Thursday, October 6, 2011

Choir Dress Refashion for My Steampunk Costume

All ready to sing Dona Nobis Pacem!
Every time I go home to SF, I love rediscovering all kinds of craziness -- whether it be my well-loved (almost to death) copies of the Little House books, my old horsey security blankie that I've had since I was born, or bags of fabric my mom doesn't want anymore -- in the laundry room, stashed away in boxes, in the back corners of the closets. This gem, rediscovered about a year ago, is my choir dress from freshmen year of high school! That was half a lifetime ago...gosh I feel old. I took it home with me thinking I could keep it around as a souvenir? I'm not really sure, but I would try it on every once in a while just to see if I still could. The top had gotten uncomfortably tight, but I like to think that's because I filled out a bit more in the bust area since the age of 13.

At an original $89 (why??? for cheap polyester?!), I figured it was a pretty expensive souvenir, and I needed a long skirt to be part of my steampunk costume. I realize that steampunk is supposed to be a reimagining of the Victorian era, but I just don't have it in my budget to do ginormous bustles and bell-shaped skirts. Thankfully, I think the community is fairly forgiving and will overlook my use of a an anachronistic polyester silhouette. Anyway, I cut off the top part of my dress, saving it of course (who knows, I might need it one day!), and then hemmed the waist of the skirt. I even went so far as to use bias tape since the material was fraying quite a bit, but somehow I messed up and got a weird pucker on the front of the skirt. Oh well, that part will be under the corset anyway.
I kept the original zipper, but I cut it down to the right size and sewed a little bit at the top to keep the zipper pull from just zipping right off. I also added a hook and eye (I only have white, unfortunately).

Front, with the weird pucker, back, and side.

Close up of the braided trim, my mom's 14-year-old hem since the original dress was long enough for a giantess, and some choir room gunk that wouldn't wash out.

I had bought two different sizes of braid since I didn't know what I wanted to use to trim my skirt, so I used the smaller one around the collar of an old button-up dress shirt I'll be wearing under the corset. I plan on tying or pinning it, kind of like a cowboy tie. So now my costume is a weird Western, Firefly-esque steampunk look. Right. Also, I'm pretty sure that a poly-cotton-spandex shirt is malapropos.


  1. I was thinking of doing that with a zipper, but at the bottom of a garment. I need to cut an ill fitting dress into a shirt. Do you have any advice for how the secure the zipper at the bottom so it doesn't zip off there? Cover it with some fabric maybe?

    1. You can cover it with a little fabric tab, but you might also want to sew around the bottom of the zipper several times to secure the tape itself.

  2. Oh gawd...I remember that dress...I have something very similar made of a stretch thin material that was impossible to pull off, and it shall not see the light of day until I can lose these baby pounds. *hides*


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