Q&A Monday:  How to Refashion without a Dress Form 1
Refashions,  Sewing Tips

Q&A Monday: How to Refashion without a Dress Form

Gala Dress
A Notable No-Sew Dress!

Q:  I’m new to refashioning and I don’t have a fancy mannequin to measure my dresses on. What’s the best approach for taking something in by myself and with no one else to pin it for me? 

A:  This is the part where I could be total smart ass and say, “Get you a dress form or make you one!”, but that would be really jerky of me, and I’m trying to avoid being a jerk as of late (It’s my new thing!).  🙂

When I first started this blog, I didn’t have a dress form.  I didn’t have one for a long time.  So how did I get my pieces fitted?

Allow me to show you!

Let’s start with a dress that has a lovely print, but fits me like a sack.

I dunno. It kind of brings out my ghastly pallor.  :/
I dunno. It kind of brings out my ghastly pallor. :/

Be warned…my method is highly technical!

First, I grab the dress at the bust on both sides and guess how many inches are on each side.

M'kay...about 2 inches!
M’kay…about 2 inches!

Then I grab the waist on both sides and guesstimate how much fabric I’ll want to take in there.

But you can use a tape measure if you like!
But you can use a tape measure if you like!

You can probably guess what I do at the hips by now…

Grab 'n Guess!
Grab ‘n Guess!

If you have a terrible memory like myself, you can write your guesstimates on a piece of paper.  🙂

Then, take the dress off and pin the sides at the bust, waist, and hips using your guesstimates.

Measure and pin!
Measure and pin!

Then, add more pins to fill in the gaps, following the lines of your guesstimates.

I take an "Eh...just wing it!" approach to most things in my life, y'all.
I take an “Eh…just wing it!” approach to most things in my life, y’all.

Stitch down those sides…


Then, chop off some length if it doesn’t suit you.  🙂

And hem!
And hem!

Now my dress is ready for a night at The Nick!

Fitted & Flattering!
Fitted & Flattering!
I heartily recommend this film!
I heartily recommend this film!




  • Jody Williams

    I found a beautiful dress at the thrift store yesterday – loved the gold and red of the pattern… but it didn’t fit. You’ve inspired me to buy it anyway and try this technique. It if works, I’ll send you a picture.

  • Jill

    Great refashion and definitely my kind of style of sewing! Love it!
    I would love if you came over and linked this project to my dress upcycling linky. It’s a long term linky and party of a series of posts I’m running this year about upcycling clothes item by item.
    Please do come take a look at:
    Dress upcycling linky
    Have a great week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  • furpurr

    Dress looks SO much better shortened!! I adore those sandals ~ so cool!! ~ & the colour is just right with that dress!! Terrific transformation, Jilly!! 😎

  • krogers

    Hi! I’ve been trying the whole refashioning thing and I’m LOVING it! Just curious, could you maybe address how to turn sleeved clothes into sleeveless? Once I take the sleeves off, I can’t manage to sew a ‘hem’ evenly and it looks funky when I put it on. Any tips?

    • ReFashionista

      Sure…You just seam rip off the sleeves, and add a few notches if you need to to keep the fabric from getting all bunched up when you fold them over to stitch them. 🙂

  • Emily

    Completely unrelated, but I work in the “lovely” town where that movie was filmed – good ‘ol Schenectady, NY. The premiere was a huge deal here because Bradley Cooper showed up to our little podunk 6 screen theater!

  • Lindsay Gaines

    Before I had my dressform I would put the garment on inside out and pin while it was on my body then sneakily snake my way out of it! I even skinnified some pants that way.

  • Zoe

    Who doesn’t do that? pinching and doing a slap job tape measure is how I refashion things generally. I’d love a dress form but I’ll have to see if Santa will bring me one. Cute dress, you find all the best stuff, the shops near me don’t have anything refashion-worthy.

  • Elizabeth Hofeldt

    This is great! I did finally get a dress form – thank goodness for sales at Joannes! I think I have also seen you use the trick where you use a shirt/dress that you know fits as a template (lay it on top of the refashion and cut with a seam allowance). That’s what I did before my dress form came 🙂

  • Heather

    Holy crap too cute. The shoes make the dress though. Awesome. Looking at your blog made buy a sewing machine, I’m inspired. Love the blog.

  • Kim Douglas

    Thanks, so simple and readies me to tackle the projects without fear! I want a form too but this will work. You are so funny…reading is a good time! I think the idea from Lindsey, of turning wrong side out and putting on, then pinning or marking is a good tip. I need to use safety pins…don’t like all the poking when getting the thing off.

  • Willow

    I love your ‘fly by the seat of my pants” approach. This is my approach to most things and why I deplore patterns for most things. Maybe I’m not a good follower of directions or I just don’t like being told what to do in such detail. This, I love.

  • Lindsey

    I’ve had good luck with turning things inside out, putting them on, and safety pinning them at those same points. I get an accurate fit and they’re not dangerous to remove to sew.

  • Dawn

    Did you hear me just slap my head in a “why didn’t I think of that??” way about measuring to mark when I take it off? Can’t believe I didn’t think of that instead of all the time I spent trying to pin on myself (and never quite getting it right in the bust area/under the arms), trying to pin after taking off and hoping that I remembered how far to pin in, etc. So far, I’ve only been refashioning tshirts but your blog has inspired me to look at *everything* on my next trip to Goodwill!

  • Barbara Ray

    Inspired by you I cut an old T shirt into a waistcoat for 6 yr old granddaughter . She loved it . Now I’m re fashioning a dress for her and she’s been very patient while I’ve been pinning ! Love your latest one , looks great .

  • Jackie Sorich

    As usual a great look. I love the simple method to adjust fit. You have a wonderful blog and super ideas and results. Fun. Many thanks ! Jackie

    On Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 6:16 PM, ReFashionista

  • Cheyl miller

    I thought you might turn the dress inside-out and pin it right on yourself.
    Anyway, another winner!

    • Carrie Arquette

      Oh, I LOVE those sandals! 🙂

      Jillian, I’ve read your blog from beginning to end within the past couple of months. I LOVE IT! I sew a lot, but mostly altering stuff for people and making new stuff from patterns and fabric. It’s been creatively inspiring for me to see how you refashion something shameful into something awesome. I also watched your Trash to Treasure bit from ABC on Youtube. The guy on there was hysterically clueless, but you did a fantastic job! 🙂
      Anyway, keep refashioning–we love it!
      Cheers! 😉

  • Angelfairydust

    I really like this dress, it’s just a shame it creased up so easily from sitting down. It’s a great idea to pin it like this. I would have never thought of that. I would have been measuring like crazy haha

  • christinapertz1

    haha Thats basically how I am doing my refashions! That and taking other clothes that I like the fit of and measuring them against the new item. It also helps to baste (long stitches not really tight) the part you have measured and try it on to see that you like it, before cutting and permanently sewing.

    I wish I had your eye for finding clothes that would look good after some snips and chops!

    • Lacey

      That’s my method too. Usually works well EXCEPT… One of my first refashions I used a stretchy shirt as a template instead of a normal one. Dooooh!

  • Cathypic

    Thanks Jillian for all these ideas. I really was stuck by this F* lack of dress form. I’ll try on all the clothes I want to refash, and sew them all the next day.
    Carry on, you are such source of inspiration. I really like to follow from France your posts and your positive thinking.
    You rock !

  • Maureen

    I find that turning something inside out and then using a marking pen also works pretty good, right along the several points that you mentioned. I use pins on one side (to stabilize), then mark on the other. Then vice versa.

  • Ashley

    Absolutely love the refash. Personally I like my dresses a size bigger because I don’t like them clinging to my figure, but it looks really cute on you with your perfect body. (Not to sound at all creepy lol) Can’t wait to see your next idea. Random question: How many tries did it take for you to nail a straight stitch? 🙂

    • ReFashionista

      Haha! Thanks for the compliment (Eh…I wouldn’t throw it out of bed for eating crackers)! A straight stitch wasn’t too hard to me. But when I started sewing, I only made small things like camera cases and little pillows, and I sewed slooooowly. Maybe that helped. 🙂

Leave a Reply to Cheyl miller Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: