from dress to bike-friendly tunic

design, eco-craft, fashion, sewing

In the spring, summer and fall I am lucky enough to live in a town where I can go most of the places I need to go on a bike. I have skorts and some skirts or dresses that I can wear on my bike without worrying about my skirt getting tangled in the spokes of the rear wheel or in the chain but most of the time I like to ride with capris or Bermuda shorts. I don’t have any chain worries with either of these and I don’t have to worry about the Marilyn Monroe look when that Chicago wind finds it’s way up my skirt while crossing a busy street.

As an aside, don’t you love all of those women’s style dictators on TV who do these makeovers of women in shorts or jeans and put them in cocktail dresses and stiletto heels instead as if the woman being made-over could just wear the cocktail dress down the slide at the park or to be the line judge at the soccer game? I don’t have many occasions to wear cocktail dresses. I need the look that can go from studio to client meeting to grocery store to sports camp pick-up to salsa dancing class. Suggesting that we can just wear cocktail dresses has a “let them eat cake” ring to them if you ask me. Not that you did but…

Anyway, I’ve been on the lookout for a black and white tunic because I love the timeless, graphic look of black and white in the summer. Not having much luck I decided to see if I could convert a dress to a tunic and BINGO –there was the perfect candidate for $3.99 at the local Goodwill.

I will also add that we are lucky to have Jane, a student intern at FunQuilts this summer, who happens to be a fashion design/graphic design double major. Jane agreed to give me a second opinion on the right length for the tunic and help me figure out how to detail the all-important side vents. The original vents for the dress were almost 5″ long because the dress itself is supposed to hit mid-calf.

The only complication was that the zipper runs down the side of the dress so I couldn’t make the vents as long as I wanted but in the end they’re fine. Neither Jane nor I liked the top-stitching at the hem of the original dress so we agreed that I’d need to hand-stitch the hem.

First Jane and I figured that the tunic should be just a little below the crotch, not much more because I’m petite and don’t have any leg length to spare. I then measured up the side seam allowances and figured how much length I could get for the vents given the side zipper. I marked the point on both sides and made a stabilizing bar tack with the sewing machine across the seams at that point.

I rolled over the raw edges and hand sewed the edges of the vents and the hem. [Note: I told Bill, who took the picture above, that he was not allowed to use the wide-angle lens to photograph my hips.]

I love the length of this tunic and that it gives me a shirt that’s dressier than a t-shirt but still bike friendly. I’m heading back to Goodwill to see if there are more dresses that could be converted in the same way. Maybe I’ll convert a cocktail dress!

12 thoughts on “from dress to bike-friendly tunic

  1. A great tip I learned from watching the BBC version of ‘What Not to Wear’ was for those of us of the “pear” shape (hips wider than bust) was to have tunics hit at the widest point or lower. Based on your picture—you cut it perfect!

  2. The tunic looks fabulous! I am thinking I need to look for something like this! What fun! I also agree about the cocktail dress stuff!

  3. Fantastic idea! You get a polished looking shirt for some creativity and very little money. And no one else has the same shirt. Looks great.

  4. Very cute! Do you have a fashion design background? Seems like you’ve mentioned several times about altering clothes. You’ve given us a good resource for learning how to draw; is there also one for learning how to alter clothes?

    I envy your petite-ness. I’m tall, busty and hippy. Plus I’m size 16-18 — nothing fits. It’s really difficult to find a pair of jeans that fit my belly without a big crotch sag.

    You look darling in your new tunic!

  5. Your Black/white tunic rocks! Congratulations on finding something that fits and is in a print that you like !

  6. great material! I love it.
    3.99 at the Goodwill- unless I go to the bins everything is 5.99 or more.
    I wanna shop with you!

  7. Hey Weeks, I have come across a neat website for clothing repurposing. It’s called This California gal has taken it upon herself to buy a second hand dress for every day, spending no more than $1. Then she makes a new dress out of the old dress every day! She makes very simple alterations, and the results are really fashionable. Thought you might enjoy! Kari

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s