Thursday, January 9, 2014

From the 3Rs to 4

The three Rs are a great education pun; Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic were my life as a teacher (well, perhaps not the 'rithmetic one), but in 2014 I'm embracing a new set of Rs. Ones that actually start with R too:


My new 4R mentality is all about educating myself - and others - about the  potential of vintage, found, second-hand and broken-down items, and I'm starting with clothing. This year I'm dedicating myself to reimagining vintage gems found at sales and in the back of my wardrobe, as well as reaching out and helping more people get the most of their existing stuff too.

Last year I went shopping with friends a few times at Vintage Per Kilo (my favourite Netherlands vintage institution) and other vintage shops and markets in Amsterdam. Each trip was a real eye-opener for someone that is used to doing her own alterations and refashions: I learnt that others don't consider making changes to make an item fit them, and I saw my friends prepare to leave fabulous pieces behind, presumably to live in sadness and regret forevermore...

For example, my beautiful but very (naturally) slim friend lamented the lack of little-waisted items for her, and told me how this stopped her from buying vintage. On our VPK trip she collected a number of great skirts in her blue plastic bag, only to discard each one at the mirror after seeing them swim on her tiny frame. Such a travesty! I couldn't stand for it, so stepped in, convinced her to buy the skirts (not a great risk at only €15 a kilo), and set about styling and sewing with her, altering those great finds to fit her body shape. She was thrilled, and has since bought a sewing machine to learn the how-tos herself.

Another friend had a wedding extravaganza with SIX dresses to cover the weekend celebrations. Five of them were vintage, in various states of disrepair, and one of these was a magical polka-dot number that needed a complete restyle to be The Dress for the ceremony. I had an absolute ball making the repairs and adjustments for her, meeting her desire for an eco-conscious and unique wardrobe, and seeing her beautiful smile over the weekend as she was bedecked in vintage bridal gorgeousness.

Polka-dot dress refashion: Ho-hum and dated to daring and backless.
Note the damage in the middle pictures - the fabric practically
disintegrated as I was sewing! The last two pictures of the
happy bride and groom were taken by the talented Peter Lipton.

End-of-year reflection is such a good thing, and I was surprised to see that as well as these experiences I had devoted a lot of 2013 to giving advice, making alterations and repairs and even holding sewing nights for my friends who were interested in learning the skills that were commonplace just a couple of generations ago. I have loved every minute of it, and so can only imagine what joys lie in 2014 now that I've decided to really focus on this kind of thing. It's exciting!

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a perfect sewer - I don't have a lot of patience, and avoid pre-ironing like the plague - however I'm enthusiastic and that's really the best foundation to any creative pursuit. I see the potential in the cut of a dress, and the magic of sewing 'tweaks', and this year I'm also really committed to honing my skills and doing things 'properly' - I've already sewn a basted neckline into a refashioned dress instead of 'cheating' with a little rolled hem!

My first official 4R project of the year has been this business shirt refashion.

I'm really pleased with the cute result, and am looking forward to warmer weather so that my new pin-up style blouse can be seen outside the dance halls too. It's quite the transformation, hey? You might recognise the fabric - I used the leftover sleeves for my Insomniac Christmas Birds. Waste not, want not!

My business-shirt to pin-up top refashion, complete
with a little (detachable) ruffled flower clip.

What do you think?

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