dress upcycled from a tablecloth
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The reveal!

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (Camille Pissarro)

And it’s over. The summer and the #usedtobeatablecloth challenge too. Hopefully some of you have found inspiration here in the past few weeks, and there are tablecloths out there turned into something wearable and cherished.

Two sewing friends definitely did, and turned their charity shop finds into some beautiful pieces of clothing.

Marijana, from Sew2Pro, found a very similar tablecloth to what I made my Little White Dress from. She decided to dye it to indigo and made a spaghetti strap summer dress. I really love the placement of the lace details and the interesting neckline, and as far as I know there is some leftover fabric, so watch that space!

Kaci, from Textile and Stitch, bought this crochet tablecloth for a mere $1 and turned it into something Anthropologie would sell for about 200 times more. 🙂 I think it’s super difficult to find anything crocheted that doesn’t look too cute or granny like, but with the simple design and it being monochrome, she managed to pick something that goes very well with a contemporary outfit. It might just be my laziness, but I always love a nice use of the border for the hems, and the ones on this jacket look absolutely perfect.

And I’m done with my dress too, finally…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

We went to my favourite park to have a picnic and take some photos (thank you Robbie!), and I think I got a bit more comfortable than I was supposed to in this kind of dress, so I had to pull the dress up a few times… I am now thinking of inserting boning into the sides and maybe even into the front seam lines, but it’s not high on my list of priorities at the moment.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

I already went into detail about how this dress came together, so I will not bore you with that anymore. 🙂 While I was making it, I felt that excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time during sewing.

You know, that feeling when you can see something you are working on taking shape, and you haven’t eaten for 5 hours, because you just don’t want to waste time on that instead of getting to the point where you can try it on for the first time. And you try it on. And you realise that even though you will probably only wear it a handful of times, whenever you look at it you will still be happy that you have created something you find beautiful.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

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The birthday dress

    You might have guessed by now, I’m one of those crazy people who get irrationally excited about their birthday. It’s not that I like to be celebrated, and I don’t particularly like getting gifts (unless it’s for no reason), but I like to treat my birthday as my special day. The one day of the year when I notice the small things too and tend to remember most of it even years later. It’s also that one day when I get to be as overdressed as I wish without feeling bad about it. 😉 So this year the plan is to get this vintage dress out of the box, make it into a pretty little cocktail dress, go to Frank’s to watch the sun go down, and go home dancing?!

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress it is

     I bought this crazy 80’s grandma’s summer dress a few years ago in a charity shop in Budapest. I really loved the print and was planning on making something unexpected from it, but have always been too scared to cut into it. Practically it is still intact, but the other day in the middle of my 18 hour-long procrastination marathon, I picked the dress up and decided to just go (relatively) simple and make something out of it. Right after this, I sat down to sketch how it’s going to look, then one thing led to another and I made the below little illustration in a mere 8 hours.

     I probably could have actually finished the dress in that time, but what the hell, I’ve learned how to colour the dress bit with a pattern instead of a solid colour in Photoshop, so now I am basically unstoppable when it comes to future garment planning. I might as well just give up sewing and draw clothes on my super realistic little body from now on… Anyway, here is the master plan:

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress design

   I think I will use the same pattern as for the backless dress from Burdastyle, and I might take the chance to try to use boning to hold the whole thing tight on my bust. I probably have to ditch the buttons on the back altogether and use an invisible zip instead, for similar reasons. I already feel a little less excited now that there’s a plan and all, but one day I’ll surely make it!to be continued

Image of Frank’s found here.

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TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting, Wardrobe Architect

Week 1: Making style more personal

Dear friends, curious old classmates, fellow pedestrians, if you ever wondered why I dress the way I dress, this post might help you find out! I am waaaaay behind the Wardrobe Architect project, but it’s better late than never, right? So here it goes! (Please excuse my excessive use of brackets (I do apologise (for the personal photo album too.).).)

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As you can see I had killer style when I was in kindergarten. 🙂 I also remember being pretty happy in the clothes my parents picked out for me and my sister, (my dad was the fashionista in the family back in the days…). As a teenager, I guess I just wanted to feel comfortable in my clothes and with my body and not stand out from the crowd even more (I am not the typical Hungarian looking girl, you see). It basically meant covering up as much of my body as possible, in fact that photo of the blue sundress is a rare one. It was taken in Athens and it was extremely hot and that was probably the only time I worn something like that since I was a child. When I moved to London I experienced what’s it like not to be bothered with what other people might think about me for the first time in my life, so I started experimenting with my looks. In the past 2 years I think I’ve managed to be more conscious about wearing the pieces I feel best in, although I sometimes feel like I dress a little old for my age.

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

Although I find many “green” movements rather questionable, I feel very strongly against wasting anything. I would like to explore more ways to reuse existing resources and reducing the clutter around me. Having a wardrobe that expands only by adding handmade pieces to it, would be another step for me in moving away from the way too fast high street fashion. When I discovered the magic of buying vintage/charity shop clothing, the most appealing factor was not only the uniqueness of the pieces, but also the fact that you are saving a piece of history by giving it new life.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I’m half Hungarian and half Nigerian. Although I appreciate my fashionable “heritage”, the well known traditional Hungarian embroidery, and I love the African print fabrics and headwraps worn all over Nigeria, none of these  have inspired me in choosing what to wear in my everyday life…yet! I do find the so called “etno” look desirable on others, but I don’t feel like myself when I occasionally wear an afro during the summer, when I’m too lazy to straighten my hair.

Image sources:  from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I have never dressed according to any subcultural “dress code”, since I never belonged to any such groups. I kind of hate to admit it, but the biggest influence on my style is my sister, who has a flawless style and always inspires me to at least try to be a tad bit more elegant and classy. Although while she likes to dress appropriately to every occasion, I prefer to wear whatever I feel good in.

How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

I stubbornly cycle  e v e r y w h e r e. Come rain or shine, I’ll go by bike. I would like to think it’s not mere stubbornness though, or my hatred of public transport, but a statement I make everyday about not being lazy and doing something no one around me does, something I’ve never thought I could do. Long story short, I need clothes to do all that cycling in. And I don’t mean head to toe lycra obviously, but normal clothes that allow me to move my legs, heavy enough to retain my modesty in the London wind, and won’t be destroyed by a little rain every now and  then.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Activity

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I am a Londoner now, and even though everybody hates this weather, I kind of love it. I come from a place with four seasons, two rainy ones, one extremely hot and one extremely cold, so I’m happy with the moderate climate and I’ve made peace with the sometimes constant rain too (it really is just water!). This means you can wear pretty much whatever you want, and I bet that’s why London is one of the fashion capitals.

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

Since I was a teenager I’ve had rather sensitive skin which is actually why I got interested in fashion. I had to find creative ways to hide the problematic areas and show whatever was left. I also turned from alarmingly skinny to healthy, to bigger… and now back to curvy (I guess), but to be honest, my weight has never played as big a part in my wardrobe planning as my skin, even though I wouldn’t mind having leaner legs…and arms, etc. Because of this, I feel most comfortable in flouncy skirts and black tights, high neck- and waistlines, short jackets and I’ve learned to love anything backless. I don’t really like wearing jeans or trousers, anything low-cut and short skirts or dresses that hide my waist, which happens to be the slimmest part of my body.

In the next task I will be making a moodboard based on the the words I associate with the clothes I wear and the way they make me feel, but before I bore the hell out of whoever reads this (thank you guys! ;)), I’ll show you my brand new little pleather skirt (that’s not a typo!).

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Inspiration #2: Wingback chair refashion

I found this wingback chair on a rainy Friday night, dumped on the street, a couple of months ago. It looked rather old (according to the paper attached to it inside, it was made 54 years ago!), it was wet, it smelled, and was crying out to be reupholstered. I know very little about upholstery, but it seemed to have good bones under the dirty fabric, so I asked a friend to help me drag it home.

vintage 50's wingback chair

Then it stood on the balcony for another few weeks before I decided it was time to be brave, and spent 6 long hours to strip all the fabric off. That was 6 very long hours of pulling nails out with the help of a screwdriver and with the constant fear of poking my eyes out. Not even at this point did I know how I wanted it to look, but I knew 3 things:

  • I wanted to use piping on it;
  • I had some beautiful Dutch wax fabric from Togo on hand;
  • and the fact that I madly love anything velvet.

I had a harder time finding instructions and inspiration on Pinterest and online in general, but I stumbled upon a few sources that still make me wish I could start the chair redo all over again. Co-Lab’s boards, this one or, well,  my own dedicated board is worth checking out for some good ideas, but here are the ones that really got me thinking:

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12.

Inspired by these images, I came up with the idea of upholstering it with grey velvet (or mustard yellow. Or soft pink…or any colour, really) and using hand printed burlap (that was an over-ambitious idea, I know now) on the back of it. Then I went food shopping on a lazy Saturday afternoon to Peckham, and the next thing I knew was that I was walking out with THE fabric in my hand. Obviously, prior to the walking bit, there was a 45-50 minute period when I tried to describe what the selected 4 rolls of fabrics looked like to my sister, as well as taking rubbish photos of it to help the case move along. wingback chair refashionedWith her gentle nod and my strong desire to make something sophisticated, I went with the (little did I know) trickiest fabric. I was very close to giving it all up half way through, but I didn’t. So stay tuned, I’m almost there!

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Ready & waiting

1920’s perfection

A-m-a-z-i-n-g dress. Beautiful details. I haven’t seen anything this perfectly put together in a long time and at first I thought it was recent design it looks so timeless. Oh, enough already, right?! 🙂

1920s Blue Silk Devore Beaded Flapper.

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Ready & waiting, Refash.

Losing my thrift store virginity

As unbelievable as it sounds I have never bought anything from a classic thrift store before yesterday. I have two pairs of too small and/or unrepairable shoes and some charmingly faulty rings from proper vintage shops, but I did not make a good deal buying them and they aren’t really outstanding either. So yesterday, when I first stepped into one of the bigger ones -in Budapest-, armed with my whole salary and spotting an apple green Ralph Lauren shirt in the first 2 minutes I knew instantly that I was in for a ride…The Secret Costumier - Vintage Ralph Lauren shirtLong story short, I came home with the not-even-my-style-but-looks-good-on-anyone Ralph Lauren shirt (1900Ft/£5.50), a pale pink scarf (1200 Ft/£3.50), a surprisingly well cut jacket from Primark (2500 Ft/ £7.20) and a floral/lace top from Topshop (1200 Ft/£3.50). Sure there is a tiny yellowish spot on the shirt, the Topshop top is way too wide and way too short to wear it without something underneath, but I might turn the top into a lingerie set of some sort, and well… I am actually genuinely happy with the pink scarf. The jacket turned out to be matching the trousers I bought when I found out that I got a job in an office with a dress code, so now I have a suit! 🙂The Secret Costumier - Primark jacket

P.S. :Sorry about the wrinkled clothes, they are straight out of the washing machine…and the yellow spot on the green shirt disappeared. Yeey!

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