Ten-Year Anniversary of My Fattest Day

Ten years ago yesterday, I weighed myself and cried. I was 190 pounds. The heaviest I’d been in my life. I resolved that day to lose the weight, and I did. I have kept much of it off. But today, on this anniversary, I realize I need to try anew to get me through the next 10 years and beyond.

I don’t have any pictures of me from that day (like many overweight people, I avoided having my picture taken at all costs), but this picture was taken a few weeks before, because I got a new (not very flattering) haircut.

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Fat me – January 2010

I have a vivid memory of that red sweater. It was long – past hip length – and I wore it often because I thought it was flattering and because it covered my tummy and butt. I tend to carry most of my weight as a pear-shape below the waist, so this picture doesn’t get the full picture, but it will have to do.

I can’t remember if there was any one thing that got me on to the scale that day. Many people who recover from addictions or turn around unhealthy lifestyles say they had a “rock bottom” moment – that lowest-of-the-low moment when they knew they could not go on as they had been. When they knew they had to change or die. I don’t recall any :rock bottom”  it was more like I was walking barefoot along a bed of pebbles – minor hurts instead of a big pain – but hurts nonetheless.

I joined Weight Watchers, started a blog, and wrote this:

“I wasted my beauty on food.”

shoes15 (diane) on 2/17/2010 10:44 AM | COMMENTS (0)

I am a lifetime member who is back again after a hiatus as reckless as a two-thumb texter driving 100 miles per hour. I weigh 190 pounds – nearly obese and totally disgusted with myself.

Anger motivates me today, but I hope this blog and my new WW attempt will turn that around into optimism. I have to try – the obese alternative stares at me from the corner, licking its lips.

To put it simply, I hate dieting, but I also hate my destructive habits with food. I simply cannot get control of myself, and I am so **** sick of it. I quit WW in disgust in 2008 after about two years of back and forth – 178 pounds, 177 pounds, 179 pounds, 180 pounds, 178 pounds, 181 pounds… I plateaued at around 180, so I thought if I could just maintain 180, I’d be OK until I was motivated to drop more. After a while, outfitted in 14s from Liz Claiborne and Chico’s, I got comfortable with it.

This winter, I clambered up from that plateau and hit 190. Those 14s pinch at the thighs and fall short of the wrist. Even my winter coat doesn’t fit right anymore. I look in the mirror, and I do not recognize myself. I will be 40 in April. I’m one of those gals about whom people used to say “She’d be so pretty is she only lost some weight.” Those days are long gone. I wasted my beauty on food. Today, I’d settle for healthy.

I am trying yet again. So much about the WW experience rings as pure cornball to me, but I do like the saying “Winners are losers who gave it one more try.” I know I can do it – I was down to 135 on WW in college – I just need the motivation and energy. And I need to be good to myself. I need to give myself permission to misstep – to succeed and to fail – while keeping the goal in mind at all times.

You may think that my negative state of mind will hurt my chances to succeed, and you may be right, but what I really need right now is honesty. I am starting this blog to be honest with myself and to give myself an outlet for all my frustrations and triumphs.

Thanks to WW for setting up this feature, and thanks to you for reading it.

Looking back on it, that’s a pretty florid write-up of my state of mind. I put the “self” in “self-loathing.” But I totally recognize the woman who wrote this, because she’s always been with me and lately has been making her sad “self” ever more present in my day-to-day life.

Today I weighed myself at 163. That’s halfway between what I weighed at my heaviest and at my lightest as an adult. I don’t want to get back to the 135 I weighed in college (I mean, I would take it if I could snap my fingers and make it happen, but I know it’s too much work).

Here’s what I looked like at my goal weight of 145 pounds in July 2013 (in a designer dress from Narcisco Rodriguez):

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Thin me – July 2013

Yes, it took me more two and a half years to lose 45 pounds. I actually lost the first 40 in about 18 months. The stubborn 5 pounds at the end took forever to disappear, and they reappeared pretty fast. So, 145 is too hard to maintain. I can do 150. So that’s my goal. The plan is to lose about a pound a week:

  • 4 pounds in February
  • 4 pounds in March
  • 4 pounds in April
  • 2 pounds in May (vacation will be tough so cutting myself some slack)
  • 4 pounds in June

It’s important to write down your goals, or it’s easy to just go from one day to the next without really taking the steps you need to get what you want. So now I have written it down. It. Is. Written.

 

Another Job for the Distaff Side!

Want to feel like a kid again?

Here’s a pro tip from me to you: Spending more time with your parents will make you feel older, not younger.

My mother is recovering from knee replacement surgery, so I took a few days to help her out – shopping, getting meals, cleaning, keeping her company, that kind of thing.

Definitely a job for the distaff side!

Each day began by observing the neighborhood squirrels at the feeder.

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My dad’s favorite squirrel

My parents don’t like to keep a lot of food in the house for some reason. They prefer to go to the grocery store every day. Here’s a typical haul – some Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts and other fixings for dinner, blueberries to make muffins for breakfast the next day, and – via last-minute text request – a giant bag of Cheetos.

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Food for the ‘rents

I found myself eating dinner at 5 p.m. My mother was very taken with my “recipe” for green beans:

  • Buy a bag of pre-trimmed green beans
  • Steam in the microwave for 4-5 minutes
  • Drain
  • Toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and juice from half a lemon

Although she told me that I shouldn’t cook with any salt from then on. There’s absolutely no real health reason for the fatwa on salt – my mother just thinks it’s unhealthy.

After dinner, we had a rousing game of Scrabble while a John Wayne movie played on TV.

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Scrabble excitement

I thought I would make use of the time by working on some sewing projects. One day I combined a trip to the fish market with a shopping trip for sewing supplies.

“You were gone a while,” my mother said when I returned.

“Sorry – did you need me?” I said.

“No, I just wondered where you went.”

I was gone maybe 90 minutes. Gee, why don’t I feel like I am 16 again?

It was fun to set up my machine on my grandmother’s old sewing table.

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New machine, old sewing table

The dining room has plenty of space for this, but it was a disruption in the flow of things. My parents’ cats gave me dirty looks. My dad kept reminding me to unplug the iron. I didn’t get much done and had to drop out of the Refashion Runway competition. I couldn’t find much to refashion anyway – the theme was “fake fur” and people need that stuff at this time of year. Oh well.

My parents live in New Hampshire, so I took off for about an hour one day to hear Bernie Sanders speak:

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That tiny old man at the podium is Bernie Sanders, honest!

That same day someone from Sanders’ campaign came to the door and my father had fun telling the guy off: “Everyone who likes your guy is already downtown listening to him speak!” 

On Sunday I had a rare treat. My parents still get a newspaper delivered daily. On Sundays, the paper includes full-color comics.

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Newspaper comics – memories of childhood

Bonus: a guy I went to high school with has a son who’s old enough to get married. The wedding announcement was in the paper.

After three days of this I started looking forward to my 5 p.m. dinner, some Cheetos in front of the TV, and the squirrel show every morning. One day a scandal erupted when some pigeons ate the squirrels’ corn.

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Thieving pigeons!

Every day I tackled a cleaning project. “Everything’s gone downhill since your mother’s been laid up,” my dad said after I spent 2 hours on the bathroom.

I told him that he needed to help out more. Distaff side, my ass.

I left them after four days with a freezer full of spaghetti sauce, chicken, soup and muffins. My sister also has also been helping out with meals, cleaning, doctor’s appointments and the rest. We have a good laugh about it all.

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The daily text affirmation

I know that taking care of parents is something we all have to do sooner or later. I am grateful that I have the kind of relationship with them that they I can help them – for sure they helped me for many years! This was a relatively minor event – my mother will recover and go on with her life. The day will come when it’s not such an easy job. I am glad I had the chance to prepare for it a bit.

But I left the visit feeling old and feeble. My knee makes a crunching sound when I walk. That can’t be good. I have my mother’s thighs – I guess I have her knees, too.

Me-Made January and Late Winter Sewing Plans

It’s been fun to do a “Me-Made January” so I can use some winter garments that wouldn’t be suitable for Me-Made May. The exercise also shed light on what to sew up this winter that will carry me into spring.

I put every me-made garment and accessory into a Google Sheets file and noted what I wore every day, with the plan to wear or use at least one me-made item daily. Here’s the result for the month:

Me Made Jan 2020
Who doesn’t love a bar chart?

(I did not count anything out of season or dressy where I had no occasion to wear it – only things that were suitable for season and occasion made the cut.)

The top most-worn items were coats:

And sleepwear:

My new Claryville jeans:

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Jeans, bitches!

Oddly enough, this cardigan from the Japanese pattern book Happy Homemade Sew Chic, which is not chic and not my favorite garment in any way:

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I wore this more than intended because I had draped it over my office chair and kept shrugging it on and off all month if I got a bit chilly or warm. I’ll put another cardi in its place for February.

And lastly, lingerie and accessories:

I worked from home more often than usual in January, so my “Sew Edgy” office looks didn’t make more than one appearance for the month (if that). I am going to wear a few neglected items to the office this month.

I reckoned with a few garments I just don’t like. I tried them on and intended to wear them, but then I took them off. The fabric, fit or construction were just …  off. There may be no point in keeping them around. I’ll see how February goes.

Also, a few things don’t fit. I guess I’ve gained a few pounds this winter. Maybe the “no-sugar challenge” will help me take the pounds off.

This exercise has informed my plan for sewing this winter into spring. First up, another pair of Claryville jeans. And another bralette – I wear the Florence and another RTW one around the house more than I’d realized. And I should make another, nicer handbag. That Ethel tote was a tryout using leftover denim – I could use better fabric and interfacing on another. I also noted that I wore my few T-shirts pretty frequently, so at least one seems to be in order (and is easy to do).

I am all set with coats and sleepwear for now – but I’ll want another set of PJs come spring/summer. This plan should keep me busy for now.

Refashion Runway Project 2: 1970s

I took inspiration from my 1976 first-grade class picture to create a modern look with a 1970s twist, using all refashioned and upcycled materials. To check out other refashions, and to vote for your faves, visit The Renegade Seamstress Refashion Runway Season 5.

70s refashion before (3)

The 1970s were not a pretty decade style-wise – in fact, a true 1970s look should feel a bit sleazy and unappealing. So I tried to make something true to the era yet wearable for today.

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70s style complete with boots, cheap jewelry and hoop earrings

I worked with these raw materials: old jeans from my husband, a vintage men’s shirt and old kitchen curtains with crochet edging.

70s refashion before (2)

Let’s start with the top! The colors exactly match the dress in my class picture, so I had to go for it. Also, paisleys were such a huge motif  from that era in fashion. If you find any ugly wide neckties from the mid-1970s, I bet you $1 in 1970s money (about $6.60 in today’s money) that paisleys swirl around someplace on it.

This shirt is very well made, with flat-felled seams, darts and nice wide facings at the center front. But… it’s made of that notorious spun polyester fabric that disintegrates into fluff instead of unravels at the raw edges.

To make this man’s shirt more feminine, I started by cutting off the button and buttonhole plackets and unpicking the collar, then cutting down the center front on an angle using New Look 6498’s bodice pattern piece.

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Bodice restyle

I harvested the crochet edge from these old kitchen curtains and sewed them to the raw center fronts, then sewed up the middle to join the design into something new. The lacy detail is a bit see-through – just enough for an adult look without being too much. The crochet makes a little collar at the back neckline – cute!

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The sleeves needed help too. Puffy sleeves were in during the mid 1970s, so I cut off the cuff and sleeve plackets, folded over a generous edge, and made an elastic casing with about an inch for a hem. The elastic allows the sleeves to fit more closely with the volume I wanted for a 1970s look.

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Elastic casing with a hem for the sleeve

Finished design:

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The skirt is a throwback to my youth as well. Skirts made from old jeans were all the rage back then. If you don’t believe me, visit any vintage store or trawl eBay and you’ll see tons of these skirts.

To be authentic, I needed to start with men’s jeans. That was the style back in the day – you’d make a skirt from your boyfriend’s old jeans. In this case, my husband supplied these jeans that had seen better days.

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Hubby’s old jeans with legs trimmed to prepare for transformation to a skirt

Making a skirt is pretty easy. Start by cutting off the legs at the length you want. Cut an inch or two longer than the intended finished length to allow for a hem, but leave enough length in the legs to use the leg fabric as center front and back pieces.

Next, cut off both inseams to the crotch line, then unpick a couple of inches front and back – be sure to leave the fly area in the front intact.

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Inseams unpicked and ready for transformation

Next, prepare the leg pieces you trimmed off. Cut them apart at the inseam so they are one nice flat piece and position one in the front and one in the back of the skirt – there will be a lot of fabric overlapping – don’t worry you will trim that off later. The unpicked bit of the front and back crotch should fold flat on top and overlap a bit  (if they are still curling a bit, unpick a bit more until they’re flat).

Pin at the crotch points and all along the wedges.

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Don’t worry if the hem is a bit uneven – you’ll fix that later.

Now sew down the wedge pieces. I just sewed the wedge underlapping the sides because I like the raw edge look. Also, I was going to embroider it and didn’t want any bulk. After the wedges were in place, I trimmed the excess fabric from the wrong side. If you want to get all fancy, you could trim the wedges down first and sew them to the side pieces with a flat-felled seam.

Then try on the skirt and decide on a hem length. It’s best if you can get a friend to help you mark the length so it’s even all around. Turn and topstitch your hem, and you have a skirt!

To make this skirt go with the top and to add more design elements, I decided to embroider the wedge in a 1970s style motif using colors from the top. I started by running a line of embroidery alongside the seam where the wedges meet the front and back.

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Embroidery 70s style

Then I added lines above and below that line – eight lines of embroidery in all. Make sure you have enough thread to spare before you tackle this!

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Looks cute on too and coordinates with the top, a belt with a big ol’ silver buckle and boots:

70s 5

70s 2

 

It’s been fun! What’s your favorite decade for fashion?

Seven-Day Plan to Kick Sugar

Sugar has been my lifelong enemy. Ever since I was a child, my sweet tooth would get out of control. Cavities, weight gain, headaches, low energy – all the bad stuff that follows a sugar binge have ridden bitch on my life, all my life.

I have been able to kick sugar for a little while, but it always roars back. I can go for a few weeks without having anything, and then I start up again. I am trying again to find a system that sticks.

So I am trying a Seven-Day Sugar Challenge published recently in The New York Times. It has been hard going with a lot of fits and starts throughout January. In brief, the seven-step challenge is:

  1. No sugar or grains of any kind at breakfast (fruit is OK).
  2. Avoid packaged foods (and reject any that have added sugar of any kind).
  3. Eat fruit (but no bananas or grapes – sugar bombs that they are).
  4. Drink only water, coffee or tea (no added sugar or flavorings).
  5. Eat spicy food to ward of sweet cravings.
  6. Eat roasted vegetables to heighten natural sugars.
  7. Reward yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate (80%-90% cacao, low sugar).

I have never made it to #7, so I can’t attest to how that goes. But here’s how the other six steps have gone for me, from hardest to easiest.

Hardest: #2 – avoid packaged foods, especially those with added sugar.

In the United States, sugar is in everything. I mean, everything. And not just one kind of sugar, either – usually several varieties of sugar lurk in the most unlikely places. Food manufacturers do this to hide the amount of sugar in a food, since ingredients on he label have to be listed by volume.

For example, we had friends for brunch last weekend and served up some bloody Marys. I didn’t have any, but I listed to everyone rhapsodize about how delicious the bloody Mary mix was. Why so tasty, you wonder? It’s basically candy in a bottle:

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Sugar bomb bloody Mary mix

Sugars of various kinds appear seven times on this label. Yes, fruit concentrates and molasses count! If all those sugars were counted as one “sugar” on this label, it would probably be the third ingredient after water and peppers.

The other problem in the United States food system are foods that have health halos – basically foods that are packaged as organic or otherwise “healthy” but in truth have a lot of shit in them. Cereals are the worst – my husband is constantly buying so-called “healthy” cereals that have as much sugar – gram for gram – as a candy bar.

Breads are tough too. I sometimes bake my own bread, so I know that a bit of sugar helps the yeast get busy faster. But there’s no excuse for something like this:

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Bread – with sugar added

This organic bread has two kinds of sugar – right after the wheat comes “organic cane sugar” (seriously – it’s the THIRD ingredient if you don’t count water) and further down the list of all these grains and seeds you get some molasses.

I found some French bread that had no sugar in it, but it went stale after two days. Sugar is a preservative too. There are these so-called “sprouted” breads in the freezer section that have no added sugar, but I am sorry to say the texture and taste didn’t thrill me.

Finally, I hit on tortillas – I found some with no added sugar, so I am doing wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches for a while to see how that goes.

Hard: No grains or sugar at breakfast

Most important meal of the day, ’tis said. And hard to avoid grains and sugar.

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Cherries, 2% fat plain Greek yogurt, almonds – a no added sugar breakfast

I often have breakfasts like this with plain Greek yogurt, and don’t ever eat sugar-sweetened yogurt or sweetened fruits. Luckily, I have been a black coffee or tea drinker for a while and never go for sweet coffee drinks. But I always crave carbohydrates in the morning, and I often reach for some toast or other carby thing later in the morning if I have none at breakfast.

It’s really important to make this effort because if you start the day with sugar, the rest of the day tends to go downhill quickly. Think of each day as a blank slate – you don’t want to crap up that slate first thing, do you?

Other breakfasts I have enjoyed include eggs in various forms, apple slices with peanut butter, roasted veggies with olive oil, and ricotta with berries. You have to be careful with breakfast meats such as bacon, ham and smoked salmon, because a lot of it is cured with – you guessed it – sugar!

The Times got pushback for putting the kibosh on oatmeal for breakfast – plain whole oats, no sugar added. People are really devoted to this breakfast, apparently.

This has been HARD for me. Whine whine whine. I soldier on.

Easier: Basically the rest of the list is pretty easy and even enjoyable.

Water – no prob. Once in a while – maybe once a week – I used to drink a Vitamin Water Zero. Now I have zero Vitamin Waters, and it’s all good. If I crave something bubbly, some Pellegrino with a lime or lemon wedge does the trick.

Spicy food – also no prob. I can’t say if this trick has really curbed sugar cravings, but in general, the more flavorful your food is, the more it satisfies you. Of course, it was hard to find spicy condiments without added sugar. Finally I found this salsa:

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No sugar salsa – and spicy!

Ingredients are just tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, vinegar, garlic, spices and herbs. It’s sooo good – I put it on everything!

Roasted veggies – I had been doing this anyway, so it was an easy win.

I roast up a batch of veggies a couple of times a week. The roasted tomatoes are delicious as a topping on meats or pastas. Roasted larger tomatoes put through the blender make a great alternative spaghetti sauce too – with no added sugar. Jarred sauces are loaded with sugar!

Easiest by far: Eat Fruit!

I love fruit. I eat 2-3 pieces every day and will reach for fruit first if I crave something sweet. Often fruit packs a bigger punch if I pair it with a bit of protein or fat, like whole-milk ricotta, peanut butter, or cheese.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with fruit, so I like to buy different things every week. Out of season fruits are sometimes good frozen (just be sure there’s no added sugar). I keep cherries, blueberries and strawberries in the freezer at all times in case the craving strikes.

Next step – No-sugar February

I have been playing with these sugar-busting tactics all month and am ready to go for it 100% in February. If I make it the whole month I will reward myself with #7 – a piece of dark chocolate.

Who’s with me?

Refashion Runway Goes to the 70s

The 1970s were an ugly decade. Let’s face it. There’s not much to root for. But for this week of Refashion Runway, we have to go there. Luckily, I have two advantages:

  1. I was born in 1970, so I have some first-hand memories of the decade’s style and values.

Exhibit A:

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Me, 1976

2. My husband is a pack rat and has been storing ugly 70s clothes in our attic closet since we moved into this house 18 years ago.

Exhibit B:

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Mystery bags of moldy couture

Let’s get going!

These bags held so many treasures it’s hard to know where to start.

Should it be the plaid pants?

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Hard to tell where the bedspread ends and the pants begin

How about the Anderson Little brand (read: cheap-ass) polyester double-knit sportcoats?

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Salmon pink.
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Classic plaid

Note the demi lining (also poly, natch) – would not be able to stand a whole lining because in poly double knit you sweat. Like. A. Pig.

This leather shirt is actually beautifully made and possibly valuable as it came from Saks Fifth Avenue.

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Leather shirt

I played around with it, but regrettably there’s not much material to work with. I am going to see what it’s worth on the resale market.

And finally, the jackpot:

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Nothing says 70s like paisleys

The color story of this paisley print creepily reminds me of my school picture from 1977. I have to use it! No excuses!

It’s a man’s shirt, so I will need to feminize it a bit. I have some lace and crochet trims to play with from these old pillowcases and curtains. And I am going to make a 70s style denim skirt from a pair of my husband’s old jeans.

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Raw materials

So that’s the plan. The outfit is due Friday.

If you haven’t checked out last week’s fabulous entries, please visit The Renegade Seamstress and vote for me if you think I’m worthy. Thanks!

Refashion Runway Challenge One: Statement Sleeves

I just love a high-contrast look to jackets, so when the first-round challenge of Refashion Runway Season 5 was “statement sleeves,” I knew I had a great opportunity to create some drama!

Jacket front with sleeve contrast
My jacket refashioned from a friend’s old dress

My jacket started life as a dress that a friend gave me. She didn’t like it, but she thought the linen-cotton blend fabric was nice and the print was cool. She gave me a challenge to refashion it. Challenge accepted! Here’s the before look – big, boxy and shapeless:

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Old dress ready for new look
The fabric is rather stiff, so I began by washing and drying the dress a few times to change the fabric’s hand – it’s softer now but still crisp enough for a jacket.
I started by cutting the dress straight up the front and unpicking the neck facing.
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Unpicking and creating the blank slate
The front was turned and topstitched to create a self-facing. Then I created a pleat at the center back to take up some of the fullness, so it would fit better.
I trimmed about 8 inches off the bottom to create a more pleasing length, leaving side vents about an inch long just for style. I used the fabric from the bottom to create the collar and pockets – nice big pockets perfect for holding a phone and keys.
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Collar drafting

I drafted the collar just by measuring the new neckline and tracing off a collar from an RTW shirt to get the basic shape, then adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I cut the same in red so that the collar is two-tone.

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The red contrast came from a rain jacket with a broken zipper that I bought at Goodwill/ I was delighted to find something in a red with blue undertones:

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Raincoat – ready for some refashion fun!

I love the combo of red, white and blue – red is my favorite color and it it always delivers a nice pop!

I cut off the jacket’s cuffs to reuse them in the new jacket.

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Cuffs ready for refashioning

I tried several ways to work these in to the blue and white jacket, but nothing was gelling – I didn’t want them to look tacked-on but rather integrated into the jacket as an essential piece of the design. So I instead used the red as a contrast in the cuff. I sewed the cuffs so that they can be worn turned back for max drama or turned in for just a peek of color.

Jacket without sleeve contrast
Jacket without the peek of red

To continue the theme to another part of the jacket, I thought to add a button feature to the collar so that I can wear a bit of the red exposed or not, depending on my mood.

Here’s a flat view of the jacket, with the center-back pleat and my label showing.

Jacket flat view
Flat view

And here’s the back view – love the cuffs!

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Back view

Voting is supposed to start today. Please visit The Renegade Seamstress for a look at all the entries, and if you like what I’ve done, I’d love your vote!