Survivor Guilt Dress

A Polyester Flowers No-Sew Top & VANELi
Soon It's Gonna Rain Dress

Columbia SC (the city in which I reside) has been through a lot lately.  When I look back at my most recent post it seems callous and glib.  You see, the following morning, I woke to local news outlets showing devastation like I had never seen before…at least not here in the Midlands.  Saturday’s rain had nothing on Sunday morning.  The waters rose…swallowing entire neighborhoods. Roads collapsed.  Local businesses were destroyed. People died.  Newscasters became increasingly panicked as the flooding worsened.

All of this happened while I was safe on higher ground, but unable to get to anywhere where I could be of any help as the surrounding roads were flooded or closed.

I’ve held off on sharing the refashion I made that day, as it just felt wrong. For me to have escaped completely unscathed while others lost so much seems unfair.  My friends also skirted disaster (though barely for some).

This was a day when I needed something to occupy my hands.

I began with this dress:


This is a sad & misshapen elastic-waisted dress that I can imagine looking good on anyone. At all.

At first, I thought I’d just turn it into a fun stripey top.  So, I picked off the elastic…

Almost done!
Almost done!

Then, I snipped off the top from the bottom…right along the serged seam.


I put the top part on, and realized my midriff was out there for all the world (or in this case Bernie and Douglas) to see.  Yikes.  No. Just no.

It looked like this piece was going to stay a dress after all!  I decided to make the button-up back of the dress the front.  I also got creative with the button placement.  I thought it would look a bit more mod with the placket off to one side.

Laying it all out!

I snipped off about 3 inches from the top of the bottom part, as well as that unneeded fabric from the side.

Now it's coming together!
Now it’s coming together!

Next, I stitched down the side I had just cut off.

Just a lil pin & stitch!
Just a lil pin & stitch!

Now it was time to bring the two pieces together!  I pinned them together, with the right-side-out parts facing each other, like so:


The reattachment process continued.

Securing each raw edge.
Securing each raw edge…like ya do.

My dress wasn’t quite the right size when I tried it on.  No biggie!  I just took in in a smidge.


For my last trick, I stitched down the front placket with the closest thing I had to maroon thread in my alternative sewing locale:

You'll have to do!
You’ll have to do!
No gaping here!
No gaping here!

And here’s how it turned out!

I spy with my little eye a Douglas!
I spy with my little eye a Douglas!

I’m really happy with this one, and was equally happy to have something to do that day.


Columbia is no longer underwater, but there is much work to be done to restore the parts of the city that were decimated in the flood. It’s inspiring to see how everyone has come together to help each other through this terrible time. And the need for helpers and resources isn’t going away any time soon.

Please keep SC in your thoughts.


4.6 (92.67%) 161 votes

97 thoughts on “Survivor Guilt Dress

  1. This is one FABULOUS refashion! Super duper cute! I didn’t think you were glib but I get where you’re coming from, we all have SC in our thoughts and prayers. Well done Jillian!

  2. I’m feeling that survivor’s guilt too. The flood waters barely missed us here, just a couple of blocks away the water was up to the ceiling in some homes! I’m working on a pattern now for stuffed animals to donate to the kids who lost all their toys :) Thanks for your posts! You are an inspiration!!

  3. You truly have a talent and more patience than I will ever have. Every time I read your step by steps I almost feel I can do it. Your heartfelt write-up really shared how it is right now. There was nothing wrong with keeping your idle hands busy to ward off the anxiety that you must have been feeling and seeing.

  4. Hugs to South Carolina. We were not hit as severely in Virginia with this storm. It’s good to keep busy during crazy times. This was a great refashion. I love the buttons off center, it’s a very nice detail.

  5. Sorry to read of the severe weather in your area . Here in some areas of UK it’s sometimes like this . The dress looks good .

  6. Gorgeous and just what SC needs right now: something to be happy and grateful for. Glad to hear you got through it. We saw it on the UK news so I have no doubt that it was awful for everyone there. Hope all get back to some sort of good normal soon xxx

  7. Bless you and your sweet state. I lived in SC for 4 years in my 20s, so I know the heart of the people there and I ache for you. I also know the resilience of the folks who will undoubtedly rebuild. My daddy is a FEMA employee, so he is there now working to help get aide to all those who need it. I am praying for your state and your people.
    Love and hugs from Texas!

  8. My son lives in Columbia too. He is a journalist for The State (Avery Wilks). So glad you both were safe during the flood.
    I never comment on a blog. Ever. But this refashion is one of the best you have done. Good job!

  9. Turned out fantastic! My family is spread out in Irmo, Lexington and Shandon, and unbelievably everyone got through fine. Lots of friends, classmates and neighbors who did not fare so well. I am so sad for my home state but so proud of how everyone came together.

  10. The dress is adorable. And I understand your distress with the floods. We had Superstorm Sandy. I live outside the devastation but saw the pix. I couldn’t even go and look at the beach and the homes. I cried to think of the loss. NJ seashore is coming back. SC will, too. I am glad you had something to keep you occupied. Blessings!

  11. This is a really cool refashion. Looking at the original dress I couldn’t imagine it could look so good. But waddaya know it looks fantastic. Well done and so glad you are ok in SC.

  12. The dress is beautiful. What a nice job you did! It was a definite improvement- as your works always are.
    Glad you are safe. SC in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, time and talent. hang in there.

  13. It turned out great! Love the off center buttons. Wish I had your talent for imagining new options! Elaine in CA

  14. You totally win on the refashioning scene.

    While things are going badly, a little inspiration to more cheerful things is welcome.

  15. I like your creative way of upstyling clothes. Can you tell me how you made a v-neck out of the round neck? I’m a little afraid to give it a try on some of my shirts-afraid I’ll make a mess.

  16. Beautiful job. You are so creative. I just could not see how you would be able to resuscitate that dress, but you did. So sorry to hear about the devastation the rising waters created. I also could not believe the incredible will of the rising waters.. Keep us informed.

  17. So cute! Did you dye it or is that just the lighting? You always do such cute/artsy stuff with your finds and make it look so easy!

  18. Hi Jill, I have been wondering about you since I heard the news of the terrible flooding there. I am glad that you are safe (and Douglas too). I know there will be much repairing and cleaning in the near future for everyone in SC. I hope it goes well. BTW you make the cutest things out of absolutely ugly clothes, you are amazing.

  19. Love it. I wasn’t sure how you were going to save it. I’m impressed!

    I’m curious how long an average refashion takes you. As your skills have improved over the years, how long does one take you these days?

  20. We just made a trip to Charleston in September. I fell in love with your beautiful state and felt your pain with all of the flooding. Thankfully your home was spared.

    You are one talented woman. You are an inspiration to so many people.
    Happy to see you are doing so well. I couldn’t see hope for this one but you did it!!!

  21. OMG! I am always surprised by your magikal transformations, however this one just took my breath away! It went from butt ugly to just so darn cute I want one too – and I’m over 70!!!! I will hold your wonderful state in my heart while you all recover.

  22. Wow! What a transformation! The refashioned dress really suits you too. Thinking of you all after the devastating floods. Glad you are OK. Hope all can get back to normal as soon as possible. ((HUGS)) from the UK

  23. Another winner! Love the redo. You are coordinated down to your floor mat which matches your dress! Too cute! Prayers for S.C.

  24. I’ve been thinking about you from up here in Charlotte & hoping you came through the flood unscathed. So glad to hear you & your friends are ok, Jillian, & this dress is one of my all time favorites! I lived in Columbia many years ago & loved it & have been keeping South Carolina in my thoughts.

  25. Now that is a darn cute dress, you really are a talented gal! My prayers go out to the folks in SC, for speedy recovery to the recent flooding and safety to all those that are assisting in the dig out. Take care and stay high n dry!

  26. Glad you’re all ok and that your creative spirit rises over the food waters. The dress is a miracle- it was a definite goner- and you made it adorbs.

  27. Thinking of your lovely and our “sister state” as it recovers from the flooding. <3 Your dress remake is more like a magic trick. Wow, what a transformation!

  28. Love your vision and ability to see possibilities. Just wish you’d leave some of the obviously REALLY too large items alone for those of us who need them to be able to refashion too! It’s a lot harder to do starting with a garment that is too small. I don’t live near you so it doesn’t affect me directly. But I can’t help but think of all the plus size women who might have needed a dress when I see you’ve cut one down enough to make a whole other dress!

  29. You are freaking amazing. I have a “Michelle digger” Jean dress I picked up at value village. You are giving me so many ideas! You make the world a better place!

  30. I love your courage to take a seam ripper and a pair of scissors to an item. Such insight! I too am in SC. Charleston where all that water came. We were out of school for three days but dealing with mole now…yuck!

  31. Now this is really cute.The changed neckline is perfect and the offset row of buttons gives your frock a bit of the sassy that you defiantly are.. so glad you escaped the flooding.Im in Calif and we suffered the opposite of water, Fires! Same total destruction of paradise as we knew it.

  32. I’m obsess with your blog now!! I’m in now way a refashionista or can sew to save my own life lol but really enjoy seeing your pieces!!!

  33. Hi Jill, you turned a boring ill fitting dress into something smart and cute. Perfect for your figure.
    i have a couple of question.
    1. You make so many refashion clothes, what do you do with them?
    2. Do you buy new clothes anymore?

    1. Thanks! :) To answer your questions, I either keep them or donate them to a thrift shop that supports a charity I believe in. :) I RARELY buy anything new. 99% of my wardrobe is used or refashioned.

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