Burberry Suit – Part 1

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I’ve had this ice blue Burberry wool suit for ages. I pounced on it, magpie-like, in Streatham Oxfam and managed to get it for £17.99. I was so excited about this suit when I bought it that I didn’t really think too hard about what I was going to do with it, just that £17.99 seemed like a bargain, even though it didn’t fit AT ALL. The skirt’s too big. The jacket, well, the jacket is just wrong. Too big, huge shoulders, grubby hem, sleeves far too short. Those buttons though. The buttons are incredible – and there are three on each cuff!

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Happily I have been able to give the skirt the attention it deserves, while the jacket is still waiting for some TLC. So that will have to come in Part 2 at a later date. The main reason for neglecting the jacket is that I didn’t notice (in the dimly-lit shop) that it has a rather large coffee (I assume) stain on the centre front. I have turned the contrast up on the photo below so you can see it – if you look really carefully at the photo above you can just about see it. So anyway, that’s on ice for a while while I decide what to do with it. Back to the skirt.

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Let’s take a closer look at the skirt first. The label reveals it’s 95% wool, 5% polyamide and the lining is viscose.

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There’s a Burberrys label on the lining at centre front! I have never seen this in a high street garment.

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There’s also a label on the inside of the shell, presumably giving some information about who it was originally made for. It reads: Burberrys London – Name 16 M C97D – Order E 257070/06. If you can shed any light on what this means I’d love to know.

Note the large seam allowances.

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Other features of the skirt include…

A fully lined vent!

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Lining attached to zip tape by machine!

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Waistband side seam and skirt side seam don’t match!!!!

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Hem sewn by machine!

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Anyway… I digress. The skirt was too big at the waist and too short for comfort. I tried it on and pinned out the excess, making a note of the amount to take off each side.

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My plan was to take apart the waistband at the side seams, then take out the excess from the skirt side seams and the waistband side seam. I assume the waistband has side seams for this exact purpose – so it could be altered to fit the owner if they changed size – there are huge seam allowances all the way through the skirt which you’ll see below.

For those interested, here are some notes on the waistband construction.

Twill tape was stitched to the skirt seam allowance at the waist, presumably to prevent stretching.

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Then, the outer waistband was stitched to the skirt, right sides together. Caught in the seam joining the waistband to the skirt is a strip of bias-cut canvas, a similar material to what I’ve seen in the front of men’s suit jackets.

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Then, the lining was attached to the seam allowance of the inner waistband.

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Then the waistband was folded over (putting the lining inside the skirt) and stitched to the seam allowance of the strip of canvas which is hanging out of the outer waistband seam, about 5mm lower than the outer seam. It’s not stitched in the ditch. The point of the canvas, as far as I can tell, is to strengthen the join between the lining and the waist seam, since that will come under strain (eg when sitting). It does have a small amount of vertical give (as it’s cut on the bias) so that would help too, I suppose. If you know better, please comment below.

Incidentally, the waistband contained fusible interfacing that looked very similar to my favourite type, rather a thick general purpose with a loose weave. Rather heartening!

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In order to make my alterations, I had to open the side seams on the waistband and the skirt, cutting the twill tape and the canvas.

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The seam allowances were 3cm and I took just over 3cm off (pencil line is new seam position).

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I had to trim away some of the seam allowance – leaving 6cm+ on each side seemed excessive. Here’s the guts of it, partly reassembled. You can see that I just overlapped the canvas, rather than cut it away.

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Oh yeah and my side seam matches, unlike Burberrys’. Just sayin’

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I didn’t bother taking the lining in, just made a small tuck at the side and sewed it back down.

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I unpicked the machine stitches holding the hem up. The skirt was hemmed 4.5cm from the bottom, so by folding back only the tiniest amount, I was able to gain about 3.75cm in length overall. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it made a huge difference.

I hand-basted my new hem in place and attacked it with a lot of steam.

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The final step at that point was to catch stitch the hem up and remove the basting stitches.

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All well and good, but I still felt like it was missing something. It’s been hanging in my wardrobe since last summer just waiting for that little something extra. It wasn’t until I saw Fiona’s incredible ice blue wool crepe dress with chiffon at the hem that I had a brain wave. I had been looking for a dress to add an organza section to for a while, in the style of this, this or these,  but why wouldn’t this work with a skirt? This one was a perfect candidate. I even had some ice blue poly organza in stash that I’d been keeping for attempting something like this but never got round to. Fiona’s combo of crepe and chiffon made me do a facepalm – of course – boucle and organza would be a great combination. Such a shame that mine is almost the same colour – I guess we’ll have to avoid wearing them to the same events. I’ll have to call mine a ‘tribute’…

Anyway, cutting a strip of organza in the right length and width was fairly straightforward. There’s no hem, it’s just folded in half so both seam allowances are joined to the skirt. The seam allowance on the ends is on the inside (like a waistband).

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My original plan was to attach the organza to the lining, that way it would move differently to the skirt shell.

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To cut a long story short, it didn’t work. Turns out the vent wasn’t hanging straight (by rather a lot) and it just looked terrible from the back. So I undid it and just sewed it to the hem of the skirt quickly instead. What I *should* have done was unpick my nice neat catch stitching and joined the two together with a seam. What I actually did was some rather rudimentary topstitching. Thankfully the texture of the boucle hides most of it. At least it will be easy to get rid of if I change my mind.

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I added a few invisible hand stitches around the top third of the vent to encourage it to hang straight. Unfortunately I didn’t get a ‘before’ picture but the gap at the bottom was about 2cm!

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Here it is on. I’m really happy to *finally* be able to wear this after such a long time, albeit without the jacket, which will have to wait for another day.

I’m wearing it with the white shirt I remade, which you can read about here.

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84 comments

    • charityshopchic

      Yeah I was so thrilled with my bargain I didn’t see the coffee stain on the centre front :-/ I’m happy enough though, being able to wear the skirt and just look at those buttons in my wardrobe makes me happy, that’s worth £17.99 in my book, and it’s all for a good cause anyway. Glad you like the hair too, thanks! Much lighter! x

  1. learningnewtricks

    I am so impressed by your skills. You have such a wonderful way of updating garments. Who else but you would have thought to add that strip of blue organza to give the skirt an added layer of interest. I see so many refashions and most of them are the quick type, with just cutting the length and taking in the seams (easy ones). You definitely take refashions to an entirely different layer by not only tailoring, but adding your own special touch. I look forward to the suit jacket refashion. Have you considered shortening the suit jacket, adding a peplum, and maybe either a ruffle (not really a ruffle, but I can’t explain it) at the collar downward to help hide the coffee stain, or maybe a flap around that area? I saw some on amazonpeplumjackets.

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks so much for your support, learningnewtricks. I do try to put a contemporary edge on everything I make. I also relish a challenge and am not afraid to spend hours on something if I think it’s worth it! Refashioning can be a great way of getting into sewing and suits all different skill levels, and I’m happy that there are so many others out there doing it.
      Actually, you may have hit on something with the ruffle/placket idea. I hadn’t considered that I might be able to cover up that stain… that would cover the buttons too though, which are my favourite bit! Hmmm…. great ideas but I need to think it over!

  2. ladycynthiana

    Beautiful idea and execution on the skirt. I love the whole outfit and are those cherry blossoms!?

    • charityshopchic

      Yes we have cherry blossoms in my local area. I hadn’t intended to stop here and take photos but the pavement was covered in petals, almost like walking down a pavement into a honeymoon suite or something. While we were taking photos it was ‘snowing’ pink petals from above too!

  3. Prfctlildvl

    I love the way you refash! The skirt seems both retro and modern at the same time and it works so well. The added organza makes a somewhat heavy skirt seems rather girly and light. I think you’ve also made the skirt much more versatile. It’s great as it is now or if you added a nice wide cobalt blue belt over it, it would create a whole new look. Add the jacket and once again, a whole new look. It’s quite a lovely and versatile pice and you did a great job!

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks for commenting Prfctlildvl, I agree, the colour is quite retro, shape is classic, and I hope the organza band gives it a contemporary edge! It’ll be great for spring, I think – I have some other shoe choices in mind too. I’m not one for belts, but I think once I’ve given the jacket some TLC that will give it another dimension too.

    • charityshopchic

      Really? I was totally drawn to the powder blue – all-pastel outfits are in for spring, I think. Anyway I’ll have to come up with something for the jacket ASAP!

  4. Kelley

    Love it! I really like the organza band at the hem. BTW, are those cherry blossoms on the sidewalk? Ours are just finishing blooming here in the southern states, also.

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Kelley, yes we have cherry blossoms here in South London! They are ‘snowing’ petals down onto the pavements at the moment and it’s just beautiful. Like someone spread them onto the pavement just for us :)

  5. Jane

    Love it Sally, classy but with a modern edge! I really like the powder blue with a crisp white shirt too – gorgeous! x

  6. sewlittletime

    This looks fabulous sally! Really interesting to see the guts of a designer skirt – can’t believe the side seams didn’t match! When you think about what it probably cost! Nice work (and of course fiona’s inspiration was just lovely. When did you cut your hair? I like it!

    • charityshopchic

      I know, I couldn’t believe it either! I did a double take when I saw that, haha. I learned a lot by taking this apart actually, it was a really useful excercise.

    • charityshopchic

      Glad you liked it, adding a hem band in a contrasting or co-ordinating fabric is such a quick fix and will totally change the look of your skirt. Go for something sheer to make it extra fashionable.

  7. Helen

    This looks amazing! I don’t expect that Fiona will mind one bit, and as it’s a skirt, it does look different. Just beautiful. This alone is worth the £17!

  8. ellebougies

    Oh, this is classy! Brilliant makeover of that skirt. And I love your insights into the insides of these garments. Your posts are always so great to read.

  9. Suzie

    Such a gorgeous refashion! Your ‘new’ skirt looks super sophisticated and the added chiffon hem was a fantastic idea!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to photograph your processes, I always learn so much from your posts.

  10. Laura

    What a fantastic find, and it looks so great with the hem detail. I don’t think I’d have thought to do this (which is why I’m so bad at refashioning!), but it really looks brilliant – I bet you can wear this on so many occasions.

  11. fionaparker17

    Love it love it love it! We’re going to have to have a sheer ice blue party! You look so classy. What an awesome charity shop find too, can’t wait to see what you do with the jacket!

    • charityshopchic

      You are so sweet Fiona, this is such a rip off of your incredibe dress! I’m mulling over what to do with the jacket. Considering throwing caution to the wind and hand washing it. I’ll keep you posted.

  12. nicoleneedles

    MASSIVE improvement on the original! The organza at the hem is lovely. And thanks for all the original construction photos – really interesting to see all the layers in the waistband, etc.

    • charityshopchic

      Thank you Nicole – I am glad you found the photos of its guts interesting, personally I thought it was fascinating but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

  13. Tami

    The powder blue color is lovely and the sheer organza adds visual length but the skirt hitting at the narrowest part of the leg makes it so feminine. And those blue shoes are killer!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Tami, so pleased you liked this skirt re-do! The length was the maximum I could get out of the turned down hem, it’s a happy coincidence that it hits at mid-knee. The length of the organza band is designed to cover all of the knee. I think it works anyway!

  14. Kasia

    Other than that I completely love how you reworked the skirt–not only by giving it a bit of much needed flare but also by repairing some of the Burberry’s original flaws (shame on them), I want to say that I adore your analyses of the garments. It’s really helpful for an aspiring seamstress like me to know what to look at when approaching a piece of clothing.
    Fantastic job! :)))

    • charityshopchic

      Other than what?! Thanks for the feedback Kasia. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the original was really ‘flawed’, I only included it to show that we home sewers often hold ourselves to impossibly high standards! Glad you found the analysis interesting. I will be posting more about the jacket ASAP.

      • Kasia

        Oh, I meant that apart from the fact that I love your refashion, I liked your analysis–this happens when you type comments when you’re tired.
        Can’t wait for the jacket :)

  15. Claire

    I love the colour of the suit, and the organza looks beautiful around the hemline. Those jacket buttons look amazing! Do you think it’s worth attempting to wash the stain out of the jacket? I’d be tempted with that fibre content. I have a lovely cream boucle Alexon jacket I bought for a pound that needed a wash, it shrank a tiny bit, but it was worth it. Can’t wait for the jacket refashion!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Clare, thanks for the suggestion. I’m considering handwashing the jacket, or at least the front of it, to see if the stain will budge. It’s clearly been there a while though, so I’m not holding out much hope. I’ll keep you posted!

  16. Sunny

    I’m not sure how it would work on the material of your jacket- but OXYclean stain remover does wonders on some of my charity shop finds!!! Love Love Love the skirt refash- and love the new do!!! You and Refashionista are my fav diva reads!!! xxx

    • charityshopchic

      That’s a great tip, thanks Sunny. I have some VANISH here which usually does the job, I’ll give that a try. Glad you enjoyed reading about this skirt – and so pleased the new hair do is going down well ;-)

  17. Izzywotnot

    I love, love, love this refashion and so pleased I came across your blog – I am totally addicted to your posts.

  18. Agy

    That ice blue colour is great, and I love the trimming you added to the skirt. Btw, I would love to know what you are planning with the jacket, and those BUTTONS are gorgeous!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Agy! The plan for the jacket is still taking shape… but yes, the buttons are incredible. So happy that all the buttons were there. The cuff buttons are a smaller version of the jacket buttons and they are really cute!

  19. ooobop

    Lovely transformation. And thanks for sharing the insides. So insightful. The organza works a treat and boy does that colour work on you x

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks Janene! So happy that people appreciate seeing the insides of these things as much as I do. And yes, I’m now looking for more powder-blue to add to my wardrobe! x

  20. Tina

    those ads are the most annoying thing I have ever come across on a blog. They cover all the work on every photo. I just started to follow your blog and LOVE what you are doing, but I will not spend all my time clicking off an ad in every photo. Sorry

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Tina, sorry you’re having problems viewing the site. You shouldn’t be seeing ads on every photo. I think perhaps you have contracted some malware or otherwise may be having browser issues. I hope you get it fixed.

  21. Krysten

    I just found your blog and I love it! I’ve been looking for awhile for a blog that has your style. I just got back into sewing and I think there is a lot of talented people but I just don’t have the same style. So happy I found your site!

    This skirt you refashioned is really lovely and I think the organza just takes it to another level!

    Keep up the great work, I can’t wait to try one of your patterns.

  22. Cynthia

    Adorable make-over! If you decide to do it again on another skirt, cut the ruffles in a circular pattern, that will give them some swing – best with chiffon instead of organza. Found your blog via pinterest – it’s wonderful!

  23. julisews

    Regarding the mystery of the label… Venerable fashion houses have order books where custom orders are entered and kept on file for all eternity. Customers are represented by a set of numbers or letters or both, and the orders are numbered through. So this: 16 M C97D – E 257070/06
    would mean it was the 257070th order made in 2006. If there was a crime attached to that skirt the name and address of that mysterious 16MC97D person would be revealed to the investigators… The only crime was to spill coffee down the front of the jacket, ha.
    I have been quietly lurking for years, admiring your fabulous garments and wishing to have the time, the skill and the patience to try something similar. Keep up the good work!

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks for commenting, Julisews! So interesting. I figured the numbers related to a particular customer, but to find out it was made in 2006 is fascinating – I thought it was older! I also love the idea of Sherlock Holmes investigating who spilled the coffee! Thanks again and I’m glad you’re enjoying reading.

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