Here's my entry in the Australian Sewing Guild's Castaway to Couture contest, where sewists upcycle garments. I love this sort of thing as I'm fascinated by the Make Do and Mend mentality that was governmental policy in Britain during the Second World War.
The British government went so far as to introduce a range of Utility Clothing labelled CC41 (CC for controlled commodities and 41 for the year it was introduced -1941). Figuring it would be more economical to produce a limited range of designs, they enlisted well known designers like Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell to submit styles. I've collected some of these utilitarian 1940s dresses on this pinterest page.
My make do and mend dress started out as 2 men's dress shirts, the nicest quality ones I could find. (Tips: look for all cotton rather than synthetics, check for French seams (overlocked seams spell cheaply made to me!) and check for fading behind the pockets, as they'll likely be removed.)
Here's how we did it.
1. Lopped off sleeves on pink shirt.
2. On Flora Dora, my trusty mannequin, I pinned the front bodice of the pink shirt to create some more feminine curves. Those big square boyish pockets had to go too.
3. On the back, I opted for some pin tucks to add shape. The big triangular shapes kind of remind me of Art Deco geometrics, for a bit of a retro feel!
4. Swapped out the buttons from the blue shirt as they were a nicer quality. CC41 clothes, by the way, restricted the number of buttons on a dress to just a maximum of 3!
5. Alas, when I took off the sleeves of the blue shirt, I was left with a wierd shape to work with. To keep my dress a nice 40s midi length, I drafted some side pockets, which allowed me to use more of the shirt body and retain a nice pocket at the same time.
6. Drafted a new side seam for the skirt using a block (cardboard template) that I keep on hand. Added some basting to the blue shirt/skirt to fit skirt to bodice.
7. An old korbond Make a Belt kit that I found at the op-shop made a handsome belt (despite the fact most of the iron-on glue was gone!) I particularly love the covered buckle.
8. An overlocker is a magical investment for neatening up the inside of a garment. It covers up a multitude of sewing sins!
Sturdy finishes on the inside make a long wearing garment!