Altering: taking apart a whole or part of a garment, making adjustments and sewing it back together in the same style to make it fit better. Millions of American women can sew (30 million is the word on the street) – but its safe to assume that most of them hate to make fit alterations to an existing garment.
Refashioning: taking apart an existing garment and re-sewing all or parts of it back together to give it a different look. Most American seamstresses love to refashion. Also referred to as upcycling.
To me altering and refashioning are two sides of the same coin! Since I discovered the joys of refashioning some years ago, a few distinct ideas have gelled in my mind about the different areas the art of remaking clothing has settled into.
1. The Bespoke ReFashioner:
This category is personified by Junky Styling, a UK business, somewhat inaptly named, I think. The bad news is that it seems to be closed. The first time I came across it, I immediately ordered the book which chronicles the “Junky Styling, Wardrobe Surgery” journey into saving items from landfills. They (sometimes literally) turned existing garments upside down to create couture worthy items. Did you ever think this jacket was once a trench (they call it a rain mac, being Brits and all)? While some of their styles will probably not end up on my back, their bespoke-on-it’s-head look is admirable and inspiring.
2. The Everyday ReFashioner:
I use the word “everyday” because of lack of any other appropriate word. This sewer recycles items to be worn in daily life, so they must fit her lifestyle. Beth Huntington of Renegade Seamstress personifies this style of refashioning clothes – she is a kindergarten teacher and her clothing reflects that! Isn’t that how it should be? The content of Beth’s book consists of taking ill-fitting and outdated clothing from thrift shops and hitching them up, fitting them, maybe combining two items, and sewing them up into stylish, updated daily wear. I enjoyed reading Beth’s commentary in each chapter on how sad looking clothing called out her name. She writes refashioning tutorials for eHow.com, and provides a link in her blog posts. Beth has presented webinars for Burdastyle on refashioning clothes – a feather in her cap!
3. The Boho-Look (Sometimes Goth-Look) Refashioner:
This group, in my estimation, consists mainly of the younger sewing demographic; which is not to say that people my age are not part of this group. The example here is the content of the magazine Altered Couture by Stampington publishers. The magazine contributors seem to be inspired by the fabulous fashions of Anthropologie, as are the rest of us.
Pages of Altered Couture
4. The Fast Turnaround, Whiz Bang Refashioner:
Marisa Lynch of New Dress A Day comes to mind. Her aesthetic is as follows: dash-to-Goodwill, whack with scissors, pin, sew … and wear. Always, with great results. And, she has authored a book! Check out her blog – Marisa’s exuberance shines through the posts!
5. Self-Wardrobe Refashioner: And then there’s me. I don’t set foot in thrift shops because my own closet is the best thrift shop ever, or my daughters hand me something that they do not deem worthy of hanging in their closets anymore. Anything outdated is checked out for possible refashioning before discarding. Before a refashion, I have a good Q&A session with myself. Do I still love the original, outdated as it is? Is the fabric worthy of refashioning? Will I honestly be able to update the style? Here are some befores & afters.
JCrew original on the left. Hacked at right
Then the eternal question: What will I do with all the unsewn fabric in my stash if I keep upcycling my closet?
Can you think of more distinct categories of upcyclers? And, where would you list yourself, if you do happen to refashion clothing?
Well, I suggest that we all keep upcycling our clothing until it’s impossible to do it. But about the fabric stash………….
Here are some lovely refashioning blogs I follow on social media:
Happy Sewing! Think happy re-sewing thoughts!