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When I want to express that I reformed the cloth and made a dress, can I say like 'I reformed the cloth into a dress?

If I am wrong, What is the best answer for it?

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    I don't think the verb "reform" is a proper one here, and nor is "reuse" (use again). Why not simply "I used the cloth to make a dress" or "I made a dress from the cloth"?
    – Victor B.
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 13:16
  • Did you cut and sew the cloth to make the dress? Did you melt (or unravel) the cloth, and resolidify (or reknit/reweave) the cloth to make the dress? Or did you pin it together in the shape of a toga?
    – Jasper
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 14:39
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    I don't know why people don't like "reform". It is a perfectly apt word here. But I guess the sentiment against it suggests that it has the wrong connotation, and choosing an alternative may be a good idea. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 15:42
  • @CodyGray: I agree. It sounds like somebody is a magic user, which of course is not true.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 16:22
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    Even if I found this the best word to use (which I would mainly determine based on "does 'formed' make sense?" and "was it formed [into something else, or another dress that was then undone] before?") I would probably spell it as "re-formed" and pronounce it differently. Likewise with any other verb where a "re" prefix gives it a different (even if related) meaning - recoil (i recoiled the wire), recollect, review, etc.
    – Random832
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 22:31

7 Answers 7

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Using reformed sounds rather odd. If you reform something, you improve it, you don't change it into something else. So, if you reform an electoral system, it is still an electoral system, but (hopefully) a better one. Using either turned or made would be more appropriate:

  • I turned the cloth into a dress.
  • I made the cloth into a dress.

Or even:

  • I transformed the cloth into a dress.

But that sound a little pretentious.

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    He didn't "change it into something else." It's still cloth, it's just now in the shape of a dress. Any definition of "reform" is consistent with this meaning: e.g., to change the shape or form; improve by alteration. Using "reform[ed]" is perfectly fine here; this answer is wrong. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 15:43
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    @CodyGray Having been involved in the garment industry all my life, I can honestly say that I have never heard of some fabric being reformed into a garment. Generally speaking, fabric is made into garments. (Although hats can be formed on a forming machine.)
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 16:51
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    @Cody - Completely disagree with your assessment. The way I've seen the word typically used aligns with what I find in Collins, which says that reform applies to institutions and individuals, not a bolt of cloth. Similarly, Macmillan, gives specific mention to systems and behaviors. While I wouldn't say that such definitions rigidly preclude extended or figurative usages, I heartily agree that it sounds a bit odd, and these suggestions constitute improvements.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:02
  • Re-formed with two stressed syllables might be acceptable (though odd), but the normal word reformed has the wrong meaning. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 2:26
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One could simply say reuse in this context.

  • I reused the cloth to make a dress

A slightly fancier way of saying the same would be:

  • I repurposed the cloth to make a dress.

In both cases, the prefix re- gives the sense the the cloth had a previous purpose or form, rather than being a fresh piece of cloth.

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  • I think "reusing" sounds more like simply used it again in its original shape as well in the same way, perhaps especially if it should not get used twice: "It was the only comdom, so I've reused it" And repurposed means that it got not changed but used it in another kind of way as it was originally meant: "The dress was worn out, so I repurposed it as a diaper" Commented May 10, 2023 at 0:52
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Using "reform" this way might be allowed by the rules of the language, but it is definitely not idiomatic. A native speaker would not say that. A native speaker would more likely say "I made a dress from the cloth".

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It's not that "reform" is unacceptable -- it's an awkward use of the word. I like the suggestion of "transform". In the context of dress making it implies that the dress was not simply crafted from cloth, but that the designer was an artist who elevated the cloth to a higher purpose.

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  • I do not think that I would used it to describe the work of an artist, he would simply craft something from it, as for the creation of the dress. Both handicraft is a craftsmanship as well as tailoring. to transform means in general to change the form of something: blowing up a ballon and also the transformation of carbon like coal into diamonds. Commented May 10, 2023 at 1:07
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Reform is incorrect in this case, because it describes taking a working form and turning it into another working form. Re - a latin prefix meaning "again" - implies that the subject was previously formed, but raw materials such as cloth are by definition not yet formed.

It would be correct to say that you formed the cloth into a dress. It wouldn't be the best word for this case; formed is old-fashioned and not very specific. You might have sewed, cut, or even fabricated the cloth into a dress, and those would be better options.

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I can think of one example where "I reformed the cloth into a dress" would be accurate. "Form" can describe forcing something into a shape. Fabric can be "molded" or forced into a custom shape (other than flat), by mechanical processes. If you start with cloth that was formed into a shape for some purpose and decide to reuse it to make a dress employing a similar shaping process, you could say you reformed the cloth into a dress. A forming process certainly isn't a typical way to make a dress, but that would be the literal meaning of the sentence in the question.

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To say that you made a dress out of cloth it would be a good choice to use the verb to craft:

craft
verb [ T often passive ]
UK  /krɑːft/ US  /kræft/
 
to make objects, especially in a skilled way:
These bracelets were crafted by Native Americans.
a beautifully crafted silver brooch

It works also for most work done by hand, at least everything which counts as craftmansship, e.g. tailoring, sewing, forging, creation of art, etc. .

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