Denim Shirt Refashion - Putting Old Navy Out of Business

I'm putting old navy out of business!? Yay!? (She exclaimed confusedly?!)
I altered a shirt that I bought at old navy to make it more suited to me and my style. I hear that's all it takes to put someone out of business these days. I may have heard wrong.
It all started last black Friday...
(     (   (  ( ((*ripple flashback*)) )  )   )    )
I was shopping at Old Navy.
I found a denim dress/shirt I liked the look of.
I bought it at a discounted price.
I wore it twice.
It sat in my closet, unwanted.
I decided to cut it in half.
(     (   (  ( ((*ripple to last week*)) )  )   )    )

zé before
This shirt/dress (tunic?? I only associate tunics with Jedi...) was not all bad, but it was too narrow at the legs and I feel like I looked like a sock. It was impossible to style it the way I wanted to, so I was either gonna get rid of it, or....

...CHOP IT!!! >:D
It's important to note that I had a plan in mind, I didn't start chopping things willy-nilly. Even though it's fun to narrate as if it happened that way. ;) I had already been thinking about how I would alter it for a while, so when the time came it was just a matter of executing it, and problem solving as things came up.

Firstly I flipped it inside out and cut the "tunic" into 3 sections which will be referred to as the top, middle, and trim.

While the middle and trim were laying around on my desk like a magic trick gone wrong, I was taking in the spine of the top to make it fit how I like. ('Spine' is used here to mean 'where the spine would exist in a garment anatomically.' To my knowledge it is not an official sewing term.)

The spine.
The dress-form my family owns is just my size, so it makes sewing things for myself really easy. I was trying on the top every time I was about to sew something important to be sure that everything was going to fit right, but it was always fine! I'm glad I didn't have to seam rip much because I learned that this fabric is actually quite delicate and doesn't even like being worked on with a needle. (Yo fabric, getchya priorities straight!) Maybe the needle in my sewing machine was too big or something, but the fabric was snagging on the needle the whole time. It didn't get caught or slow me down, but it left little white loops of fabric-thread sticking out of every tiny hole that the needle pierced. I noticed that the tension of the thread in my machine also seemed to be a little much, so maybe that had an effect? I'm not a master seamstress. You're looking at a girl who didn't know what a backstitch was until last year, so whenever it came time to finish off my sewing I would just knot every loose thread as many times as I could so that it would become too big to slip away and unravel all my hard work. Often times, they unraveled anyway. XD

I made a waistband from the trim section of fabric, (I used the part at the very bottom that was already a finished band,) situated it on the dress form, and pinned my top to it. I wasn't concerned about all the bunchiness that was happening as I was pinning a lot of fabric to the significantly smaller surface area of the waistband, because I was going for a puffy look.
Panels to widen the skirt. Wrong side, and right side. About to be sewn. 
I sewed the waistband to my top, and then started work on the middle section that was soon to become my greatest sewing achievement to date.
I didn't photograph this next part of the process very thoroughly because I was too excited and got it done very quickly, but I'll explain what happened.
If you look back at the picture that shows the recently cut middle and trim sections, I used the rest of the single-layer fabric from the trim section (-which was everything but the actual trim. Where I come up with my terminology, I don't know-) to create two panels that I used to widen the middle section. I felt like the original version of the shirt/dress was too narrow, so I needed to widen the middle section if any of this was going to be worthwhile for me.
Here are the panels that I ended up puzzling together out of my spare fabric. I made one to place into each side of the middle section.

I cut the middle section into two equal pieces, front and back, and placed in the extension panels. I sewed certain seems to curve inward a little bit so that it would make the middle section, or the skirt as we can now call it, a little more poofy.
After I finished sewing that, the skirt was a circular piece again.

I attached it to the waistband, lining up the seams on the sides and situating the rest as I saw fit. Instead of mimicking the random bunching that happened when I was attaching the top to the waistband, I formed some pleats in the skirt and specifically pinned them to create a flouncy shape. I started pinning the pleats how I wanted them to end up looking on the outside of the skirt, which was a silly thing to do because the shirt has been flipped inside-out from the very beginning of the process. If I had done that, I would have gone to turn the shirt right-side out when it was all finished and my pleats would have been the opposite of how I wanted them to be.
Sewing is tricky like that. If you can master this, you can back a trailer into a compact parking space. You can do anything.
So, luckily I caught myself and was able to invert my design so that it would indeed show up correctly on the outside of the garment. What you see in the photo above is the way that it was correctly sewn in the end. Notice how the pleats flatten the skirt. This means that when the shirt is flipped to the right side out, they will volumize. Science.
Or is it math? B)

I knew early on in this process that if I was going to make this shirt as fitted as I wanted, I needed to find some way to get it on and off. This fabric has no stretch, and the shoulders are already pretty snug on me. I was kinda sewing myself a straightjacket here. When it was all pinned on to the mannequin, it was time to figure out how I was going to get it off of the mannequin. I decided to cut it straight down the front. The existence of the buttons ensured that half the job was already done for me, and all I had to do was cut through the skirt, then separate the.... I'm sorry, I have no clue what to call it. You know the trim that the buttons are sewn onto? Do you see how that trim only goes down so far and then the two sections are connected at the bottom? I had to separate that. I couldn't just cut through it because it would have made a mess. I spent a good amount of time seam-ripping every seam that I could rip at that part and eventually I got it separated. There were like 20 layers of fabric folded onto each other, it was a nightmare of the mildest variety. I'm pretty sure that was the thing holding the entire dress together before I came in and started altering things.
So yay, I can take my shirt off of the dress form! Now what? Well, now we sew.
I sewed the skirt to the waistband, and now that I think about it I had to do the nightmare seam-ripping earlier when I was first pinning the top to the waistband, because I couldn't have gotten that off of the mannequin either!
As the first of many final touches, I also went along every rough edge and pinned the tiniest seam allowance ever and sewed it to finish it off nicely. This was one of those fabrics that wanted to unravel all day long. It was very annoying. When all the machine sewing was done, I took a tiny pair of scissors and snipped off all the loose threads and unraveled fabric. This was also a small-scale nightmare. It was fun and I enjoyed the challenge, but there were threads everywhere. It was like the inside of the shirt was lined with sparse fur. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we sew things inside out... to hide our mistakes and synthetic furs.

Top: original brass color. Bottom: painted with silver nail polish, for shininess.
All that you just read is what I did in the span of a day. ( It was a really fun day. :)
These next little finishing touches were done over the next few days.
I hand sewed a hook and eye closure onto the waistband, and painted the buttons with silver nail polish because I like them better that way.

As this creation was no longer the property of Old Navy, I thought the tag felt a little presumptuous.

So I changed it out for my own.

I used a piece of scrap fabric from trim of the shirt and embroidered it using the sewing machine. It wasn't on a special embroidery setting or anything (because I dunno how to do that XD) I just chose a thick stitch that would do a straight line, and made a little L to claim my creation as my own.

And then, it was finished. 

zé after

Now if that ain't the prettiest shirt you've ever seen!! I reaaallllyyyy like it. Like, a looottt. It turned out exactly how I pictured it, which never happens!
This project got me really excited to get back into refashioning. I've been doing it for years, but I've never had a project turn out so well. I used to make a lot of rookie mistakes. It's a good thing I kept trying, because I've learned a lot and my dreams and my skill level are finally matching up.
My sister is the skilled photographer who took the outdoor photos so that I could model my creation. Thanks Mary!! <3 (click!)
I hope you enjoyed, thanks for reading! 


  1. You should set up a stand just outside of Old Navy, and let them know you really mean business. ;)


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