Men's Suit Jacket Repurposed to an Adorable Children's Dress
I love picking up men’s suit jackets from second hand stores. Repurposing clothing is one of my ultimate favourite things to do, as there is so much you can reuse the fabric for. Anything from making cute little bunnies (my sis’ favourite) to refashioning it into a new jacket for yourself. This time I decided on making an adorable little dress for one of the cutest littles I know.Now this can be tricky, you are often limited to what you can make due to the amount of fabric on a suit jacket.
Tip: If you are wanting to use the fabric itself look for the biggest sizes. I often get trapped in this as I look at all the sizes and fall in love with certain designs and there just isn’t enough fabric to do much with it. On the other side of things though if you are looking to refashion it for a jacket for yourself try and find the closet size to yourself so only minor adjustments are needed.
Disclaimer/Encouragement: Please keep in mind the below project can sound a bit heavy to new sewers. This project was done a little while ago and I underestimated the amount of pictures and at what steps to take them. The reason I still wanted to do this post was to show that you can find amazing fabric in so many different forms and it looks awesome when refashioned, up-cycled or repurposed. Start simple and grow with each item you create, that is how I learned and my sewing skills have grown because of projects like this. Please feel free to comment or e-mail with any questions and I will help you as best as I can. Remember there is a world full of amazing supportive creators and they can be found everywhere.
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you’ll know from my stories how much I love to shop secondhand stores. On one of my many trips I came across this lightweight wool suit jacket and had to get it. From the picture above you can tell that I did not quite follow my get a large size tip. Sigh! At least the little that this was being made for, is exactly that and still little. Yay! Also, I tend to get a bit excited and start taking things apart and then remember oh yea before photos.
I always make sure to launder the wool jackets on a delicate cycle to make sure it’s clean. Can not stress this enough always check the pockets before it hits the laundry, you might even want gloves for this, there have been many an interesting thing found inside. Mostly hankies which just makes me happy because my grandpa always had them tucked in his Sunday suit jacket too. Let’s just hope the ones we find are mostly clean. Other things you’ll probably comes across are lots of balled up kleenexes, bits of paper, unwrapped hard candies (yum), the list goes on and on.
With that said I usually I try my best to include the pockets from the original garment into the new garment. Because everyone loves pockets, especially littles who can hide all their treasures in them. Well in this case I had to make these little pockets faux. Sad I know, but the interior condition of them was just not very good and I couldn’t handle having a little putting their hands in them.
To do this I laid the front jacket piece flat and pinned as best as I could around to keep it in place and sewed it down. Then proceeded to cut of the excess that was no longer needed and serged around it to keep it from fraying, you can also use a zig zag stitch instead if you do not have a serger. I repeated this same thing on the other jacket front.
I tend to make this decision before I even start cutting out any pattern as once it’s complete it helps me determine what type of pattern I’m going to do. Could be a little backwards thinking on my part, but that’s just what works best for me.
Now that I had the fabric picked out and prepped, I searched through patterns until I found a simple sleeveless shift dress PDF pattern on Etsy. I like a simple pattern like this because it’s easier to determine if you can get the full dress out of it without having to lay multiple pattern pieces out to see if it works. Although if you have a more complicated pattern that you love, go for it! The other reason I went for a simple dress was because the fabric is wool, it will need to lined. Can’t make it easy on myself and find a lined pattern either, a little brain power was needed and a few calls to my mom. (See we all need a support system)
With the pattern printed and cut out, it was time to figure out how to get all the pieces out of the jacket. Kinda tricky but always fun.
Because I’m lining the dress all the pattern pieces I’ve cut out above are not necessary. I won’t be using the bias tape or needing to cut out the facing for the front and back. The bias tape is used to fold over and give the sleeves a beautiful finish and the facing is used to give a garment a bit of structure around the neck so it lays nicely, but in this case the lining will actually do those jobs.
So here comes the fun part of using small amounts of fabric, the front and back pieces of the pattern are supposed to be cut with the one edge on a fold. If your pattern is like this and there is no way you can cut it out on a fold, you can fudge it and add some character to your garment with a seam up the centre. Add a little extra fabric to that (fold) edge, enough to sew a seam. I usually go with whatever my pattern is calling for on the other seam allowance, it helps me not get confused and sew my other seams wrong. Trust me it has happened….more than once.
For myself I don’t like printing and cutting multiple PDFs of the exact same pattern in different sizes. I cut to the largest size and then use either coloured tracing paper or black carbon paper and a tracing wheel to go over my pattern. Sure it marks my PDF patterns with little holes but I can reuse that pattern so many times in every size, such a big time saver for me.
Tip: I do have coloured tracing paper, but use it rarely and only when it’s necessary. Often I use black carbon paper that I purchased from an office supply store. The price per package seems high, but you can reuse one piece so many times it’s insane. I have seen it for sale in craft stores and yikes, the price is crazy. Something like $10 for 5-6 sheets and I just looked up what I paid at an office supply store, $19 + tax for 100 sheets. (These are Canadian prices)
Remember though if the item you are tracing is on dark fabric, you need a contrasting colour to see it on the fabric. That is when I’ll use the coloured tracing paper or quickly draw some white or coloured chalk on the back of a pattern and trace it. I tend to be a tad frugal in certain areas, just as I can not fathom spending large amounts on things that can be replicated in a lower cost much easier.
FYI -if you are using black carbon paper to trace on lighter fabrics you can sometimes see the black carbon paper dots through the fabric that are on the seam. So I try and cut out the garment just narrowly missing the little black dots by a hair.
Sorry… long winded tip, let’s get back to this darling little repurpose. For this garment the only way I could get this size of 12-24 month out of it was by using the two front pieces for the front of the pattern and both arm pieces for the back of the pattern. Make sure your right sides of the fabric are together while tracing out and cutting for both of these.
Once the front and back pieces were cut out, I also cut out the exact same pieces as above in what I was going to be using for lining. I had a simple cute little chunk of cotton that worked perfectly, that also was also picked up at a secondhand store. Because it was a large enough chunk I could cut it out the pattern on the fold. So with that said the front piece could be cut out on the fold making it one large piece and no seam had to be done, but for the back I had to actually cut up the middle of the fold line so it was two separate pieces. I had to do this because it is a lining and would have to turn the garment right side out. I also cut the lining fabric a bit shorter then the wool fabric so that it wouldn’t stick out from under the dress and my particular pattern has a keyhole closer for the back that I have cut out on both the back side of my wool and cotton lining fabric.
If you are adding a lining to your dress, I would suggest thinking ahead on your pattern to try and figure it out. It will save you so much time and sometimes unfortunately the misery of trying to salvage a garment.
Once everything was cut out, I actually sewed up the centre seam of the front wool pieces to make one large front piece. (At this point please follow the directions of your pattern if you are not putting in a lining or your pattern has lining instructions itself) The next step was to put the right sides together of my wool and sew along both shoulders connecting the front and back and press the seams open. With the wool I serged all my raw edges as I went so that it would not fray, you can also use a zig zag stitch on your machine if you do not have a serger. Repeated this same step with the lining.
After that was complete, it was time to sew the lining and the wool together. First opened the both garments and with right sides facing each other laid them out matching the front and backs and pinned the along the arm holes and around the neckline. I then sewed along both of these lines, which was a little tricky with the keyhole in the back. Because I knew I would be pulling the fabric through the shoulder area to turn the dress right side out, I stitched over the arm holes and neckline for a second time to give it a bit more strength. To help the garment lay nicer I clipped along the should and neckline and pressed.
If you are confused I’m very sorry, I have found some tutorials that should help explain it a bit better than I can. Sadly I have limited pictures and missed some key steps that would help show the process easier. With a little searching I came across a short youtube tutorial for adding a lining to a sleeveless dress. Which I have linked here. If you are newer to sewing or prefer reading and/or pictures I would suggest taking a peak at blog.megannielsen.com although she is making a different style of dress from a pattern she designed the tutorial she has written for adding a lining is really nice. Check out her pattern shop while you’re there, the patterns are super cute and majority of the dress’ have POCKETS!
Of course if those tutorials don’t quite work for you there is always a google or youtube search and plenty of other tutorials to fallow as well. Those are just two I came across that helped me out. I will do my very best in the future to have more pictures to help explain each step as I go.
Following the precess in the youtube video I was able to feed both sides of my lining and wool through the shoulder area. Now that the dress is turned right side out, congrats cause it looks amazing already! The hard part is over and it’s time to do the finishing touches. With the wool and linings right sides together I sewed up the centre seam to create one large back piece. Then on to the sides, again with right sides together for both fabrics I sewed up one side and then followed the same process for the other side seam. Once they were all complete, I made sure to press the seams open.
All that is left is the hem of the lining and the wool fabric. Follow the instructions on your pattern to determine how to finish the pattern. Now for my pattern it said to turn the hem under and press then turn under one more time to create a double fold hem. Which looks lovely and hides the raw edge, but because the wool was so bulky I chose to turn under just the once and machine stitch the hem. For the hem of the lining I did do a double fold hem as it just makes it look so pretty and well finished. Not that anyone is going to really see it, but it’s how I was taught to finish a hem.
Once the hem is complete is when I start doing my little happy dance. Until after I pressed, took pictures , cleaned up my mess and gushed over the little dress that I realized I forgot a couple steps. In my whole crazy world of altering the pattern to put in the lining I neglected to remember that this little dress has a keyhole back. A little piece of fabric was needed to create a loop that was to be inserted to the top of the keyhole on the neckline seam and then add a button to fit in the loop to make the closure. I kinda grumbled to myself at first when I had to turn the dress to the underside and dig for my seam ripper along with a scrap piece of fabric. Luckily I only had to open up a very small part of the seam and the cotton fabric I used for the lining would work perfect to create the loop. The wool would be too thick and bulky for this.
Once the little piece was sewn up as my pattern instructed, it was inserted into the top of the keyhole seam and sewed the seam back up. Woohoo! Picture time once again and delete those other ones already taken of when I thought it was finished.
Ohh wait there is still one more step. Button time, if you up-cycle or repurpose clothing items I’m sure you have a large selection of odd buttons. I love to dig and find that odd button out that has no matching pair, it works perfect to use on projects like this. Once the button was attached I really pulled out the happy dance. Now you might be think hey you should retake pictures of it fully complete, fancy button and all. Well as you can see that didn’t quite happen as I was to busy celebrating and patting myself on the back for successfully adding a lining to this darling dress. So I leave you with these pictures of it almost mostly finished.
When I first undertook this project, it was the first time I had even attempted such a thing of altering a pattern so much. I feel like a rebel and I like it! I can not underestimate the hours of time my mom has spent teaching me these tools and the countless hours of research looking for help it’s taken for me to get to this stage of sewing. I am so grateful for her and all the other people willing to share their skills.
If this type of thing is new to you stick with it, because it’s days like this when you can sit and stare at your completed item and just let yourself happy cry, shout to the rooftops or simply smile. This was your vision and you created it!
Until next time Create, Smile and Radiate!