06 July 2008

Refashion 2: Babydoll Top from Mens Dress Shirt

I'm going to wax philosophic for just a minute. As a non-professional musician, I am classically trained. Everything I have formally learned about music since I was 10 years old has been "old school": all the major and minor and chromatic scales, appropriate warm-up etudes, and more musical terms in Italian and German than I can keep track of. Lots of Bernstein and Rachmaninoff and even more Mozart. In the end, this means: put the notes on paper and I will play (or sing) them. Even if there are lots of notes, with intricate rhythms, and requiring some expression, I can do a good job with practice. But ask me to improvise for 8 measures on "Happy Birthday" and my eyes go blank, then panicky, and maybe eventually desperate.

Being self-taught at sewing as a young adult, I could sew straight lines. Lots of pillow covers and drapes, but apparel was a bust. Two years ago, I started taking classes to learn to sew apparel, and eight classes later I am confident in my sewing skills. But hand me two yards of fabric without a pattern and you might recognize that same sense of blankness, panic, and desperation in my eyes.

Before I get too "classically trained" in my sewing, I thought it might be good to experiment with hacking at fabric with a pair of scissors, and just see what happens. One more reason to indulge in my latest creative endeavor.

Last night, after monkey boy went to sleep, I acted on my creative impulse with a $1 thrifted Lands End mens button down shirt from Sunshine Thrift in Tampa (I had an hour of personal time to spend in Tampa before driving to Orlando for work a couple weeks ago, and Sunshine Thrift is where I chose to spend that hour!).

Anyway, there wasn't much special about this button down. It's your garden variety, 100% cotton, button down collar, wide placket, single front breast pocket, long sleeve mens shirt. What was special for me is that it cost $1. :) It was even a totally average size, like 15 3/4, so it wasn't very long (definitely not long enough to convert on its own into a dress). I tackled this first project easy -- a simple babydoll top.

I cut off the extra buttons at the bottom of the shirt and the button at the collar, then cut off the sleeves and collar stand. I separated the front and back at the shoulder seam, then cut off the back yoke to release that extra 1.5 inches of fabric that was pleated away. I cut straight across the front and back of the shirt, right under the neckline, for the top band of the babydoll. The straps came from the sleeves (5"Wx14"L strips, interfaced) and for whatever reason I decided to cut the bodice upside down on the fabric.

The biggest decision was whether to use the button placket on the front of the babydoll or the back. I didn't need the placket for functional reasons, because I could slip this on over my head. I ultimately preferred the way the placket looked down the center back, so there it went.

I wore it today and it was very loose and comfortable. Is it my favorite piece? No, but that wasn't the goal. I improvised my first refashioned shirt project and I'm ready for the next one. In the meantime, this babydoll top will be a reliable casual choice from my closet this summer.


  1. I can't help laughing at your music comparison-- I'm also a classically trained musician (though I am professional, at least part-time), and I know EXACTLY what you mean about the improv making you panicky!

    Anyway, great refashion. And I wouldn't exactly say I'm proficient with knits--it's really just been since I finally got a serger a few months ago. Makes a huge difference. Thanks for the comments! :)

  2. Very cool top. I am definitely a "classically trained sewist" who learned to sew from my mom who is rather, er, bossy about the right and wrong way to sew. It's only been recently that I've been really experimental with sewing. It's great that you're forcing yourself to do this because improvisation is really a great way to learn (in my opinion--mom and I have some serious debates over that, for sure).

    I look forward to seeing your other refashioning adventures.


  3. Ohh, wonderful idea! I must try.:)

    Lin from Sweden

  4. Oooo, this is pretty! Do you have a pattern for this?


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