LA thrift to proof-of-concept

The last day we were in the USA, we were loitering around LA before boarding an 11pm flight home. We spent about three hours in the sublime Museum of Jurassic Technology and a block or two away was a Goodwill. With a burning desire to use up my last USA paper money, I launched into the half-price sale therein a determined woman. I bought a huge, tent-like rayon shirtdress, 1980s I think, in an almost tropicale but slightly naff floral print. I didn’t try it on. It was way too big, but had pockets and a buttoned placket down the back of the skirt. For four bucks, I could do something with it. If nothing else, I could use it as a proof of concept.

Imagine my delight when I got home and tried it on. Prepare to be dazzled!

Gaw-geous, right? *shudder*. I’ve seen so many dresses just like this and thought, that could be reworked, but who can be bothered? Here’s what I did – you tell me if if it was worth the effort.

1. WASHED it to rid it of traces of previous ownership. Stain remover on a couple of spots.

2. Removed the big ugly pocket on the bodice.

3. Took off the skirt. Added extra darts to reduce the waist diameter of the skirt.

4. Added six darts to the bodice front. Evened up the bottom of the bodice where it had stretched out.

5. Reattached skirt, gathered the back and inserted a strip of elastic in the back waist seam.

6. Cut off sleeves. Made thick bias strips from them and attached them around the armscye like a cuff.

7. Sewed up side bodice seams, taking it in a couple of inches each side.

8. Reattached a button and sewed up the bottom of the front placket where it gaped a bit.

And lo! Whatcha think?


I reckon:

  • Fit is good, and why didn’t anyone tell me rayon was so damn comfortable to wear?
  • Pity about the placement of those two yellow flowers on the bustular area.
  • That print is still a bit naff.
  • The modifications weren’t that hard.
  • I think I like it.
  • Maybe it’s time I got a better camera.
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80s frock: who was I kidding?

I don’t like change. It’s one reason why I’m no good at fashion. New style? But I was just getting used to this one!

When trends and fads emerge, my response is usually ‘egads, no.’ But then they creep into my subconscious and slowly, slowly take root in the compartment of my brain that houses all the things I find acceptable.

1980s revivals (how many have there been now? Is anyone keeping a tally?) keep bringing back the shapeless, boxy dress with elasticised waist. With repeated viewings, my feelings about them shifted from ‘ugh, you look like someone’s nanna’ to ‘that doesn’t look half bad on my very stylish pal’ to ‘in the right fabric, that could be comfortable and sophisticated in an understated sortofa way.’

Do you see where this is going, dear reader? Please don’t judge me. I just wanted a quick project to work on last week.

Enter: erstwhile ingenue and now yoga-maven, Ally McGraw.

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With her jaunt side-ponytail and white pumps, this vixen is imploring you to visit 1985, is she not?

Being of a statuesque and pear-shaped sort with very little in the way of shoulders, I remained wary. If it didn’t enhance my human A-frameness, it could be a cunning way to use up some bits of fabric that are too lightweight and drapey for more fitted frocks. So I thought I’d test it out with something I didn’t much care for.

Enter: bright green floral crinkly cheesecloth.

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Ignoring the ugly fabric that is too garish even for my tastes, it does indeed confirm that loose frocks make me look like my year 7 English teacher, an awkward brick house spinster type who took a lot of time off one year with a bad case of shingles. That was unkind. But unkind too is this dress, to me, so I’m just lashing out at those who can’t retaliate, completing my momentary return to year 7. It’s too unpleasant for me to put on again so Headless Esme is doing the modelling. It’s a shame because it has great pockets.

Next project, please!