Do you love transforming old things to new? I do! I have recently had fun reusing fabric for a Georgian gown. I am a treasure hunter at heart and I’m always on the lookout for precious goods when I’m out shopping at an antique store, a second hand, thrift store, or a garage sale. It is always gratifying when I find something that’s valuable and I pay only a small amount for it!
One of my best finds at a garage sale was a silver butler’s tray. It was badly tarnished and I could tell the man didn’t know much about silver. It may have belonged to his mother or grandmother and he was highly motivated to be rid of it. I think he was ready to pay anyone to haul everything away! I asked him the price to which he responded “Will you take it for three dollars?” I held back my enthusiasm and gave a little smirk and a pause. “OK”, I said, “I guess I’ll take it.” I walked slowly back to my car and then raced away! “Oh my goodness”, I was gloating to my friend, “I know this is worth a lot more than three dollars!” I immediately looked it up on my phone (such a blessing sometimes – technology) and found that was worth $150!! Yee ha! It was so black and tarnished but I could tell it was in excellent shape. I took it home and after hours of scrubbing and polishing, I’m now proud to use it to serve tea to my friends!
The same thing goes with costuming and from time to time (when I’m making something for myself) one of the first places I go is the Goodwill. I head to the sheets and comforters section and you may not believe it but you can find some pretty nice fabrics back there. There’s also a section that has accessories and trimmings and that’s always fun to rummage through!
Antique stores are a bit nicer and there are some cool vintage clothes that can be repaired or remade into something else. Some reenactors do this as well and I think it’s always good to try to re-purpose old fabrics or old garments in order to make them useful again.
My most recent project was changing curtains from Goodwill to a Georgian gown. I used curtains, a comforter and a sheet from the Goodwill and I think the total outlay was about $25. If I were to buy new fabric, the cost would be close to $250, so I was very pleased with the fabric cost for that mock-up. By the way, making a mock-up from used fabrics is a great way to test out a pattern to see if it looks right. If you’re looking for a pattern for reusing fabric for a Georgian gown, try “Patterns of Fashion” by Janet Arnold which can be purchased easily through Amazon.
Here’s another idea: if you’re going to be attending a ball (let’s say a Jane Austen ball) and perhaps you’ve made a last-minute decision; all you need is a long gown that has an empire waist line. It’s not too hard to find an empire-waist dress in a thrift store and then all you would need to do is add some fabric to the bottom of it or even wear a long matching petticoat underneath (I did something like this for one of my very first Jane Austen events) and voila! Regency gown!
So, when you’re out there treasure hunting, have fun, be creative and think out-of-the-box and before you know it you’ll be coming up with some really cool ideas and the ability to turn something that was meant for the rag pile into something beautiful! With a little patience and ingenuity, you can have fun reusing fabric for a Georgian gown or a Regency Gown or whatever you choose! You can be like a fairy godmother and give it its very own Cinderella story!