How to Make A Frumpy Dress from Three T-Shirts

After going through my closet, I now have an entire box of very old T-shirts that have shrunk enough that they'll never be long enough for me again. Most are also worn at the edges or have random stains or other problems that will prevent me from ever wearing them away from home. So they are just waiting to be reborn with their bits of good fabric as new articles of clothing. Most of which I doubt I'll wear out of the house, either, but at least for every new housedress I have, that keeps one nice piece of clothing clean to wear on days I do go out.

Last week I ran out of maternity clothes between laundry days, so I figured it was time to start sewing. Until now, I had a fair selection of non-maternity clothes that covered me pretty well, but as I enter my 3rd trimester, I really need a significant amount more coverage in front.

Here's the T-shirt I selected to use for the top of my dress (there's nothing wrong with this shirt except it's way too short for me now):

Then I fished out two large T-shirts I got at Old Navy last year for $.49 each. In order to "restyle" T-shirts, you generally need extra T-shirt fabric, and I discovered that Old Navy has clearance T-shirts for less than either the cost of plain fabric OR the cost of used T-shirts at the thrift shop. When I'm in there, I always cruise the discount rack looking for stuff under $1, and add it to my box of available T-shirts.

Shown here, I've already cut off the neck, sleeves, and side seams, so I have four pieces of flat fabric.

This next part required the most precision of any step. I carefully flattened out each piece of black shirt face up on my cutting board. First the back pieces, then the fronts (so I could see the lowest neckline on top). I carefully lined up the bottom hems because I was going to keep the manufactured shirt hem as the hem on my dress.

Once I had four neatly aligned, unwrinkled pieces of cloth, I used a rotary cutter to first cut the top straight across, preserving as much fabric as I could below the raw edge where I cut off the neckband. Then I cut from as close to the fabric edge as possible down at the hem at an inward slant to the top. This is necessary both to have a nice A-line shape for the skirt, but also because you need to trim off the curved armhole cutouts.

Next I used my serger to sew these four skirt panels together (although you could use a regular machine just as well, T-shirt knits don't generally ravel so you can leave the seams unfinished). I sewed the two front panels together for the front, and the two back panels together for the back.

Then I used a regular sewing machine to machine-baste the top edge of the skirt at 1/4" and 1/2" around the front of the skirt only (because I need more fabric in the front than the back). I marked the center front and center back of the hem of my red T-shirt, and lined up the skirt seams. I started pinning from the center back, and pinned the fabric evenly until I reached the side seams of my skirt (note that this is beyond the side seams of the top T). Then I gathered the front of the skirt to fit the remainder of the top T's fabric in front, aligning the front center skirt seam with the front of the red T. Once pinned, I basted the skirt to the shirt and tried it on. I wound up having to rip out part of the seam where my gathers were uneven and I re-distributed them until I was happy with the result. Once I was satisfied with the basted version, I sewed the skirt to the top with a regular stitch. When you sew the final seam, remember to stretch the fabric as you sew to preserve the stretchy comfort of the jersey material! Then remove the basting stitches.

I also used a black fabric marker to get rid of the words in order to have more of a generic "agricultural" themed dress instead of a Happy Halloween dress. You can still see the words a bit, but I'll go over it again with another coat of fabric paint and hopefully that will do the trick.

As I mentioned in the title, this merely instructs you how to make a frumpy dress. It is not so cute that I will be wearing it out of the house, but it's certainly fine and comfortable for the cooking and cleaning and baby-minding that makes up the bulk of my days here at home.

Who knows, it might not turn out nearly as frumpy when worn by someone who is NOT pregnant (although I wouldn't get my hopes up). Anyone who tries this feel free to email me a photo and I'll post it in the comment section (if you're clever you can post a link within a comment you add yourself, I think, although I can't explain how to do it).

No-Sew Tutu

I got a leotard for my ballet class today, but the local shop didn't have a mid-length skirt in my size. So I've been looking online for some basic instructions how to sew my own.

I was originally thinking of going for a Juliet-style chiffon skirt, but since I found this "no-sew" method for tulle, I changed my mind.

I'm going to make mine longer, probably to just above the knee. I'm shopping for tulle online now. I see is having a sale on 6" wide tulle ribbon; I might go for that so I don't even have to cut the tulle into strips, I'll just cut the ribbon to length.

The how-to video is here:

Polyvore For Fantasy Wardrobes

I came across a site a few weeks ago I thought I might be able to use to organize outfits. The site is called Polybvore.

You sign up for a free account, then you can create collages of virtual outfits, wardrobes, collections, whatever you want. I was looking into it more closely today, and got hopeful when I saw a tab for "My Items". I thought I could upload photos of my own clothes and accessories, then play around with them online and make a visual collage of outfits to make it easier for me to pack for trips.

My hopes were dashed when I discovered it would only work with tremendous effort on my part. First of all, I put all my photos on the picasaweb site on google, but Polyvore won't let you clip images from google. Then, when I tried to clip an image from my own website here, it worked until I tried to put it in a collage. Polyvore eliminates the backgrounds from images, so pretty much the only things you can clip that will look right are pictures with plain white backgrounds.

So in order to use Polyvore to make travel wardrobes, I would have to photograph my clothes against a white background then post them to my own site so they could be clipped. If I was going to do that, I might as well just use photoshop, clear the backgrounds myself and make my own collages without going online.

The site is designed to pull clothes that are currently being sold online into your "virtual" closet. I tried to find my clothes online, but even the things I bought at Target last month are nowhere to be found. And forget about finding things from past seasons-- even my black quilted boots with rabbit fur trim, which have been knocked off numerous times in the past several years, were nowhere to be found, original brand, knockoff, or otherwise. So that strategy wouldn't work to get my clothes into the polyvore system, either.

If you only shop for clothes online, or in national chains, you might be able to add pieces to your polyvore closet as you go. But I prefer to do most of my shopping in Loehmann's, and a lot of their stuff is imported from Italy, other stuff is from small labels not available at big chains, so I don't think I'll have much luck doing that, either, but I'll try.

Overall, I think this site is best suited to teenaged girls, or even college-age, who can't afford to just go out and get all the clothes they want, or have limited opportunities to wear a range of styles (I had to walk over a mile each way to classes when I was undergrad, and I certainly didn't wear nice suits and heels for that, even if I would've been fine dressing up for classes). So they can indulge their shopping fantasies by "virtually" buying whatever items they want, advertising how they imagine they will live under different circumstances. Shoot, I guess there is no age limit to that. I could put together wardrobes of outfits I would wear and look terrific in if I was the same size I was in college. But that would just depress me. I suppose I could put together fantasy wardrobes of what I'd wear if I was a high-powered executive woman, but what's the point? While I personally don't have any need or desire to fantasize about alternate clothing realities, I can appreciate that perhaps other women would enjoy it. Polyvore is for them, check it out.

Old Navy / Gap / Banana Republic / Piperline Site Is Convenient

I needed to get some basic clothes for around the house and running errands. I didn't feel like stopping in the Old Navy yesterday when I was in town, and the errand was not worth a separate 30 minute one-way drive to me, so I checked out the website.

How convenient! I hadn't ordered from any of these stores except in person before, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are all connected online. So you can order from any or all stores for one flat $7 shipping rate. And if you have a credit card from any of the stores, there are free shipping options available.

Although I ordered most of my clothes from Old Navy, I wound up ordering a pair of jeans from the GAP that I wouldn't have gotten if I had to drive out to the store, since it's not convenient to the Old Navy location. And I got free shipping by using Terry's Banana Republic card. Although the Banana Republic IS convenient to the Old Navy here, it's useless for me since I've gained enough weight to look awful in their clothes. But it's one of the few places where the clothes are cut slim enough to look sharp on Terry.

Since I got free shipping, it actually saved me $4 plus 1 hour of free time over real shopping. I figure the amount of time I spent browsing online is roughly equivalent to the amount of time I would have spent in the store trying a few things on, yet I saved the travel time to and from the store, plus the $4 in gas I use each trip into Cville.

Bottom Line: They've done a good job merging their websites, and the $7 flat fee for shipping is very reasonable yet still easily avoided if you have one of their store credit cards.

MyShape Update

I'm still a fan of the site MyShape, but I was just shocked by a price differential. I checked there first to see if they had a dress I could wear to a wedding this weekend, and while I saw some that would be ok I didn't see anything I just *had* to have. I'm in Richmond near the Short Pump mall, so I checked the website for Nordstrom and saw the same dress that was on MyShape, but for $268 instead of the $384 that MyShape is charging. That's $116 more expensive at MyShape! That's huge.

It's also confirmation of my initial feeling that they were overpriced and why I've always waited for the clothes to go on sale before I buy anything at MyShape. When the dress gets to 70% off, then it's a good deal. I'm still going to shop at MyShape, it's really convenient, but now I will ALWAYS wait until items are marked down before I order anything.

To that end, I just got an email to use code SUMMER15 to get 15% off your order through Sunday.

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