This is a blouse that I bought for a dollar at a theatre costume sale in the summer of 2018. It’s interesting in that I suspect it was artificially made to look damaged. Most of the buttons are missing, and there are two or three pink-brown stains on it. But the shirt itself doesn’t show signs of wear. Most of it is sparklingly white, and all the seams are intact. Heck, there’s still a little plastic tag attached to it! I suspect that it was purchased and then a bunch of the buttons were cut off and the stains were added (tea? makeup? dye?) to better get across a sense of a character on stage being dishevelled. The flip-side is that the shirt fits me really well and I love the textures. And if it’s not actually worn out, I could get years of use out of it. Let’s see what we can do.
First of all, those stains. These are a definite problem. Even in low lighting of the evening, the one on the back and the one on the right sleeve are very visible.
I toss the shirt in the laundry a couple of times, which has no effect. I’m not a big fan of bleach, and really I have plenty of other white shirts, so I decide to dye the entire thing and see what happens. I wear many colours, so I consider the options. I don’t have enough yellow clothes at the moment, but yellow probably isn’t going to be dark enough to hide the stains. I don’t want to aim for grey – too much of a chance of it looking drab. I seldom/never wear brown, so no. I have enough black clothes as well. Navy blue, maybe, but there are several shades of blue I dislike enough that I wouldn’t wear this thing if the colour came out slightly off. But green! I don’t have enough green in my wardrobe right now, and I like almost every shade of green there is. Doing it! The fabric is a polyester-cotton blend, with at least two kinds of polyester edging. I go to Michaels and get a thing of dark green dye for synthetic fabrics ($8.99). The different textiles are pretty much guaranteed to pick up the dye differently, but let’s see how it goes.
After deciding not to use a pail or any of my cookware, I opt to dye the shirt in my aluminum sink. Let’s just pretend I don’t have a few dishes to wash.
First, some hot water…
Then the dye.
Then one wet shirt hopefully about to turn green. Ready…
The dye turns my vinyl gloves a bright sky-blue, which is hilarious and also kind of awesome. (I only use these for dyeing, or for moderately icky things such as cleaning the bathtub drain out, so no harm done.)
After 20 minutes, I empty the sink and wash and wring the thing out. It’s immediately apparent that the shirt is green and the lace is blue. I’m briefly dismayed because I’m not a fan of royal blue. However, I reason that it’ll be lighter when not wet, then leave it on a drying-rack in the bathtub overnight.
The shirt dries to a mint-green, which is much lighter than what the package anticipated – but I love this colour! Not only that, but the pink-brown stains are much better-hidden than I would have thought given that this is a fairly pale shade of green. I did eventually manage to locate the stain that was on one of the arms, but it took some effort! This thing is already far more wearable than it was. The chains of little white flowers at the yoke are largely unaffected, as is the white stitching. That’s a cool understated effect. I like all of that very much. But then there’s the larger lace, which is a bold grey-blue. It’s not as bad as I’d feared initially, but it still strikes me as an uncomfortable clash with the mint-green. It’s just intense and overstated enough to be in ‘clown costume’ territory, which is not awesome; and it isn’t a colour I love in the first place. All that lace on a purely white shirt was pretty, but in a loud grey-blue the lace looks gratuitous and distracting to me.
I consider overdyeing the entire thing with yellow in an attempt to talk the lace into being dark green, but this would mean compounding both the cost and the risk. The whole idea of this blog is to save money (and get creative, and increase my sewing skills) by making old useless things into new useful things, after all.
While I consider, I go to Neveren’s Sewing Supplies/Trillium Button Inc. on Queen West for some matching thread and replacement buttons. I spend nearly an hour looking for small white-ish buttons that are pearlescent but not over-the-top. Et voilà ($1.15)! Also, the thread I choose ($2.50) ends up being so hilariously well-matched to the mint-green that it’s nearly invisible.
Regarding the lace, I decide to go the brute-force method and manually remove it. While I’m at it, I also get rid of the two original buttons and the small ribbon around the collar. Then I begin taking off the lace from both sides of the buttonhole panel and from the ruffle at the bottom. Here we go!
I end up undoing the top halves of both buttonhole panels, removing the lace, then basting the ruffle back into place. I do the same to the seam above the bottom ruffle, all the way around, which ends up taking a bit of fidgeting. Given that the front lace was held under the collar, I also baste to hold the stitching at the bottom of the collar after removing part of it. Finally, that’s done.
Time to go over the basting on the machine.
And remove the basting stitches.
Now to add buttons!
Let me tell you something. I’m delighted by how this blouse turned out. This is the shirt I wanted, in a colour I really really like. Basically, I just want to wear this a lot. But, because I’ve been handling the shirt extensively – and because I accidentally dropped it onto the floor and stepped on it while wearing shoes – I throw the thing into the wash and the dryer. In the process, I make the serendipitous discovery that the shirt can be worn two ways: with the collar up, or with the top button undone and the collar folded down. Awesome! I wear it to work on the 7th of April for a test-drive (the office is quiet on Sundays, for some reason). Success!
The one big holdup is getting a good photo of myself wearing this. We’ve had a long, chilly, grey spring after a long, cold, grey winter after a long, chilly, grey autumn. The sunny days have been few and far between. On two of the days when I attempt some selfies on the balcony, it’s so breezy that all the photos are ridiculous. And on the third, I can’t even get to the porch because as it turns out there is a giant raccoon asleep flat on its face directly in front of the door and entirely unwilling to budge. Toronto problems, everyone. Anyway, for now I’m just posting this entry. Coming back to add one or more photos whenever the weather and the raccoons allow – or if I decide I’m just doing it indoors instead. Whichever comes first.
Edited to add: Okay, better than nothing!