Goodbye old friend – hello new wardrobe

Have you ever had an item of clothing in your wardrobe that you love, love, love and even though it’s battered and ripped, you just can’t bear to part with it? Have you looked at this item and thought ‘If only I had bought ten of these then I could wear it forever…’?

I certainly have,and that’s why I went to a fantastic Wardrobe Cloning workshop at Oh Sew Brixton! on Sunday afternoon. As the rain hammered down on the skylight and the thunder and lightning lit up the London sky, eight of us were busily rummaging through our wardrobe ‘can’t-bear-to-part-withs’ with our tutor Yolanda, tracing outlines and seams, darts and zips onto greaseproof paper.

As the name suggests, the Wardrobe Cloning workshop teaches you how to create a dressmaking pattern from your favourite items so you can recreate them again and again. We brought a few items each but the work was so intensive most of us got through just one garment.

Old friend dress

I brought this dress I bought years ago from Warehouse. I love it. I’ve worn it a million times and always get a compliment whenever I do. It fits perfectly. But it’s getting old. Alas, wearing and washing have taken their toll and now I can only wear it with a long cardy to hide the various little rips and holes. I’ve had it recreated by the tailors of Vietnam, but in fabric so hideous I couldn’t bear to wear it. (I was on holiday! I had sunstroke! I was drunk at the time!) So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

First Yolanda talked us through the piecing of a garment and how to notice the shape and drape of it, taking notes of darts, zips and curves to the outline as well as the feel of the fabric. In essence – what makes us love the item and what we want to recreate in the pattern.Tracing seams

Then it’s down to work. Laying greaseproof paper over our items we traced every dart and seam, measuring, measuring and measuring again.The bodice was fairly easy on my dress, but trying to get my back and front skirt to line up together was tricky. Garments change shape over time with wear and tear so it’s a matter of straightening up, second guessing and a little bit of alchemy, as Yolanda put it.

Measuring measuring...

The three hours whizzed by and many of us were just finishing up at 5pm on our first piece. I can’t wait to make this dress. I think putting the pattern together myself takes a huge chunk of fear out of making it. I understand the pattern perfectly – because I created it. I’m still going to make it out of cheap fabric first though – I’m not that confident yet.

Front and back plus a Peter Pan collar

Wardrobe Cloning is just one of the many workshops that Oh Sew Brixton! offers, but if you’re interested then get booking for the Sat 20th August class from 2-5pm. Costs £35 which is a bargain in my book if you consider how many clothes you can re-create as a result of the skills you’ve learned. Just think what you can do – charity shop finds in awful fabrics can become templates for glorious new items. Love a friend’s dress but can’t get it anymore? Trace it and make it yourself! Though before I get carried away on a reverie of the possible – I need to get down to the practical… and make the darn thing first. Watch this space for further updates.

What about you? If you could clone one thing from your wardrobe – what would it be?