Formal Desperation

There’s a first time for everything, and I let a formal event on November 23rd sneak up on me, in that I had nothing to wear. I planned on wearing my daughter’s dress but waited until Thanksgiving night to try it on and it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Frantically rummaging through every closet in the house, I stumbled upon this sequined dress I bought in 1994. I’ve been hoping to shrink back into it, but desperate times call for desperate measures and out came the scissors and a roll of Steam-a-Seam. I cut nine inches off of the dress and placed Steam-a-Seam along the lower edge. After removing the Steam-a-Seam backing, I secured the hem in place with the iron, using a silk organza press cloth. Within 15 minutes I had an acceptable top to pair with a black silk skirt I bought in 2004.

“Not so quick, Mom.”

My daughters, home for the holiday, advised me to shorten the sleeves to give some distance between the sleeve edge and the top of the glove.  

Another 15 minutes on the sleeves and I was ready.

“Do you have a sash, Mom?”

Fortunately I had a black silk organza sash.

Now I was set.  30 minutes and zero $$ investment.

Luckily it all worked out, but I vow to be better prepared next time – even if I do decide to upcycle an 18-year-old too tight dress!

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89 Responses to Formal Desperation

  1. Minnie Me says:

    Oh well done! Though I do know that desperate feeling of need something special now and what do I do? Hope you enjoyed your night you look lovely.

  2. Stunning!! I never would have guessed that was an “upcycle”! I just cleans out my closets and got rid of tons of too-small things.. Now I’m sort of regretting it!

  3. Pauline Droy says:

    I am in a similar situation in that I have a work Xmas dinner on the 8th December (two weeks way) and need to make something for it. I only have next weekend, and part of that will be taken up running back and forth to Oxford to collect stuff from my son’s flat (6 hour round trip) – I am off to Dubai for work between 3rd-6th so I may be seeing what I can revamp at this stage lol. Your new outfit is stunning and well worth the effort.

  4. Joyce Love says:

    Lovely! You have such a great fashion sense!

  5. Myra says:

    Awesome job! This is definitely a beautiful ensemble! You must keep this one for future wear, it’s beautiful!! Someone else who doesn’t sew would probably pay a high price for this very same top! Again, great work!

  6. Ruth says:

    Now wait a minute…. You had nothing to wear????
    Anyway, what a marvellous remake. You look great, as always

    • It’s true….. Most of the formals and balls I go to are in the spring.I rarely go to all-out formals in Nov/Dec…… lots of black ties around holiday time but tails, gloves and gowns have been rare this time of year where I live.
      Anyhow, it all worked out and the evening was lovely. Thanks for writing!!

  7. hazel walker says:

    simply charming…………. you look gorgeous…… and your young man looks pretty pleased with the results also. Now here, in m y wardrobe, I REALLY truly would have ‘nothing to wear” I would probably go to the charity shop and find something to make-do-and-mend. Tomorrow I am off to my treat-of-the month……. we travel 144 mile return journey every 28 days for my husband to have a 6 hour infusion in hospital, I have recently discovered a wonderful sewing teacher, and I have a 6 hour one to one lesson……….. am I in heaven or what?? I have made a winter coat, a winter jacket, and am making a knitted jacket, my problem is finding suita ble fabric the lovely websites in the USA don’t want to sent internationally……. so frustrating.

  8. You’ve made lemonade out of lemons Hazel! What a wonderful thing for you to look forward to in the midst of your husband’s hospital visits. Surely there are online fabric stores that ship to the UK………Many thanks for your kind comment, my man just loves being called YOUNG :) :)

  9. Cissie Wellons says:

    Your re-do is smashing! Also, is there anything better looking than a man in a white tie and tails? I think not. (A white dinner jacket somes in a close second!) Wish we women had it so easy. Men get to wear the same thing year after year and have ladies swooning! You both look stunning!

  10. 54pineapples says:

    Lovely. You look terrific!

  11. gingermakes says:

    Phew! Just in the nick of time! Unfortunately, this super-successful refashion may just fuel future procrastination! ;) You look gorgeous!

  12. jstarr4250 says:

    Sheer brilliance! There is no wardrobe emergency that can’t be conquered when we look into our closets with a sewist’s eyes and a roll of steam a seam in hand! You both look wonderful.

  13. artattack024 says:

    I would say “dream-a-seam” is more apropos…what a fabulous upcycle!

  14. mzsweetpea says:

    What can I say…Steam a Seam to the rescue…..and what a great idea on your part! LAURA

  15. Laura says:

    What a beautiful outfit! I’m glad it all worked out.

  16. Oooo sparkles! And gloves. You both look gorgeous. There’s nothing like a bit of organised, um, mad panic sometimes hey?

  17. Mrs. K says:

    Beautiful outfit and a very handsome couple!

  18. Alethia says:

    Wow, what a great refashion! Even better that was $0 and at the spur of the moment. I am VERY impressed! You make me think. I have a few functions this coming month. My mind is racing as to what I have in my closet and what I can do with Steam-a-Seam,hmmm!!
    Your final outcome is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks to your daughters as well for their quick suggestions.
    And, what a beautiful couple you make! Thanks for sharing.

    • Alethia says:

      I hope you don’t mind, but I shared this post and your picture on my Facebook page. I have inserted a link back to the complete post.
      I thought others would be fascinated reading about what you can do with a little imagination and some steam-a-seam. ;o)

  19. svs22 says:

    U look fabulous I bow to you. Enjoy

  20. petra mclean says:

    fantastic, lovely dress and you look like a million

  21. Florencia says:

    OMG you look S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G!!! And you even had time to take pictures of every step of your upcycle! Thanks for sharing!!!

  22. Lori says:

    Wow, what a transformation. You look great.

  23. Carolanne says:

    Unbelievable….I am in awe of the transformation and how you pulled it all together! It just occured to me the very project I’m working on and having a great deal of trouble with due to the type of fabric I’ve chosen, would be rectified immediately with Steam-a-Seam…goin’ to get me some tomorrow! :D Thank you!

    • Steam-a-Seam is miraculous! I believe you need to stitch because it may not bond after laundering, but I wasn’t about to stitch on top of sequins. Good luck!

      • Carolanne says:

        Steam-a-Seam was the absolute answer! Thank you! Working with a fine chiffon-y type fabric that was fraying like a b%tch had me believing it was destined for the trash. 1/4″ steam a seam not only finished the edges of the sleeves, but gave the ruffled bottom hem almost a “flirty” finish! Thank you again for your most helpful post!

  24. You are amazing! I’m impressed with your resourcefulness and speed. And the sleeves look just perfect, so its probably good you shortened them.

  25. Carola says:

    I’m amazed that you kept the dress for that long if it didn’t fit… I guess I’m too quick with my culling and can see now that maybe I should think a little more outside the square. You look amazing the scalloped neckline is very flattering! I can see why you couldn’t part with it and I’m glad you were able to upcycle it. Very inspiring. Quick question: we don’t have “steam a seam” here in Australia but I keep reading how wonderful it is… can you wash your garments without the hems ever coming loose? Or do you also need to top stitch down the track? Carola

  26. CherryPix says:

    How elegant! Love the gloves with it….good advice from DD’s to get sleeves looking just right!

  27. Gail says:

    I think you’re lucky the shorter dress didn’t fit. You look so elegant. A perfect solution and your partner looks very dashing.

  28. Maggie Edger says:

    Looks great to me. A. Maggie

  29. Barbara says:

    Absolutely amazing! Your work is fantastic! As others have pointed out, I don’t think I would have any anything in my closet that would have worked in such short notice. I love the belt and the ensemble is perfect. Great job! You guys look fantastic!

  30. Carol says:

    Love the combo! Absolutely love it! Chalk 1 up for creative juices!

  31. Carolyn says:

    First I’m amazed that you have such wonderful evening wear hanging out in your closets! Second, your refashion of the dress to a top with that evening skirt is just awesome. Your creative juices are flowing on max. Hope you had a wonderful time at the event!

  32. Joy says:

    Your refashioned top really turned out fabulous! I love the added sash! you look gorgeous in complete outfit!

  33. Karen says:

    Now if I were you, I would have been secretly gloating over my cleverness all evening! All kidding aside, this was a perfect make-do. What fun to see it all come together – and aren’t daughters wonderful?

  34. Leslie R. says:

    Great refashion. I think I had a top with those same sleeves. I never really liked the sleeves so I tossed it. What was I thinkin’

  35. Lizzie says:

    What a beautiful outfit, and what a beautiful couple!

  36. Joen says:

    Your formal look turned out fabulous!

  37. poppykettle says:

    You’ve got me in fits of giggles here…. such a stunning end result though! It’s exactly the kind of thing I would do… leave it to the last minute. I love how you’ve saved your dress… and it gets another lease on life – win win!! Totally gorgeous.

    • Ah….. thanks, Poppykettle :) I was so convinced my daughter’s dress would work so well that I didn’t bother to try it on until the night before the event! Never again and I’m just it all worked out!

  38. Amy says:

    You both look fabulous! I think you were meant to wait so long in order to give new life to this fabulous top. Scallops and sequins – no one would know it wasn’t from this season! And, I’m going to have to try out some steam-a-seam…

  39. what a great recycle and new life for the sequin top . (I am a sucker for sequins and would wear them daily if I wouldn’t get strange looks) you both look great.

  40. Bubbles says:

    I love your blog. It is so inspirational.

  41. I love the outfits you’ve made. But I have been dying to tell you how I love your hair! What do you do to style it?

  42. Pendle Stitches says:

    You make such a gorgeous couple…and your outfit is just amazing. You’d never guess it was a mad rush to get it finished

  43. Ann says:

    You look stunning in your refashioned top! I never would have thought of that. Love the entire ensemble!

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