Sunday, March 7, 2021

Shabby Chambray Tunic Upgrade: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

 Upcycle an old tunic in 4 simple steps

I love being the recipient of donated clothing. It's a treasure trove of possibilities. I don't always get to wear the garments myself or use the fabric in my homemaking, but even if I end up giving them away to someone else, the exploration of potential is great fun. Very often, with a little creativity added, I do end up with something I love to wear.

The original state of this chambray tunic didn't look impressive - stained, a bit faded, and with deep armholes edged with a bulky wad of folded self-fabric trim. I marvelled that a designer would choose to position a wad of fabric under a woman's armpit... Anyway, I saw Possibilities.

The washed-out blue is not a good colour on my Spring complexion that's naturally blue-toned already, but given the permanent stains, I figured I'd only be wearing it in the garden. And as soon as I touched that soft, light cotton, I knew I very much wanted to wear it in the garden and I knew I'd feel very comfortable when I did.


The essential upgrades required for this to be achieved were as follows.

1. Remove those ugly arm bands and fit the side seams properly under my armpits.
2. Make bias binding to edge the armholes.
3. Use the rejected armhole fabric to create modesty-enhancing breast pockets.
4. Add a dome/press stud between gaping buttons.


Removing the armhole bands and shifting the side seams closer to the body removed most of the problem of immodest gaping. Adding bias binding to the armhole edges added an exta centimeter coverage and helped pull in the soft edges to maintain a firm, close fit.


Cut 40mm wide strips of fabric across the bias (at 45 degrees to the selvedge). *Photo examples from another project

If your strips aren't long enough, cut the ends at 45 degrees and stitch together with a very narrow seam. Press seams open.

Press the strip in half, then press one side in towards the centre fold. Stitch the other side to the garment at 10mm seam allowance (right side of tape to wrong side of garment). Press the seam open. Turn garment right side out. Pin or tack the tape to the right side of the armhole, and topstitch close to the edge.

The cotton gingham I used for the bias tape is light and soft, so I didn't trim off any of the 10mm triple-fold tape after sewing it to the armhole, allowing the bulk of the seam allowance to create a firm edge.


When I opened up the armhole fabric strips I'd carefully removed from the tunic, I found a fascinating combination of pleats and fade lines which I immediately knew I wanted to make a feature of the new version.

Throughout the process, I was careful not to press the pieces and lose those pleats. I sewed together the long edges of the two long strips, and from the length of this, cut two extra-wide pocket pieces, with the new seam running down the centre of each.

I cut a pocket lining (actual pocket width, plus seam allowance) from a matching cotton gingham, and interfaced it.

Photo from right to left: 1) old arm band pieces stitched together; 2) pleated chambray pinned to gingham lining; 3) chambray and lining stitched together and turned right side out. 4) Bias binding waiting above, one edge folded and pinned ready to be pressed (right), then (left) pins removed ready to sew the raw edge.

Right sides together, I pinned the chambray to the lining, pinching and folding the pleats and fade lines so they would show to advantage. (I didn’t tack them, which I regret, because one pleat switched direction under pressure from the sewing machine foot. Did you notice?)

I sewed around the edges of this pocket square, leaving a small gap in one side so I could turn it inside out.

I carefully pressed the seam edges of the pockets, still avoiding the centre pleats.

From left to right: 1) raw edge of bias binding ready to be sewed to the top edge of the pocket (right side to wrong side); 2) bias binding folded over to the right side and topstitched close to the edge.

I prepared bias binding from the gingham, and bound the top edge of the pockets. Now the pockets were ready to be topstitched to the tunic.

Voila! An old, stained tunic has a new lease of life, and I love wearing it. I had all the materials I needed in my stash. The only expense was in time and creativity.

Here endeth the tale of another satisfying and enjoyable Frugalista Fashion project. I hope you've found something beautiful and inspiring here today.

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

Fiat lux!

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