Fat-bloke-shirt refashion

Normally my forays into RTW tend to disappoint but last year was exceptionally good. I could happily write a post on each of the 15 or so buys I made and why they worked. I even briefly wondered if I could stop sewing altogether (my sewing machine was out of bounds for months while the ground floor of our house got drastically redecorated). But then I decided I’d be dressing like every woman in every country where there’s TopShop or an H&M.

My favourite dress last summer was this linen TopShop “Bardot Midi” which my daughter thinks looks like an 80s sofa. I told her it really is an 80s throwback because it’s made of natural fibres! It’s very comfortable and I often wore it to work so I could sunbathe in the park in lunchbreaks. So what if I did see one or two other women wearing it!

I wanted to make a couple of similar items for next summer so I was very happy to find New Look 6512, with dress and top variations. It cost £7.50. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been difficult to draft such a top but I have so little time and I’ve not really made much that has elastic. I wasn’t sure what happens across that shoulder line. Is it just a dress truncated in a horizontal line, or is there a lot more ease? If yes, how much?

After years of self-drafting or indies, it was great to be in the comfort zone of a Big Four Commercial Pattern. The glide of the scissors as you trim pieces to your size…. The satisfying scrunch-up of waste… Returning the pieces, reduced of bulk, into their envelope….

The onset of panic when you realise that small piece you can’t find could be in the scrunched up waste you threw to the cat…

View D has a mock button placket. I thought I’d use a men’s shirt from the charity shop, the largest one I could find, and make use of the buttons on the centre front. I found a shirt sized 19 inches neck. You probably don’t believe blokes with 19 inch necks exist. Or if they do, they don’t wear suit shirts and work in offices (surely they’re employed at the plough, or guarding entrances to caves). But I’ve seen one! He takes the same train from Kent to Victoria as I and spreads his legs over two seats pretending he’s asleep so he doesn’t have to watch those standing and suffering.

Everything was going so well. This is a simple, easy pattern. I knew from reading reviews (there’s a nice version here) that it is a good idea to extend the bodice by up to 10 cm/4 inches or risk displaying a stomach and the bloke’s shirt yielded enough material for that. The shirt front stayed the front, the back is the back and the sleeves are the sleeves though I cut them upside down since in the pattern they get wider the lower you go. The yokes and sleeve tops were used for the facing and elastic casings (the join of sleeve to bodice is cleverly designed with a neat finish). It would have been a struggle to stretch the fabric to make straps too (I planned to make those out of ribbons, velvet!) and I omitted the lovely bow that attaches to the back. I’m far too old to trail ribbons.  I’m not Barbara Cartland!

I used 3.5 cm wide elastic instead of 1 cm in three rows which saved on stitching and elastic insertion. I made self-covered buttons to replace the thick, yellowing ones. These were sewn on so tightly that while removing them with thread snips (whilst watching Edward Scissorhands, ironically) I made a big cut in my index finger but like I said ‘everything was going so well’. Even though I bled profusely, the blood only marked the inside of the garment on the seam allowances.

And then I finished and realised it’s too big. Not one size too big but huge! As in ‘you can take the fat bloke out of the shirt, but…. you can’t take the fat bloke out of the shirt’….

Oh the Irony, Maiden.