Cocktail Dress Refashion

A few weeks ago, Kayla posted on facebook that she was purging her closet and had two huge bins full of clothes that she planned to take to Goodwill (in fact, she just started a blog about reworking her closet — go check it out and give her some love!)

As soon as I saw this post, I commented and asked if I could come dig through the bins. Now, I wouldn’t do this to just anyone, but Kayla is one of my best friends and so I knew she wouldn’t care…and of course, she didn’t. She even hung on to the bins for an extra week until I got over there. 

And that’s how I found this beauty:

dress from Shabby Apple, circa 2010
As soon as I saw all that gorgeous black lace, I knew this dress had potential. I went home and tried on the dress, and the biggest problem was the bust. You see, Kayla wore this dress while nursing, and I’m unable to fill my child-sized bra (I wish I were kidding). The length was also a little long for me, and the neckline was a little loose (again, thanks to my flat chest).

The tricky thing about this dress was that there were two layers: the lining and the lace. They were only attached at the side-zipper and the neckline, so I had to do all the adjustments separately, on each layer.

I started at the ends of the sleeves and sewed from there, down to the bottom of my bust, taking in a few inches. Then I adjusted the neckline by doing a big dart from the top of the neck (in the back) down my back a few inches.  After that, I adjusted the width of the skirt by doing a tapering seam from the waistline down to the hem, which gave it a more fitted/cocktail feel. And finally, I hemmed both the lining and the lace to my desired length.

see more photos of the “after” dress here

I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and plan to wear it to every fancy event that I ever get invited to (as long as I don’t gain one pound, or have another baby and need to nurse…cause I made this dress fit like a GLOVE).


  1. Super cute, I have a lace dress that needs to be altered to fit me and this gives me motivation to pull it out of the back of my closet and tailor it.

  2. Wow! You did an amazing job, the dress looks great on you!

  3. That dress looks amazing on you after alterations! Hot momma!

    The Tiny Heart

  4. so pretty! wow i love it!! it looks amazing on you.

  5. Rachel says:

    You are amazing. The dress looks so great!

  6. Sarah Ward says:

    For non-sewers like me, it's still a bit perplexing but the finished product is fantastic. Did you ever see the blog of the gal who for 365 days spent $1 on some ugly frock at a thrift shop and then refashioned it into something fabulous? I hear she's got a book coming out and it would be right up your alley!

    Cable Car Couture

  7. Jenae says:

    Friend, you have got mad skills. How DID you learn to sew?


  8. Mel says:

    Nice job! That dress is timeless and you will be able to wear it forever.

    I have to learn to sew…

  9. Aimee says:

    Oh my gosh, this looks so darling. I have been following your blog for a little while, and I love seeing the adorable ways you pair different things together to make the perfect outfits. Also, can you please teach me how to edit the clothes to fit so well?

    Ps. you are gorgeous πŸ™‚

  10. Whitney says:

    Oh my goodness, that dress looks great! I love that you added the black belt to it! Can you please live by me so I can learn to sew πŸ™‚

  11. Kayla says:

    You did such a great job! I'm so glad you went through my bins and found this lump of coal to turn into a diamond! I would have never been able to alter it to make it this cute πŸ™‚

  12. Adam says:

    It looks so good! How long did that take you?

  13. Wonderful, wonderful! Now just a splash of you red lipstick and you are good to go, downtown lady!

  14. Dang! I wish I had your sewing skills! I think it's absolutely gorgeous!

  15. Jenn says:

    WHoa!! I love it on you after the fix. It looks amazing.

  16. Audrey says:

    That dress looks beautiful on you! Perfectly tailored πŸ™‚

  17. You are one hot mama! And you did a fantastic alteration!


  18. Mariah says:

    You're so talented! I'm feeling inspired to get to work on my pile of clothes that need refashioning πŸ™‚

  19. shelycn says:

    Your elegant dress collection is great! The dress is so fashionable and vintage at the same time~Pefect on you !

  20. Fashion says:

    its nice…!
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  21. Karri says:

    oooh! great job modernizing and fitting it!

  22. Tia says:

    THANK you for posting this. I too have a gorgeous Shabby Apple dress that looked awkward due to my height and my lack of bust/shoulders, and was trying to figure out the best way to nip in the arms/torso area. This is exactly how I need to go about doing it.

    The dress is also gorgeous, such a huge change when it's fitted!

  23. Great post! Well-written and nicely presented.
    long chiffon skirt

  24. Mev_Lohman says:

    Holy cow! You did such a great job on this dress! I love it. It's making me want to pull out all the dresses in my closet that are a little too big (either from while I was pregnant, or still losing weight after babies…) and refashion them all.
    Your blog is great, and I'll be using my sewing machine for more than just quilting now. Thanks!

  25. You are amazing! I dream of being skilled enough to fix/make my own clothes because I am petite.

  26. Hi!
    I just bought a dress at a thrift store last week. I love the fabric, but its a bit too big and too long on me. It has a lining as well. I'm really new to sewing and I have no idea where to start with taking it in. what would you suggest?

  27. Frances Strom:

    Yikes — I'm not sure what to tell you. If you're new to sewing, I might recommend taking it to a tailor. Alterations are usually not very pricey, and you can probably afford to spend a little bit on a good alteration if you got the dress so cheap.

    If you do want to tackle it, do the lining and the main fabric separately, and just follow the original seams, just taking them in as much or little as needed. And go sloooow. This cocktail dress refashion took me a long time, because I went so slow. but it was worth it because it came out exactly how I wanted. Also, try it on every time you do a seam, just to make sure it's exactly how you want it.

    Good luck!

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