Material Mash-ups #1: The boring but beautiful grey dress

Bring on the material mash ups!  My latest inspiration for customising and upcycling my clothing came initially from the fact I can no longer fit my hand into parts of my wardrobe to retrieve the well-loved items hiding at the back.  This resulted in a serious clothing cull, which in turn resulted in a pile of loved but uninspiring beauties too good to throw, to boring to wear.

My second wave of inspiration came from this great post by Gema Enserat at Sequins and Slippers about her Summer Customising Challenge.  It may be time to accept that your (my) natural craft skills may not lie in pattern cutting, finishing, or tailoring a garment BUT if you feel inspired to transform the clothes you have and can identify manageable and effective alterations then make the most of it and harness that creativity!  I should point out here that Gema is a seamstress – I am very much not so, certainly at this moment in time, transforming the shape of a garment is still beyond me…

I have a lot of anxiety around customising clothing (which you can read more about here): mainly in terms of the results looking a bit too arts and crafts; unpolished even, but I’m biting the bullet and hopefully over the next few weeks will prove that seamstress or no seamstress (again I just want to emphasise my place in the no seamstress arena), you can revamp, re-invigorate and re-love your old pieces with minimum stress.


So here we go.  the first in my series of material mash-ups.  Enter the boring but beautiful grey dress:

I bought this a few years ago from Gap as a useful, well fitted dress I could wear for interviews and when I needed to look a bit smarter.  Even then it was pretty unexciting.  I normally teamed it with coloured tights and bright chunky jewellery but over time it’s made it out of my wardrobe less and less.  The frustrating thing is it’s actually a really useful item because it’s a decent length so I can wear it at work, visiting schools etc and it has pockets – dresses with well hidden but large pockets are like gold dust.  Fact.

I’m actually happy with the shape.  I just need to find a way to make me want to wear this dress!  So my plan is to add ribbon and embroidery details in bright neon colours – nothing too thick or too showy so it doesn’t work against the grey of the dress, but just enough to add some interesting detail and give a little pop of colour.

To work with the pleats in the bodice I chose three colours of satin feel ribbon and lay them in vertical lines.  I sewed these into place using a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine.

welcome colour!
welcome colour!

Next up I used three colours of embroidery thread that matched my ribbon to add embroidered details just above the waist band.  I stitched these freestyle and used a series of waves for the design… but to be honest I made up most of the design as I went.

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I then decided to add another element of embroidery on the skirt.  This time I used an air erasable fabric pen to mark out my spiral waves pattern and used a simple backstitch to embroider over the lines.  As you can see in the images below my initial design was much more complicated that what I finished with.  Once I had the three colours on there I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design.  I may go back and add some more but I want to wear the dress with it’s new look first.

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And here’s the finished product!


Photography by Hannah Cox.  Covered under copyright © creativise

Please don’t use without asking and always link back to my blog


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