Thursday, October 2, 2014

90's Dress Refashion

Hidey-ho everyone!

It's Thursday as I write this, which is usually Thrifty Thursday here in my own personal hell. 

And a very Thrifty Thursday it has been!

I picked up this god-awful dress at the Goodwill for a mere $3.50. I love, love, love the pattern. Florals are really in this fall and I was immediately attracted to the autumnal colors. Especially exciting to me were the little splashes of white and fuchsia that dotted the large floral pattern. I snatched it up without hesitation, and only when I got home and tried it on did I see just. How. Bad. It. Was. 

Ewwwww. It looked like a nightgown. 

It was even worse from the profile:

I wasn't too happy. I like maxi dresses, but this was not working for me. It was too baggy and overall about twenty years behind, fashion-wise. And not in the good way!

Click "Read More" to find out how I wrangled this beast into submission.

I needed to fix this and fast. Luckily I had been browsing Anthropologie's site lately and saw a large number of these:

Turns out that knee-length, short-sleeved dresses are The Thing right now, according to Anthropologie at least (which is usually a pretty good barometer for me). After gazing at my not-so-adorable 90's frock for a while, I set a plan into motion. 

I put it on inside out (always the first step when altering) and decided that the first order of business would be to give this baby a waist. I also wanted to have a little bit of pleating in the skirt, so I marked my waist with tailor's chalk, removed the dress, and cut straight across at the waist:

I wanted to get as much gather as possible in the skirt, so instead of just cutting the skirt to the desired length from the bottom, I cut about 9 inches off the top of the skirt portion:

Then I tried on the top portion of the dress and pinned it so it was a bit more snug around the waist. I did NOT narrow the bust area though, because that was the only part of the dress that fit me at all. After sewing the new angled side seams, I tried it on again to make sure I would still be able to put it on over my head. (No patience for a zipper today.) 

It was at this point that I noticed the skirt had long, tall slits in the sides:

Which was just not going to work. So I simply sewed them back together. 

Now that I had a nice wide skirt piece and a nice narrow bodice piece, I pinned the skirt to the bodice with a few little pleats in the skirt like so:

As you can see, these pleats were tiny tiny. I tried to keep them fairly evenly spaced, but since the skirt wasn't actually that much wider than the bodice, I didn't fret too much about getting them perfect since there were not likely to be many of them anyway. 

I sewed the skirt to the top...

See that tiny little pleat? So cute.

I now had a dress with a waist.

It was better, but not done yet. I needed sleeves. 

This was an exciting moment for me. I've detached and reattached existing sleeves on other garments before, so I had an idea of how they worked. But I had never actually made sleeves from scratch before. I didn't have a garment I could use as a go-by either, so I made do with what I did have: the armhole on this dress. 

I took pictures of what I did, but I also decided to draw it out for more clarity. Here are the pics:

I laid the excess fabric I had cut away from the middle of the dress behind the armhole, with a fold on top. Notice the downward angle of that piece, mimicking the downward angle of attached sleeves.

Then I carefully, carefully traced around the armhole with tailor's chalk and drew a line straight out to the edge about half an inch below the bottom of the armhole:

And I cut just outside of that line to give it a little seam allowance. Then I literally traced around that piece on the other folded side of the excess piece and cut. I ended up with two pieces that looked like this:

Now here's the drawn version, which might be a little more clear:

Then I hemmed the arm edges of the sleeves:

Then, right sides together, sewed up the tabs along the bottom of the sleeves:

Then I tucked the sleeves right-side-out inside the armholes while the dress was still inside out, and pinned in place starting at the armpit seam. Here it is with the sleeve pulled out to get an idea of the construction of it:

Then oh-so-slowly sewed the sleeve in place. 

I cut my threads. 

Took a deep breath. 

And pulled the dress over my head.

It fit!!!

Yaaaaaayyyyyyy!!!! Take all the pictures!!!!!

I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out. I feel like it could totally be right there with the Anthropologie dresses I've been drooling over. I can wear it in the summer AND in the fall! 

Please do try this one. It was way fun and the finished product is 1,000% better than what I started with. I can't wait to wear this out!!


  1. Looks way more flattering and fashionable--and cuter than the Anthropologie dresses!
    You make refashioning clothes look fun! Adorable after pictures!

    1. Thanks so much! I think they're cuter than the Anthropologie ones too, but don't tell anyone I said that. I don't want people to think I'm vain! ;)