Guest at Downton Abbey



The Facts:

Fabric: Upcycled Black and White Rayon (or something), Extra Large Women’s Dress
Pattern: self-drafted
Year:Faux 1920’s Downton Abbey style
Notions: a bit of lace and another upcycled black dress for underslip
Time to complete: Here and there between my other projects- maybe 4 hours.
First worn: November 12, right after last week’s shirt photoshoot.
Wear again? Yes, probably during Thanksgiving.
Total price: Less than $5.00.

I picked up this dress earlier in the year at the thrift. I knew that I would refashion it someday because the fabric was so beautiful. When the Black and White challenge came up, I knew that this dress would be my medium. I should have taken pictures of the dress before I cut into it, so that you could see how much I changed it, but you’ll just have to imagine. Originally it was a faux two piece garment with the top falling down below the waist. The sleeves were about 8 inches long and the neck was high. The skirt was attached to a full length lining so that it could fall without a waistband.


I cut the whole thing apart and threw away the lining. I used a blouse pattern to help me recut the neckline and armcycles, and pinned and marked the sides while it was on my dress form.  I used the old sleeves to make cap sleeves that simply overlap under the arm. I was able to save the original hem on the end of the sleeves. For the neck, I serged, then added some lace to finish it off.

The skirt was really long, but I wanted to keep the original hem, especially because it had triangle pieces built into the sides to give it a little more fullness around the bottom. I carefully measured how long it needed to be and cut from the top of the skirt. I gathered it so that I could adjust it to fit the bodice. I basically used my serger for just about every step. I don’t think you could successfully work with this type of fabric without one. I was very satisfied with how it came together. My dress form really was a big help too. I had to make sure the original bust darts were in the right place, and once they were, then I could cut and pin the top together properly. There were some spaghetti ties for tying at the back of the dress, that I hand-stitched together to make one long belt that I used to go around my waist and tie in a little bow. Finally, I used another thrifted black shift dress for the under-slip. All I had to do was shorten it and mend a few tears in the side seams. It was like they were meant for each other!

I debated whether to have the waist at the waist or have it sit around the hips, and finally decided that I liked it lower, more of a 20’s style. Since I had just finished Season 3 of Downton Abbey via bootleg uploads on the internet, I was really in the 20’s mood. I just adore the fashions worn by the ladies on the show. I imagine that I would fit right in if I were a guest meandering around the gardens or having tea with the family, don’t you think? Anyway, I’m really content with this creation, and I plan on wearing it on Thanksgiving.

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends here in America. To everyone else, a thankful time in which to remember what is important to you. I’m thankful for your camaraderie during this awesome year of sewing challenges. It will be interesting to see what we all do next, won’t it? Happy Sewing!







Barbara is a resident of Northern California. She loves to sew and has pledged not to buy retail clothes for the year of 2012. That means she has to make her own, or buy it at a thrift store. I hope she doesn't spend too much on fabric. When she shops for fabric her eyes light up as she imagines the possibilities! She's like a kid in a candy store.


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  1. Such a lovely dainty dress – particularly the neckline. Styled beautifully too.

  2. Thank you Jen. I like the neckline too. I draped the lace on and stood across the room to see if it would add to the dress. Sometimes those decisions are hard to take back.

  3. What a charming dress. I particularly like that you made it from a recycled garment. You’re so good at that!

  4. What a lovely re-make! That is a pretty fabulous print, I’m glad you could re-make it and give it a second life : )

  5. (yay, I can comment again without getting hung up for 5 minutes!)

    Very nice remake Barbara. I’ve been watching D.A. torrents too, and I’m in love with a lot of the garments from this season. I think I may have to do a ’20s dress for the Do-Over week.