Stitched Up’s Tips for your Vintage Wardrobe

Today I have a bit of a treat for you. Seeing as I’ve hardly done any sewing this year I thought a guest post from some sewing experts in Manchester would be a great idea. Read on for more…

Hi, I’m Madeleine, Stitched Up’s intern. One thing Susie, Stitched Up and I all have in common is that we LOVE vintage. Oh and charity shops! Where else can you buy something unique at a fraction of the cost AND give money to worthy causes? South Manchester is jam packed with charity shops and pre-loved garments, hidden and waiting to be found.

Also buying second hand means you reduce textile waste and ergo save the environment from more pollution caused by the fast fashion industry.

But how many times have your joyous vintage purchases been cruelly discarded or forgotten because they were a little too big, too misshapen, too vivacious? Buying a vintage item often requires alterations of the mild or major kind. Adjusting a hem, swapping out buttons, and THE HORROR: shoulder pads!

But don’t let these things put you off, we implore you! Here at Stitched Up, we have tips on how to alter and maintain your own vintage wardrobe, and even on how to use up the resulting scraps to create your own unique accessories – making a truly zero-waste outfit. AND we have an example to boot (you’re welcome!).

Like people, vintage garments can get a bit more wobbly with time. However, they aren’t meant to look all new and shiny; we buy vintage clothes because they tell a story, reminding us of the style icons of a past era.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain and alter them until they’re perfect manifestations of your own style.

Here’s an example. We rescued this poor little thing from a charity shop. Do you see how angular the shoulder pads make it? This summer dress doesn’t exactly scream power dressing, it makes us want to start vogueing. Another issue with buying vintage is there aren’t hundreds more copies of my dress in every size. Can you even see my waist in this?vintage dress before tailoring

We needed to sort out this fashion contradiction. Being more of a marketing intern than a sewing whiz, this was a major challenge for the vastly unskilled. So I called in the professionals. Stitched Up reassured me that this was nothing a few sewing tricks wouldn’t fix. Hooray! Let’s get cracking!vintage dress modifications

First things first, I was told by SU’s Bryony to unpick the infantile school girl collar and then, with dressmaking chalk, to mark off 4 inches (I chose two as to spare flashing my bum) and lopped it off the bottom. I snipped off the shoulder pads with delight. SU’s Emily then turned over my massacred neckline with an overlocker, and tackled my uneven hem (I don’t think she was impressed at my clueless measuring). She then sewed in elastic at the back to cinch in the waist line a little, but the dress already had ties so we chose not to overdo it. And voila; just a couple of alterations and your vintage treasure fits you like a glove.vintage dress worked on by stictched up

Also, remember those shoulder pads? Well the aim of this post is to not only show how to upcycle and maintain, but also reduce waste. So, I went about making a fascinator (it took both shoulder pads as I messed up the first, don’t tell). My skills lie more in Art Attack circa ‘98, so I created this little sewing machine with paper mache and mounted it on my head amidst a cloud of bright red tulle like there’s no tomorrow.sewing themed facinator

I may have gone a little overboard, but if you’re into fascinators, this can be the perfect way to match one to your outfit by covering a pad with fabric, and gluing on tulle, netting, feathers, whatever tickles your fancy. It can also be a great way to match the hat to the dress, rather than the other way round, which is every wedding-goers nightmare.

So there it is, that’s how easy it is to turn a beast into a beauty… with a little inspiration, creativity and few simple sewing skills. If you don’t have the sewing skills on point (like me) and are local to Manchester, Stitched Up run upcycling and garment making workshops at their HQ in Chorlton. You can come learn the basics, or let the masters work their magic. Check out our website at and on social media @stitchedupuk.vintage in manchester, sewing class, how to tailor vintage clothes