally, on one brave day, I altered the waistband on a skirt from one of her vintage suits and wore it later that summer.

Grammy's vintage seersucker suit
The author in her grandmother's repurposed vintage seersucker suit.

As we approach 2020, there's a lot of talk in the industry about "slow fashion" (vs. "fast fashion"), "circular fashion" and "sustainable fashion" - all the tenets of my grandmother's generation coming back full circle. It's like going home again. What's old is new again. Or, can be "like new" again, with a little bit of TLC.  Repurpose with a purpose.

 

Visit this page for a Tutorial on a Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration that was inspired by my grandmother's suit project.

#slowfashion #circularfashion #sustainablefashion #recommerce #repurpose #sewing #homeeconomics #retail #shopping #clothing #vintageclothing #1980s #secondhand #family #values #ethics #legacy #tribute #fashionblogger

 

xx ~ Michelle


VINTAGE REVAMP - SKIRT WAISTBAND ALTERATION TUTORIAL

My sister has a few things in her closet that she knows I would just die for.  A 1930's peach satin bias-cut nightgown is one.  I can admit that I truly covet it.  I know that is wrong considering how much vintage stuff I already possess but it's so beautiful it gives me goosebumps.  She also has a lovely green velvet vintage suit, c. 1960's.  The problem with the vintage suit, as with many vintage items, is that the waist band on the skirt is teeny, tiny.  The jacket fits her beautifully, but the skirt is a "never going to happen" deal.

So, being the closet "I~wish~I~were~a~clothing~designer" that I am, I volunteered to fix the waist band for her, to make it a larger size. 

Read on to learn how.  

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe (My dream atelier)

 

VINTAGE SKIRT WAISTBAND ALTERATION TUTORIAL
by Michelle Horlbogen 

 
YOU WILL NEED:
  • small seam ripper
  • 7/8" double fold bias tape Quilt Binding (in coordinating color)
  • Stitch Witchery Fusible Bonding Tape
  • common pins
  • iron & board
  • sewing machine
  • scissors

(TIP: Click on the photos in the tutorial to zoom in.)

1)  First, you need to remove the existing waist band.  I use a sharp, small seam ripper.  The only issue with this can be that the clothing label is on the waist band.  If it is, just carefully remove it and save it to hand sew back on later.  Trim any frayed or long threads you find.  If there are darts at the waistband, you can determine if you need to let any out by slipping the skirt on to see how it fits.  If you still need more room, take out either the two front or two back darts.  (Depending on the fabric, removing darts may leave some marks, so think it through before you do.)

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe

 

2)  Take the bias tape and pin it to one end of the waist band with @ 3/4" extra (so you can have something to work with to finish it later.  Measure it all the way around to see how much tape you need (don't forget to add the extra at the other end as well).

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 

 

3)  Pin the bias tape to the skirt, starting at one end and working around to the other.  The tape just folds over the top of the skirt. As you pin, you may have to stretch the fabric and tape to get a smooth, flat finish.

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 

 

4)  Now you have to do something with the ends of the tape.  As you can see in the photo above, I just folded in & pressed the tips of the corners, and then place a small piece of the heat n bond tape on the bias tape, just about a 1/2" from the end, so you can fold it over and iron it down.  The goal is to have a nice edge to the tape where the zipper is.

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 

 

5)  As you can see in this photo, the edge has been folded in and "glued" down, then pinned.  You'll have to determine where to end the new waistband.  I like to just barely cover the top of the zipper, so the two new ends of the waistband touch.

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe

 

6)  Now that your pinned and the ends are "glued" down and pinned, it's time to sew.  I usually gage where I want the seam depending on what's inside.  Sometimes a skirt will have a very flimsy liner, so I tend to sew pretty close to the bottom of the bias tape to make sure I catch the lining all the way around.  I've also done it with a double seam, one along the top and one along the lower part of the bias tape.  I don't think it really matters, as long as all four layers are sewn together well.

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 

 

7)  Trim your excess thread and VOILA!  Your vintage skirt is ready to wear!  If you removed a label, don't forget to sew it back in.

 

Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 

 

Now, with that said, there are a few concerns.  Firstly, there is the BIG question of whether vintage clothing should be tampered with. I definitely believe that high end, Haute Couture / Couture vintage clothing falls in the category of Fine Art and should never be altered (unless it's in utter disarray with no chance of restoration to it's original state).  That, in my opinion, is indisputable.  However, when you are fortunate enough to have, as I do, some of your grandmother's sweet cotton day dresses or pretty suits from the 1950s/60s, and with a slight bit of alteration you could have some fantastic, unique vintage clothing in your wardrobe to actually WEAR, then I say go for it!

Secondly, if you remove a vintage skirt waist band and replace it with quilting bias tape, it is not going to look quite as nice.  So think about how you will wear the skirt - will you want to tuck your blouse or top in?  If so, then aesthetically speaking, this could be an issue.  A great way to "skirt the issue" is by wearing a wide belt, even if you tuck something in, this will give you a more modern look and is a great way to hide the waistband. 

Thirdly, I must humbly admit I am by no means even remotely close to being a tailor or seamstress, so you may want to try this out on a skirt you don't really care about (maybe one your daughter has outgrown or even pick one up at the thrift store on dollar day to play around with).  This will allow you a chance to try out the idea and maybe even improve on it.  By the way, does anyone have a different way of solving this vintage waistband size issue?  If so, I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment!

My sister was very happy, the skirt fit her perfectly.  Look how she thanked me, how great is she?

 

Vintage paris couture

 

 

 

xx ~ Michelle