Grace Kelly

This is another skirt-to-dress remake with a bit of slapdash pattern cutting thrown in.

This skirt, which is UK size 16, I bought so I could ‘harvest’ the navy material. It is 100% polyester, medium weight, and has a permanent slightly crinkled look all the way through. It came from the Save the Children shop in Whitby and cost £4.49.

But what does this have to do with Grace Kelly?

The V&A had an exhibition back in 2010 called ‘Grace Kelly – Style Icon‘ and published a book alongside the exhibition called ‘Grace Kelly Style‘. The front cover of the book is an image of Grace Kelly taken in 1955, wearing a pink and grey dress with circular arc sections in contrast material at the chest/neckline.

First thought on seeing this dress was that it would make a really interesting pattern drafting project.

I also spotted this version over at Modcloth.com, sadly it’s now sold out:

Modcloth’s version is cute, but the arc sections are not the same depth, and if you ask me, the top segment should be a bit wider. Happily, because I’m drafting my own pattern for this, I can do whatever the heck I want!

I’m going to give an explanation of how I drafted and fitted this, but if you just want to see the finished dress, go ahead and scroll down to the bottom. I won’t judge you.

My first step was to start with my front bodice block. I closed both darts. Then I drew on curved sections (equal depth) as shown below by the red lines. I just did this by eye until I was happy with it – they are not true circular arcs. I made sure to intersect one of the lines with the bust point, for good measure. Then I cut along the lines and discarded the shoulder piece. I was left with four pattern pieces (minus seam allowance), which for clarity’s sake, I have numbered 1-4 below.

Then, I made the back piece. Essentially, I just closed the back dart at the waist and cut it in a slight curve, making sure the side seam length is the same as on piece 4 from the front bodice. I placed the back piece and piece 4′s side seams together and redrew the curve so it was nice and smooth before adding seam allowance and cutting out.

Then, I made a toile (muslin) to try it out. It wasn’t pretty.

While it was roughly correct, it wasn’t fitted enough. As it was going to be a strapless bodice, it was going to have to be a lot more fitted. I tried this on myself and pinned in darts using a mirror which you can see below (modelled by my dress form!).

The amount to be taken out was 3cm at the underarm (in a bust-dart type position) and 2.4cm at the underbust (vertical dart shown), left and right.

Here’s how I did it. I’m not saying this is the best way or even the right way; but this is what I did. Working with pieces 3 and 4…. To remove 2.4cm from the underbust I slashed and spread (or slashed and closed) 2.4cm as shown by the red lines below. To remove 3cm from the underarm, I took it all from piece 4. Measuring 3cm along the underarm took it pretty much right to the side seam. I cut a new curve, shown in green (below left). New length of the green curve was 20.5cm. This meant reducing the length of the lower curve of piece 3 to 20.5cm. Again, I slashed and spreaded (slashed and closed) 8mm in three places by overlapping the pieces as shown below, redrawing the bottom curve approximately smoothly.

Time for another toile! This time, with a much better result. The bust is now fitted to the extent where it could feasibly hold itself up.

Pattern made, it was time to cut out the pieces. For the contrast material, I chose a beautiful peacock-feather print quilting cotton from stash. I have had this for 5+ years and unfortunately I don’t think the company makes it any more (It’s called Shangri-La from Fabric Freedom, if you’re interested). This is from an old project, so there was only a scrap left, luckily it was enough. The photo just doesn’t do it justice. It has dreamy greens and blues and the gold actually glitters. I cut pieces 1 and 3 from the peacock fabric and pieces 2, 4 and the back from the navy skirt…

…making sure to cut them from what was the waist edge of the original skirt, so that the remaining tube could be used for the skirt of the new dress.

I added fusible interfacing to pieces 1, 2 and 3 and sewed them together as accurately as possible, clipping the curves.

Here’s what it looks like when pressed right side out. Pretty, no?

At this point it became clear that I could avoid a front facing no longer. In a moment of inspiration, I realised that the second toile was an exact copy of the fashion fabric version and could therefore be used as a lining! Cheap, dirty and I don’t like admitting it here, but that’s what I did.

For safety’s sake, I added some boning in 4 places to the lining (see below). I bought the plastic kind with the cloth casing that comes on a roll, it’s great stuff. No faffing about with casings and what not, just sew it in. Position of the boning is based on the original pic of Grace Kelly above – I think you can just see it.

Then I cut 2-3 mm off the top edge all the way along (see ‘turn of cloth allowance‘) and sewed the lot together. It looked pretty good considering the dubious construction method.

From the material left from the original skirt, I had to cut the it down the centre back to make room for a zip, then gather and attach to the bodice. The zip is an invisible one.

Here’s the result….. (sorry couldn’t resist a bit of dodgy photoshopping)

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74 comments

  1. Wanda Stewart

    I love the dress; you are so talented. I can’t wait to try this. Thank you for posting – I look forward to receiving you emails.

    Wanda

    • charityshopchic

      Yes, they have some easy-to-copy-silhouettes… in fact the Sew Weekly now has a regular feature matching commercial patterns with ModCloth dresses.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Joyce

    The dress is lovely, much, much prettier than the Modcloth version, in my opinion. I like how you made it all sound so easy!

  3. Maria

    Wow, your dress looks fantastic! I’m very impressed with your skills, particularly in turning a 5 GBP item into a unique and beautiful dress. I aspire to be so talented.

    • charityshopchic

      Ha, the way I see it there’s no harm in looking like Grace Kelly even if you are doing the dishes! Because the sum total of the materials in this is much less than a tenner, I feel happy wearing it to the pub for people to spill red wine on. And if it gets ruined… well there’s always another ugly polyester granny skirt where that came from :)

  4. chicenvelopements

    You are a genius! I’m in awe of your pattern drafting skills. Thanks for sharing your process. It makes me think that even I could do this! I love how the dress turned out!

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks so much, yes that image of Grace Kelly is totally inspiring, I’m surprised not to have seen any other versions of this dress anywhere in blogland so far. Thanks for commenting! :)

  5. Debi

    I just had to comment here that this is hands down my favourite refashion of all time! Thanks so much for including the diagrams! I just LOVE IT!

  6. Buttons and Beeswax

    This is such a cool blog! I can never be bothered to remake things from charity shops, but this is really inspiring, thank you for sharing :)

  7. Claudia

    Wow ! What a reconstruction ! I am also into that sort of thing but with stretchy fabric (much more forgiving…). I have a few questions for you: 1) DId you study pattern drafting ? 2) Do you use, or could you recommend, a good book on the topic ? 3) How long have you been doing this ? I guess I could go on but I’ll stop for now. Thank you so much for sharing and I might contact you personally with more questions !

    Claudia

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Claudia,
      I did take a basic pattern making course (evening course) once, not that I was terribly impressed by it. I do have a number of good books on the subject and I also learn a lot from many of the wonderful blogs out there!
      I can recommend “Metric Pattern Cutting” by Winifred Aldrich for the basics (I have the older version with the dark red cover), it’s a really comprehensive book which will give you a good idea of where to start. I also love “Pattern Magic” and “Pattern Magic 2″ by Tomoko Nakamichi, totally inspirational books but I would say they are a bit more advanced. Best thing to do is practice, practice, practice!

  8. asua

    Your blog is awesome and you’re so talented. I wanna try all your projects, they’re so inspiring…

  9. Meg

    It’s an amazing dress! I’m so impressed with your mad draping skills, and you’ve nailed Grace’s dress perfectly! Bravo!

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Meg, thanks for the sweet comment! :) I use a combination of flat pattern drafting and draping, a bit of a mad trial-and-error approach really… thrilled that you think it looks like the original!

  10. Marie

    You are such a skilled genius! I don’t know how you do it, but your talent never ceases to amaze me! What a stunning dress!!!

  11. natalieheather

    Oh dear! I have been trying to get enough space in the apartment to fit in a sewing corner – I have wanted to learn to sew for years now! You are so inspiring! Keep up the amazing work.

  12. Brandie

    I adore this! way better than the mod cloth version (they are overpriced imho) def want to give this pattern a go someday. love the peacock fabric oh my!

  13. Raras Lalita

    I’ve came across to this site and read some of your post. WOW, you are very skilled. You can transform a “meh” item into something special. How do you start transforming clothes? Do you see the end result like this Grace Kelly dress first then search for used item with fabric which allows you to do the refashioning? Or you buy secondhand, keep them, and whenever something interesting shows up on TV, magz, internet, all you do is just peeping into your storage?

    I have basic skill of sewing and women blouse/dress pattern making. And after reading your blog, I’m thinking about giving a new touch to my old clothes, but don’t know how to begin.

    Anyway, your blog has already listed on my reader. Don’t want to miss any post. Good job!

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Raras, and thank you for such a kind comment! In answer to your question, it’s a combination of all three methods. These days I go shopping looking for certain basic items to transform and then pick up any ‘special’ items I may find as well. I do have a very large stash which I frequently look to for inspiration.
      Thanks for following! More refashions coming very soon :)

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