Turquoise Leopake Tie-Back Dress

I finished this reconstruction project more than a month ago, but I’d still like to show it to you.

This dress started its life as some poor woman’s dress in the 80’s.

While this print would typically be too much for me, I was inexplicably attracted to it at the thrift store. The print deserved to be used for a more daring style than the simple silhouette of the original dress.

I’ve tried to imagine what this print is supposed evoke, but it boggles my mind.

It does seem like some sort of abstract mystery animal print. Is it supposed to be a drug-induced vision of a leopard? Or maybe a psychedelic snake? Or perhaps some sort of prehistoric bug? Maybe I’m completely off-base here, and its supposed to be interpreted as cracked dirt, or sections of cooled rock floating in molten lava.

Anyway, my inclination is to label it an animal print. And since I couldn’t determine what animal should be matched with the print, I thought it necessary to make up an animal (this is where my mind goes while working on projects). It’s like something out of Monsters, Inc. The animal has a long snake-like body, with paws, head and fur like a leopard, and a hard beetle shell down it’s spine. Leopake is the best name I could come up with (I apologize for giving anyone Napoleon Dynamite flashbacks. I know some of you thought of a liger just now. Admit it!).

To me, the turquoise leopake sounds like some sort of children’s book. Or like something out of a creation story or myth: “The turquoise leopake stretched its body and slithered, and water flowed through the land.”

That last thought may call for an explanation. My youngest sister told me she was recently tasked with writing a creation story for her high school English class. I did not intentionally connect that assignment with this reconstruction project, but for some reason I soon found myself writing a creation story in my head. No, this wasn’t something that I thought about while in a dream state, this was actual conscious cognitive thought. My brain is a never-ending Ferris wheel of crazy.

The Process

Below are the steps in the reconstruction process. You can skip to the end if you’re only interested in the finished dress.

The cost of this project was about $1.50, and I spent between 4 and 5 hours on the reconstruction.

First step, sleeve removal
I extracted the collar and middle bodice back. Then, I separated the two back bodice pieces from the front piece, shortened the pieces from the top, and reshaped/re-sized the sides and armholes.
Check out this unusual elastic that was in the casing at the waist.
I separated the back skirt piece from the front skirt piece (There was more than enough skirt, and I knew I needed more material for the bodice lining).
I experimented with dart placement on the front bodice piece for a while, before finally finding the right combo.
Since the front skirt piece was a rectangle, I decided to flip the skirt piece on its side to make a new skirt (sans balloon-like qualities). I had to remove the hem before sewing the side seams to give the skirt enough width to fit my hips.
I sewed the front and back bodice pieces and lining pieces to each other at the shoulders. I also sewed the front and back pieces of the bodice together and the front and back pieces of the lining together on one side, leaving the other side open for a side zipper. I then pinned the pieces to each other at the neckline, with the ties in place on either side of the back neckline (there was a belt that came with the dress, and I used it to make the ties for the back).
Here’s a better picture of the bodice and lining pieces pinned and ready to be sewn at the neckline. You can see the end of the tie sticking out of the seam allowances on the back piece.
Oops. I forgot to mention that there was also a strip that I sewed between the back bodice pieces at the bottom. This small strip spans between the back pieces, giving the back of the bodice a bit more structure. The picture above also shows that I stitched the lining to the seam allowances, close to the neckline seam.
After I turned everything right side out, I finished the armholes.
I sewed the skirt sides–leaving one side partially open to accommodate the zipper–and basted the bodice and bodice lining together along the bottom. Then, the bodice and skirt were ready to be mated.
For the side zip, I used an invisible zipper left over from a previously deconstructed dress. Finally, I sewed a rolled hem on the skirt with my serger.

Et, voila, c’est fini!

The Reconstructed Dress

Sorry the bow is so messy. It is difficult to tie a bow that high up in the back on oneself. I found that I had to tie it and then try it on, and then re-tie it and try it on again to get the bow tight enough.

I feel like I need to make up my own dance moves in this dress. Everyone, do the Leopake Shake!

I want to make a yellow belt to go with this dress. I’d also like to find a yellow cardigan, so I can wear the dress in the transition between summer and fall. But it may not get much wear this year.

What do you think this print is supposed to be interpreted as? Have you ever encountered a strange print that really had you baffled?

  1. Sarah Lewis

    September 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Love the color, it’s perfect for you. Very cute dress. But…don’t strain yourself tying that bow in the back, this is what husbands are for! As for the print? All I can say is: It Is What It Is!! lol

    1. Becca

      September 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks! That’s very true; that is what husbands are for. As far as the print goes, “it is what it is” is right. Ha!

  2. Marie

    September 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    This is wonderful, the style/colour/print suit you perfectly! You’re a very clever lady!

    1. Becca

      September 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      You’re very sweet. Thank you!

  3. GA

    September 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Wear this to breakfast tomorrow!!!! I so wish I had taken a picture of you and Ashley in your new dresses yesterday at church!!!

    1. Becca

      September 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      I wish we had taken a picture too! Ashley always looks so cute. I think I should have her start sending me pictures of her finished projects so that I can brag about her on here. 🙂

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