I may have perfected the art of the man’s shirt to dress recon. Maybe.

I have a minor obsession with men’s button-down shirts, as you might have noticed from previous posts and a strangely truncated run of tutorials therewith. I like that they arrive as pre-constructed things with lots of style and structure already; it’s fun to play around within the limits of the original shirt. And I’m finally starting to get really good at it. For example, here’s my latest baby:

If you’re a particularly obsessive reader of my blog, you might have noticed that this is the shirt I was complaining about in the post “On Failure.” I ripped out all the seams I’d sewn into it and began taking it apart with an eye toward making a little sundress. It’s a heavier fabric, but I like to wear short dresses into the fall, so I figure it’ll be okay. It’ll look especially nice with tights and cardigans.

If you look up at the dress, you’ll notice a particularly neat detail. See how it comes in at the waist and then fans out at the top? That was part of my multi-step solution for getting rid of the extra bulk of the fabric while still having a full skirt and bust.

You’ll also notice that there are no buttons on the front of this dress. That’s because my mother came in while I was doing a try-on, mentioned that the buttons were pulling in the front, and suggested I spin the dress around and wear it backwards. It turned out that it looked much better that way. Here’s the back:

The back is heavily darted and tailored because it was originally the front, but I think it looks good. I have a tendency to ignore the backs of dresses; maybe what I need to do is just make a front and then spin the dress around.

I’m feeling particularly autumn-y this week, maybe because I just got back from Portland and the Virginia stickiness is getting me down. So I put my electric fan on its highest setting and took a photo of the dress in its native environment, a fall outfit:

(Socks and boots both gifts from my mother, who knows exactly how to pick things for me. In case you can’t tell, the socks feature crows on a telephone wire.)

This outfit makes me so happy. It’s sort of innocent and country-girl but also sort of witchy, a perfect combination for fall. I have this whole story in my head that goes with it, and maybe later I’ll get myself out to a place where there are some hay bales and do a photo shoot. I can already tell that this is going to be one of my favorite outfits as soon as it gets cool enough to wear long socks again; in fact, I’ll probably wear it on a day I know is probably going to be too hot and then tell everyone I “misread the weather report.”

Total cost for this project? $2 and change, plus a lot of time. And a lot of seam-ripping. But turning failure into success is beyond price.

The corset formerly known as sundress

Apparently, my entire house is supported structurally and insulated against the weather by failed projects from my childhood, because today I found a box jammed up against the wall under my bed with a bunch of deformed clothing in it.

One particularly weird item was an ill-fitting sundress–a kind of Marilyn Monroe style thing with a drapey halter neck–that I’d made out of plaid. Not just any plaid, either. An almost Burberry plaid, a warm-toned one that was less picnic blanket and more foul-weather scarf. Although I’ve got to give it to my past self, she was pretty fearless. In honor of her, I decided to try a project that was out of my league: a corset.

I found this great tutorial online, and then altered the pattern to make the bottom of my corset look like the bottom of a suit vest. I used some of my collection of vintage buttons that my grandmother gave me. And this, my friends, is how it went:

I was kind of inspired by this Vivienne Westwood piece, although my tailoring “skills” are not nearly that “mad”, as the kids would say. I like the idea of making clothes that are edgy because they’re a little bit stuffy and a little formal. But whereas she took a classic tailored shape and added an insane plaid, I took a pretty classic plaid and went with a weird shape. See what I did there?

Right about the time I was congratulating myself about how I was doing Interesting Things With Textiles and how I might someday be a Big Designer…I realized that the plaid was facing sideways on two of the panels. Other seamstresses will feel my pain.