The Closet of Dr. Moreau
After finishing my last quilt (yes, I decided it actually was done) I thought it might be a good time to see to the piles of clothing requiring repairs and/or alteration that I’ve had lying about for far too long. Most of what I did was basic: Shortening pant legs, fixing hems that had worn through, patching holes. Nothing exceptional. Then there was the coat on which I performed the clothing equivalent of massive reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.
My changes took it from a fairly frumpy-looking thing to a mad chimera of a garment that’s
strange and magical far superior.
Here’s the starting material: A whitish linen shirtdress from the Salvation Army. I got it a few months ago with intentions of tearing it apart for salvageable fabric, but when I tried it on (as I always do, just in case I might’ve found something I actually like/can use as-is) it was pretty comfy.
Not my style, yet, what with its short sleeves and tight skirt, but it had promise so I spared it the shears and set it aside for alteration into something I’d enjoy wearing.
The first thing I did was remove those chest/breast pockets. I’m never going to store anything in them and I’ve always thought that pocket placement on women’s clothing to be a little tacky. I also unpicked the hems and a little of the seams on each sleeve in prep for adding a lower sleeve section.
To make the sleeves I measured the length of the unpicked sleeve-hems on the jacket (15.5″) then cut appropriately-sized chunks of blue and natural linen.
For a guide on how to shape the sleeves I used the same Simplicity pattern that went into the three-part hybrid pattern for my last linen coat. This is the first time I ever used the sleeve of the pattern for anything.
Once they were attached and hemmed up, the trapezoidal shape made a nice bell sleeve that, oddly, was exactly the right length. Since I was working with a limited amount of salvaged linen, as is my MO, I expected I wouldn’t really have enough and would need to make 3/4-length sleeves. The properly full-length sleeves were a nice surprise.
But that wasn’t even close to the end! While the sleeves were altered to my satisfaction, the restrictive skirt still needed attention so the next phase was to open it up. A lot.
I opened the side seams up to the darts, which is about 26″ and waist-height on me.
Then made some gores to fill it out.
They’re each 12″ wide at the bottom and 27″ tall, cut from the same linen I used to make the sleeves. In this case, the remains of a pair of pants. The blue is also the same I used in the sleeves, but it’s ex-shirt.
Once I got the gores pieced, pressed, and properly topstitched, I attached them to the body of the coat and closed up the bottom hem.
Then I wore it to work as a test run.
(I’ve been making these changes slowly, one alteration at a time followed by a day or two of wear to ensure I actually like what I’ve done. As a result, the garment’s been slowly evolving for almost a week now.)
After a day at work I decided it was good, but felt the skirt could still use more volume. So I opened up the back seam, made a third gore, and put it in too. This is what it looks like now:
It’s perfectly flowing and voluminous and I love it.
There are a few more things I want to change before considering it completely remade. I’d like to exchange the collar for a hood, maybe redo the sleeves’ hems to include another band of blue, but those will have to wait until after this next test run.