DIY: Refashioning a Maxi Dress

May 11th, 2009 § 25 comments

One of the things I treasure about my summers is that I suddenly have the time to do little crafty projects that are impossible when the semester is in full swing. I have a fairly extensive list of refashioning projects that I’d like to complete before the baby arrives and I was excited to get started by creating a dress to wear to my first baby shower.

9 May 2009 - Evening Shower

Click for the how-to narrative after the jump!

The Problem:

The most common problem I’ve had with ready-to-wear maternity dresses thus far has been the length. They’re just too short. I had also been hankering for a bright yellow or orange dress to wear to my shower and was having trouble finding one that fit the bill, even on eBay.

The Parameters:

  • I lack the superb seamstressing skills of Jess from What I Wore, so refashioning an already existing garment seemed more feasible.
  • The risk of my limited sewing skills meant that the original garment needed to be reasonably priced so that a potential screw up wouldn’t devastate me.
  • The dress had to be jersey so it could drape well and keep growing with me.
  • If I could figure out something that could be worn post-preggers too, more power to me.

The Solution:

I reasoned that the best way to solve the length issue was to refashion an existing maxi dress. It’s hard to thrift non-polyester maxi dresses, at least in our local thrift stores, but I pounced on this halter style dress with an x-back from Forever 21. (Actually, I also bought one in purple to keep as a long dress.)


First, using one of my long-enough jersey dresses as a guide, I marked and cut a new length (adding a little extra to accommodate a hem). I cut the discarded tube of fabric open along the bias seam and then cut that long piece of fabric in half to form two equal ~13″x40″ pieces of fabric. One side of each fabric piece had the original hem, so I just hemmed the raw side.

Then I started working on the top. First I cut the x-straps in half, uncrossed them, and then re-sewed them to form a standard tank-style top. Again, I used an existing jersey dress as a guide for about how long the straps should be. None of this business is seen in the final dress, but I wanted something more close-fitting beneath all the drape. Plus, the original maxi dress had sewn-in cups for added shape and those seemed worth keeping.

maxi-back-cut maxi-back-tank

The real transformation happened when I took the hemmed remnants from the former length of the dress and turned them into the fluttery top. This was a lot of trial, error, and trying-all-while-full of pins. I ran a loose stitch down one short end of each rectangle and pulled to gather slightly.  Then, I pinned the gathered edge of both rectangles, overlapping, just under the bust seam of the existing dress and sewed into place. The far edge of each rectangle began by the dress’s side-seam.


More trial-and-error pinning occurred as I tried to figure out how loose to make these “sleeves.” Once I decided, I cut the excess length off the rectangles and then pinned and sewed them into place just like I had the front. This was probably the trickiest part since I had to be careful not to accidentally sew any other part of the dress into place. The finished back looked like this:

Dress Back

As a final touch for extra security, I tacked the drapey overlay in place at the shoulder of the straps.

And ta-da! A long-enough, bright-enough maternity-enough dress just for me.

9 May 2009 - Evening Shower

Tagged , , ,

§ 25 Responses to DIY: Refashioning a Maxi Dress"

  1. Sal says:

    I am SPEECHLESS. I can’t believe the transformation, and the finished product is gorgeous, flattering, and utterly superb on you. Your triumphant smile makes me think you might agree.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Wow. That looks complicated. But the final product was worth it–you look great and that color is wonderful on you.

  3. lopi says:

    I would never guess it’s a DIY from the first picture, as it looks so finished and professional! Well done!

  4. AJ says:

    Just beautiful!! I thought you had only hemmed the bottom but after reading the details, I am in awe of your creativity and ability to visualize all that ahead of time! I knew when I saw pictures of you with that awesome orange necklace that orange would be fabulous on you and this dress just looks GORGEOUS! What a great dress for such a joyous occasion! Were all the alterations done with a regular sewing machine or do you have a serger? I don’t know much about sewing, but I thought jersey with it’s stretchiness would be hard to sew on a regular machine. Anyways, LOVE that dress on you!!!

  5. Kaylyn says:

    That is so amazing! I am just so shocked at how much of a transformation you made in this dress…I have no words. Great job!!

  6. Jozee says:

    Great post! This really is sooo pretty after the editing. And the colour looks so beautiful on. Definitely the best “maternity” wear I’ve seen!

  7. Cosmo says:

    You have done a fantastic job. The dress looks amazing on you and it is a super creative conversion.

  8. Kelly says:

    Woah!!! I can’t believe you did all that! I’m in shock.

  9. caroline says:

    I had no idea either! From the first photo, I thought you had just hemmed it or just added the belt. I couldn’t tell that you had done practically all of it yourself! Amazing! Great job. It’s a great color for you! You look gorgeous!

  10. Clare says:

    I love that color! You look radiant.

  11. Danielle says:

    This is GENIUS!! Love it!!

  12. Kerri says:

    I think its adorable! You look soooo cute with your little belly, how far along are you?

  13. Jolly Martez says:

    The dress is fantastic…congratulations!! The color is very beautiful. Definitely you have talent :)

  14. admin says:

    Thank you, all! I was so pleased with how this turned out!

    @AJ – Yes, a serger would have made things a lot easier, but using the correct needle size and tension setting made things doable. I also pressed all my hems before sewing them. It’s annoying, but it helped me a lot.

    @Kerri – I’m seven months along, due in the middle of July!

  15. charlotte says:

    Love the drape, love the look, well done!

  16. [...] also meant taking up a scissors and seeing the transformable potential of store-bought garments. Unable to find a bright, sexy dress for my first baby shower, I fashioned one from a halter maxi dre…. Less elaborately, I made myself the perfect maternity bermuda shorts by shortening a thrifted pair [...]

  17. [...] As Sal wrote a few weeks ago, taking a scissors, needle, and thread to your existing wardrobe is a great way to revamp your wardrobe for practically free. I’m far from a skilled seamstress, but I know my way around a sewing machine well enough to hack at existing pieces in an attempt to tailor them more to my needs or taste. I’ve chopped and hemmed pants to make bermudas, shortened dresses, and even done a few more complicated reworkings, like the orange maxi-dress-turned-drapey-knee-length-number. [...]

  18. [...] and imaginative like that. E. never ceases to inspire me with her flair for making things special, making them her own, and having fun with whatever tasks she’s set out to do. E, I hope you have a wonderful and [...]

  19. [...] inspired by a plethora or sources lately to flex my DIY muscles a bit more. I will long not be the DIY queen that our E. is but I’m hoping to get better at handling a needle and thread (I don’t [...]

  20. [...] I think that is exactly how I described her the first time she wore this dress, which she has now refashioned twice. I enlisted E.s refashioning skills for my own custom party [...]

  21. Megan says:

    Hi, I love this dress and I just wanted to let you know I used your picture (with credit) in a blog post I did about maternity fashion. If you want, though, I can take it down. Just let me know in a comment on my blog or email me. I also used a picture of you from this post:
    Here’s a link to the blog post:

  22. [...] E. shows you how she made a tank dress — with pockets! and turns a maxi halter dress into a knee-length dress with draped kimono sleeves [...]

  23. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  24. The Elizabeth and James fashion line is sold at Neiman Marcus and
    Bloomingdales. You know very well that Evening dresses UK are formal outfits and they
    are available in an array of fabrics like satin, georgette, chiffon, velvet and soft material like that.
    All it will take is a little quality time to yourself, to redefine
    your wardrobe on your own.

    Feel free to surf to my web site: boutique dress stores

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>