British refashioning expert and "Chic on a Shoestring" author Mary Jane Baxter offers her insight
Refashioning garments into unique vintage-styled clothes and accessories might seem like a task better left to accomplished seamstress, but Mary Jane Baxter, author of "Chic On A Shoestring: Simple to Sew Vintage-Style Accessories," thinks differently. Her new book offers easy how-tos for refashioning your clothes into vintage-inspired fashions that anyone new to sewing can handle. Read on for tips on a simple, vintage-inspired sweater refashion, how Mary Jane stays inspired and her favorite repurpose of all-time — a £10 wedding dress made from a friend's curtains.
Where do you get the inspiration for your vintage-style accessories and garments?
I am always on the lookout for inspiration. I browse high-street stores, car-boot sales, vintage fairs and shops and read lots of magazines, both vintage and contemporary. I’m always on the lookout for old craft and sewing books that are stuffed full of ideas that might have gone out of style and are just waiting to be brought back to life! I might see a trim on a vintage dress and think how fantastic it would look on a hat. Then I’ll try and make my own version of the trim and give it my own individual twist.
What are some easy, little-to-no-effort ways to customize a vintage sweater?
The "Ten Customizing Commandments" from my book Chic on a Shoestring offer vintage chutzpah in a flash!
Simply replace dull buttons with an array of beautiful vintage ones to completely change your sweater’s personality. Try adding a little row of bows to the front of a plain sweater to give it a sweet new look, or hunt out a vintage lace collar and sew it around the neck of a plain jumper with a few simple stitches to give it that old-fashioned feel.
There are lots of fabulous sparkly trims out there which look fantastic sewn or ironed onto a plain black top to give it the wow factor — or how about using Grandma’s lace doilies? Simply stitch a couple to your sweater to add some vintage style. If you sew them onto a sweatshirt, you can cut away the fabric underneath the doily to give a sexy flash of skin beneath!
What has been your favorite refashion project?
A couple of years ago I was challenged by BBC TV to make a wedding dress for £10. It was amazing to see what I could achieve on such a tiny budget. I made one dress from scratch out of a friend’s leftover curtain fabric and created another from charity-shop clothes, customizing a dull T-shirt to make a bohemian-chic wrap-around top. I also found another wedding dress for just under £10 at a flea market … so in the end I managed to come up with three stylish wedding dress ideas, all for £10 each!
To read more on Mary Jane's £10 wedding dress challenge, head to The Guardian.
Do you have any tips for incorporating vintage-style accessories into everyday outfits?
Especially when you’re new to vintage, less is more. Search out a vintage or vintage-style handbag that you love, something that will become part of your signature style. You don’t have to spend lots of money either — a vintage raffia bag or a little mock-croc number would look fantastic.
Similarly, a sparkly brooch or vintage fur collar (fake if you’re not happy with real) on a coat or sweater give just a hint of English aristocrat. My Brogue Makeover project from Chic on a Shoestring is one of my favorites. If you want to give an expensive vintage look to plain lace-up shoes, then give it a go. It’s quick and cheap, but everyone loves it. I had five compliments within one afternoon on the last time I wore those shoes out!
For more on Mary Jane and her vintage-inspired creations, head to Mary Jane Makes.