The challenge this year seemed difficult, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle it, but as the inspirations started to appear I could not resist.
Once I’d started looking for suits in my visits to charity shops I discovered that there aren’t actually that many of them, and if you do find a suit it’s usually quite boring. I wasn’t going to be keen on making something I didn’t want to wear.
On a particularly productive visit to Tunbridge Wells, a town of many charity shops, I found quite a lot of good quality mens suits in the shops. Some of them had very nice linings and I started to think I could feminize the refashioned item with some of the fancy lining fabric, but in the end I didn’t buy.
My lack of buying turned out to be the right course of action because the very next day I spotted this skirt suit in my local charity shop, Geranium.
It was too small in size and too short in length but the blue denim coloured fabric with its inlaid pattern was more likely to be something I would like to wear than a man’s suit would ever be.
I am always interested in the type of fabric a garment is made of and its origin.
The whole world lives in London and this suit was made in France, by the Morgan de toi brand.
I think the fabric is like chambray but it has 4% elastane and the rest of it is not cotton. The pattern looks a bit like embroidery but isn’t, it’s more like an embossed effect slightly raised and not visible on the underside and unironable on the patterned side.
The jacket was lined and under the lining the ‘chambray’ was mostly covered with a black mesh glued in interfacing. During the deconstruction the interfacing was easy to tear off the back of the fabric but it did leave some dots of glue behind which I removed onto a cloth using a hot iron.
First thing I did when I got this home was wash the whole thing on my normal cycle. Best to get any potential shrinking done now.
The unwashability of fancy men’s suits was another thing that has steered me away from them. Top quality Italian wool is all well and good but if you can’t wash it in a machine then that’s a major drawback in my book.
I spread the jacket out and the bottom part of it looked a bit skirt shaped therefore it was going to become a skirt. I like skirts.
I realise that an actual ready made skirt was the other component of the suit but it’s dimensions were so far away from my requirements that I am afraid the role of this simple little skirt was to be donor fabric.
I cut the jacket all along the back just below the sleeves and unpicked the skirt seams. Laying these pieces together gave a long enough strip for the bottom half of an A line skirt. The sleeves could be cut into panels to make the top half of the skirt.
I made the top half of my new skirt first which, once I had worked out my panel dimensions was fairly straightforward. The sleeve fabric was plain denim colour with no pattern but I also incorporated a less patterned part of the jacket.
Next was to put together the bottom half of the skirt. I unpicked the hem from the jacket to give a bit more length and lined up the patterns from the skirt elements and sewed it all up into a long wrap like strip.
Now I had to attach the top and bottom halves of the skirt together
To try and make it look a bit more finished I decided to use a new (to me) technique of piping using a recently purchased invisible zip foot.
I was delighted to be able to use up some of the jacket lining to make the piping.
Apparently you can buy special ridgid piping interiors to make piping with. I decided to see if an old shoelace would work just as well – it did.
I rough cut a strip of lining and sewed it tightly around the shoelace. This zipper foot was good. It could even keep the slippery lining fabric under control.
Once the shoelace was encased I cut the lining down to the right size and sandwiched it between the seam holding the top and bottom parts of my skirt together.
As the shoelace was rather thick I left the end of it sticking out so I could pull the lace out of the piping once the sewing was finished – this worked for me.
I wanted the piping to lie downwards so I ironed the seam to face upwards.
I was so pleased with the zipper foot that I decided to keep it on for normal sewing because it was easier to guide the needle to the exact line I wanted to sew, and pins could be left in place because they were not in the way, however the zipper foot, being fixed rigid with no lift at the front like on a normal foot, did not cope well with any lumps and bumps. When it came to a join for example, it tended to stub its toe on any slightly raised element and I had to hike the tension right up before it would budge.
I haven’t yet mentioned the many times I tried on this garment. When I say ‘tried on’ I mean wrapped the strips around me to see what it was looking like. This is a vital part of any refashion I undertake. I am obsessive about it, usually sewing when home alone partly because it makes such a mess and partly because I am constantly taking my clothes off at each stage to try on .
The purpose of the trying on at this stage was to see which part of the wrap would hang best to use as the front. There was a problem in that the shaping of the jacket got in the way of the drape of the skirt. It really would have been better if I had just harvested fabric but I wanted to be more ‘authentic’ and retain some of the jacket seams.
I had also cut the fabric too wide but terrified of cutting too small, I always err on the side of wide and cut down later.
I stitched what was now a wrap of fabric together to make the skirt. A bit more seam tweaking and cutting down was needed to make it hang better and the right size.
I was going to use the original skirt zip but the 4% elastane gave enough stretch to pull this thing over my head so I missed the zip out and made a soft and comfy waistband with a strip of fabric left over from my previous project, treating it like a big strip of bias binding.
I had read a tip about using a strip of card to keep hems an even width and used this method to keep the waistband even.
All that remained was the hem. Unfortunately this contained two notches where there had been some grading of the jacket seam. I was intending to keep these notches as a ‘design feature’ because to get rid of them would have making the hem shorter and the skirt length was already at about the shortest I was prepared to tolerate. Alarm bells started ringing when my husband, who normally never notices anything about clothes, asked me if the hem was supposed to be like that.
This led me to infill the hem notches with some scraps turning them from design feature to hopefully invisible feature.
I removed the original label from the inside of the jacket collar and sewed it onto a visible place on the skirt, my aim being to fool some innocents into thinking this was a RTW designer item.
Reflections on this project are:
Negative : I could have bought a different item cheaper and made a skirt more easily if I hadn’t been constrained to buying a suit.
Positive : My charity shop wanderings were made more interesting by having a definite aim.
Negative : I already have enough skirts, many of them similar to this one.
Positive : Its fun to join in and I tried a new technique of piping.
Positive : Therefashioners always challenges me out of my comfort zone and I take more care with these projects than most.
Positive : This skirt is super comfy to wear because of the high elastane content, I would never have normally thought of making a skirt out of a jacket. I am even happy to wear it with a top tucked in.
Conclusion: More positives than negatives, I will be joining in again next year.