Refashioning chubby Chinese dress

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This is not a post about a coat. You may have noticed that from the title. My next post was supposed to be about a coat, but I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to finish the coat so that I can blog about it and this morning when I read the remaining instructions I realized that although I’ve sewn up the whole coat, and the whole lining, there are still about half a dozen steps and they’ll take me daaaaaaayyyyyyys to finish. I’ve been dying to write a post. I realize I could write a WIP about the coat, but it’s kind of too far along for that. So I was gloomily pondering how to write a post about a non-existent garment as I took my daily stroll this late afternoon.

I stopped into a second-hand clothing store, not to buy anything, but who knows they might have something that I might like for its fabric, I thought. It was late afternoon and a staff member was vacuuming around my ankles when I saw a pretty nice looking sweater. I’m allowed to buy a sweater, I figure, since it’s still uncertain about whether I’ll tackle any knitting this winter and if I do knit a sweater, it’s a toss up as to whether it’ll be wearable.

So I was looking for the label to find out what it was made of when I saw a “TOPSHOP” label. I wouldn’t know anything about that, except that I’ve seen my British blogging compatriots occasionally mention “going to the High Street and stopping for a look at Topshop”. I’ve never been entirely sure what that sentence means. So my pulse starting racing a bit because it reminded me that I blog internationally (we all do, of course, but doesn’t that sound just so ‘wow’?) and if only I could write a post about something ….

Well. I tried the sweater (jumper to you Brits) on and it felt fabulous but was too big overall, and too short in front. But it felt fabulous. It’s a great wool fabric. A brilliant colour. And it’s from Topshop. So I began to think that maybe it was charmingly oversize, you know, maybe it was the “boyfriend look”? I bought it. For $12 CAD —  about 4 pounds British I should think — I could wear it indoors when the house is chilly.

Then I really wanted to blog about the sweater, but this is a sewing and sometimes knitting and refashioning blog, not a “what I found at the thrift store” blog, so I considered what I could put with it that involved sewing. Then I remembered the  pair of Chinese dresses that I bought a few years ago at a thrift store sidewalk dollar rack. They were both obviously handmade out of fine British woolens, with China silk linings. For a woman about my height but somewhat chubbier. Possibly never worn, smelling a bit mothballish.

I wondered what had led them to their sad fate in a rack of ragged, worn-out, desolate cast-offs. I wondered if the previous owner had had a few fine dresses made in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada, but once she got here, decided she’d rather purchase a brand new wardrobe from Holt Renfew. I imagined her in flashy high-end labels smoking cigarettes in an ivory holder at the mahjong tables. Or else she died. Relatives, cleaning out her house, boxed them up and brought them to a thrift store. Either way, there’s a story to those dresses and I didn’t want to leave them to the sidewalk trash. It seemed to dishonour whoever they belonged to to leave them there.

I made a sleeveless jacket out of one of them, but the other has been hanging on a closet hook, waiting for inspiration.

IMG_1016 There’s my cat, finding inspiration. I’ve tried to get her into pictures before, but forgot that all I have to do is lay some fabric on the floor, and she climbs right on board. Way to go, Holy Smoke.

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Earlier in the summer I slid the dress down my hips and discovered the wider tummy part fit my hips, and the narrower part just below the bust fit my waist. I could cut in just above the side zip, right under the underarms, put in a facing and have a skirt. I put it aside for a winter project, and yesterday, with the new sweater under my arm, I pulled the dress off the hook, laid it down and took the scissors to it.

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I haven’t done any of the sewing yet. There’s enough extra at the waist for a few darts, but that, plus making a facing is all I need to do. I still don’t know whether this fabric is black, or blue and black. In my youth I would never have worn the blue of this sweater — I wasn’t really a fan of jewel tones and blue was my least favourite colour. Today I love it. Maybe it’s the greying hair?

I’ve tried on what remains of the dress, by the way, the sleeves and shoulders, and I think that with the addition of a bit of trim, I can wear it as a shrug. Then I’ll have used the entire thing, wasting nothing.

What kind of store is Topshop anyway? We’ve had Marks and Spencer here in Canada, but that’s the only British chain I know.

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9 thoughts on “Refashioning chubby Chinese dress”

  1. Loving this look; the boxy top and the longer skirt. Also love the fact that you are using the entire dress!
    As I’m not British either, I don’t know what I can compare Topshop with. All I can say it’s a bit like H&M, without the plussizes, so even though we are getting some shops in the Netherlands, you won’t see me shopping there.

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  2. I like this look a lot, don’t you? The blue is just great on you. Go Felicia Go!

    In terms of Topshop – it is a great shop and I love it. It is aimed at 14-30 year old girls and boys (less so the boys), mainly skinny ones. The sizing is pretty mean. The fabrics are not generally good quality. The design is great and innovative and very inspirational. They do a catwalk show these days in London, and they do have a “boutique” range which is a bit more upmarket. I buy things in their sales where £12-20 is the norm for really nice things.

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    1. Thank you Kate. I am liking these longer, straight skirt looks. And this look is comfortable, so I’m hoping that I can make these outfits a regular part of my fall and winter wardrobe. I think the topshop sweater is good quality. Out here sweaters that are actually knitted, as opposed to being sewn up from knitted yardage, are getting prohibitively expensive.

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  3. Hi Felicia! I don’t know if you’ll see this comment, as I’ve ended up in one of your older posts. I love your statement “…I blog internationally…” isn’t it fun? And how did I not know you are in Canada? Or perhaps my early morning brain-before-coffee just forgot. Anyway. What a magnificent hack this is, and the blue is wonderful for you!

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    1. hi Jen, I’m reading your comment! Thank you. I like the skirt too. And, yes, I live in an outback kind of place (Vancouver, Canada), but feel so in touch with the rest of the world through the blogosphere. It is grand, isn’t it? I would like to connect with more Canadian bloggers too but there don’t seem to be many.

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