Upcycled Wearable Art: The Tired Old Brown Dress

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Before: An old drab dress is turned into amazing piece of wearable art. Great DIY project.

It all began when I was cleaning out my closet; trying to find something decent to wear.

There are a couple of tips that I have that make all of the difference in the world when painting on fabric.

  Tip # 1: You can paint almost anywhere: the dining room table, the kitchen counter, the top of a dresser, or even a rough old work table. I put down a piece of batting first and then cover it with a piece of plastic to protect my work surface. A little bit of padding is a good thing; too much is definitely not a good thing.

  Tip # 2: Put a piece of regular sand paper underneath your fabric before you begin painting. The grade of sand paper is not important as long as it is not too coarse. The sand paper holds the fabric in place just like glue but much better.

For a long time I have been saving old clothing that was too nice to either toss or donate. Periodically I will take things out of the closet and think about  how I could rejuvenate these tired old garments. This is one of my first pieces of repurposed clothing, and I had so much fun creating this piece that I can’t wait to make more.
   I started with a very drab, dowdy looking brown dress that was made in a cotton lycra knit. After dyeing the dress a darker shade of chocolate brown, I chopped off the bottom of the dress. Next I took the side seams apart so that the dress would lie fairly flat .

Painting with stencils. Fuchsia Stencil design by April Sproule.This is the beginning of the stencil process on the front and the back of the dress. I used my Fuchsia Stencil on the front and back center panels of the dress. I mixed an orchid pink and a coral rose color for the flowers, and I used a taupe colored metallic Lumiere paint for the leaves and the scrolls.

The Fuchsia Stencil combined with a scroll design in metallic paint create a stunning work of art.Here you can see the details of the painting on the back. I really have a lot of fun combining the shapes together in different ways. Here I used the Scroll Stencil, and the little accent in pink at the bottom is the top of the Thistle design.




I had enough fabric left to cut small godets, triangular shaped pieces, to insert in each seam to give the skirt a little more flare. I printed these with my stencil in a coral color. For those of you not familiar with the term godets, they are simply a triangular shaped piece of fabric that you can insert.

Heat Setting the Paint

After the stenciling was finished, I heat set all of the painted areas with a hot iron for 3 minutes. Then the garment is washable in cold water.

After heat setting, I sewed the godets into the princess seams of the dress and then sewed up the side seams.


The last step was to finish the sleeves and the hem. I used a really simple technique called lettucing. I once worked with a designer in Canada who was especially fond of this technique, so it is probably one of the techniques that I will never forget how to do.     
You simply use a zig-zag stitch close to the edge of the fabric, and then continue going around the hem stretching it a little more each time so that it stretches out. I went around mine three times. It works beautifully on either knits or bias cut fabric.      

This project  took me a total of eight hours to complete. Instead of using that old brown dress cut up as cleaning rags or some equally mundane purpose, I have a new piece of clothing that is fun, colorful, and clearly represents my personal creative style. Now maybe it is time for you to go rummage through your own closet and see what forgotten treasures await you there.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the process that I used to create this garment. Please check back soon, as I have several more tutorials in the works.

Thank you for your interest, April Sproule