Thrift Store Refashion

Ladies, how many formal dresses do you have hanging in your closet? This is not a rhetorical question. Really, how many layers of tulle and organza occupy your valuable storage real estate?

I just moved into a much smaller space and have been laboring deliberately to downsize my dress collection. I have 9 gowns that have been nestled in their respective dress bags for years. Granted, I pull them out and play dress up occasionally (a truth I’ll never admit face to face). But let’s be honest, these gowns that I bought with the subsequent intention to alter, shorten, or tailor, they’re one hit wonders.  I can say this out loud and even publish the statement online. But when it comes to liberating my racks of the dead weight, I just cannot bring myself to do it.

I took provisions to solve the problem and purchased a bridesmaids dress straight from the set of Clueless. Well actually, I bought it at a local thrift shop. So, who knows its origins? That’s part of secondhand fun! This ‘90s navy crepe number was a prime candidate for my “shorten the dress” experiment.

I’m sure you’re all shamefully shaking your heads. I’m supposed to be downsizing, right? This might sound paradoxical, but don’t judge me. My process is trial and error, and I didn’t want to commit a fatal miscalculation with a beloved garment.

The following account is my step by step process in refashioning this dated silhouette.

My work began at a local thrift store. This is my first refashioning project, so I kept my options simple and browsed dresses that wouldn’t need extensive tailoring. As I shuffled through hangers I tried to format a new blueprint for the ones that caught my eye.

The eye hole back with a double button attachment immediately attracted me to this dress. I’m not a fan of plunging neck lines or cropped midriff, so the exposed back was the perfect solution for a bit of swanky sex appeal.  It has a slight A-line cut that reminded me of my favorite little black dress.  I saw potential and owned a prototype to work from.

Once I got home I pulled out some basic supplies:

  • Silk thread (I didn’t have navy, so I worked with a brilliant violet.)
  • Sewing machine with walking foot.
  • Trusty seam ripper
  • Pins
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors


I don’t own a dress form, so I had to lay the garment out on the floor and try it on after every alteration.

  1. With the dress flat on the ground, I stacked my favorite black dress on top of it. I lined up the shoulder seam and the waist seam as best as possible. Using the dress on top as a guide, I cut the bottom of the floor length dress leaving about a half inch for seam allowance.
  2. Next, flip the dress inside out, fold the bottom of the dress in about a ½ inch, and iron. This step ensures craftsmanship. The crepe that I worked with puckers easily. If you look closely at my final piece, you’ll see that even after I ironed the seams, the bottom wasn’t perfect.
  3. Pin the ironed seams and carefully try the dress on. You’ll want to make sure that the it is a desired length.
  4. Line the foot up with the ironed edge of the skirt. There will be extra fabric that you can trim once you’re happy with the final product. Slowly guide the hem through the sewing machine pulling your pins before the needle gets to them. 

Finally, flip it right side out and try your new dress on!


This experiment was pretty successful. I think I’m one step closer to mustering the confidence needed in refashioning my dress collection. Do you agree?


 Have any of you ladies transformed an old dress? Please let me know in the comments!

What do you think?

Thrift Store Refashion

Marlena Antonucci is a recent graduate from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a minor in Environmental Science. She is not quite sure how to define herself just yet, but is ready to exhaust every single opportunity to figure it out. At this point she can proudly say that she’s a late night reader, inventive chef, fanatical crafter, daydreamer, lover of Parisian culture, loyal friend, and devoted partner. She steers her life by her step dad’s famous w ... More

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  1. Miriam says:

    I love this article. I have never given a second thought to ‘altering’ my closet instead of downsizing. I have many bridesmaid dresses, clothes in general, that I would Never wear again but this article game me the “light bulb atop my head” look. Thank you for the great advice and crafty idea! I will be turning some of my dresses into a newer, more modern shape instead of watching it rot in my closet.

  2. nichole says:

    i think your dress turned out lovely!!!!! and the whole outfit is awesome! ide say try a few more finds and then you should have the confidence to move onto your already ownd dressed 🙂

  3. Tina says:

    very nice idea, but I am HORRIBLE at sewing.

    • Thanks a lot Tina! You should research basic hand sewing tutorials; the running stitch is a good place to start. When I began using pins and working on a flat surface my work really improved! When all else fails, Stitch Witchery is a gem!!

  4. It’s adorable. And those shoes totally make it for me 🙂

  5. cool idea, but not for me… And the back looks kind of weird.

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