09 January 2008

Ugly Dress Makeover

A couple of weeks ago I decided to brave the Jet Rag dollar parking lot sale once again. I had sworn it off after my last horrible experience there, but this particular Sunday afternoon had turned my brain to mush and I headed out armed with a can-do attitude and an open mind. What I found was a mountain of polyester 70's and 80's dresses with very little promise. After digging through mound after mound, I finally came across one with a subtle cream and black pattern that looked half way decent if I squinted my eyes. Finally! Something that showed some signs of life! I took the dress and my dollar to the counter and left for home feeling excited about the possibility of making over the dress into something cute and wearable.

Here's the before picture. Please excuse my pixelated face. My love for you guys only goes so far and it doesn't reach into Sunday-morning-haven't-showered-been-digging-through-piles-of-dirty-clothes territory. The most important thing I was looking for in the dress was a fit through the shoulders. As long as the shoulders fit, you can take it in anywhere else. On this dress, all I really want to do is take up the length to make it a mini. All you need is a measuring tape, scissors, tailor's chalk and a sewing machine (nothing fancy - I got mine at K-Mart).

The first thing you need to do is determine how long you want the skirt of the dress. I like mine to fall approximately 17 inches from my waist. That's a not-too-long/not-too-short length on me. I think mini dresses look best and are most practical when the skirt portion falls just below finger tip length when your arms are straight down by your sides. To determine how long your skirt needs to be, just hold a measuring tape up to your natural waist and let if hang down and measure where your finger tips end.

Now that you know how long the skirt needs to be, you have to determine how much to cut off the end. My skirt measures 27 inches in total length and I want my skirt to be 17 inches long so I need to make it 10 inches shorter. Wait! Before you start cutting you have to take into consideration how much of a hem you want. I like a hem of 1.5 inches so I subtract that from the 10 inches and figure out that I need to cut 8.5 inches off the bottom of the dress.

With the dress turned inside out, measure 8.5 inches up from the bottom hem, making marks with your chalk all the way around the dress. Don't skimp out and make marks only on one side - do it all the way around.

Following your chalk marks, cut the extra fabric from the bottom of the dress. Make sure you only cut through one layer of fabric at a time.

You can keep the scrap fabric for future sewing or crafting projects!

Next, with the dress still inside out, fold the hem of the dress up 1.5 inches and pin every couple of inches.

Once all your pins are in place, run a straight stitch all the way around the bottom of the dress. If you like, you can adjust this step to turn the raw edge fabric under as you sew, creating a more finished look on the inside. I do this sometimes, depending on the fabric, but since this polyester isn't going to fray, I didn't worry about it.

Voila! New mini dress. Accessorize with some tights and your favorite belt and vest and no one will ever know your dress started its life as a baggy, ugly cast off.

18 comments:

sleepyhead said...

I just completed this makeover on two skirts I bought at a thrift store. They were ankle-length but I loved the patterns so I decided to just cut and sew. It took forever because I sew everything by hand!

Key said...

oh dear sally!!
i wish i had looked this post yesterday night... i cuted a dress like yours so badly... and now it´s a mess :S

i guess i´ll follow your advidec anyway and try to rescue a tunic, maybe...

Heather said...

I love the final product! And props for the AA tip up top, I don't need Prada either!

Ranna said...

After seeing this makeover I definately need to buy me a sewing machine. Pronto.

Charlotte said...

Wow! Really cool! I think I'll try doing that on my own!

Why didn't I got the same idea on my own? I love old dresses, but couldn´t wear the long version, because I`m only 1,65...

Go on like this! I love your blog!

gratefulfgrl80 said...

good job! the dress looks great, i can't wait to try it :)

Nadine said...

wow it looks so great now :)

Imelda said...

That dress looks great in the new version! I really like the pattern!

That Spoofy Kid Named Caty said...

Wow! The fabric is very cool! Thanks for showing us how to fix it on up: =]

pannie threads said...

i tried to hem a long dress a few weeks ago and the back side hangs longer than the front! thank goodness i only handstitched it and did not cut much off the bottom (i was practicing), it's been hanging in my closet sadly, ready to be given away but thanks to your post, i'm going to redo it!

Nicole Then Ai En said...

How clever! Nice cut ;)

laura said...

wow, it looks great! (:

lula*lee said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is the most concise, easy-to-decipher, and completely thorough tutorial on hemming I have come across. I am a novice to sewing (I just inherited an early 70s portable Elna Lotus SP--soooo cool!!-- that has got my head swirling with possibilities) and am searcing out every bit of information on tasks that I have regularly paid others to do for me (I can't tell you how much $ I have laid out to hem all of my thrifted smocks into minis... obscene amounts, unfortunately).

I am in the process of undertaking my first project-- as soon as I finish my "try-out" piece (an ugly old schmatta I acquired from a rag trade), I will proceed to hem my vintage Pucci. Yes... I am that confident using your instructions!

Again, many thanks!

Sally Jane said...

Lula*Lee: Thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you found the post helpful. Good luck with your projects!

veronica said...

see??u aRE my long lost sister!! i enjoy reading your posts immensely!

elena.netea said...

did you shorten the sleeves too? how? btw, i love reading your blog, starting with the newest post :)

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emily. said...

i'm a bit late to the party but thanks for this tutorial! i bought a dress i'm dying to take up today :D awesome.