Remnant Rehab: Vintage dress turned into skirt and shirt
A matronly dress with a cut polka dot pattern was turned into versatile separates with a few simple alterations.
Knowing I have two sewing machines, tubs full of fabric, a plethora of supplies and the know-how to direct them, I’ve had a lot of friends ask to have craft nights with me.
Most recently, my friend Rachel found a red polka-dot dress at the Salvation Army that had potential but was just too matronly for a 20-something to wear as it was. She’s skilled in sewing, but she asked my input on what alterations to make.
This ended up being a really fun project because there were so many possibilities. I consulted and she did the legwork, but I wanted to share the options we came up with so you, too, can look at a dress from the 1980s in a whole new way.
- vintage dress
- sewing machine
- hand sewing needle
What we did
- First, we cut the dress in half a little bit above its elastic waistband, making a dress into separates — a skirt and a top. This was a polyester knit, so we didn’t have to worry about raveling and left most edges unhemmed.
- Rachel wanted a skirt that was longer in the back than the front, so she folded the skirt in half, with the back seam as one of the folded edges, and cut a curved wedge from the front fold to about the middle of the bottom hem.
- The top had cute, ruched sleeves that I liked, so I lobbied for keeping that detail and shortening the 3/4-length sleeves to short sleeves. We tried it, but Rachel decided it wasn’t her style.
- Next we cut the sleeves off at an angle from each armpit to near the neckline. Rachel hemmed the new sleeve openings and then used a piece of fabric from the sleeves to wrap around the back, making it a racerback. She hand-sewed the small wrap along the inside of the top.
After those alterations, she could wear the pieces separately, as a summer top and flirty skirt, or together as a dress, with a white belt to top it off. We even had some leftover pieces to make headbands and kerchiefs.
Keep an eye out for pieces with potential — a dress, pants or shirt that has a great pattern or nice details might just need a few alterations to make it your style.