Controversial Post: What I Did With That Middle East Novelty Print Skirt...


I know you've all been waiting with bated breath to see what I decided to do with my Middle East novelty print skirt: refashion it, or leave it as it is.

In fact, we had a whole discussion on it, and I really appreciate everyone weighing in!  The comments really helped me decide what I wanted to do.

In the end, I decided to refashion the skirt into this top and skirt set (complete with puppy standing guard):


However, should anyone else get the idea to do this, I want to share in my decision-making and creating process.  I did a lot of pre-planning and testing before I took the leap of actually creating the outfit, and I think it would be handy for others to try these tips before disassembling a garment to refashion.  I'll tell about the actual pattern and construction details in a post in a couple days.

1. First, I checked to see if there was anywhere else to buy just the plain fabric.
I don't want to take apart a garment if there's reproduction or plain fabric available.  While I did see that some of the fabric (the print is called "Casbah," by the way) had been for sale on Etsy sometime in the past, I couldn't find any more of it.  Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler, who is pretty much a novelty print expert when it comes to travel themes, said there may have been a company that reproduced the fabric about 8 years ago, but although I searched high and low, I just couldn't seem to find it either.

2. Next, I checked to see how available Casbah skirts like this are.
If I have a one of a kind, rare skirt, I don't want to alter it.  However, I found these had sold on Etsy already, not to mention I've seen the skirt worn on others in several color ways, including the version Jessica of Chronically Vintage has.  Once again, Lizzie weighed in and said the skirt had indeed been mass produced and not hard to find, so I knew I didn't have a OOAK piece.

3. I measured to see if I would even have enough fabric to make what I wanted.
Most 1950s skirts like this that aren't circle skirts tend to be giant rectangles that are pleated (like mine) or gathered to the waistband at the top.  Knowing this, I knew that measuring the circumference of the bottom hem and the length from the hem to the waistband would give me a general idea of how much fabric this skirt has.  I found the skirt to be about 106" around and 31" in length.  I used my handy-dandy tile floor and measured out this 106"x31" rectangle on the ground (using random whatevers to mark the sides and such), then laid down the pattern pieces I intended to use.  I found that they did indeed fit, and it looked like I would still have enough to make a skirt.



After checking these three things, I felt confident that I was not ruining a special, OOAK piece and that I did indeed have enough fabric to do what I wanted.  With that knowledge, I took the plunge and refashioned it!

What do you guys think of how it turned out?  Does this change or affect your opinion on altering vintage?  What do you think of my "pre-planning" steps?  Would you have done anything differently?

Also, like I said above, I'll talk about which patterns I used and my creation process in the next post, so stay tuned!

Other Controversial Posts:

28 comments

  1. It turned out very cute indeed! I think you did a great job of researching and planning before you did the refashion.

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    1. Thank you Stephanie! I REALLY didn't want to kill this skirt, haha.

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  2. I think the refashion is fantastic! So cute, and will probably get a lot more wear! I'm all in for a wearable wardrobe. Can't wait to hear the construction details!

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    1. It will definitely get a lot more wear! The separates work well, too, which automatically triples the wearing and styling possibilities!

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  3. SO cute! What a wonderful way to get the most out of that gorgeous skirt.

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    1. Aw, thank you so much Shauna! I'm glad you like it!

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  4. I love how this turned out! I think that it is definitely more your style now than before, which is great! I read some of the comments on the post discussing this before, and I agree that refashioning something in the same era is perfectly acceptable.
    Hey, now we both have matching sets! I feel like this requires a celebration (wearing said sets, of course).

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    1. OF COURSE!!! We must wear our sets and get tea or something soon, when you get back in town. Obviously, you are so right.

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  5. It looks fabulous. I think that the process you have been through is the key to refashioning vintage - awareness, thoughtfulness, and planning.

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    1. Yes, I really didn't want to ruin this skirt, and I'm glad you think my process was thorough! Thanks, Tanith!

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  6. You pretty much already know my opinion, but I think it looks wonderful! I like that you went to so much trouble to find out about it before doing the refashion as well.

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    1. Haha, thank you Helen Mae! I'm glad you like it!!!

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  7. It looks fantastic! Though I personally wouldn't alter vintage unless doing so was the only way to salvage a damaged piece, I'm a firm believer in each of us being able to do as we please and can tell that you're rightfully delighted with your new skirt + top set, which is all the matters at the end of the day.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Thank you, Jessica! I appreciate that!

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  8. It's adorable! Even though there was nothing wrong with original piece I think you've shown what can be done if a piece is damaged or in your case made into something more wearable for you. Great job!

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  9. Your refashion looks wonderful - stellar job!

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  10. Your refashioned outfit turned out lovely! And thank you so much for sharing your thought process for deciding whether or not to alter the skirt. I can't wait to see the next post!

    Brigid
    the Middle Sister and Singer

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  11. I'm going to be very frank, and I hope not hurtful. As lovely as your set is, I simply cannot support altering vintage that is not in dire need of it to save a piece that is otherwise unwearable. Mass produced or not, you are working with a limited resource. It might be that someone down the line would much prefer the piece in the original shape. You've now irrevocably altered a piece of vintage to your own style. If we support this within our own community, how can we condemn those outside of vintage sensibilities for the upcycling they partake in? As conscientious as you are, it is not a preservationist action. I very much hope that others won't choose to follow suit, as we might find dealers lamenting coming across these altered sets "It was so popular to use full skirts as a rare material in the 2010's..." I see your thought process, I'm glad you went through it, but I can't support it. (Please don't hate me or my business. I am a rabid preservationist, and totally own it!)

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    1. Ha, I don't hate you or your business, Julie! (In fact, I drool over your shop items often!) I was actually pretty much in your camp until this project; I've never altered anything in a way that couldn't be reversed, and only for sizing issues. I still won't be making a habit of it, though, I'm certain. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

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  12. In reading your post, it looks like you were able to make exactly what you wanted from the fabric. I don't think it is a black and white decision and there are many different opinions on this subject. I also think it depends on the garment in question. I don't agree with the up cycle movement and I cringe when I see how some 40s and 50s outfits got hem cuts in the 80s. I just saw a Lilli Ann listing with a short skirt a couple weeks ago. But, I see the integrity still remaining in your piece and it still very much looks vintage and I actually very much like this style that you turned it into. I get both sides to the argument but you are still enjoying this piece in the vintage sense and it does look so lovely on you so you shouldn't feel guilty.

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    1. Okay, first, a LILLI ANN with a SHORT SKIRT?! That makes me cry inside. Wow. Not cool.
      Thanks for your thoughts! I agree, I really don't think it is a black and white decision either. I feel pretty good about this decision, for the reasons I laid out above, but I really don't think I'll be making a habit of this. Most vintage pieces are great as they are or too rare to think of messing with, so I hope people really take into careful consideration any refashioning they try!

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  13. i'm still not a big fan of altering true vintage pieces, if something doesn't fit me right i let it go to a better home ... but the actual discussion is over and you did a big research on your project ... and in the end - i have to say: well done. i like the two piece set. i hope we will see it a lot on you. :)

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  14. I was one of the ones against it but I think it came out great! It still looks vintage and while not a circle skirt, it still has some fullness. I was thinking it was going to be more of a pencil skirt and I'm glad it's not.

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    1. Well good! I'm glad you like it! I'm not going to make a habit of altering vintage, but I think this project is going to work well for me.

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  15. Five or six years ago I'd have argued firmly against altering that skirt, but I've come to realize that clothing, even valuable vintage clothing has a history. Thoughtful alterations (as opposed to hacking off a skirt to make it more salable to a certain crowd) have always been a part of having and wearing clothes. Even museum collections are full of clothing that has been deastically altered.

    I've been collecting these skirts for ten years, and to be honest, few of them came to me in their original condition. I've got skirts that were hemmed shorter, and some that were let out. I've got altered waistlines, both bigger and smaller. When it comes to these novelty print skirts, it seems to me that the real value is in the print, rather than the original-ness of the skirt.

    Like it or not, clothing is ephemeral, and even under the best conditions fibers have a lifespan. Every time we wear a piece of clothing we are decreasing that lifespan. I'm not saying we shouldn't wear vintage clothes, but we do need to be aware that while the damage is not as obvious as cutting into a piece, wearing, and especially cleaning does cut the life of the piece.

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    1. I have really come to that conclusion as well. I, at first, didn't want to alter vintage at all, not even to raise a hemline. However, as I've gotten more into vintage I've found that altering clothing has always been a part of life (especially in my favorite decades, the 30s and 40s) and thriftiness and creativity were a part of this alterations process. Clothing items weren't just hacked away at; they were thoughtfully altered to flatter and project good style and sophistication. The alterations were oftentimes as much of a work of art (that, arguably, required more skill that starting from scratch) as the original!

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  16. I don't mind altering pieces so that they fit me or if they are damaged and would never be worn otherwise. Frankly, I have been buying vintage for decades and want to be able to wear these beautiful pieces and am not buying them for re-sale (although I might let a few go down the line). I love blouse and skirt sets so I love what you have done and you still have a 50s style skirt. What I don't like is when people re-purpose pieces like flapper dresses, 30s and 40s etc. to make them more modern. What's the point: might as well make a repro or just get a modern piece.

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  17. Such an interesting response to your choice!

    While I completely understand Julie's perspective, and I know her personally, and she is indeed SUCH a preservationist! I also am facing doing something similar to an item I have myself. Actually I've been putting off doing it for nearly a YEAR!

    When all it said and done, I think this looks great and you did a good job!

    xoxo
    -Janey

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