Re-loved Dresses

22 Apr

A couple of years ago, I went with my Mum to a favourite haunt, a large Antique centre near Lancaster. Mostly I swoon over furniture and random bits and bobs of haberdashery and retro crockery, there’s always plenty of new stuff each time I visit! On this occasion I bought two Vivien Smith dresses, (possibly from the early 90’s at a guess). There’s a certain amount of personal nostalgia surrounding these dresses, the designer is not widely known (as a google search proved) but had a few shops near the area I grew up and I have fond memories of my Mum wearing similar dresses  to work when I was growing up.
Vivien Smith Dress - Netttynot BlogI was initially attracted to the fabric and how much there was of it, then my Mum and I shared an “Oh look”, moment when we saw the familiar labels. Then on further inspection I saw they were both the right size-ish and I had actually rather fallen for the lovely neat sewing detail on each one.  However there were no price tags – it’s usually this point where I start to dread the worse. However I took my favourite of the two dresses to the main counter to see if they knew how much it was… they did, it was only £10!!! So a quick dash back for the second dress (also only £10!!!) and I went happily home with both of them, reassuring myself that even if they didn’t fit me I couldn’t have bought that much nice fabric for the same price.
Red Vivien Smith Dress - Nettynot BlogOnce I got them home I tried them on, to be honest I looked like something straight off the set of little house on the Prairie, they were far from flattering, with their large puffy weird length sleeves, high necklines and mid calf length hems. However undeterred I decided with the red dress I might create a pinafore from it, but I don’t think that something I’ll be doing too soon, I’m keeping my eye out for inspiration, as that one will need much more work. With the greeny blue dress (my favourite) I got stuck straight in, made a few simple alterations I took the sleeves off, slimmed them right down reattached them back in place and sewed the cuffs back on. I also chopped a good few inches off the bottom, (some of which made it into my Mum’s quilt). I was pleased with the result, however there was still something not quite right with the fit or style, I’ve tried it on a few times, however I have stalled in my progress and the dress has been hibernating for some time now.
Blue Vivien Smith before and after - nettynot blogWearing the Blue Vivien Smith Dress - Nettynot blogI tried on the bluey green dress on, again, and showed a few friends at our sewing group, after getting over the giggles, they said the collar made it seems quite childish, (I rather like the collar) but I do see what they meant. My Mum thinks I need to raise the waist line slightly; I’m inclined to agree with this, I do have a short torso so regularly have this issue. However I can’t help but feel that in order for me to wear this dress and feel comfortable doing so it might need a bit more modernisation. Something I’ve been considering is cutting a new neckline…. which scares me slightly – what if it all goes horribly wrong.

What would you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’d modernise or adapt the dress without losing the lovely detail.

Thanks for Reading!

6 Responses to “Re-loved Dresses”

  1. navybluethreads April 22, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    Ohhh, lovely! If you’re happy to show your arms, I’s cut the arms off completely and chop a bit more off the length. I re ally like the collar on the blue one too 🙂


    • nettynot April 23, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks, I’d thought about short sleeves but hadn’t considered chopping them off completely, given me more to think about, thanks! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellie May 2, 2015 at 1:44 am #

    Gorgeous fabric not a designer I’ve heard of. I would make the sleeves shorter even a cap sleeve would work well and the neckline needs work, how about unpick the collar (carefully so that you can re-attach) and make more of a sweet-heart neck line probably down to the second buttonhole, you could re-attach the collar with a little reshaping at this point. The waist line is a little low but you could try using a sash in a contrasting colour to cinch it in before you decide to alter it. lastly I’d add some kind of petticoat to give the skirt a bit more oomph. Whatever you decide to do I can’t wait to see the results. 🙂


    • nettynot May 2, 2015 at 6:22 am #

      Thanks Ellie, great suggestions thanks & don’t worry I’ll definately be sharing the results! 😀


  3. alison March 15, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi.Whilst clearing out my loft I’ve found a Vivien Smith dress. What did you do in the end with yours? i would love to know


    • nettynot March 15, 2018 at 2:57 pm #

      Hi Alison. I recently got around to finishing & wearing it (though not written a blog yet) I actually just dyed it dark green & adjusted the waist band. I decided against altering the neckline or collar as I really liked it as it was. I now can happily wear it! What’s your dress like?


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