Face Time: Marisa Lynch

Dress redesigner, Craft Queen

To call Marisa Lynch “resourceful” is an understatement. Upon losing her magazine job on the verge of her 30th birthday, the recreational seamstress busied herself with a challenge: Transform a previously owned disaster-of-a-dress into something wearable every day for a year, for less than a buck each, and showcase it on her blog, Newdressaday.com. Her new book of the same name documents the journey and doles out “Dressipes” and lots of pop-culture references (“Clueless” quotes! Kelly Kapowski name-dropping!) that will make you wish this damsel in a DIY frock was your bestie ($20, Ballantine Books).

You dedicate your book to the crafty lads and ladies in us all. How can we tap into that?
Don’t start with something you’ve loved forever. Go to Goodwill or a garage sale and get something you have no attachment to. Cutting up something you don’t care about can be empowering!

You call yourself a guerrilla seamstress. Can you elaborate?
I’m not a classically trained seamstress by any means, and I think that’s what separates me from the “Project Runway” contestants. If a dress is too short, I’ll take out the hem and leave the raw edge, whereas the professional seamstresses out there would say you can’t do that. But that’s my “make it work” moment.

What’s an easy yet dramatic tweak you make to garments?
It can be such a drastic difference to just add buttons to something. It’s quick to do and it’s something people can do.

And your favorite no-sew trick?
I love vintage pins. There’s one look in the book where I took a pin and used it to cinch an outstretched waistline. Not only can you use them to make something fit, you can also use it to hide a spot. I’ll also take a pin, add it to a chain and wear it as a quick necklace.

What do you look for when picking dresses to manipulate?
I’m drawn to bold, fun patterns. I also love sequins. Anything that’s sparkly, really. A lot of the time, I buy pieces that I feel connected to, not knowing what to do with it until I take it home and play around with it. I never worry about holes or stains. That’s always something that can always be adjusted in the final stages.

Do you have any favorite online resources?
I’m such a weekend thrifter and garage saler that I rarely buy clothing online. I’ve bought a lot of beads and buttons on eBay and Etsy, so I will head there if I can’t find stuff on my own.

What’s been the most rewarding part of this whole process?
Every time I wear a piece I made out, people will ask me, “Where did you get that?” And it’s the best feeling to be able to say, “I made it, but I’m so glad you like it.”

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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