Posted in My Makes

A Cassock Transformation

Back in November, the chapel where I sing was going to throw out about twenty bottle-green cassocks, which had become surplice (haw haw) to requirements. It did seem an awful waste of usable fabric, so I asked if I could take one of them instead, promising our choir librarian that I would turn it into a dress to wear underneath our standard, bright red cassocks. And here it is:

I know, I look fabulous

I had Big Plans to turn this cassock into a skirt dungarees/pinafore dress type garment. I planned it in my head, I researched it on Pinterest, but never quite got round to it.

Until now.

The first thing I had to do was rip out the disgusting lining and pocket bag. This really had seen better days. Also the colour was gross.

Good riddance

Then I sewed up the resultant hole left by the pocket bag, and the box-pleat in the back of the cassock, which you can see below in this delightful picture of my bottom:

And here it is, all sewn up. As you can see, I couldn’t be bothered to sew right to the bottom, as I knew I’d be lopping off a considerable amount of fabric from the bottom of the cassock.

Then I measured how long I wanted the dungarees to be, marked this length on the cassock, and duly whipped out my fabric shears:

What you can see here is similar to the Queen – they’re both imperial rulers

I now had a very fetching frock coat:

As you can see I’m loving this look

Then I drew up a quick pattern for the top half of the dungarees, and out came the fabric shears again:

I might have lost my frock coat, but I think I prefer this bolero/jacket even more:

My favourite part is how much cleavage coverage you get

A quick sew and press, and those edges were all neatened up:

Then I decided to add buttons to the waist, so I could get the dungarees on and off.

Sadly, my sewing machine had other ideas.

Here are the side plackets, with buttonholes all marked out with those pins

I set the machine up for the one-step buttonhole stitch, and did a few trial runs, which all turned out OK. I didn’t change any settings, but mysteriously, when I changed from the practice scrap to my actual dungarees, the machine decided that enough was enough, and refused to sew my buttonholes.

I got a little bit angry.

Once I had calmed down, I decided to come up with a new plan, consisting of poppers at the sides, with my lovely buttons stitched on top as decoration (and to hide the messy popper stitches).

So I sat down to a good session of hand-sewing.

Here I am (well, here my needle is) slip-stitching the front button placket down, so as to avoid any unsightly gaping.

And here I am (look, there’s my hand!) sewing those beautiful buttons on top of the poppers.

Then it was strap time. I marked and cut out the straps from the big piece of fabric I’d cut from the bottom of the cassock.

See, it’s a good job I was too lazy to sew up the whole of that pleat

Then I pressed each strap in half, sewed up one end and the long side, and spent rather too long turning them both through.

Behold! Straps

To avoid any more anguish with my one-step buttonhole stitch, I sewed the two buttonholes in the straps by hand.

This took ages, but I had a good time watching Wimbledon while I sewed

Then I sewed the corresponding buttons onto the front of the dungarees:

This right here is the most beautiful button I own. And that’s saying something.

After this, the dungarees were looking decidedly more dungaree-like and less cassock-like:

Buttons! Straps! Dungaree things!

Then I tried the thing on, and pinned and sewed the straps in place, ensuring a lovely cross-over at the back:

Notice how I run out of thread after the first strap, so the second one is sewed down in a different shade of green

By this point I had a fully functioning garment. BUT WHY STOP THERE? It was time to add some pretty optional extras: namely, patch pockets.

I drew a quick pattern for a pocket and then cut two from the leftover cassock fabric, and two more in a contrast lining. I sewed a cassock piece to a lining piece, right sides together, leaving a small gap so I could turn the pockets through. Then it was back to the iron.

Pressed (left) and yet to be pressed (right). I’m starting to appreciate just how much difference a humble iron can make.


I then went one step further, adding a decorative ribbon trim to the opening of each pocket, before pinning the pockets in place on my dungarees, and top-stitching them down.

And my cassock dungarees were finished!

This is definitely the most dramatic transformation I’ve ever done, but I’m pretty chuffed with how it’s turned out. It’s very satisfying to take an unloved, worn old thing and refashion it into something wearable – it barely even resembles a church cassock anymore! I saved this cassock from the dustbin and gave it a new lease of life – plus, since the cassock was free, I made myself a lovely new outfit for just the price of some thread and a metre of ribbon. I’d say this was an all-round success.



Hello! I'm Hannah and I'm a Classics undergrad at Cambridge. I spend most of the time which I should be spending on my degree crocheting and sewing instead.

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