Vintage 70s and 80's dresses can easily be found in any thrift store and come in a wonderful variety of patterns and fabric. Much of the time, these dresses have a kindergarten teacher vibe with a mid calf hemline, undefined waist and overly exaggerated shoulders. Some daring gals will find this silhouette wearable but I prefer a more flirty, modern shape. I will admit, I am not an expert seamstress and I have little patience for time consuming alterations. You can upcycle a vintage dress the easy way by adjusting a few of the major seams.
The first thing I do when upcycling clothing is drape it on my body in a mirror. Once I try the garment on I can manipulate the fabric. You can change the shape your vintage dress by tucking fabric or adding quick darts. For this dress, I seriously needed to take some of the volume out the shoulders. The pictures here were taken after I removed the giant linebacker shoulder pads. The waistband section was a bit low, and there was too much fabric under my chest...not a good look.
You can remove the excess fabric at the chest by simply turning the dress inside out and pulling down the fabric over the top of the waistband and pinning it down tight. Then stitch the fabric down. This will move the waistband up to the smallest part of your waist and also tighten up the bust.
Next, tackle the shoulders. I noticed while playing with the sleeves, that if I pulled the top of the armhole back over to the neckline, it created a cool draped effect. So you can literally pin the fabric where it looks good and then sew it together by hand or machine.
Finally, I chose a trendy uneven hemline. It's such an easy way to update a dress! For an uneven hem, add 5 inches to your front length measurement. This will be the length of the longest point in the back of the dress. Then draw the slope of the hem from the front to the back with a fabric marker. For detailed instructions on hemming a dress click here.
The final result is a wearable upcycled vintage dress that cost $4. Fashion doesn't get much more green or thrifty!
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Jennifer lives in south Louisiana and believes that almost anything can be done yourself.