upcycle: back to front dress for London Fashion Weekend

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brown vintage before & after

I was really pleased with the final result of this upcycle and I really enjoyed wearing the dress for my visit to #LFWEND and the V&A. It was my perfect combination of comfort, style and individuality.

Recently I have been reflecting on past posts and how I present information on my blog. I’m also teaching a Re-fashion Workshop which started on Saturday. I took along some finished upcycling projects and explained my design process, what I had liked about the original garment and how I had changed it. I then handed out some design templates, scribbled and talked the students through how I came to the design decisions that I had for a couple of my designs. Everyone enjoyed sharing ideas, bouncing off each other and getting to know the design process. So I thought I would try and introduce the design element to my blog posts.

This dress was a full deconstruction and re-make. It was a 1970s dress in a really good quality cotton, I loved the print and the full length of the dress but it was too small. When I buy a garment for upcycling, sometimes I have a clear idea of what I am going to do with it but more often, I will spot elements of the original that I like and work with those to come up with a final design. So usually, I put the original on the stand and pick out the original design details I like ….. these are the elements I want to keep in some way. I like to update a garment but it’s important to me that it echoes the original, particularly if it’s a vintage garment.

brown vintage - ODD

Working with the original design details, I have a browse of a few magazines and check out any trends I like that are complementary to the garment. If it’s a vintage piece, I’ll do some research online or have a browse through some good old-fashioned books! I will then come up with some upcycle design ideas. I loved that long, front, flat panel and thought it would look cool as the back of the dress. The zip then gives the new design an on-trend deep v-front, the metal zip reminding us of the age of the piece as you don’t see metal zips like these so much now.

brown vintage -UDI.1


Next, I try and work out how to realise my design, sometimes it’s straightforward but often, it’s just a case of diving in with a few ideas and figuring it out as I go along. Of course, that means it doesn’t always work out as planned but sometimes it’s better than I’m expecting. But that’s upcycling and that’s why I love it!

brown vintage - DR.rev1BV-deconstruction

Upcycling tip – when cutting new pattern pieces for reconstructing, its a good idea to use a garment that you already have to decide about the shape, fit, style and alterations required.

BV - insert panels


The front of a garment is cut quite differently to the back, particularly in ladies clothes so turning a bodice around is not straightforward. It’s invaluable to have a dress form that is the right size and shape for you in order to get a correct fit …. or a good friend who will adjust it whilst you model it.

shaping bodice.rev1


neckline shaping

BV- neckline facing

H&M have recently collaborated with London College of Fashion, supporting students to produce an upcycled collection during London Fashion Week. Fashion Revolution founder Orsola de Castro commented that upcycling should be taught as a design technique. It is great news that a big retailer, for all it’s faults, is embracing the idea and collaborating with the designers of tomorrow. Hopefully, this will lead to change.

On a personal level, by Upcycling, beautiful vintage garments can be brought back to life, textiles can be saved from the landfill pile and craft skills can be re-loved. And it is immensely satisfying to wear a garment you have made with your own hands.


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