Remodeling dresses into different clothes – From the late 1050s and 1960s, here I will describe remodeling several garments. Because they marked the clothes of my childhood and youth. It also illustrates the common practice of transforming better-preserved clothes into a new robe.

Remodeling dresses – The late 50s and early 60s of the last century from the current perspective

If we look at the late 50s and early 60s of the last century from the current perspective, the usual wardrobe was more scarce in terms of form and function. The basis of winter clothes includes warm outerwear and footwear, t. j. coat and fitted boots. There was no talk of fitted winter jackets or thermal pants. Summer dresses are from light materials, two-piece linen sets, as well as blouses, and most often wide summer skirts. For cool summer evenings, a thin sweater. From shoes, in my childhood and early youth, leather sandals.

Starting from the 1960s, the novelty in our country is “Adriatic”, summer unisex casual shoes. Former Yugoslav Adriatic Sea inspired the name. By the way, due to the indirect influences of the Japanese dawn sandals (through the American mass culture), the name “flip-flops” is common. Now they are usual footwear for the beach, water, and cold tiles.

Here I will describe my memories of several of my garments. Certainly, because they marked the clothes of my childhood and youth. But also because I can show them in saved photos. This makes what choice really means. It also illustrates well, the common practice of transforming better-preserved clothes into a new robe.

My childhood clothing – from the village to the city, from tradition to fashion

As I have already written, I lived in the countryside until I started school. I wore warm clothes woven and knitted from homemade wool. All woolen textiles for winter, still hemp for everyday summer clothes, and useful textiles were home-made. Just for me, about summer festive they would re-cut the remaining pre-war pieces of clothing. I can barely remember the colorful poplin, even silk dresses. It is probably inconceivable for young people today that at that time there was no significant difference between children’s in relation to adult clothes. Except for the size of course. The dressing was in line with the stages of initiation, starting with the transition from childhood to adolescence. In other words, with maturing and preparing for marriage.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes – The first example, is a coat, and then an upper dress

My first real winter coat, likewise for an adult. The work of a respected local tailor, Dragiša Jovanović, for the winter of 1957/58. Woolen fabric, warm brown color in accordance with children’s age. But a universal classic model, with complete interior installation equipment. Image 1, shot in 1960.

I’m posing with my aunt Lilyan. Me, wearing a brown coat, sunny day in the winter of 1960.

I wore it for years until I grew out of it. Then, remodeling followed soon as it was small for my size. We carefully disassembled the worn coat and prepared the cut-out pieces for remodeling. My mother cleaned each piece from the remnants of the thread. Especially from the moss-like deposits on the stitching. After gently washing it, she finally ironed it all carefully.

Remodeling that material into dresses gave me the type of half-dress. My cousin, Aunt Mila, a creative tailor, sewed for me. As the face of the dress, she put on the original inner of the coat. She cut the back of the dress from the back of the coat. And the front parts of the lap are from the front parts of the coat. As they were too narrow due to the buttonholes, a long zipper in the middle of the front, solved the closure of the dress. Former sleeves served to cut out the upper parts of the dress.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes – got a completely new piece in my wardrobe

For years, the protected back has preserved the freshness of the paint and the untouched surface of the fabric. I`ve got an almost unrecognizable new, striking piece of clothing suitable for my age of later puberty. Later, I wore that sleeveless top dress for a long time. I stacked different bottom blouses underneath.

Image 2, the scheme of sleeveless top dress for winter, that I`ve got after recycling my old coat

For the winter of 1964, I had a new ready-made coat, Image 3. Among the various offers of the clothing industry, my next choice was a longer model with a flat cut. The fabric is “mohair” in a discreet olive green checkered pattern. Striking details were the large buttons of slightly lighter shades in that palette. For both uses on the coat, fastening at the front and on a wide loose belt on the back.

Image 3, a new coat, February 1965. Radica Marković, my close friend, had the same model

Remodeling clothes- The second example is an inherited blue coat, then shortened to a jacket

A common coat for spring and autumn, was of thin fabric, usually in lighter shades. It used to be sewn from light woolen fabrics. But starting with a trench coat, interesting models made of cotton were multiplying.

My aunt Lilyan, born in 1938, got a job in 1959. As a financially independent young lady, she regularly renewed her wardrobe with quality modern pieces. Such a piece was the light blue coat. Made of cotton double material with a navy blue back. Image 4, in April 1961, my aunt wearing her blue spring coat, and I am in a brown winter coat.

Image 4, in April 1961, my aunt Lilyan wearing her blue spring coat, and I am in a brown winter coat

A blue coat becomes a beautiful jacket, with time belongs to me

As I grew up, my aunt lent me a coat for special occasions. Such an example was in the year 1962. a school excursion on the occasion of the annual memory of the Tragic October in Kragujevac happened in 1941. On my visit to memorial park Šumarice, in October of distant 1962. The “Interrupted Flight” monument, was yet under construction, Image 5.

In October 1962, The “Interrupted Flight” monument, was yet under construction

Then, after about five years, for my final excursion in the eighth grade, a tailor shortened this coat and converted it into a jacket. I already wrote about that jacket in a previous post and attached a photo.

If scanning this photograph, mentioned above, by applying big enlarging (resolution 1500) we can barely see the pattern relief. The dark face was connected to the face by the weaving technique, creating a slightly embossed pattern. A pattern of navy blue crosses appears on a light blue surface, Images, 6 and its detail 6a.

A tailor converted the blue coat into a jacket
Dublweave pattern, enlarged detail from the photo before

Remodeling dresses into different clothes – The third example is the blue sweater and its recycled version

The home recycling of knitted clothes was a fairly simple handwork procedure. Remodeling clothes serve to save garments, especially for children as they grow, and become unusable. We unraveled the small, often, and in some places worn-out homemade knitwear, rewinding it into loose bundles. These are forms prepared for dye. The older women would pour hot water over everything. Natural material, especially wool, either a domestic product or purchased wool, is easily straightened and the fiber swells. That is how almost new yarn is obtained. The mother would also buy new yarn to complete the combination.

Image 7, here are my mother and I, taken in a recently planted pine park, on the plateau of the Brđanka hill

We were on an afternoon Sunday walk with my aunt’s company, in the spring of 1961. I keep a series of photographs taken on that occasion. My mother’s clothes are very elegant. A classic suit made of quality woolen velour. What we can’t see in the photo is the extravagant color, a strong shade of light red with an admixture of pink. But that is a completely different topic.

Remodeling into different clothes: Two grayish-blue sweaters from the same yarn

Here is my best styling, at the age of 11, when I grew up “like out of water”, a dress and a small sweater. My already short dress of woolen fabric, black and white “pepita”. Since that spring, as it warmed up, I haven’t worn it anymore.

The pattern of the sweater was on woolen berries. So when knitting, you must press here a large number of “winders”. Such thicker knitting consumes a large amount of material. Remodeling dresses into different clothes, by unraveling the knit, we got enough grayish-blue wool for a new sweater. It was thinner and easier to work with the pattern on the holes. I wore it that summer and fall with the departure to the next grade. In this photo, I have this recycled model. Here I am with friends, Savka, Ružica, and Radica, Image 8, during the traditional school excursion to the hill site Šumatovac, and visiting St. Trinity church.

Image 8, Šumatovac (means forest) hill, and Saint Trinity church, in September 1961.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes – The fourth example is a white floral silk dress

In the same photo (Image 8), I have the described sweater over a white dress with large reddish flowers. But about a year later, we transformed the dress into a skirt, as you can see in the following photo. Otherwise reveals a spontaneous neighborly relationship between aunt Stana and uncle Mile, in May 1963, Image 9.

The photo with neighbors, aunt Stana, and uncle Mile, May 1963.

Here I will pay attention to her skirt known as “tergal” (in English, a terylene). The type of popular pleated skirt was Trieste import, then Yugoslav ready-made. For sure, almost every woman had such a skirt (Image 9).

Another note, about my shoes in both of these photos. These are the Japanese Sandals, I mentioned above in this post. Apparently, I wore them for at least three years, which is marvelous durability, contrary to similar models today. Now the sole of rare synthetics, in a short time, breaks at the place where the belt passes between the first and second toe.

By the way, I adored that floral dress. As new, it was significantly longer than in Image 8, taken about a year later, on the excursion in September 1961. With two richly pleated ruffles in the lower part. As silk is a relatively heavy material, it naturally falls straight around the body. However, at that time, the fashion for wide “nylon” dresses in pastel tones prevailed. With layers of wide, pleated skirts with ruffles, the skirts stood high, spreading in a circle. Arrived from Italy, or in packages from relatives, even from America. I didn’t have a chance to get something like that, but I still wanted to. Of course, I was too young to judge style.

I can’t resist sharing a memory about a childish comic episode

I can’t resist sharing with you one memory related to that dress. Today I remember her as a childish comic episode. However, I also remember how beautiful I felt then.

One morning, when my mother was at work, I wanted to dress up perfectly for the afternoon school classes. Early in the morning, I “washed” the dress and dipped it in a thick solution of “starch”. I ironed it carefully so that the stiffened fabric held wide around me. So prepared, on the way to school, I stopped by Uncle Đokica Stefanović’s shop. Actually, willing somebody compliments me, I pretended something interested me. So went there with a lame excuse. Seeing my proud demeanor, the polite elderly gentleman, showered me with compliments.

My memories of school hours have faded, probably because I did not repeat the same success there. I remember more clearly that, after returning home, I have suffered my mother’s reproachful advice. Although their meaning was not clear to me at the time.

I guess my action was a belated reaction

In years I understood. Guess my action could have been some belated reaction. For example, after suffocated survivals such as a child’s shame because of “ugly” dress at the summer’s fair last year. It was my previous formal dress made of blue silk with a small floral pattern. Dressed up for a festive promenade, I joined the family of guests from Niš. Two sisters a little older than me, wore luxurious pink nylon dresses from America. I felt miserable, and sick on the way out. Later, on the promenade, the sisters attracted a lot of attention. The superficial glances of passers-by burned if lightly touch me as well. So unhappy, younger and small, silent pulling myself more and more in a hanging dress.

Later, as I grew up, I built a completely different attitude towards clothes and clothing. Primarily, a selective approach to embracing fashion trends. However, the process was complex, sometimes painful, and certainly did not happen “overnight”.

Fifth example: my version of Brigitte Bardot`s wedding dress and redesigned “princess” dress

The first dress I wore, in the style of Brigitte Bardot’s senior wedding dress, was when I was 14 years old. In a short time of switching from a girl to a young girl, I wanted to re-cut it into a tight dress. While growing up, I wanted a more appropriate clothing style. Here in the photo from the seaside, 1964. I have a dress, fashioned hit in Aleksinac at the time. Our friend Zora, a slender girl, wears the same model (Image 10). We both chose the same fabric a white-pink checkered pattern. It is Gingham, a fabric made of cotton. The French call it “Vichy” because they think it was born in the Vichy’s region. When came to Europe in the 17th century, Gingham was a striped fabric. Its name probably comes from a Malay “Genggang,” which means “Striped”. While now it means checkered pattern.

Image 10, Zora, my aunt Lilyan and me (right), Biograd on the Sea, Croatia, July 1964.

Brigitte Bardot`s Vichy wedding dress caused an global explosion of Vichy prints

Brigitte Bardot, a planetary symbol of youthful sexuality, married Jacques Charié in 1959, wearing pink checkered wedding dresses (Image 11). At her request that there is something beautiful, youthful, and unexpected for the wedding, Jacques Esterel chose pinkly checkered. He designed a simple model decorated with white embroidery. Narrow at the bust, cut at the waist, in the middle with white round buttons. The very wide lower part (skirt) has large pockets (Image 12).

Image 11, Brigitte Bardot wearing Vichy bridal gown with her groom, 1959.
Image 12, design for Brigitte Bardot, Jacques-Esterel`s-printed-pattern-1959.

Pattern for sewing Brigitte’s wedding dress, published under no. 9283, was a template that enabled all to create versions around the world. In the 60s that caused a true explosion of Vichy prints, firstly on screen: the young Lolita, Sue Lyon, in the Kubrick’s cult movie 1962; to Marilyn Monroe gingham shirts combined with the men’s Levi’s jeans; Jane Birkin in “The Swimming Pool”, wearing a Vichy bathing suit while trying to seduce Alain Delon…

In Paris, Jacques Ouaki, founder of Tati Shops, creates the logo of his brand using a Vichy pattern. From that moment on, Vichy starts living a double life: it remains a tissue for home use, solid, and economic, and on the other hand, it becomes a source of inspiration for fashion designers.

As a teenager, I unknowingly wore dress the version of Brigitte’s wedding dress

The wave overwhelmed my teenage years as well, and I came across a very similar version: cut at the waist, with a larger square neckline and short pleated sleeves. The position of the pockets is more appropriate for my stature. Lace, t. j. a strip of white embroidery is folded on both sides of the “strip” for buttoning the dress, along the edges of the gloves and pockets. Already a high school student, I considered the dress a child’s dress, and I soon urged her to tear it up. A piece of the wide skirt was enough to cut the whole dress: the back in one piece and two parts of the front.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes, once again, I`ve got a tight princess dress with simple front buttoning. This way, the fabric was rearranged in the style of clothing for adults, giving an impression suitable for a sixteen-year-old girl. My photo in Kotor, Montenegro, from summer vacation with scouts, in July 1966, Image 13.

My tight Vichy dress, summer vacation, Kotor, Montenegro, July 1966.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes – finding new ways to rationalize my wardrobe

I have already written about sewing by myself, during my studies. I continued that, but with the purchase of selected pieces in order to complete my clothing combinations as well as possible. However, later, in marriage and family, more complex household expenses mostly limited personal desires. I remained consistent in buying good shoes. Also, the more important parts of the wardrobe. For example, a winter coat, spring coat, a pair of costumes, and standard jeans. Various T-shirts and blouses are usually perfect supplements to my combinations.

When planning the necessary wardrobe additions for the new season, I would draw a map, starting with the things that I still like to carry. If possible remodeling dresses into different clothes. Furthermore, I fitted ideas for each new piece (dress, tunic, skirt, blouse …) that I will make myself. Thus, with material, color, and cut, I would connect what I have with novelties; ready-made goods, and my own handicrafts into a functional collection according to needs and sense of style.

So I gradually upgraded my methods of rationalizing money spending. I aimed for individual pieces to have as wide a range of purposes as possible on different occasions. With such a concept, I slowly changed the dominant color. It moved within a palette of lighter and darker earth colors, through purple, gray, black, and white details.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes and finally, “eternal” black patterned satin (dress, and today my favorite skirt)

That’s how my choices changed. I was introducing innovations and excluding something. Of course, my age, weight, and habits, gained an increasing advantage over current general trends. However, one item has kept its place in my wardrobe for decades. Originally, it was a dress made of black satin. The name of the fabric comes from the type of weave in which the material is woven. And the printed pattern is a combination of white, blue and purple.

Image 14, Ethnological Department’s company at Marta-Bovdis Tyr’s wedding party, 1977, Bački-Petrovac-Vojvodina-Serbia

Delighted with the design and quality, I bought the fabric at first. Later, at an appropriate time, I found her purpose in the collection for the summer of 1977. The midi-length dress, with a slightly tied accentuated waist, has accentuated lines in the upper part. The loose belt follows the dress line. And sleeve shapes as a continuation of the upper parts of the front and back.  Since the fabric has a moderately festive tone, the square neckline is a suitable place for appropriate jewelry, and certainly for a suitable scarf, Image 14.

To attend the wedding of my close colleague, I illuminated the dark styling with a triangular scarf made of natural silk. The aesthetics of the scarf is raised by the purple floral stylization. Here are scans of enlarged details, both fabrics, dress, Image 15, and scarf, Image 16.

My dress fabric represents a basic satin weave, with long warp floats, passing over a minimum of four weft threads. So the face surface is smooth. On the opposite side, the Sateen weave emphasizes the continuous weft yarn. Satin or Sateen is one of the three basic woven structures (plain, twill, satin/sateen). The scarf is plain weave. In fact, the interlacing of warp and weft, in which each weft thread passes alternately over and under warps. But flexible silk fiber creates a relief texture.

Image 15, a printed pattern on the basic satin weave. Plus an enlarged detail of structure, at the bottom.
Image 16, the silken scarf, is plain weave. At the bottom is an enlarged detail of the structure.

As I feel better in proven combinations, sometimes must care when and where to wear my favorite clothes

I have worn it on the occasion of evening visits to the exhibitions of the museum (this one where worked, or other related institutions). As well actually, don’t particularly care about new clothes for certain occasions, because I feel better in proven combinations. Most comfortable when wearing my favorite pieces of clothing. As well, this sometimes meant inevitable tactics, when and in which environment to wear certain combinations.

Remodeling dresses into different clothes, after finishing the representative function. I parted the lower part from the upper part and reshaped it into a skirt. I used the belt from the dress to process the waist and easily made the change.

Enjoying cultural tourism, along Silver Lake, near Veliko Gradište, on the Danube, September 2020.

After almost half a century, this skirt is certainly no longer representative. Still, I like to wear it in the summer.

Image 17, my relaxing clothing combination, at a walk along the Silver Lake near the town Veliko Gradište, on the Danube, September 2020.

Sincerely, Branka on Textiles

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