Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??

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Sewing tips to make a vintage dress fit

I am forever spotting gorgeous vintages dresses when I go for my weekly rummage in the charity shops but I am often put off from investing in an outfit because it is far too big for me. Last week, I tried on this vintage shirt dress from Oxfam, which was around 3 sizes too big for me, but I loved the (so on-trend!) tropical pattern of the fabric that I decided to give it a new home and see what I could do to make it fit me.

The dress didn’t have any labels in it, so it may well have been handmade in the first place so I didn’t feel too bad making adjustments to it, although that first cut is always difficult, because I don’t want to ruin something that has survived so many years! At least it will be worn if I can make it fit me, whereas it would be relegated to the back of my wardrobe if wasn’t brave enough to make any changes, so I got my scissors out and set to work.

before and after vintage dress

  1. First of all I put the dress on to see where the adjustments needed to be made. The shoulders were too wide, the side seams could be taken in about 6 inches and I wanted to make it into a knee length dress, otherwise it would be too long for me. So I pinned down the sides to make it fit, pinned up the shoulders and measured how much fabric would need to be removed in order to make it knee length.

  2. I began by stitching up the side seams by following the line of the pins to create a more figure-hugging shape, trimmed off the excess fabric and zig-zag stitched over the seam to prevent it from fraying.

Cassiefairy - sewing tips for shortening a vintage dress

  1. Instead of taking up the hem of the dress, which already had a perfect blind hem stitched in place, I decided to shorten the dress at the waist. So I cut the dress straight across at my waist point (a very scary moment – I needed to be brave!) which left me with a ‘top’ and a ‘skirt’.

  2. I used the measurement for the right length that I noted down whilst trying on the dress, which was 4 inches shorter, so I cut a strip 4 inches deep from the top of the skirt – cutting straight across again.

  3. I then reattached it by pinning the skirt around the bottom of the top, with the right sides of the fabric together. I zig-zag stitched around the middle to join the dress back together.

Now my vintage shirt dress is 4 inches shorter and about 6 inches smaller and fits me perfectly. After I tried on my new dress, I realised that the sleeves would look better if they were a little slimmer too, so I took in the sleeve seams by about an inch too. So next time you find a dress that you love which is too big for you, don’t dismiss it straight away. Think about what you can do to make it fit, and give the dress a new lease of life!





My bargain fashion haul

I’ve had a bit of a result this week while shopping online. I discovered a fabulous fashion store that combines the convenience of online shopping with low low high street prices, sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, it IS true and my order from has just arrived to prove it!

I was initially looking for something to wear to my friend’s wedding next weekend and having exhausted my usual shopping haunts, I decided to widen my search and take a look online. I was surprised and delighted with the selection of reasonably priced dresses I found at and I managed to get my whole outfit sorted at once. I bought this royal blue maxi dress with a slinky knotted-front detail and it was under £15! See, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was great prices!! It’s like a sale is on all the time and as such, items sell out quickly so if you see something you like, I recommend you grab it straight away while it’s still in stock! I decided to pair the dress with a fresh white blazer and added this to my cart before having a little browse around the rest of the store to see what other bargains I could find.

I couldn’t resist snapping up this over-size t-shirt with fabulous Mean Girls ‘you can’t sit with us’ quote on it. I already have a cute tartan skirt that I bought in the winter sales, so I thought the two would look great together as a kind of teen-flick mash-up of Clueless and Mean Girls! The t-shirt was only £8.25 and that’s one of the more spendy tops on the website!

I also bagged this horse pattern knitted jumper. I know it’s sunny outside at the moment, but this item was new in and I know that it will have sold out by the time the autumn breezes arrive! So I’ve invested in the black version ready for A/W14, but I love the fit and design so much that I’m actually thinking about getting it in cream with black horses too because I already know I’ll wear it all winter long!

So what do you think of my bargain fashion haul? I’ve barely taken off my new slogan t-shirt since it arrived and am bursting to hop back onto the website and order some more low-priced goodies. I’m pleased that a thrifty gal like me has finally found somewhere to shop online that doesn’t break the bank, woop!Mean Girls t shirt

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Rent it, love it, return it!

No, I’m not suggesting some dodgy take-your-dress-back-to-the-shop-after-wearing-it scheme! I’m taking about dress hire. Remember in the Sex and The City Movie when Carrie’s PA Louise has the best designer handbags on her arm and an assistant’s wage in her purse, baffling Carrie into asking how she has got hold of her waiting-list-only arm candy? Louise proudly tells Carrie that it’s rented and we all wondered how long it would be until a service like this arrives in the UK too. Well, it’s here right now! Yes, I’ve found out that you really can hire designer dresses, coats and accessories from Wish Want Wear.

Like Louise from the SATC film, I found an array of gorgeous handbags but immediately worried about creating pen-leaks and lipstick stains inside and being charged for the damage, so it’s definitely a service for special occasions rather than everyday use. But if I ever feel the urge to wear a £1650 Hervé Legér bandage dress, this is the place to come! When I discovered this website, I began thinking about all the events I need to go to this year; weddings, christenings and parties and started doing the mental arithmetic on how much a new outfit for each special occasion would cost me to buy. Now, I’d never be able to buy afford designer dresses but even so, the cost of an outfit soon adds up. I imagine that someone who attends a lot of work functions would get a lot of use out of this service, but would be right for me? As you know, I’m a thrifty kind of girl, so I looked at the lower-priced rental outfits and found a few at bargain rates.

wish want wear designer dresses

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Finding the perfect dress for the National Blog Awards

Next month I am going to the National Blog Awards as a finalist! I am so excited to be attending the ‘Oscars of the blogging world’ and I can’t wait to catch up with my bestie Jenna who has also been shortlisted for her wedding blog Glitter Daze. Luckily, we aren’t competing against each other, as I am a finalist in the Retail and Fashion category so we can just enjoy a few drinks together, a lovely meal and enjoy all the glitz and glamour that the awards ceremony has to offer.

It’s a proper red-carpet type event and I alternate between being very exciting and very scared because I’ve no idea what the dress code ‘dress to impress’ means – Is it an occasion for long evening dresses or short prom dresses? Will everyone else there be in floor-length gowns or will I look silly in a mini dress?? It’s not a problem for my husband, who will wear his lovely shirt and blazer combo and will look fantastic as always – just the right mix of smart without trying too hard – I don’t know how he does it! But for my outfit I have no idea and I’m sure that I’ll end up in photographs at the awards so I don’t want to look a mess, nor do I want to stick out by being overdressed. So this has kick-started a massive dress hunt and here’s my shortlist:

 victorias dress outfit ideas for national blog awards                     

Black lace a-line dress or red chiffon sweetheart dress

I picked out these cheap prom dresses from one of my favourite dress websites because I know that once I choose a shape of dress I can have it made in any colour for around the same price as an off-the-peg high street dress. At least I know that no one else will be wearing the same outfit as me if I have a dress custom-made! I love the red prom dress above but I think that the chiffon might be too girly for me for such a formal occasion, so I prefer the demure shape of the black a-line dress with lace detail but – in contrast – I’d like to have it in a bright colour. Choosing the colour from the rainbow of fabrics will be difficult but I think that a deep red or dusky pink would be nice with my skintone and warm up my complexion. As you might remember, I had a colour analysis done by Janelle from Confessions of a Fashion Stylist blog and the colours that suit me best are pinks, reds and lavenders so as I’m not a big fan of lilac I think I’ll follow her advice to select a rich red because I already wear a lot of burgundy and I know I’ll feel comfortable in it.

Either way, I need to make a decision on my outfit pretty soon and when payday comes I’ll be booking my train ticket to London for the biggest event of the blogging year and I can’t wait! Of course I will report back to you on my progress in the competition and let you know how I get on during the big night – watch this space!


My country craft sewing project – adding contrast panels to a dress

This week I’ve been slaving over my sewing machine… and loving every minute of it. You see, I’ve been inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee and watching the show each week has reignited my love of sewing and making something new without spending a fortune. In fact, being thrifty and recycling fabrics are two of my favourite things and I really can’t get rid of any item of clothing without having a good think about what else I could possibly make from it. Take the two ruined shirts that I made into one good item last week (here’s my blog post) – no way was I going to send that paint-splattered shirt to landfill when I could upcycle it into a funky (or so I think anyway!) contrast shirt for my husband.

Similarly I’ve been inspired to upcycle a dress this weekend thanks to Rosie and Hannah from The New Craft Society blog. They shared information on the Hillary’s Country Craft competition on their blog and my eye was instantly drawn to the Patina Pewter fabric – I knew I could do something with this pretty metallic print and I sent off for a sample straight away. Then I got to thinking about the uses for the fabric. A cushion? Squares in a quilt? A tote bag? I wanted to come up with a fabulous project for such a glamourous piece of fabric so I got my thinking cap on… and that’s where a trip to the Oxfam high street store came in.

contrast panel dress upcycling sewing project - before

On the sale rail of the local charity shop was a fitted black dress reduced to a £1 because it had stains down the front of the dress. I immediately thought that I could upcycle the dress, replace the damaged panels and turn it into something special using my Hillary’s fabric so I snapped it up and skipped home with my purchase. I knew it would be a bigger challenge than I am used to, but I wanted to test myself and learn a few new techniques in the process so I was extra-excited when I sat down at the sewing machine this weekend and got to work.

First I removed the damaged panels from the front of the dress. This was a little harder than I’d anticipated because I had to unpick the lining before I could even get started on the panels and I had to think twice before every cut I made – would I need a little extra here for the seam? How would I attach it there? It was a long process to deconstruct the dress but eventually I had half a dress and I used the two pieces that I’d removed as a pattern to cut the replacement fabric panels with. After cutting these out I realised that I’d need to sort out the edge of the neckline before I could attach it back onto the dress so I took the facing off the inside of the original neckline and attached this to the Patina Pewter pattern piece (try saying that after a drink!) with right sides facing. I then tried out a technique that I’ve never used before but I’d seen on the Great British Sewing Bee during episode 1 – understitching. For the first time in my life I understitched around the neckline and was so surprised when it actually looked as it should and helped the facing to lie flat on the inside of the neckline – amazing! I don’t know why I’ve never done this before and I already feel much more confident about sewing necklines in the future!

contrast panel dress upcycling sewing project - steps

After a lot of fiddling to make the top pattern piece fit into the gap – making sure that the shoulder seams matched and the piece fitted into the waistline – I stitched it in place. The dress had a top again and it looked good – phew! I thought that the skirt panel would be the easiest part to insert but I first needed to hem the piece and spent time hand-stitching the blind-hem – another technique I’d never bothered with in the past. I always thought it would be too fiddly and look messy anyway, but nonetheless I got out my iron, matched the depth of the hem to the existing hem on the dress and threaded my needle with matching cotton. This woven fabric made it easy to catch a small amount of the fabric into the blind hem and kept it safely in place. Again, I’ll use this technique while making dresses in the future now that I’ve given it a go!

I inserted the panel along both sides of the skirt and, because I’d added a little extra fabric to allow for the lack of stretch, I gathered the fabric at the waistband and reattached it. I turned the dress right side out and couldn’t believe my eyes. I had a very classy dress with a pretty contrast fabric panel for a teeny tiny price – what could be better than that? It looks a bit like the hem isn’t level in these photos, but that’s just the way that the fabric is hanging on the hanger – it is straight and looks perfect when I’m wearing it! I admit I am really rather chuffed with my new dress and another item of clothing saved from landfill – not to mention a unique design that I know no one else will be wearing to any party I attend in the future!

contrast panel dress upcycling sewing project