Upcycle Balloon Sleeve Dress From A Roll of 1987 Drapery Fabric


After recovering from my daughter's high school graduation party, on May 23rd, where sushi platters covered every available inch of 'counter real estate' inside the house, and the constant supply of fresh pizzas coming out of our pizza oven in the backyard, and the free flowing mojitos, mambo taxi, aperol spritzes on tap, and the music reverberating off the exterior walls of our house, and dancing non-stop...

Our 2020 summer of celebrations

just begins!

Next we wish off our 18 year old to a 6 week language program in Cracow, Poland as we begin to usher in the plans for my husband's 50th birthday June 9th.

Welcoming in droves of people from all layers of his past-- from childhood and high school, to fraternity days, early employments, all the way to his current companies where Bill, the husband has a dedicated following, we gluttonize by bring in Chando'sChando's taco truck and eating tons of cheesecake (my husband's favorite cake).

Next in mid-June, we are off to Northern Italy where we will meet our 18 year old who will join us after her soujourn in Poland to celebrate her daddy's 50th with his dream culinary trip to visit Parma, Genoa, Bologna, and Trieste.

We return home soon enough to be thrown into outdoor summer parties, 4th of July celebration, boating at the lake, a Wedding, and a trip to San Francisco and Santa Cruz on Pacific coast to cool down.

And as summer winds down, and we face September, we are in high gear organizing our huge 20th Wedding Anniversary party, complete with vow renewal, and one more party before heading into the Fall.


All sounds wonderful right?

But NONE of this is happening...

Nope, nothing.

And although there was some lamentation, and disappointment, especially for my 18 year old daughter, we are ok.

We live in Sacramento, CA---so far not a high-risk/high-infection rate area. But we know this can change really fast. Just because our rates are low, we never took that as a license to venture out like we used to.

Being in a Stage-3 area, as opposed to New York City just entering Stage-2, we have been able to socialize in small groups, and among our closest family members--my parents, Bill's parents, and siblings. On the 4th of July we will have a 7 adult person party--all family members.

We only go out into the world for necessities. Although, Bill and I desperately miss getting dressed up and going out to a nice restaurant. We miss our dinner parties and music and dancing!

Styling Challenge

When Anna of Mutton Style of the 'Match Made in Seven' styling group that I joined last month for the first time, suggested the theme 'Going Out, Out, Out!!', no one had to twist my arm. I was excited to be able to create something for myself when Bill and I will be able to go to a restaurant.

Before I take you down my Upcycling rabbit hole, let me quickly introduce these amazingly stylish ladies from around the world. I hope you can take some time to check their styles out!

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

  1. Darlene of Aqua Marina Style

  2. Debbie of Debbie Styles Life

  3. Emma of Style-Splash

  4. Eva (ME!) of Style My Thrift

  5. Nancy of Nancy's Fashion Style

  6. Bettye of Fashion Schlub

  7. Anna of Mutton Style

Last month's challenge was my first, and suggested by Debbie. I was intrigued by her choice of "Steel Magnolia's". Here's the link to the skirt I created from a $1.00 late 1980's dress I purchased on the clearance rack (the dregs) at the thrift store. I am not surprised no one swiped this number as fast as it hit the racks.

I did manage to Upcycle this Franken-dress in to something ultra-feminine, ruffly, high-low, and a nod to my historic costuming background.

If I Were Going Out, Out, Out!...

If you don't know me by now, everyday I scour new fashion styles on Pinterest.

There's so much I love, but the reality is, well, there's a few realities right now, like not being to go out, but that aside, the reality is that I don't have time to make everything I see.

I decide to embark on an Upcycle if I've ruminated a certain style.

If you looked at the 'It-Ladies' at the Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan, and London BEFORE CV19-Q-Time, then you would have noticed those billowly and amorphic, 'perfect for PMS or eating a large meal' dress silhouettes sometimes without sleeves, but mostly with comically large balloon like sleeves.

For a better look at the dress I feel in love with, click on the image above to take you to my Pinterest Board: dresses, StyleMyThrift. This particular dress is being worn by Jenny Walton, an illustrator and the fashion director at The Sartorialist. I am obsessed with Jenny and most likely will be creating many more Copy-Cat Jenny Walton looks.

This particular dress is from Soolinen. When I clicked over, I was suprised to see how affordable these dresses are. I was so expecting some high-end prices, but good quality, pretty dresses for $48-$60? not bad eh? (Disclosure: I have NO affiliation with Soolinen.) But love to point out good deals when I see them!

Not the worst, eh? Let's see if this fabric will fall apart since it's from 1987!!!!

How did I acquire this roll of fabric?

Three years ago, I purchased a storage unit full of old drapery/curtain fabric rolls off someone from Craigslist who wanted the electrical goods from a storage unit auction, but had no use for the fabric. It wasn't a cheap purchase, but the amount I received for what I paid was a great decision on my behalf. And at that time, I needed beaucoup fabric for my costume rental business CostumeTake-Out.

A Dress Pattern

I fell short. I did not have a pattern. I have hundreds of patterns--mostly all vintage. Not one purchased for more than $0.99! I've learned that basic silhouettes stand the test of time, being applicable to many different eras like a 1980's pattern for a 2020 style.

When I saw this dress at the thrift shop, I did not know about the dress I was making for this month's challenge. I told you, I ruminate. I purchased this dress in early Fall when the 'It Ladies' were wearing this style on Pinterest.

I could see the potential of what I wanted to make, minus this fabric print (although the fabric itself is a beautiful, high quality weave) and minus the sleeves I wanted. But these are just Upcycling & Refashioning technicalities.

Achieving a V-Neck

One thing I do have a ton of are patterns with a V-Neck. Again, there's pretty much one standard way to make a straight forward V-Neck. Save yourself $$$ and pick up an old pattern for $0.49. Trust me, no one really wants a dated vest pattern, unless you are a costume designer.

All the Pieces I Need

The only thing I have to design on my own are the balloon sleeves. But since I am using a dropped shoulder for the sleeve, adding the balloon shape is easier than adding it as a sleeve directly to the shoulder.




1st Step--Cutting Pattern Shapes

  1. Lay out pattern on fabric and cut out skirt.

  2. Cut out back of dress top. (look how much longer the waist will be!)

  3. Match up V-Neck vest pattern onto pattern of dress top and cut out one half of front dress top.

  4. Fold over the half of the dress top fabric and cut out a mirror image. (hard to see the fabric folded over, but you can see the faint lines).

2nd Step--Connect Front & Back Top Pieces

  1. Pin front V pieces to back top piece and stitch up edges.

  2. Make sure V is aligned to back piece.

  3. Fold in front to see where V aligns.

3rd Step--Attach Facing

  1. Copy shape of neckline 2 times. Use ruler to make sure width is the same all along facing piece. (I had to create my v-neck facing because the vest pattern didn't have one.)

  2. Sew facing pieces together at top shoulder seam.

  3. Pin facing opposite sides.

  4. Sew the facing along the edge. Turn facing underneath and press with iron.

4th Step--Test Fitting

  1. Check fit to make sure all is good ie the sisters aren't showing too much ; )

5th Step--Gather Skirt

  1. Double gather/baste stitch the top of the skirt.

  2. Catch up on some Netflix while slowly pulling strings of gather.

  3. Check over the gather to make sure distributed nice and evenly along waistline.

6th Step--Attach & Hem Skirt

  1. Pin the skirt to top before you lose something! ; )

  2. Look where to line up top and skirt.

  3. Stitch together.

  4. Make sure everything sewn on right.

  5. Mark new shorter hem length.

  6. Stitch new hem.