Monday, July 27, 2009

Style Spy DIY -- Get Thee Gone, Wench!

A problem child from Style Spy's closet:

(Yes, the face was that bad. No makeup, crazy post-run, pre-shower hair. It's hard enough for me to show you any photos of me, let alone the ones where I look like a designer-clad escapee from a prison camp. So please indulge me.)

I've written about this McQ dress before, about how it's a little challenging but I still love it. And those things are both true, but I was rifling around in my closet this weekend (I am purging relentlessly -- look out for more Shop the Closet opportunities) and I saw it hanging there and realized I've worn this dress once, maybe twice. Which is a crying shame because one of the best things about it is the fabric -- a cool, breezy, supersoft cotton voile that is absolutely perfect for the Dante-esque weather we continue to have here in Austin this summer.

So I took it out & put it on, trying to decide if I wanted to keep it or if there was anything that could be done to make it a bit more wearable. I looked in the mirror and asked, "What is it about this dress that makes it user-unfriendly?"

The answer, of course, was the neckline. I love the asymmetrical pick-ups of the skirt, and I don't mind the Big! Blue! Stripes! because we all know how I feel about color. But the big ol' ruffle with the off-the-shoulder action and the foofy, poofy sleeves combine to make it, let's be honest, decidedly wench-y.

Style Spy does not do Wench.

Safe to say, any character AT ALL you might find at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire is not a look I want to be emulating at any time, ever. EVER. (And neither should you, unless you are actually employed by an actual Renn Fest.)

So in order to save this dress I decided I need to get rid of the ruffle and tone down the sleeves, and also fix the sliding off my shoulder problem. And so I did:

The ruffle wasn't actually that hard to take care of -- I turned it under like a facing, stitched it down, then trimmed off the fabric. I added ribbon ties to the back in order to keep the neckline together -- the bonus of that was I actually really like the kind of drapey cowl effect it creates in the back. The sleeves were a much bigger PITA, it turns out. Somehow, the geometry of this dress is really wonky and my usual tricks for dealing with sleeves (like folding the dress in half to measure) didn't really pan out. There was a lot of eyeballing that went on. Happily, the dress is pretty loosey-goosey, because I still don't think they're exactly even.
(I'm talking to Shine, not imaginary friends.)

Here I stuck a sweet little vintage half-slip under it, so that the adorable crystal-pleated flounce on the bottom peeked out. Just for giggles. And here's how the dress looked when it went out for Sunday evening moules et vin -- with a hat & various pieces of jewelry:

(Canvas & raffia platform wedges from Banana Republic that I bought for a song last summer and am going to wear to shreds, I should have bought two pairs; hat from April Cornell children's wear --yep, seriously -- and sweetest little antique porcelain flower pin ever found at Antique Mall a few years ago for something like 5 bucks. Bangles from various places -- I just scoop 'em up whenever I find some in colors I like.)

So there ya go. I'm pretty tickled about this little project. I was very hesitant to embark upon it because... well, who am I to second-guess Alexander McQueen? On the other hand, I wasn't wearing it, and if someone like me, who is fairly fashion-adventurous, wasn't wearing it, it didn't seem likely that someone was going to see its inherent magic on the small screen if I listed it on eBay and take it off my hands. I really had nothing to lose.

I know this is the sort of dress that, for some people, no amount of alterations is going to make tolerable. But I don't dress for those people. I dress for me, and for the imaginary coterie of street style photographers and fashion editors that live in my head. (Yeah, it's crowded in there.) Some will probably quibble with the volume of the dress, saying it looks bulky. In response to that criticism I have to say that still pictures don't do it justice -- a lot of this dress is about the movement. Besides: in shoes like the platforms I'm wearing in these photos I'm almost six feet tall -- I can wear the bulk without being swallowed. If I were a smaller person, yes, this dress would probably be too much for me.

So what do you think? An improvement? Or do you think it's a lost cause? Should I have left it alone? Burned it? What? Tell me what you think!

Images: Style Spy

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Anonymous said...

Loves it! The relaxed fit... the breeziness... the pockets! I think you did a great reconstruction and it makes me think of summer days.

Mardel said...

Fabulous! It looks like summer! It looks like it would be oh so cool and breezy no matter what the weather.

Bonjour Madame said...

It's an improvement. Well done!

Anonymous said...

When I first saw the dress I loved what you loved..the big bold stripes and it's flow. But, seriously I thought it would not be a dress that could be saved, unless the dress was completely re-cut.

But you did an amazing job. I think it looks fantastic, and you look great in it. Good work.


Deja Pseu said...

When I looked at the first picture, my response was "Yikes!"

But the way you've altered it and especially styled it (that hat MAKES the ensemble!) it totally works. And it looks like it would be quite comfortable in hot weather.

BTW, "A Dress A Day" blog had a wonderful commentary two years back about volume and movement that I've kept bookmarked because I love how she approaches this:

madame suggia said...

LOVE it! looks about a million times better with your alterations.

rosarita said...

Very nice, much more wearable. Love the hat, too.

Danielle said...

Really nice. I also thought something was alittle off but I love how you reconstructed it.

r r s said...

Much better. No more pirate wench!

dana said...

I so love it with the slip! And those shoes! and the hat! Would it belt? And if it did, what song would it be?

Sorry. Too much coffee. Brilliant remake.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

Wow--this is how an alteration is done! *APPLAUSE* I'm loving it now. :)

P.S. How did you manage to create that freaky, ghost-like feeling in that first pic? ;)

Claudia said...

you took me straight from hate to love in under sixty seconds - great job! Those alterations make ALL the difference - now it#s a really great dress!

Cathy Curtis said...

I love blue and white stripes and there are pieces in my closet that look like this dress - flowy, bold etc. I put them on, love them, and then knowing I will feel uncomfortable "outside" I take them off. But, I can't get myself to give them away.
This dress reminds me of those pieces. I can see why you love it and the alteration you did looks better, but my guess is that it will be on Ebay sooner or later

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it looks like a dress for a Barnum & Bailey escapee.