Project Diary: Refashioning a Summer Dress

Today’s post comes from Tricia Waddell, the editor of Stitch. Enjoy and be inspired!

As part of my ongoing commitment for 2010 to buy no new clothes, and instead sew new clothes or refashion things from my closet, I went hunting through my closet recently and identified three dresses for refashion makeovers. In this project diary, you’ll see what I did with the first dress, a simple white linen maxi-dress. Each photo is captioned below the image.

I bought this long white linen dress on a trip to Key West several years ago, as the perfect beach cover-up that could easily go dining out at a patio café. Refashioning it is a no-brainer– it’s a blank canvas ready for some creative inspiration. I thought of so many possibilities, from simple dyeing to color-blocking with another linen or cotton fabric, but in the end I decided that the white linen was just so fresh and summery that all it needed was some fun embellishing to make it interesting. 

White linen dress before refashioning.


I began by changing the silhouette to make it more modern. I cut off the bottom of the dress so it fell just above the knee, then cut out the neckline to make it a lower scoop. Looks better already!

Dress cut shorter and neckline lowered.


Cut-off fabric from the bottom of the dress.


Next I took the plain-weave fabric that I cut off the bottom of the dress, and used it to make my own bias tape to finish off the new neckline. I then reattached the textured linen border fabric to the hemline.

Refashioned neckline with bias tape made from cut-off dress fabric.


Lower edge of dress with border reattached.


Now for the fun part! I pulled out these fabulous ribbons I recently bought online from Ray Stitch, a haberdashery in England. They’re made from silk handwoven textiles by Wallace + Sewell, a wonderful handweaving design group. I love the random patterning and frayed edges! I knew the ribbons would be the subtle yet arty embellishment the dress needed.

Ribbons made from handwoven silk textiles.



I edgestitched the ribbons down the front of the dress, leaving those lovely frayed edges. I stitched one ribbon to the inside of the neckline, too, for a little extra design interest. I had one ribbon left over, so I stitched it down the center back seam–now my dress looks fun coming and going! 

Front of dress with ribbon embellishments.


Neckline of dress with ribbon added.


Back view of dress with ribbon detail.


Now I love my new one-of-a-kind refashioned dress! I hope this project diary inspires you to find something in your closet in need of a creative makeover. Refashioning projects are a great way to use up bits and pieces in your stash, try a new embellishment technique, and upcycle a garment that just needs a few tweaks to be fresh and modern. And the best part is, when you refashion something you make it totally unique to you! 

Happy Sewing!



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