Refashion Weekend: tablecloth to summer dress

This week’s refashion is a cotton tablecloth originally inspired by the Burdastyle bow dress. I probably should have just bought the pattern and used the tablecloth as yardage, but I haven’t successfully followed a pattern yet. Something about them confuses my brain and I don’t know why. It turned out for the best anyway, as you’ll see.

The tablecloth came from a free stuff store in my neighborhood. It’s a little shelf and clothes rack in an awesome older guy’s yard (he rides a recumbent bike with a huge flower underneath the flag, for example) where you can donate things and take things at will. My policy is not to take anything unless I’ve seen it there for a while; there’s a lot of section 8 housing mixed in with student housing, and I don’t want to take nice things when I have the means to purchase them. But this tablecloth was just sitting around for a long time and so I grabbed it one day when it looked like rain.

It’s a nice neutral color for a simple dress. I might dye it another color, though, one that doesn’t stain so easily. Probably a blue or orange — it’s weird, but I consider orange to be one of “my” colors. I know, orange supposedly only looks good on dark-skinned people. But rich, spring-plant greens, teal blues and ORANGE are my favorite things to wear, and the colors that get compliments. I will likely try dyeing it with onion peel in the future, so keep an eye out if you’re in to that kind of thing.

Cotton tablecloth

Cotton tablecloth, folded in half

I made a few (major understatement) aesthetic adjustments from the pictured Burdastyle dress. Most noticeably, I completely left off the bow detail because the tablecloth has wide ruffles. The bow just looked way too little-girly on top of the ruffled skirts.  I do not have elastic thread, so I completely changed the back of the dress, eliminating the ruching and making it a plain rectangle. Instead, the front is closed with button loops. I added straps so that this dress can be worn while walking around downtown and then transition to a game of pickup football or tree climbing without danger of malfunction. I changed the neckline to a sort of curved, mildly sweetheart-y deal. It looks like the skirts might be half circles on the Burda dress, but I did A-lines. And I only made two skirts instead of three because I felt three would be way too reminiscent of a cupcake. (Turned out that was all I had fabric for anyway, so that was nice.) So it’s a completely and totally different dress now.

The bodice and skirt were pretty straightforward; the skirt is just two a-lines stacked on each other, and the bodice is made of simple darted rectangles, slit down the middle, curved, and then overlapped and buttoned. It’s fully lined, though I’m never sure if I’m doing lining correctly; my method usually involves sewing two identical pieces to each other right sides together, then turning right-side out and topstitching.

An important thing to remember when drafting a bodice for a grown woman is that the front and back of the body are not the same. It’s important to measure across the front and back of your body at the bust apex and underbust and calculate how much fabric you need to remove. Otherwise, you’ll end up with squished boobs in the front and too much room in the back.  Not a good look.

I didn’t need to take much out of the back, only an inch or so, but I had to take 6 inches from the front.  Which made for some huge darts, so I decided to set them a little wider than normal darts and make them almost more like a princess seam design feature. There’s no hiding 3-inch darts, but I figured they should look nice; I tend to get lazy and like to take shortcuts, but I really want to learn how to do things properly.

Interesting thing I learned in the process: after a certain width, darts start to distort the overall fabric. I think that if you had a wider overall bodice, 3 inches wouldn’t affect the shape as much. But when you’re taking out 1/4 of the overall width, the sides no longer hang straight. I ended up having to narrow and lengthen my bust darts and make up for the extra room in the ribcage by tapering the side seams slightly.

Really wide darts. (I realize I should have included a penny or something for scale...)

Really wide darts. (I realize I should have included a penny or something for scale…)

There were some stains on the fabric, so I made sure to cut the bottommost skirt and the bodice lining from the stained parts, so that they’d be covered by the over skirt.

Oh no, stains!

Oh no, stains!

Then I just added wide straps and called it good. Originally, it was designed to wear with a bra, but I neglected to sew the straps in the right place at the back. In all honesty, it’s a little too boobalicious with a bra anyway, so I’m happy to wear it without.

Ultimately, while I’m mostly satisfied with the shape, I will pair this with a belt. This is the shape I was going for — I keep trying to like it — but dresses where the narrowest part of the “waist” appears just under the bust are not flattering. I really need some waist definition or I just look kinda dumpy. It’s also SUPER girly, but the belt and my trusty Doc Martens go a long way toward making the dress more “me.” If I were girlier I’d either pair it with some wedge heels or ballet flats.

I'm fairly proud of these buttons.

I’m fairly proud of these buttons.

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Cat tail!

We insist on taking pictures under trees so there's dumb shadows everywhere.

We insist on taking pictures under trees so there’s dumb shadows everywhere.

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Before and after

Before and after


One comment

  1. Cheyenne

    Love this! I’ve been wrapping and pinning bedsheets into dresses and skirts for myself (not wanting to cut them since I still put them to their orignal use). However, my favorite prints that I find in thrift stores are always *fitted* sheets. The results are astonishingly workable yet hilarious.

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