Repurposing 25 neckties to make a dress

Today the sewing project I’m sharing is not something that I sewed for myself. However, I had so much fun working on this special piece that even though it’s not technically part of my handmade wardrobe, I thought it deserved a little blog post to document my experience making it.

On October 6th 2019, I participated in Fair Indigo’s Revive Fashion Show Fundraiser, benefitting Dressember – a non-profit organization raising awareness and funds to end modern day slavery and human trafficking in the international garment industry. Makers from around US came to Madison to breathe new life into discarded clothing with one-of-a-kind repurposed dresses. Following the fashion show at Madison’s Brink Lounge, all dresses were put into a 24-hour online auction to raise money for Dressember. 

The piece I created for the Revive Show Fundraiser was a V-neck, backless sheath dress made of men’s neckties! It was a fun and challenging process to shape this unique dress solely with used neckties. I’ve never studied fashion design so no doubt this will be quite unconventional but here’s how I went about making it:

Vaguely inspired by Art Deco motifs, my idea was to create a structured dress by just weaving and patch-working neckties together. So first, I thrifted about 25 men’s neckties at St Vincent De Paul in Madison. Trying to keep up with the colour theme I had in mind was tricky because of what was available at that thrift store on that particular day but that’s part of the challenge! Looking at those ties, I was also amazed by the variation not only in fabrics but also in weight and thickness. I took all that into account to work each tie into the dress. For example, I used the heavier, sturdier ties in the areas requiring more support.

So after playing around with the ties for a while on my dress form, I reached the shape of the dress that I had in mind. Then, I pinned it all together and had a first fitting with Emily, who was going to model the dress at the show. That fitting was super fun and nerve-racking at the same time. None of the ties were attached because I wanted to be able to adjust each of them if needed. In the end I’m so glad I did, even though it must have been quite uncomfortable for Emily (who didn’t complain a single time and said she never felt any poke from the dozens of pins). I was able to precisely adjust the ties in the bust area and overall achieve a more fitted look that if I had starting sewing beforehand.

After the fitting, I sewed the ties together and reduced some of the bulk on the wrong side. I added a black Bemberg lining to make it more confortable to wear and voilà! Emily came back and the dress fit wonderfully! Because of the open back, she couldn’t wear a bra so I added a last minute piece on the side to add a bit more coverage and support.

To complete the look and keep in theme with this repurposed fashion event, I made a cape using wool from 3 different old coats. I also made earrings to match the dress, using scraps from one of the ties.

Thanks for reading!

-Emmanuelle


6 thoughts on “Repurposing 25 neckties to make a dress

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s