Welcome to The Great Revival Sewing Bee! We currently have two students doing work placements here with us at Revival, say hello to Hattie and Caroline. They have each been given a vintage 1970s maxi dress. Their task is to transform these two dresses into something entirely new. Let's find out how they got on...
As part of my university placement with Revival Vintage I was asked to transform a vintage 70s maxi dress into a new item of clothing. The dress was a beautiful maroon colour and made from two layers of fabric, a floral georgette chiffon layer and a plain synthetic lining layer, which my Mum graciously agreed to model for me!
When I was first told about the challenge, I decided that I wanted to create a piece of women’s summer clothing, to reflect the colourful floral print of the fabric. My initial idea was to create a pair of wide legged palazzo pants or wrap trousers, as I thought this would be a good way of showing off the floaty, drapey nature of the fabrics. However, this would have required a lot of fabric to really emphasise this effect and I was worried that the dress skirt wasn’t wide enough for this. I instead opted for a summer top as this would require less fabric. Eventually settling on a 1950’s inspired halter neck design as I wanted to create a piece that could be styled in both vintage and modern looks and would be perfect to wear during the summer months and warm weather that we’re currently having!
I began by deconstructing the dress to see exactly how much fabric I had and got to work! I cut one set of the top pattern, as well as the halter straps, from the georgette chiffon layer to be used as the outside layer of the top. And cut two sets of the top pattern from the lining layer, one to interline the georgette layer and one to line the bodice.
As the pattern pieces were quite small, I wanted to incorporate an element of pattern matching so that the large floral motifs wouldn’t be interrupted too much and to add a sense of cohesion around the garment. However, I was fairly limited on fabric and the large print meant that repeats were few and far between. To get around this, I chose to cut the centre front and back panels on matching sections of the fabric to create a mirrored effect down the centre seams. This would create a whole image across these centre panels and a point of interest on the top.
In addition to using the dress fabrics, I wanted a more structured fabric to use inside the top to help keep its shape. Both of the dress fabrics were very flimsy and drapey and without some kind of internal structure, the top was likely to slip down when worn, rather than keeping itself in place. I chose a plain, sheeting weight cotton fabric from my stash as I had this to hand, however in future I would opt for a mid weight calico or even a non-stretch drill fabric as these would have created better support within the top.
As well as adding this internal structure layer, I wanted to add some boning channels to add to the effectiveness of it’s support. Once the bodice pieces were sewn together, I sewed lengths of twill tape over the pressed open seams to create a pocket for the boning to be inserted into. I then cut spiral steel boning to length with some heavy duty wire cutters and covered the ends with electrical insulation tape to stop any sharp edges damaging the fabric once inside the top.
I really dislike sewing with sheers and light weight fabrics as they can be very slippy and fiddly. One of the ways I tried to combat this was to tack the chiffon and lining fabrics for the outer layer together. This stops them slipping around and allows me to treat them as one fabric when I’m sewing, as well as having the added bonus of hiding the seam allowance of the chiffon layer. I would usually tack along the seam line as this helps with aligning the pieces and making sure everything is in the right place. But as my pattern pieces already had a seam allowance included, I instead chose to tack within the seam allowance as then these stitches would be hidden when the top was sewn together.
Once the outer layer pieces were tacked together, I could begin sewing the bodice pieces together for the outside and lining layers, as well as creating the straps from the chiffon fabric. I had chosen to use two layers of the chiffon fabric for the straps and to bag them out to conceal the seam allowances. Once sewn, the seam allowances were trimmed down to reduce bulk and the straps were inserted into the side front panels of the top. In hindsight, I think it may have been better to use just one layer of chiffon for the straps and to finish the edges with a rolled hem foot. This would've shown off the floral pattern on the fabric better and would have also created a more delicate effect. The completion of these layers resulted in three separate bodices, outer, internal structure and lining, that would ultimately form the finished top.
For the closure of the top, I chose to reuse the original zip from the dress and to insert it as a lapped zip at the centre back. I chose to create a lapped zip as I didn’t want the teeth to show as they were a slightly lighter colour to the fabric (possibly due to fading because of age) and the zip was not an invisible zip, making a lapped zip the easiest option to achieve this.
However, as I had used a closed zip and had sewn the very top of the back seam up to insert it, I had not left myself a way to turn the top back through after sewing in the lining layers. Because of this, I was only able to sew the top edge of the top by machine and instead had to turn under and stitch the lining layers down by hand along the zip and bottom edges. It would have been much neater to do this by machine and so in hindsight, I would have tried to sew in the zip in a way that would allow me to do this.
Overall, I’m really happy with how the transformation went and think the finished halter neck is a really versatile piece that would work well in both a modern or vintage inspired wardrobe. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my transformation through the comments and don’t forget to vote for your favourite!
I was given the task of transforming this 1970s vintage maxi dress into a new piece of clothing. I decided that I would shorten the dress and make it into a mini dress/long tunic.
As the dress had been altered by hand in the past it was clear that the back seam would need to be restitched, especially around the zip.
I also removed the floaty shawl like pieces. I added a vintage style trim under the bust, around the hem and along the front.
With the excess fabric, I created a sun hat trimmed with a floral scarf like trim. I made a scarf with beaded ends and a couple of hairbands. And of course, as its 2020 I made this year’s must-have accessory a pair of matching face masks.
We think they both did a fantastic job but which one is your favourite? We want you to vote for the winner via our social media pages or in the comments below. They might even get a prize!