Week 3: A Dress for 3 Generations

Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I’m still competing in Project Run & Play–thank you for voting me through again! Let’s get right to this week’s challenge: REPURPOSING. For me, the true meaning of repurposing is for the original materials to have already been used, then made into something new. So I won’t be hacking away at any new, clearance rack, XXL t-shirt, since the t-shirt never served it’s primary purpose.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to only repurpose items that we already had–which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Before we moved to the San Francisco bay area, we went through a huge purge, either donating or giving away clothing, baby gear and household goods. It felt really good and since then, we have been trying to maintain a simple lifestyle, with less consumer goods and more handmade goods. Except now I don’t have a lot of items to repurpose!

Then I found my mom’s vintage dress in my closet. I love this dress–so many of my childhood memories belong with this dress. Years ago, my mom was about to throw the dress out, but I salvaged it, even wearing it a couple of times. But the seams were weak and I tucked it away, unable to part with it.
1970s Vintage Dress
I phoned my mom and asked if I could repurpose her dress into a dress for Froo. She was totally fine with it and had my brother email me some photos of her wearing the dress! I wanted to honour the dress (my mom, really!) and make it special. Here’s a “before” photo of Froo wearing the dress:
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
The fabric label had been removed, but my guess at the fibre composition is polyester or poly-blend. It’s slightly sheer, with a mesh-like, stretchy quality. It behaves like knit fabric, which doesn’t fray (yay!), but it does snag (boo!). The bottom skirt is almost a full circle, with the seam running down the wearer’s left side.

I was fully intending for this dress to have long sleeves, but once I saw all of the pieces, it just seemed so wrong. I changed course and decided on a sleeveless dress.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
To add detail to the plain bodice, I “embroidered” (using the term loosely, just needle and thread) red pearl cotton in the centre of the flowers. The front bodice is backed with black Pellon shape-flex interfacing to provide more stability for the embroidery.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
This repurposed dress is all about the back! I placed the original cross-over v-neck on the back of the dress, to create an open v-back bodice. For the skirt, I shifted the seam to align at the centre back. This drastically changed the flow of the print–it creates symmetry and draws attention to the busy, floral print. I wanted all of the details to come alive at the back, paying homage to the past.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I purchased stretchy black swimsuit lining to back the bodice and I used stay tape on the neckline for extra structure. Afterwards, I understitched the lining, to prevent it from rolling.

Once the skirt was shortened and hemmed using stay tape (loving this stuff!), I used a gathering stitch, clear elastic and a serger to attach the skirt to the bodice, following this tutorial, which worked really great at keeping a close fit, while maintaining stretch.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
The belt is my dad’s old necktie, folded into a bow tie, using a variation of this YouTube tutorial. I hand stitched snap buttons as closures. The last time we were in Vancouver, I took about 20 of my dad’s old neckties. He has oodles. My uncle is a doctor in Korea and apparently, it’s customary for patients to give their doctor gifts. My aunt gives them to my dad, who has trouble saying “no” to free things, no matter how hideous they are. I brought them home, intending to make tiny bow ties for Fringle & Stu. This one was just the right shade of rich red:
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I felt that the dress needed a bright cowl scarf, so I made one using my old Banana Republic scarf that was sooooo itchy. I shortened it and backed it with some leftover quilted sherpa, from my week 1 challenge. I serged the end of the scarf twice, to ensure it wouldn’t unravel.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
But the buttons! My friend Deborah gifted me some awesome buttons (thank you!!!) and these leather buttons were in the mix. She bought them at Our Social Fabric, a non-profit organization that collects donated fabric and sewing notions to sell, keeping them out of landfills. How perfectly fitting is it for me to use them in this challenge?? My sewing machine can’t handle button holes through thick fabric, so I stitched the buttons on and placed a magnetic snap on the inside.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo was not happy about the fake nerd-glasses that I found in the $1 bin at Target, but this is my absolute favourite photo of her from our photo shoot:
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I thought the outfit needed a cardigan or jacket, but I couldn’t find anything suitable to use. Until I saw a pair of the hubs’ old jeans–they are HUGE! (I mean, he’s 6’3″ tall and prefers a relaxed-fit.) I used my drafted blazer pattern from last week and made a couple of tiny modification: a straight front edge and a one-piece sleeve, instead of two pieces. I was able to cut all of the pieces on the grain, matching most of the faded bits at the sleeves and shoulders. I love the almost ombré effect the fading creates.

Then I cut a leg off my worn-out jeans to create enough trim for a ruffled edge–they were the first pair I bought after Froo was born. I bought my Fidelity jeans at a warehouse sample sale for $26. I don’t know why I remember this. The colour is a pretty good match!
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
These buttons! The other ones in the mix from Deborah–I just love them! The colour is a blend of brown-black, with a hint of mauve and looks great with the red stitching.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Again, the denim was too thick for button holes, so I placed snap buttons on the inside facing of the jacket. They are quite easy for Froo to snap together!
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
The inside of the jacket is finished with bias tape. I had purchased the red bias tape for the bamboo suit, but never used it. The bottom hem, sleeves and back facing are hand stitched in place.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I repurposed the tag from the hubs’ jeans for a more polished look. Besides, we could use some luck this week!
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
For this week’s Project Run & Play challenge, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment for repurposing what I had, without buying any additional fabric, besides the lining and notions (interfacing and snaps). I also feel that I conquered my seam-freaking-ripper. It really had me beat a couple of days. I wore a head-lamp strapped to my forehead, just so I wouldn’t go cross-eyed, trying to pick out some unruly seams.
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
With all the money I SAVED, I feel like I practically MADE money (insert photo of the hubs rolling his eyeballs here), so I bought Froo a pair of ballet flats from H&M–they are insanely cute and coordinate really well with the dress. Then we went to the San Mateo Main Library for our photo shoot. I thought it would be the perfect location, since the public library is the ultimate example of recycling–books to borrow for free and share with the entire community!
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
Froo & Boo: A Dress for 3 Generations
I must admit, this challenge really brought out an emotional side in me. While making the dress, I could almost smell my mom. Not in a weird, creepy way, but in that way that you would leave a piece of clothing with your baby for comfort while sleep-training. Or a puppy while crate-training. We’ve been through both. My mom’s dress symbolizes her training for me to be an amazing mom to Froo (and Boo!), that even my scent alone can provide my kids with comfort and security. Ok, I am totally calling my mom now!

Thanks for visiting! I would love for you to vote for me at Project Run & Play–this is my last chance at making the finale next week! (I always feel awkward asking for votes, but I appreciate every single vote that I get. Seriously. Because each vote counts–the competition has been incredible!)

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30 responses to “Week 3: A Dress for 3 Generations

  1. The denim blazer is just incredibly beautiful, chic and cool. I also love the other garments. The story behind the dress is moving. I have voted for You every week, hope you´ll win;)

  2. Thanks for sharing your story about the connection between generations that this outfit brought about. I appreciated all the effort that you must have gone through to stabilize a saggy kind of knit. To me that showed your level of sewing knowledge (or at least willingness to have a go at it!). The inside construction on that denim jacket was fabulous too. Outstanding sewing and the end product just drips with cuteness.
    Deborah
    sewmuchtogive

  3. I’m in love with the dress. Not only is it gorgeous (love the placement of the print in the back!) but the sentimental value makes it extra special.

  4. wow irene!
    awesome job this week.
    i love you used something that was so sentimental and it seems froo really loves it to!

  5. Sarah Walk

    This post makes me want to cry!!!! You and I are kindred spirits. I am touched on so many levels by your challenge this week. My mom passed away 3 years ago and I held onto bags and bags of clothes. She is not my size and our styles are very different so I’m not sure why I kept so many clothes. I’m soooooo glad I did because I ended up making tons of things out of them! I cannot tell you enough how much I love your resourcefulness, creativity, thought, and love! This outfit will bring joy to you forever!!!! It deserves to be permanatrly displayed on a dress form forever in your sewing room when your beautiful daughter grows out of it. I especially love the story behind the back side of the dress representing the past and now your daughter is representing your future. Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!

    • Thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to write your touching comment! It makes me feel, in some small way, that I’m not just making “things”, but preserving “memories”. If I can connect with others doing so, then I am so honoured and blessed from it!

  6. This outfit is amazing! I am floored by how many pieces you created, and all repurposed!

    The dress is so incredibly special, and one I hope Froo can pass along too! I definitely understand what you mean about the scent of loved ones! My mom recently knit my a cuddy cowl scarf and sent it in the mail – when it arrived it smelled just like home! It’s a wonderful feeling 🙂

  7. Your daughter looks like the spitting image of you in those pictures (or I guess it could be your sister!) I love that jacket and all the embroidery on the flowers is such a lovely touch! It’s so great to reuse something that has so much meaning!

  8. So touching! Thanks for sharing. We love the jacket best (we made a jacket from a leather skirt for the sew along http://skirtfixation.com/2014/01/childs-leather-jacket-made-leather-skirt/) and we did our photo shoot in a library too!

  9. So fitting for you to make a tribute to your mom through clothing!! What a moving post….thanks for giving us a little insight into your life….

  10. Loving this outfit! Amazing that you made such a pretty jacket out of a pair of jeans! I loved the pic of the insides, it’s so neatly finished with binding. I will bear this in mind for sewing unlined jackets. And that pop of bright red is so cheery too!
    And awwww, it’s so sweet that you repurposed your mama’s dress. Love the red embroidered detail and the belt is so cool. Tell Froo that she looks adorable in the fake glasses, all the cool kids here (in Singapore where I live) are instagramming selfies with these glasses 🙂

    • Thanks Erin! Ever since the first week challenge, I really like the bias tape finish on unlined jackets! It makes the inside just as nice as the outside, I think.

  11. Irene, this post was moving and I was almost crying… Beautiful dress. Really! And I loooove that beautiful jacket!

  12. Wow. this is incredible sewing. I love that denim jacket and seriously want one for me. the dress(es) are beautiful and having upcycled something of my mums I totally understand the feeling you get when you iron a seam and smell your mum. beautiful sewing and a lovely post.

  13. So sorry to see you go as I’ve loved your submissions each week How about doing a post about making your denim jacket. It is darling.
    Deborah
    sewmuchtogive.blogspot.com

    • Thanks Deborah, for all of your kind and thoughtful comments! I really appreciate you taking the time to write them. I would be happy to make another denim jacket, but I must find a different model, perhaps my niece to make one for. I fear Froo’s closet might be overflowing!

  14. Sad to see you go! You did really well. Thank you for sharing your talent with us!
    ~Michelle

  15. Alicia

    I have really enjoyed you looks each week, and the sentimentality of your repurpose really was touching! I’m sad to see you not go on to the finals, as you have done such a wonderful job. Your attention to details and simplistically sweet style will be much missed.

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