This dress was (and still is) a bit of a wounded bird. She has definitely been worn and very, very loved in her time (which makes her all the more beautiful, in my opinion!) There is some color beed from the red panels, scattered pinholes holes here and there, and several popped seams that needed reinforcing. There was also a fair bit of wear and tear and staining on the shoulders from years of love and (I hope) some serious time spent on the dance floor. As she was a bit on the petite side for me anyway, I decided to pull out my Bernina, put on my thinking cap, and tackle yet another tailoring project…
When it comes to upcycling vintage, I like to maintain the integrity of the garment as much as possible. With the shoulders needing some work, I unpicked the seams and gave them a good soak in Retro Clean. I didn’t want to soak the whole dress, as a quick glance at the edges around the red panels and I knew the color would bleed like mad. But, I knew that if I could get the stains out, I could easily fold under some of the damaged portions and lengthen the bodice using my favorite ribbon trick. After about an hour spent at the fabric store, with my brow furrowed pacing back and forth along the rack of ribbons, I couldn’t find just the right one. The white ribbons were too bright and the red seemed oddly too stark. In the end, I opted for a white eyelet trim with a red satin ribbon underneath. This toned down both the red and the white, and had the added effect of bringing the colors in the peek-a-boo side panels upwards.
Instead of tying the length of ribbon, I measured the necessary torso space, made a pre-fab bow and stitched it in place. I then attached it to the shoulder on either side, folded it over, and used a ladder stitch to invisibly close the seam. I absolutely love the overall effect. The time I spent finding the perfect ribbon combo really paid off – as to me, it actually looks as though the bows had been there all along.
I can’t tell you how much satisfaction I get out of projects like this. Though I adore making dresses from scratch as well, there is something about bringing vintage back to life that feels like it deserves a different kind of reference. I think every vintage lover will tell you, the joy of vintage is the ability to see past a garment’s flaws to the beauty that lay just out of reach.
I see not the splendor of what is on the surface. Rather, I see the possibilities in what has yet to exist.
Fully repaired and recovered, this beauty was ready to sing again. Given her near brush with that great vintage wardrobe in the sky, I thought it fitting to style her with my Erstwilder hot air balloon necklace, bought for me after Mr. Dressed Aesthetic spied the lust in my eyes and went back to Horatio and Agatha to scoop her up for me for Valentine’s Day. Nothing gets my heart beating more quickly than a man who can buy me novelty jewelry.
And on the topic of upcycling vintage, the Bindaring Red Cross Clothing Sale is fast approaching on 14 May at the Claremont Showground! This is a charitable event, selling new and vintage clothing and accessories, and all funds raised go to support local Red Cross services. And if you register your email with at their website you get entered into a draw to win $100 to spend at the sale (!). The organizers are letting me scope out the vintage section the week before and give you a sneak peak here on the blog of what will be on offer. I’ll keep you all posted as the date draws nearer – there are going to be some AMAZING vintage treasures to scoop up.
Hope to see you there!
Dress: Vintage (similar modern or vintage here, here & here)
Necklace: gift, Erstwilder via Horatio & Agatha (still available here)
Belt: Alannah Hill (similar here)
Handbag: Gift (similar here & here)
Shoes: Unique Vintage, gift from the Mr.