Friends, I just adore Marmalade-Shop. I first discovered her back in 2008 and over the years have purchased at least a dozen pieces. I remember giddily fawning over every single piece in her collection when I first explored her website. The colours, those unmistakable sixties-inspired styles, and the fit are everything I dreamed of in clothing but could never find in lil 'ole Edmonton. I seriously credit this line for giving me the spark I needed to really delve into my love of mid-century fashion. The clothes are all designed by the delightful Magda Sokolowska who is just the sweetest. She's such a pleasure to chat with and has been a great source of inspiration to me on my style and design endeavours.
So this past December whilst I was doing a charity closet purge (I'm on a real crusade to have a more cohesive closet and find a better use for the clothing I no longer wear.....and you know, an overall decluttering of my life), I couldn't bring myself to chuck out one of my favourite Marmalade dresses with a ratty, discoloured, sweat-stained peter-pan collar. I bought this one directly from her in Toronto and since then it's been a favourite of mine. The fit is so flattering and the houndstooth pattern is such a classic design. I could easily wear it during the work day or dress it up for a night out and about. But I literally wore it out. As you can see the collar was embarrassingly gross. No washing treatment would render it clean. I couldn't wear it out and it certainly was in no condition for anyone else to wear so it just hung out in my closet along with other forgotten pieces and yes, some bad purchases.
Then the clothing purge of 2015 began! If I didn't wear it on a regular basis and couldn't see myself wearing it in the foreseeable future it had to go. I've purchased a lot of things over the years that just aren't me. I think we're all guilty of that. A lot of pieces were easy to part with. They'd only been worn a handful of times, weren't my thing, and in perfectly lovely condition for someone else to wear. But my beloved peter-pan collar dress didn't fit in any of these categories. I still really, really love the dress! Just not the collar. Then....brain wave! "Duh Nicole. Just rip out the old collar and sew in a new one." I have plenty of white fabric hanging around my sewing nook so it would be easy to copy the pattern from the collar and swap it out.
I honestly don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. Then, whilst chatting with a friend and discussing sewing and clothes as we often do I mentioned that this would be one of my projects in the next few weeks;
Friend: That's a great idea! You should make the collar in black though so the white won't stain again.
Me: *stares blankly into the distance wondering why this never occurred to me*
That's a much better idea.
The darker tone of the houndstooth is actually more of a brownish colour but then the lighter part is more greyish, and the white worked just fine so I was confident the black would work just fine too.
So it began. Tailoring isn't my most favourite of things to do....I much prefer making a garment from scratch but it's definitely something I'm doing more of and am enjoying more over time. If anything, I just love clothing being repurposed or seeing a better fit. I've tailored a few things for myself and friends and it really is a satisfying feeling seeing a garment transform. I wish more people would take up sewing if just for their own odd jobs and repairs. It's a great way to save some money and put a little more thought and care into your wardrobe.
I'll give a quick rundown of how I swapped the collars. Perhaps you'll find some tips on how to do something similar yourself or, at the very least, it'll inspire you to save one of your favourite fashion pieces.
Stitch ripping out the old collar and facing. This particular facing attached to the neckline and armholes so I had to remove the whole thing. (Apologies for neglecting to snap a photo of it). I hate stitch ripping. Reverse sewing, as one of my instructors of yore called it. It feels like going backwards and it takes longer to do than the actual sewing most times. Thankfully, I've gotten pretty darn good with an exacto knife! The knife goes so much faster than a regular stitch ripper. It just pop, pop, pops, through those seams! I wouldn't recommend this if you've never used one on clothing before. Practice on something cheap! You will make mistakes and you will ruin things if you're not used to working with a blade in these situations. I know I have anyways. Oh and the sharper the blade the better! A classic stitch ripper will work just dandy too but will require more patience. In either case you don't want to put holes in your garment so care and attention is key.
You could also stay stitch the neckline at this point too. The fabric seemed pretty stable but I stay-stitched anyway because I didn't want to risk the neckline stretching out in this process.
Trace off the old pattern. This was pretty straight forward. I used a pattern weight to help get the the collar to lie as flat as I could, though in retrospect I could have also given it a good press at this point too. The pattern weight worked just fine though and I double checked the measurements of the old colour vs the new one just to make sure I didn't make the neckline too big or too small. I totally missed an opportunity here though to play with the design of the collar. I think it would be fun if I made it just a touch bigger or really exaggerated but at the time I was aiming to stay true to the original design. I added a 1/4" of seam allowance and voila!....my pattern was ready.
Marking and cutting. Cut 4 pieces of self fabric and 2 of interfacing. Fact....cutting interfacing is my least favourite part in the whole of making a garment. It's wiggly, it's textured, it's annoying to mark. I try and stack cut over it whenever possible and when I forget this step or it just isn't possible I use a marker. Not a fabric marker either. Just whatever marker I have lying around. Interfacing is such an important step though! It gives more shape to pieces such as this, and there are some fabrics that need a little re-enforcement. It's brilliant really. I just wish little elves would mark it and cut it for me instead.
Sew the collar together. Sew one interfaced piece to a non interfaced piece right sides together. Clip around the curves, turn out, and press that little dude flat. Repeat for the other two pieces.
Sew the collar in place. Lucky for me the centre front of the dress was already notched out so I just pinned the two "pans" in place on other side of it and locked that jazz down with my sewing machine. If the centre notch isn't marked though you can fold this piece in half to find the front and mark it with a pin or chalk.
Sew the facing back in. This is actually kind of multi step process in itself. Start by sewing it back into the neckline and then under-stitch it immediately. I got so focused on just getting the facing back in that I forgot to under-stitch at this point. I was able to go back and do it after the fact but I had to do it in a few parts to get around the shoulder. Whoops.
Then the armholes. This part needs to be done in two steps. If you sew the armhole in one go you won't be able to turn it right side out and will end up with a big tangly mess of dress. I pinch the right side of the underarm of the dress and the right side of the underarm of the facing together from the wrong side of the fabric and then flip it over so I know I'm starting at the right point. I sew from the underarm seam to the shoulder seam, flip it back out, and repeat this step for the other side. Phew! Sounds complicated if you've never done it before but it's really quite simple if you think it through. Then under-stitch again. The shoulder was wide enough that I was able to under-stitch all the way up to the shoulder seam on both sides. Again, this will need to be done in two parts because you won't be able to go around in one line.
Also, under-stitching is one of my FAVOURITE things to do while sewing. It's such a satisfying step. It helps the facing sit flat towards the inside of the garment and I just love that straight little row of stitches that hug around the existing seam. So how I missed doing this properly at the neckline is beyond me.
Give that collar a final pressing and bada-bing you've saved a garment from the rubbish bin!
I also decided to swap out the white buttons for black ones. The little white ones now seemed out of place with the stark black collar. I love covering buttons so I just used the same black fabric from the collar to jimmy up a few new ones. They're a touch bigger than I wanted but my box of uncovered buttons wasn't being very cooperative. I was missing one of the kits required to press the next size down, and the kit I bought for the smallest size possible is totally bunk. The button won't sit in the place holder so hammering the back on was next to impossible. The bigger buttons look cute too though and definitely add a fun element to this revamped dress.
I'm so, so happy I was able to freshen up this piece and add it back to my rotation of clothes! Many moons later it's still a favourite dress of mine and definitely suits my style. It's also one of the few "neutral" garments I have on account of my attraction to orange and colourful things. (Seriously, I don't think I've ever met a person who has as much orange in their closet as I do). Hopefully this helps get you thinking of ways to repurpose some of your clothes or inspires you to get crafty with a sewing machine if you've never done so before.
Oh and if you're not familiar with Marmalade-Shop then go check them out! There are lots of sixties era pop fashion pieces that are impeccably well made. The fit is drool worthy and, AND, AND they're ethically made!! Marmalade is big on producing their clothes using fair labour practices which just makes my heart sing. They used to be made right here in Canada but now they've set up camp in the EU which is just as great. For the quality of fabrics, and the quality of production the price point is unbelievable too. I'll take one Marmalade dress over 7 $19.95 dresses from H&M any day.
Thanks so much for reading and feel free to leave a comment.
Nicole A Go Go