Before and After AKA Upcycle

I purchased a sun dress last year.  Off the rack. In a gas store. What can I say?  It was pretty. Sturgis was over and the stores were clearing out their Sturgis stuff so it was cheap.  I loved the color. DH said it was cute. I wore it a couple of times at the end of summer and put it away when I made the seasonal wardrobe change.  This year I pulled it out and took pics.Why on earth did DH think this was cute?

It was one of those garments I folded up and put in the donate box.

But it haunted me. I loved the color; design; and ITY fabric. I started seeing these tank top dresses everywhere

Seriously, these were in my catalogs; in the line up at QVC, HSN and Evine.  These things are little more than a  length of fabric gathered to a shortened tank top.  However, the prices make you want to cry. This trend also dove tailed with another style desire of mine: the empire top.  An empire, when done right for me, is very flattering.  I think I can figure out the level the empire on which the empire needs to sit on me.  Also think I can figure out how much ease I need (my empire tops are best when they don’t accent my tummy).  It’s keeping the empire line level that has me buffaloed.  Thank fully, I’m not alone.  I’ve seen a number of these tank dresses and other empire styles; on slim models; and the empire is not level it slants upward at CF.  I really don’t like that look. To me that’s preggars. A look I had to wear for 9 months some 30+years ago and have no desire to repeat.

So I put both ideas together, i.e. the tank top dress trend with my need to adapt the empire for my figure and decide to pull the discarded dress out of the donate box.  I cut away the shoulder straps close to the stitching line.  The elastic shirring was a bit more of a challenge but I managed to get it unraveling and ripped out all 5 rows.  I do have an issue.  There are little holes where the shirring used to be:

I turned the fabric up side down placing what used to be the shirred bodice at hem level.  Hopefully the holes are not noticeable to anyone else. Heck they may even close up a little in the wash.  This is one of those places where my experience trumps Peggy’s opinion.  I don’t get these little holes if I use a ball point needle in a size 10.  I’m sure Peggy is right;  that the manufacturer used a standard size 70 sharp needle and the mfg was not expecting me to remove the shirring.  But I’d rather not have those holes and wish the mfg had followed my experience instead of industry standard as stated by Peggy. . Well, water under the bridge.

The other issue I have is the CB seam at the hem. Well used to be at the shirred bodice.  It’s a little rough

Ok pic doesn’t show my concern so hopefully no one else will notice either.

From my stash I retrieved  a black ponte remnant.  Looking back, I think I saved the remnant  with the thought of using it for bindings.  It is a little heavy but for a test garment probably OK.

And this is a test. Because I don’t know precisely what to do to make my empire line level.  I traced the front and back of my knit sloper from shoulder to waist.  I saw no point in tracing below the waist when I planned to discard all that anyway.  I started by altering the back pattern piece. I tried on a striped top that I like and measured down to the stripe level equal to where I thought I wanted my empire. That number is 4.5″.  I measured down the side seam 4.5″ drew a horizontal line across to CB.  From there to the hem was 1.25″ excess tissue which I trimmed away.  My sloper contains a neckline dart the result of rotating my RBA so that I don’t need a center back seam. I rotated the neckline dart to shoulder; moved it to armscye edge  and  trimmed away.  I trimmed all the excess tissue

and proceeded to alter the front.

I had trimmed 1.25″ from the back to make the side seam 4.5″ long. So now I trimmed 1.25″ from the bottom of the front.    Suzy Furrer has you move the bust dart to the hem when converting your sloper to a knit block. How would that work since I’d already cut off the hem?  I didn’t know. So instead I slashed from side seam to CF 4 times.  Each of the resulting wedges were overlapped until my front side seam was the same length as my back side seam, 4.5″. Unfortunately, my CF looks like the dog’s hind leg i.e. bent.

My front sloper has an armscye dart. If left In my tank top, the armacye will gap or I’ll need to sew a dart. Instead I rotated it to the empire line which thankfully straightened out my CF once again.

I turned my attention to the neckline and armscye of both pieces. My sloper is drafted for the typical high  T-shirt neckline and shoulder.  I want my tank top neckline to be lower both in front and back and I want a narrower shoulder. About 2.5″ at the shoulder should do but I’ll want seam allowances too.  I drafted from front neckline to be 6.5″ deep and 1″ further away from my physical neck. I changed my back neckline to be 3″ deep and 1.25″ away from my physical  neck. Why the difference? Something I learned from Suzy Furrer is that if you move the back neckline just 1/4″ further from the neck than the front , the back will pull on the front and remove any gaping. I drafted my shoulder to be 3″ wide.  Trimmed all the excess tissue and stepped back to take a look:

The back looks about as expected. I’m really cautious about the front piece. The empire line sweeps upward pretty sharply. I walked the side seam about 3 times just to be sure front and back side seams were the same length.

I serged one shoulder. Added FOE to the neckline then stitched the other shoulder. I stitched the right-shoulder 1/8″ deeper than the left to accommodate my lower shoulder. Then I basted the side seams and slipped it on. While it is hard to tell much at that fitting,  I did decide to trim 1/2″ width both front and back but only at the empire. IOW removing  a wedge from the side seam which was  1/2″ wide at the empire zeroing at the armscye.

On these type dresses,  the skirt is usually gathered to the tank top. I’m not a fan of that look especially on me. It says preggars, again. But I wanted all the hem circumference.  I could have cut the fabric into an A-line shape. I opted instead to pleat the skirt to my top. The result:

Fit02 above


Sleek and smooth. Just what I wanted. Tank and skirt smoothly joined. No gathers to pucker or emphasize my tummy. Joy of all joys, my empire is sitting level.  That odd front piece works. My criticism is that I think I want the bodice longer.  I should have made the top at 6 or 7″ long.   After this fitting, I added a 1″ finished band to add at the bottom. I agree with Peggy that it’s a better look to stop the eye at certain places.  The neckline is one. The hem  another. So I have solid black at the hem (bottom) and again at my neckline (top) framing my stature.


I’m really pleased with this project.  I have a wearable dress and a good beginning empire.  I will not alter my empire tissue further. I will however copy it and make changes.  In addition to the empire being shorter than I prefer, my tank shoulders are still too wide. Possibly I could just indicate that a seam allowance needs to be trimmed if using FOE. I might also deepen either or both front/back neckline. Because it’s a tank.  Finally, the armscye is a bit high, especially for a tank.  But I’m still pleased.  I’ve made a very good start; and definitely have some impressive before and afters