DIY: Sew Your Own Contrast Panel Dress

Posted by Cassiefairy Oxfam Fashion blogger

26th Mar 2014

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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. 

On the sale rail of my 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 a contrasting 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.

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Step by Step

Step One: 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 hem? How would I attach it there? 


Step Two: Use the pieces that you've removed as a pattern to cut the replacement fabric panels with. Add a seam allowance around all sides of the panel and allow extra for turning up the hem.

Step Three: Take the facing off the inside of the original neckline and stitch it to the new piece of fabric with right sides facing. Then understitch around the neckline close to the edge of the facing which will help the facing to lie flat on the inside of the neckline after ironing

Step Four: Insert the top pattern piece into the space on the dress, making sure that the shoulder seams match and the piece fits into the waistline. Pin and stitch it into place.

Step Five: Hem the bottom of your panel piece by turning under and ironing flat before hand-stitching a blind-hem - use matching thread to catch a small amount of the fabric on the reverse and stitch it to the turned-under edge to keep the hem safely in place.

Step Six: Insert the skirt 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. If you're using a contrast fabric with a similar amount of stretch you won't need to add extra width or gathering at the waistband.

Now I have a very classy dress with a pretty contrast fabric panel for a teeny tiny price - what could be better than that? 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!

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Blog post written by Cassiefairy

Oxfam Fashion blogger

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