Amateur Sewing Hour: How to Convert a Dress into a Top

img_8476I fell in love with the bird print the moment I saw it. What luck – 100% silk and bargain-priced at the used clothing store! The dress was too big, but I knew how to cut it down to size. At least I thought it did. Even though I tailored to fit, it still wasn’t quite right.

Not such a big print, you see, yet somehow it overwhelmed my petite frame. While the cinched waist looked good, the wide gathered skirt with pockets at the hips wasn’t doing me any favors. So today I decided to turn this dress into a top.

img_8477You may smirk and say my project is for the birds. It’s true that hemming tops is one of the hardest things I attempt on the sewing machine. But I knew this one was going to work out. Silk is a lot easier to handle – as opposed to stretch fabric (like a t-shirt). And I envisioned an empire top, which is basically like a really short dress, right?

I knew how to cut a circle skirt. I pinned it and cut nine inches off the bottom. Hey look, I can use the extra material to make a cowl (or a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl)! And how light as a feather I will feel with the weight of a hundred birds lifted off my hips. This is gonna be good.

img_8479Still smirking over there? This project isn’t so scary for an amateur. I turned the pockets into faux pockets by sewing them shut and cutting out the interior material. Then I started hemming the bottom at one of the side seams and slowing worked my way around, folding the narrow hem over twice as I went to get a clean look.

Now I’ll tell you an important tidbit that I learned from my one sewing lesson when I first bought my machine: you must iron to finish your work. I hate ironing (she whines), but I remember the teacher saying this: do you want people to ask “where did you get that fantastic thing?” or do you want them to ask “oh, did you sew that yourself?” Hmmm, must avoid looking home-sewn…..

img_8481-1The thing about hemming tops especially, is that the bottom often curls up. This, my friends, does not look professional. It looks like a mess. But with a fabric like silk, it’s very easy to steam iron the hem so that it lies flat. And suddenly your creation no longer looks like something you hacked with a razor. It looks like a bona fide top!

I love this look – it’s the perfect length to be layered with a cardigan or blazer. I think I’ll wear it out to dinner tonight with jeans and ankle boots. These birds are making me happy once more. Let’s fly!

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