Refashion / Sew / Upcycle

Nonna’s Dress Refashion

WOWZAS…I nearly gave up this refashion several times. The fabric was super slippery, frayed, and these little plastic pearl bits which I thought were cute were the bane of my hemming existence!! ARGHHH! However, it was a dress my Nonna wore to a wedding in the 80s, and I was determined to make it wearable.

It's basically a rectangle!

Before: It’s basically a rectangle with a pleated hemline



The neckline was stifling and there were some serious yellow pit stains:

Pit stop..I mean stain!

Pit stop..I mean stain!

So I got to chopping. Off with the arms. Let the chest and back be freed!!

Cutting a new V backline

Cutting a new V backline

I semi-measured the length of the elastic I wanted at my waist (not to tight but comfortable) and failed to take into account the overlap measurement (this matters later!). Pinning was finicky, as was pulling the elastic to stretch over the fabric as I was sewing it.

Pinning action!

Pinning action!


Time to sew this baby down

When I put it on, I realized the elastic was too loose- darn overlapping measurement not taken into account!

I also encountered the back zipper (went up to the collar, and extended to the level of the hips) while I was putting the elastic on. I thought I could just cut the zipper and it would still be functional. The pully part (I looked this up- it’s actually called the “slider body”) accidentally fell off at some point, and I couldn’t get it back on. So I decided to snip the whole zipper off, and while I was at it, chop off a rectangle from the back to make up for the loose waistline. Unfortunately this meant I had to lose the lovely pleated hemline because I couldn’t wrap my head around how to chop that and make it drape nicely afterwards. BLERRrrggg! I loved those pleats. Aw well. They can be part of another refashion.

And yet another frustrating factor- I  screwed up the front v-neck when I got to neatening that raw edge. How the heck do I “finish” the sharp corner of the V? Well, I decided to cut a bit more, which was a mistake. The material frayed and I had to use my overedge foot to thread that stuff up. It looked bad. To make matters worse, this material did NOT want to sit flat.

This is not good at all!!

This is not good at all!!

How to fix this…cutting a deeper neckline was not an option, as there was already too much would be boob exposed! Double sided tape as a bandaid solution? Adding a different material between the V? I wasn’t sure.

Have you watched Portlandia? Check out this clip from the  “Put a bird on it!” episode. When just about anything (including sad little tote bags) can become trendy when you put a bird on it. Could the same thing can apply to buttons??

Put a button on it?

Okay, maybe not the same ring…but it served a function! I hand sewed a gather of sort at the corner of the V, then decided to…PUT A BUTTON ON IT! The only button I had big enough to fix a mess like this was an ugly brown one. I’m not exactly sure if you can paint buttons with nail polish, but I thought it was worth a shot.

Whitening in progress

Whitening in progress

I also made a mistake of not turning under the raw edges twice…or using my overedge foot/stitch before using a straight stitch. FRAYING TO NO END…or to many ends should I say!

It's a FRAY PARTY over here!

It’s a FRAY PARTY over here!

I just chopped some of those ends off and hoped for the best…that the whole thing won’t ravel to threads within a day!

I got to hemming the bottom raw edge. Again, those plastic pearl things that I though were so cute were a challenge. The stitch at the hemline was uneven, and draped awkwardly


Annnnnd now what?

When you can't go through it...go around it?!

When you can’t go through it…go around it?!


Literally pulling my hair out

OK Giulia, you can do this. You’ve invested hours and hours in this darn dress and you will make it work!!!

I stopped complaining and called lace to action. That is, a part of a value village valence curtain…

Adding lace...yet again!

Adding lace…yet again

And here is the final product. Excuse the bad lighting- it’s far past daylight but this refash had to come to completion, including the blog post! Perhaps more flattering photos to follow…



Here’s the final product in natural light (wow, photos are far superior with natural light!):



The back doesn’t drape nicely if I move one leg forward (below), but drapes nicely when I have both legs together (second photo).


The back

V back

The draping is better. Maybe I shouldn’t walk in this dress!


I can’t believe I finished this!


But….I’m not sure the hours spent are evident in the final product!

Well friends, that was a tough one. A labour of LOVE, I suppose!

AFTER                                                                                                                                                BEFORE
It's basically a rectangle!IMG_2244IMG_2234


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