I saw this horrible disaster of an 80’s nightmare at the Goodwill and I HAD to have it!! Not because of the dress itself, but because of the gorgeous fabric it was made from! It’s a very rich bright pink velvet, the good stuff, not the stretchy kind. I had no idea what I was going to make out of it and at the time I didn’t care, I had to have the velvet! Who can beat $1,50? It was a size 6 little girl’s knee-length dress, so there was about a yard there. The first thing that HAD to go was the white lace bib collar! You can’t see it too well in the photo, but the base of it was made of that nasty stretchy lace that Wal-Mart lingerie is made out of. I also took off 5 different types of lace that were then layered on top of that (some I was able to salvage over a yard of) and lord knows how many ribbon flowers! The dress looked 100X better after all of that mess was gone, but I still wasn’t sure what to make. The pointed front waistline and puffed sleeves were really dated and I figured that no matter what, I’d have to lose those as well.
I spent a week looking at the dress at least once a day but had no inspiration. I had noticed upon closer inspection that the edges or the seams, cuffs, hems, and pleats had worn from use over time (this has to be at least 20 years old) to where the pile of the velvet was gone, leaving lighter pink highlights. I LOVED how this looked. Vintage velvet is so gorgeous! The wheels finally started to turn! I made a milk maid inspired skirt last week, and as I was looking at images online I was reminded of Tess, Bathsheba, Sue and Elizabeth-Jane; all female leads from Thomas Hardy novels. They are all feminine and bright (read -> innocent) living a comfortable existence (even if not affluent) at some point in their stories. They are then battered around by life a good bit and lose some of their lusters; much like my salvaged velvet dress! It all finally came together when I bought the dotted pale pink rose print cotton remnant at a thrift store the other day. I know this is a lot of typing to explain a re-fashion, but I felt it deserved its own narrative!
I was also inspired by the costuming in the various film adaptations of Hardy novels and others of the same period (above from V&A, Jude, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Daniel Deronda; which I know isn’t Hardy, but I love the sleeves) to create the vintage-Victorian-look girls’ jacket.
After the collar and sleeves were detached, I separated the skirt from the bodice because it was attached with tiny pleats and I wanted larger folds for the jacket’s peplum. Looking at it, I decided to flip it around and make the front into the back because of the great arched seams on it. Next thing I did was to cut the bottom of the skirt away from the piece I was going to be re-using. I then cut the new 3/4 bell shaped sleeves from the leftover skirt piece. next, I took the pink rose print that I bought at a thrift store for 50 cents (about 3/4 of a yard – odd shaped) and cut the sleeve liner, the inside lapel piece and the underskirt. I wanted to completely line the jacket, but didn’t have enough of the rose print so, I used some pale pink that I had salvaged from the shirt I used on my pink espadrilles. From this, I cut the remaining piece needed for the lining. I didn’t use a pattern for any of this; it’s all just free-handed and figured out by comparing the remnant to the shell and hoping I cut it right!
The first part I reassembled was the sleeves; I sewed up the rose print liner, then the velvet. I sewed my bodice liner pieces together in place so they were attached at the seams. I then attached the sleeves, liner and bodice together all at once at the armholes. Next I took the cuff of the old puff sleeves, opened them up and sewed them together at one end and attached them where the old collar had been, placing a fold here and there to give it the upright ruffled look. I cut one of the back ties that had been removed in half and folded the edges over and used it to cover the seam inside the collar. The lapel was part of the lining and the inside was attached at the same time. The last thing I did before I attached the skirt was to sew the buttonhole edging on the rose print fabric side to correspond with the velvet side. Finally, I sewed the three buttons on that I purchased at Joann’s for $3. I only had three, but wanted a button at the very bottom so, I reused one of the original buttons from the dress and simply hide it in between the rose print and velvet layers when it’s closed. Detailed images of what I explained are above.
You can see the four states the jacket can be worn in above: closed, 2 buttons, one button or open. I like how the various stages give the collar a different look. The last stage of construction was the peplum. The underskirt is attached to the bottom of the liner and the outer skirt is attached to the jacket itself. I simply laid it out and put in random folds, then sewed the relative pieces together. Now that it was all in one piece, I went back through and sewed the buttons on, hemmed everything that had raw edges and covered the inside seams with binding I made from leftover strips of the rose fabric. I had a few scraps of both the print and the velvet that I hated to throw away, so I made this little shabby pin-on flower with trailing pieces of fabric. It is easily removed or moved around.
I hope you liked my jacket, it took me 3 or 4 days because every stitch that *I* personally made was done by hand with a needle and thread. I don’t trust my machine with velvet even if I have a special foot for it. I am glad I did it by hand, though, because it allowed me to make very, very tiny hems that I wouldn’t have been able to get right in a million years with the machine! I WISH I had a little girl to put this on! I think it could be worn with jeans and a pretty thin white cotton shirt, a fluffy skirt or even as part of a costume. I still have some of the velvet left over to use on a future project! The total cost of this project was $5.