Saturday, July 13, 2013

Refashion: Modified Coffee Date Dress

Have you ever had one of those projects that you haven't yet got around to, but kind of nags at the back of your mind every time you sit down at the sewing machine? I just finished mine! (Well, one of them, anyway...)

Almost a year ago I unearthed this op shop shocker (try saying that five times fast!) and saw potential:

If you're looking a bit askance at that, don't worry - so did my family and friends! Yes, it's polyester chiffon, a fabric that usually sends me spitting and snarling as far from a sewing machine as I can get. Yes, it seems to have been designed to be as unflatteringly vile as humanly possible. Elasticated waist? Check. Hem at the frumpiest point of the calves? Check. Odd cape top that completely obscures figure? Check. And lest there be any lingering doubt....

Or even:

So what was the potential? For a start, even though I really do loathe polyester like this, I liked the colours and print. There was a lot of fabric to play with. And if I blurred my eyes so I didn't see the rest of the dress, I liked the way the neckline sat. Plus, when I looked closely, I found that this wasn't a RTW dress; someone had sewn it themselves. And to give credit where credit's due, the workmanship was actually beautiful. I couldn't resist the idea of rescuing this one!

Funny thing - when I came out wearing it for the "before" shot, I could read my husband's thought process as clearly as if he'd spoken aloud. ("Did she make that herself?? Does she like it? Is she going to wear it outside the house? It's hideous. What can I say that's supportive without being an outright lie??") I LOVE watching his natural honesty wrestle with unnatural diplomacy...

For about nine months I've had a vague idea of the kind of dress I wanted this to end up as, but couldn't quite pin it down, or figure out exactly how to make it happen. Then I stumbled over Pattern Runway's Coffee Date Dress, and everything aligned in my head. There was still a fair bit of modifying, and making it up as I went along, but the basic silhouette was now fixed.

First step was to separate the bodice from the skirt and remove the elastic. First bonus: the skirt was pleated and then gathered - even more fabric than I thought! Although there was no lining, so I did have to buy some - a dark grey pongee. The bodice was in two layers, a sleeveless underlayer and a  "cape" made from four pieces, which laid out flat formed a full circle. The four pieces were front, back and sort-of-raglan style "sleeves".

The front and back pieces of the unpicked, ungathered and unpleated skirt were large enough to cut out all the skirt, waistband and pocket pieces from the pattern itself.

I love the fitted sleeves on the actual Coffee Date Dress, but I thought I'd keep these ones a bit floaty. I tried the existing bodice on and marked where the higher armholes should be (higher armholes = instantly slimmer  overall look) and then unpicked the "raglan" seam to that point.

Then I cut down the sleeve section like so, and sewed the new sleeve seam.

I also made the armhole higher on the underlayer. I didn't trim down the sides which allowed for then forming front bodice pleats of the CDD pattern. Plus, that left the existing dart mostly intact. I used the CDD bodice pattern piece to shorten both bodice layers.

I really didn't want to cut into the neckline; it sat so nicely as it was, and was already wide enough to slip over the head. I wavered between a back zip and a side zip for a while. Part of me still thinks a side one would have been a better finish, but I just wasn't sure the measurement from armhole to armhole was wide enough to allow it to be manouvered on past the shoulders. So a back zip it had to be. I cut up the middle of the back for this:

The actual CDD pattern doesn't have a lining, but being chiffon, this dress definitely needed one! I cut out extra waistband pieces from the lining fabric, and sewed these on at the same time I sewed the main ones to the bodice. That meant I could sew the main skirt to the main bands and the lining skirt to the lining bands. All edges hidden nicely. :)

I'm really happy with the end result!

I especially love the pockets! I'm still umming and ahing over whether to make the sleeves narrower and more fitted, but the more I see them, the happier I am with them as is. I like the way the gathers at the neck and shoulder echo the pleats at the skirt front. In any case, I'll definitely be making this pattern again, and I can do the proper sleeves then. Would love to find a red silk with white polka dots....

It's not perfect; the back (which I forgot to photograph, sorry) blouses as at the front, which make the zip stick out above the waistband a bit. And the lining sections (also unphotographed...), while reasonably neat, have a few hiccups - which in some ways I suppose you have to expect when you haven't thought through steps beforehand. But at the end of the day I've made an unwearable dress wearable! And I know I'll get a lot of wear out of this one - a long cardi or cropped jumper and boots will be fine for autumn or even milder winter days, and heels or sandals will work pretty nicely for spring or cooler summer. And, this is no longer preying on my mind during precious sewing time. Win!

On a final, unrelated note, I wanted to share with you something that Lynne from Ozzy Blackbeard put me on to. Remember my dilemma with matching the stripes on the side seams on my chevron Ginger? Well, here's what Sunni from A Fashionable Stitch had to say about that very thing:

 "Let me state that you will not need to match the stripes along the side seams. They will not match up, just so you know, and that’s OK. If some know-it-all asks you why the stripes don’t match along your side seams you can tell them that “this is a bias cut skirt and if I had tried to line up the stripes along the side seams, the skirt pieces would not have been cut on the true bias which would have resulted in a warped looking skirt.” And that’s the truth!"

So there! Thanks Lynne - I'll stop worrying over that immediately :)

Do you have any unresolved projects haunting you at the moment? Or are you happily ignoring them?

Have a wonderful week :)

Danielle oxo


  1. What a beautiful dress! I love that it is a refashion and am impressed you attempted it with chiffon. The pockets are fabulous. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Claire! I have to admit that I usually avoid chiffon, but I'm doing some sewing for a friend soon with a LOT of it, so it was good to get some practice in!

  2. Wow! What a transformation! I am so impressed by your ability to see past the frumpiness of the original and that you were able to make it so wearable. This is a really lovely dress, and you are finally filling out your winter wardrobe! :)

    1. I know - finally! Hopefully I won't have to resort to summer dresses during MMM next year... At this rate, I may even be able to take a leaf out of your book and put together some actual outfits next time!

  3. Wowzers!! What a brilliant re-fashion, it looks fantastic. You must have a good eye and imagination, because the original dress is, um, interesting! And I love your husband's thought process. ;)

  4. Oh, thanks! "Interesting" - you're very diplomatic! I love his thought process now too - especially now it IS a thought process rather than verbal blurting...So fun to watch :)

  5. I'm just catching up, this is fab! Wonderful use of fabric!