It’s all Greek to me

OK, I admit that I bought this garment as a challenge. It is hands down the ugliest garment I’ve ever seen. It would be difficult to conceive a garment that had less potential than this 100% polyester monstrosity that looks like something Pat Butcher might wear on laundry day.

Features of this blouse include particularly heinous self-covered buttons and a grecian-inspired print in colours which can only be described as washed-out pot-pourri lilac, chicken balti brown, mild snot and black. This came from Barking PDSA and cost £2.75.

I thought it best to stick with the grecian theme and decided a grecian-style top was probably my best bet. First step was to make a ‘pattern’ of sorts. The top part of my design was a bib section front and back (yoke?) under which there was a gathered section that did not require any closures (just as well, since the self buttons went straight in the bin, and I don’t think they make zips in chicken balti brown). I began by deciding roughly how wide the yoke should be and drawing the rough shape that I wanted, with help from my dummy. I used newspaper for this – using the fold of the broadsheet helped me get it symmetrical! Added seam allowances and tried it on the dummy, adjusting where necessary. Don’t forget to ensure you’ll be able to fit your head through the hole :-)

Next, the scissors came out. I cut the bottom half of the blouse off from arm pit to arm pit (in roughly a straight line, heh) and stiched the side vents shut. I cut the button placket off the front and made a seam at the centre front of the blouse – which was to become the centre back of my new top.

From the remainder of the material, including both sleeves, I cut 4 yokes (2 visible, 2 for the lining). I also cut 2 yokes from some heavy white material I had in stash which I used as underlining for 2 of the yoke pieces… and stitched it all together!

To sew the bottom half onto the yoke, I needed to trim it to the right shape. This was a slightly roundabout way of doing things but here goes: I decided where, on the yoke, the bottom section would hit, ie, where the armscye would begin (marked in the pic below by 2 pins). These two points are designated “a” and “b” for the purposes of this explanation. Then measured the vertical distance between the pins and the seam along the bottom of the yoke (red measuring tape), which for the purposes of this explanation, is called “x”.

I arbitrarily decided the distance from a to b should be about three-fifths of the width of the bottom section of material. After a bit of head-scratching, I cut a curved segment of material out (photo above) between points a and b with a maximum depth of x at the centre front. The bottom section was then gathered between point a and b and sewed on to the yoke, front and back. Once this was done I tried the top on to decide on measurement “y”, the armscye depth and cut out the shapes accordingly.

All that was left to do was to finish the armholes and stitch the lining to the long curve of the inside of the yoke by hand. I didn’t even need to hem it since the original hem of the blouse was still in place :-)

Here I am modelling my new top.

If I were to make this again, I’d rethink the idea of putting the round black motif at the centre front of the yoke, in retrospect I would have chosen a part of the pattern which is less conspicuous. I would also try to source some sew-on gems and cover the yoke in those!

This weekend I went with my friend J to the V&A to see the “Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City” exhibition, which was stunning, though it was the last day of the exhibit. It was all about the Chinese emperor and empresses robes from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). There were some incredible examples of embroidery and frabrics. I ended up buying the book related to the exhibition plus a souvenir – a piece of Chinese-style frogging which may be coming to a project sometime in the near future!

For the trip to the V&A I styled this top with a black cardi and an 80’s handbag I picked up in the St Francis Hospice shop in Romford for 50p. Yes, 50p!



  1. Becca

    Sally – you are incredibly clever and talented! Who’d have thought you could make such a great top from such a terrible shirt?! :) Love the project and the blog and looking forward to seeing more of your creations!

    • charityshopchic

      You are so sweet Becca! Thanks for leaving a comment.
      Glad you’re enjoying the blog – there are some even more hideous garments coming up, believe it or not :-) Stay tuned!

  2. caeruleanblue

    I’ve been going through your projects, and I just wanted to say that this one is really fantastic. I’m new to refashioning, but I’ve been reading tons of mens shirt refashions and this one is really original. Thanks.

  3. Kitty Felde

    This is my very favorite. I had to share it with my 9 year old fashionista friend here in Maine Julia. She says you are a really good stylist! I think you’re brilliant and inspired me to hit the Augusta Goodwill and pick up five ugly items. So far, turned a Holly Hobby Lanz dress into a chic summer frock. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Kitty and Julia

    • charityshopchic

      Sorry, the explanation was probably a bit over-complicated. When attatching the bottom section, just trim a slight curve with the lowest points at centre front and centre back. Gather to roughly the right amount, pin it together and try it on to make sure you have enough space at the sides for the armholes, ie, you can get in and out of it. Once your pins are in the right place, sew it together, then cut the armhole curves. Hope that helps.

  4. Sara

    That’s astonishing! That truly was a vile top. And now, not only is it not vile at all, it is actually a really lovely top. How did you do that. Your artistic vision/creativity is every bit as important as your sewing skills and they all seem to be fantastic. Your blog is so inspiring!

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks for commenting Sara, glad you found this inspiring. This top was probably one of the most dramatically transformed garments I’ve ever done! I still have it in my wardrobe and will continue to wear it so long as ‘vile’ prints are in fashion!

  5. Jen

    I discovered your blog a couple of days ago, have now gone back on every post and a so impressed! With this one especially, the top in it’s former glory was so repulsive, yet you made it so pretty. I ususally tend to make my clothes from scratch, but now you have made me think about trying more refashioning. It is great for keeping clothes out of landfill, money goes to a good cause and it challenges creativity and imagination. I am starting with my dad’s old shirts and take it from there. Thanks for the huge inspiration shot!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Jen, I’m delighted that you’re feeling inspired to refashion! It’s a lot of fun and you get to feel good about the planet as well. I forgot about this ‘greek’ top, I’ll have to dig it out and wear it again over the summer. Thanks for reading :)

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