Friday, May 1, 2020

The Three Lives of the Yellow Beach Skirt: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Skirt Upcycling Technique #4

There is currently no fabric shop in my city, and I'm living on a very small income. This summer my need for a modest, pretty dress led me to take apart a favourite dress and remake it...for the third time.

This crinkle cotton skirt started life 11 years ago as a delicate, half-lined beach skirt with a fold-over knit waistband. When I bought it from Ezibuy for NZ$10, I separated the skirt from the band, added a full lining of gingham, then reattached the waistband.

Oh, how I loved that skirt. But soon the stretch band lost elasticity, and I lost weight, a combination prompting me to remake the skirt into a tank dress, meaning the garment would hang from my shoulders and it wouldn't matter what fluctuations were taking place at my waist. For this I used a JayJays knit camisole with a double layer at the bust and adjustable straps.

After a few seasons of happy wearing with a blouse or tee shirt over the top, the knit fabric of the camisole was beginning to disintegrate around the top edge. To extend its life, I stitched a supportive lining (visible in the above photo) along that edge using a strip of the camisole that had been cut off when attaching the camisole to the skirt.

This 2019-2020 season as we skipped Spring and jumped straight into Summer's intense heat, I realized two things. One, I wasn't wearing that dress because the worn knit camisole now felt a little icky. Two, the summer temperatures experienced here mean I need to avoid knit fabrics if I want to stay cool.

The woven fabrics of the skirt were still in excellent condition, so once again I unpicked the knit upper portions. This time I created a fitted, zipped bodice of woven fabrics (worn below with an overblouse of burnout cotton).

The yellow striped sleeveless bodice is a delicate polycotton I had in my fabric stash. I lined it with Egyptian cotton from a bed sheet given to me by a friend whose husband wears through his side of the bed linens with unfortunate rapidity. I'm sorry she has to buy new sheets so often, but I feel very blessed that I'm on the receiving end of this luxurious, quality cotton that feels silky soft and cool against the skin.

I've learned two things from the many lives of this outfit:
  • Clothing made of quality, natural fibre woven fabrics is worth the effort to acquire because it lasts so well.
  • As long as fabric endures in good health, it holds possibilitied as wearable and a potential money saver.

If you're interested in limiting your waste footprint and reducing your financial expenditure, take a second look at the old fabrics you've been thinking are past their usefulness. Your favourites may gift you another life of wear after all.

Napier Art Deco Festival 2020

Now you know a fabulous trick for upcycling a secondhand skirt into a new and gorgeous dress for very little cost.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Aqua Splash: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Skirt Upcycling Technique #5

How not to wave goodbye to a favourite skirt that no longer fits

So you've put on weight and your favourite ankle-length skirt no longer fits? You feel like you should give it away, but you love it soooo much. I know how you feel.

Assuming that the fabric is still in reasonable condition, this post details a way to alter it so you can continue wearing your favourite skirt.

My skirt was already lined, in a soft dobby cotton that is part of what makes it so blissful to wear. If your skirt is not lined, you can create a lining in the same shape as your skirt, which will make it super quick to create neckline and armholes. Alternatively, you can hem them or use bias binding.


Unpick any elastic or band at the skirt waist, preserving as much fabric length as you can. Press the waist seam open.

Fit Test

Check that the skirt is roomy enough for the skirt waist to fit over your shoulders. The easiest way to do this is to lay the skirt over top of a sleeveless dress or tank top that already fits you. If you want to utilize the full length of the skirt, the skirt waist seam will become your shoulder seams.

If the skirt is not wide enough, but it does fit under your arms, use the Skirt Upcycling Techniques (detailed in Boutique Narelle posts listed under the Frugalista Dressmaking tag) that turn a skirt into a yoked dress.

If it is too wide for your shoulders, you'll need to cut it to fit your shoulders and realign the side seams to fit under your arms.


Before you cut, decide if the neck opening is going to be big enough to pull over your head. If you want a closer fitting neckline, you'll need to insert a zipper at the back or front. If the skirt already has a zipper, you may need to lower it to match where your new neckline will sit. I had plenty of width so I removed the zipper entirely and stitched up the seam.


Using pins to replicate the fit of your sample dress or tank top, mark on the skirt where you want the neckline and the armholes, making sure there is sufficient seam allowance.

Cut and Sew

Cut out the shape of the neckline and armholes, extract the lining, and sew the shoulder seams on the dress and lining separately.

If you don't have a lining, bind or hem the neck and armholes, press, and you're done.
If you do have a lining, reinsert the lining (ensure right sides together) and sew around the neckline and armholes. Clip the curves and trim the seam allowance. Understitch the seams to help them sit flat. Turn the garment right side out. Finish off by pressing the seams.

Extra Fit Tip

My skirt had a lot of fullness which created a lot of bulk between the armholes at the back. I cinched this fullness by sewing D-ring loops with ribbons attached for a pretty and easy way to create shape at the waist.

Now you know a nifty trick for upcycling a secondhand skirt into a new and gorgeous dress for very little cost.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Yoked Tunic Dress in Denim: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Following on from my posts about the Speedy Tank Dress and the Green Yoked Tunic Dress

Have you ever been in that desperate state where you wail, "HELP! I need a new dress, it's got to be modest, and I only have a few dollars to spend on it!!!"

Clothing availability, coverage, and cost are factors that often bring a modest-hearted woman to feelings of desperation. I had an urgent need for a warm modest dress. Here's what got me out of that desperate place.

Skirt Upcycling Technique #3:

Yoked Tunic Dress Revisited in Denim

A few months prior, I had come up with a new technique, turning a skirt into a tunic dress by setting the skirt's waist under the armpits and sewing a bodice yoke to the skirt waist band. It worked the first time, so I decided to try it again.

This denim skirt is onto its second upcycle. The first round (pictured above), I removed the elastic waistband and sewed the skirt onto a knit tank top. For the second round, I unpicked the tank top from the skirt, and prepared a bodice yoke to fit to the skirt, turning it into a tunic dress.
Finding a fabric match for the denim was the first challenge. The only piece in my fabric stash that worked was a navy polycotton which would be great for the yoke lining.

I went hunting at nearby SaveMart recycled clothing store and compared a collection of wide scarves. I took a risk with a loosely woven viscose because the colours went so perfectly with the tones in the denim. At $10, it wasn't cheap, but having seen the denim and viscose together, it was 😍 and I really, really wanted to keep them together.

The loose weave and delicate nature of the viscose scarf (featuring the word PARIS and a picture of the Eiffel Tower) were in stark contrast to the sturdy and durable denim. I improved the viscose stoutness by adhering a thick iron-on interfacing to it and careful edge-stitching to hold the threads in place and reduce wear to the seam allowance while I worked. The yoke lining was given a lighter interfacing, and the two yoke layers were top-stitched to give added support to the still-mobile viscose threads.

The risk and effort have been worthwhile. Wearing this yoked tunic dress makes me feel warm, comfortable, feminine, modest, and classy. It has earned a number of approving comments, so I know that other people are enjoying it too.

Now you know a fabulous trick for upcycling a secondhand skirt into a new and gorgeous dress for very little cost.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Blue Tank to Tunic Dress: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Tank Upcycling Technique #1:

Turn a Tank Top into a Tunic Dress

Thrifty Tricks for Modest Sporty Women:
Low-budget fashion tips to keep you stylish, safe, and covered while active outdoors

The Design Challenge

Early in my exploring of ways to cheaply and quickly add classy options to my activewear, I discovered the technique of adding a skirt to a sleeveless top or tank. 

This tunic with faux kick pleat was my first trial of that concept. I was just starting to cycle, so garment length and hem width were also experimental. My goal was a knee-length tunic. Keep reading to find out why I didn't achieve that.

The shaped tank top, bought secondhand at nearby SaveMart for about $5, is viscose, soft, drapey, and durable. The fit is excellent -- loose without looking like a sack.

I had a strip of cotton denim that was a good colour match. Basing the skirt design on an adorable dress with contrast kickpleats that my mother had been sewing for her granddaughters, I found a way to recreate the look with the limited fabric I had available.

I folded the selvedges to create an attractive horizontal border that showed off the rightside/wrongside contrast of the denim, and used bias binding to join the panels and add further impact. To hem, I sewed a zigzag stitch 15mm above the raw skirt hem then pulled out the horizontal threads as far up as the stitching, creating a fringe.

My next step was to sew the tank and skirt together. At this point I found that the top ratio greatly outweighed the skirt ratio, and the weight of the denim created unsightly ripples in the viscose where the seam sat level with my crotch. So I created big tuck pleats in the tank until the bottom-to-top ratio looked balanced and the problem seam had enough support for the weight.

This outfit has been great for cycling to the post shop, clambering on rocks, harvesting seaweed, gardening, bush walks, and relaxing at an urban barbecue. I feel smart, modest, and feminine, while also knowing my limbs have the freedom of movement demanded by my activities.

This viscose/denim combination is easy wash-and-wear. The only aspect other than a bit more length that I'd want to change is creating more hem width, because the stress where the pleat flaps join has been more than the fabric and stitching could well sustain (see seruptitious repairs in photo of garment interior).

I originally paired the tunic with wide-leg Tencel jeans, but I've grown out of them. Wide-leg trousers are hard to come by at present, so I'm modelling this outfit with stovepipe jeans.

Now you know a fabulous trick for upcycling a secondhand tank top into a new and classy dress for very little cost.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!