Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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Makeover Monday: A Tale of Two Skirts

It was the best of skirts:

Just-below-knee-length pencil silhouette, charcoal grey, substantial-weight stretch woven fabric, invisible zipper, back vent. Goes with everything.

Pencil skirt

Pencil skirt (before). Serviceable, but…

It was the worst of skirts:

Dull.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Shopping Strategies, Part 2

Previously on Thrift-Shop Thursday, in Shopping Strategies, Part 1, I suggested developing your shopping strategy before going to a thrift shop; this boils down to getting as clear as possible about what you want. Today, I’ll continue with Part 2, in which I’ll take a sample shopping trip and see how well my Part 1 strategy works (or not)!

In my own Part 1 strategy, I decided that I was going to continue looking for Take Tango to Work! items. However, since this week’s Makeover Monday, where I took the collar off a shirt to use as an accessory, I’ve been thinking about all the possible variations on this theme, so I’ve revised my plan. Here’s my new shopping strategy for this trip, condensing the 3 steps from Part 1:

Pick a priority, make it as specific as possible, then pick a store. My new priority is to find shirts with (a) a collar plus a collar stand, and (b) some sort of visual interest in the collar. This could be just a beautiful color, unusual fabric, or embellishment, like beading, embroidery, or trim. The Value Village store that’s closest to me is enormous, and has a large selection of button-down shirts, so I’ll go there.

Tip: Take a tape measure with you! In thinking about my collar project, I realized that it wouldn’t have to be garment-size-dependent. In other words, I could take a collar off, say, a size 20 shirt (equivalent of XXL), and it would still work; it would just be looser around my neck. (This would make it lie more like a necklace, actually, so if you happen across a beautiful beaded collar on a garment that’s way too big for you, don’t pass it up!) So before I left for Value Village, I measured around the inside of my Makeover Monday collar, which was 15″ when buttoned. This is close-fitting but not tight on my neck, so I’m adding bigger-then-15″ to my strategy.

Off to shop! Here’s what my Value Village store looks like:

Value Village

My local Value Village store. Enormous, non? And this photo doesn’t even show the furniture, housewares, books, etc. Now we can see the value of going in with a plan! (Click on the photo to find your Value Village.)

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Makeover Monday: Sew TTTW!

Previously on Makeover Monday, I showed you the beginnings of my Take Tango to Work (TTTW) wardrobe, thanks to a fantastic find at one of my favorite thrift shops. I also concluded that, to make my tango wardrobe work-appropriate (and vice-versa), I should focus on professional fabrics and colors, and wear them in tango-ready silhouettes. Now that I’ve started sewing a few things based on that general concept, today we’ll be talking about how to choose patterns for maximum garment versatility. And I’ll show you a fabulous skirt I’ve just made, in 2 outfit variations: Professional Lindy and Tango Lindy!

Since I’ve decided a new skirt is a top wardrobe priority, my first step was finding the right pattern.  I was lucky enough to find this in my pattern collection:

Butterick 4859

Butterick 4859 skirt pattern. I made Version B. Sadly, this pattern is now out of print, but I found this one that’s similar (and still available): Vogue 7937.

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Mix It Up 2: Oddball Outfits

I admit it: I’ve held on to certain garments for years a while now, long enough to know they’re well past their fashion expiration date, but somehow I’m unable to just let them go. (Hello, Lindy? This is the 1980s calling. We’d really like our leather jacket back. Yes, the shoulder pads too.) Don’t we all have at least one thing in our closet clinging doggedly to its hanger, way back in the darkest corner?

Refinery29 to the rescue: their latest slideshow will inspire you to shake the dust off those oddball items by mixing them with more modern pieces! I’m noticing in particular the creative use of accessories; in the example below (the oddball being the bridesmaid dress), sharpening up the soft color of the dress with the black jacket and clutch does wonders, along with the bright golden accents, and the little pop of red in the earrings.

Bridesmaid dress remix!

Bridesmaid dress remix! (Click on the picture to go directly to the slideshow.)

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Changing My Method: Making a Muslin

Last week I got an almost-last-minute invitation to a cocktail party, and decided it was the perfect time to make a skirt I’ve been thinking about for a while. I already had the fabric: pale grey wool bouclé with tiny clear sequins sewn all over it; I pictured this as the perfect pencil skirt, with a contrast lining that would just peek out from the off-center front slit.

Problem: I didn’t have a pattern for this mythical wonder-skirt, or at least not one that I trusted to fit me.

Solution: I used my Garment Designer software and my own measurements to create a custom pattern.*

Since I was in a bit of a rush to get this skirt made, I didn’t photograph the entire process, but I’ll do my best to describe what I did.

First step: After creating my basic skirt design in GD, and plugging in my measurements, I generated a sewing pattern (the software calculates the pattern using my measurements) and printed it out. Obviously it wouldn’t all fit on a letter-sized page, so it automatically tiles the pattern into multiple pages, so all I had to do was tape them together; the patterns print out with handy guidelines to help align the pages properly. (You can see the pattern for the skirt back in the first photo, below). Continue reading


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Cutting a New Hem: The Tango Skirt

The Tango Skirt. I spotted it languishing on an overcrowded rack in a consignment shop. It flirted shamelessly with me on the hanger, looking all cute and mysterious, and I just knew we would be going home together. I admit, I didn’t know anything about it, really, just that it was the dark, rich brown of the best espresso, in a soft, slinky fabric that was ruched and gathered at the back in an utterly beguiling manner. I didn’t even try it on, just handed over $18.00, and dashed out, clutching it to my heart. It was a magic moment.

Alas, poor Tango Skirt! The magic died when I pulled the skirt on at home. Yes, the ruched-and-fishtailed back was nearly as flattering as it had promised on the hanger, and I loved the way it swished around the backs of my calves. But the front! The front of the skirt, so plain, cut straight and drooping sadly below my knees, was not flattering at all. It was as if I had brought home two different skirts instead of one. Brokenhearted and embarrassed, I hung The Tango Skirt in a dark corner of my closet, where it stayed, unloved, for several months.

The Tango Skirt The Tango Skirt, pre-alteration. Looking at the plain-Jane front, you’d never guess such fabulousness could be lurking in back! (The pin in the front of the skirt marks the length of the lining, something that’s important to know before you start cutting anything! (Trust me.) Continue reading


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Go Big: It’s All About the Balance!

Yes, the fickle fashion cycle has swung around again to embracing the oversized, but as the ensembles in this Refinery29 slideshow demonstrate, the key to making this look work is in keeping everything balanced.

Oversized skirt, fitted sweater Oversized skirt, fitted sweater; this look works because the sweater is proportionally as fitted as the skirt is voluminous. And I’m loving the pastel-with-bright color combination! (Click on the picture to go directly to the slideshow.) Continue reading