A Patriotic Pinup Dress Refashion
Dye Refashions,  Dress Refashions,  Refashions

A Patriotic Pinup Dress Refashion

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This might be the worst dress I’ve ever seen.

fourth of july bear jumper before
What the hell!?!

There is nothing to like about this dress.   Not a thing.  It’s cut like a toddler’s jumper, It’s ugly, and that print just angers me.

closeup of patriotic bears fabric
WHY would a grownup wear this!?!

Even the brand name is obnoxious.

country weekend label
Oh hai y’all! Let me throw on my toddler dress with bears on it for my weekend in the country!

When I bought this terrible thing for $1, it was mostly to prevent anyone else from buying it and wearing it as-is (I’m a humanitarian at heart).  It’s been on my refashion rack for months and months!  But for Memorial Day, I was feeling patriotic and decided to give this “bear” (har har) of a refashion a go!

That print is awful.  There was nothing to be done with this dress that would save it unless I could put those bears into hibernation!

Luckily, I have these guys:

blue and black rit dye

I wanted my new dress to have a dark blue hue, and I tossed in a bit of black to further mute the print from the top of the dress.

Into the dye bath it went!

washing machine dye bath
Oh please please please make this better!

After about 45 minutes, I rinsed and dried my dress.  Now time to get to shaping this thing up!

I knew I needed to raise the waist of this dress to make it look right.  Now…I could have detached the top part from the bottom, trimmed off some the fabric, then reattached it, but I had a quicker/more fun solution!

I folded the shoulders of the dress over and pinned them, like so:

dress on dress form

Now that I had a better idea of where the new waist for this dress would be, I got to fitting!

First, I had to snip out those pockets…

cutting off pocket

…then I fitted my dress on my dress form.

pinning dress on dress form

Since this dress has no zipper closure, I had to be careful while pinning.  If I made it too fitted, I wouldn’t be able to slip into it.  Yes…I could have just added a zipper, but this really wasn’t necessary for this one.

I couldn’t get my dress off the form without unpinning one side.  No worries!  I just measured the opposite side and re-pinned the pinless side to match!

Measuring seam
Measure for Measure!

Once all my pinning was complete, I stitched each side down.

sewing side seam

I still needed to tackle that length!  I decided to go super-short for the 1940’s pinup look I was going for.  🙂

cutting new hem
Douglas seems skeptical.

I gave my dress a new hem…

sewing hem
We’re almost done, I promise!

…then went back to the shoulders of my frock.  I stitched them down along their pre-existing seams on each side.

sewing shoulder seam
Right here!
sewing shoulder seam
Then right there!

The new shoulders were fine and all, but I thought they could use a little something special. 🙂

red buttons
Like these!

I hand-stitched a button to each shoulder, which took no time at all!

Hand stitching button
Hand stitchin’!

I tossed on a sash I scored at the dollar-a-pound Goodwill, and just like that, my dress was done!

A Patriotic Pinup Dress Refashion 3

I really ended up liking the red buttons on this one!

patriotic dress refashion after closeup
Cute, no?

Philip and Amauri seemed to dig my new frock as well.

Phillip and Amauri
They approve!

I even like those silly bears now that they’re muted a bit.  🙂

patriotic dress refashion after pose 2
Oh hai!

So yeah…I think this dress is pretty much full of winsomeness!  🙂

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend as well!


A Patriotic Pinup Dress Refashion Before and After


  • Ann Harper

    I was also a teacher and love the comments from the other teachers. We did so many crazy things for our students. I had a bear print similar to this and made jumpers for me and my girls we wore them often( they liked to dress like mom and they would often pick out the prints cat, dog, horse etc. _ you get the picture) . At least I could get them into dresses without a battle. The story STILL doesn’t end , I have granddaughters and we still have holiday skirts, Disney outfits, and fantasy costumes. I have very little pride lol. I substitute sometimes and volunteer at my oldest daughters school we both have been known to wear crazy outfits. Everyone has different tastes and the refashion suits you and looks nice.

  • Reen

    Talk about making a purse out of a sow’s ear! Where others sigh in hopelessness, you see possibilities. Well done and your tip:

    “I folded the shoulders of the dress over and pinned them, like so…”

    just solved a big armhole opening for me. Thanks!

  • Lisa Hamel

    I can almost guarantee my grandma has used the bears fabric in a quilt. It’s patriotic, it’s bears, it’s fabric–Grandma Bear will love it ( that’s actually what the whole family calls her). 🙂

  • reynoldsms

    I think the shoulder solution here was the best option, far better than detaching the skirt to alter, as those arm holes were bra-baringly low. I’ve adjusted a few of my clothes this way to keep my underwear as underwear, not occasionally displayed outerwear.

    Also interesting for me, as an Australian, as we notionally speak the same language, to find an ordinary word like jumper clearly has a way different meaning for you than for me. Here in Australia, if you asked for a jumper in a clothing store, you’ll get what you’d call a sweater. As for me, I’d call that original thing a dress (an ugly one, sure, but still a dress).If it had pants, it would be a jumpsuit, if it had shorts, it’s a playsuit. And I can’t work out why anyone wears jumpsuits or playsuits, because you’ve got to strip nude just to go to the bathroom, which seems really weird.

  • tap752

    Hahaha, I remember selling this fabric when I worked in a fabric store 6 or 7 years back. There was a whole line of these teddy bears with different themes. Amazing what you have done with it! I never think to use dye in this way, you have such a creative eye.

  • Beth

    I have come to love, adore and enjoy using the word “Frock”. Thanks a million! This refash is truly impressive. You are the QUEEN……

  • Debbie

    The dye really toned it down and gave the fabric new life. And the shoulder idea and adding the buttons was great. You really are so inspirational! Love your work.

  • Bonnie

    I love it! One comment about a teacher’s fashion choices though for all who can look back and envision one teacher or another wearing something like this–you LOVED it as a kid. You may not remember loving it, and the style makes you cringe now…but as a child you loved it. There are many teachers out there who wear outrageous things in the classroom who risk ridicule by having to be seen on the way home from work when they stop by the grocery store or the mall. They have a whole closet full of things they wear to excite a 6-yr old–crazy vests with bells and Santas, pumpkins, orange turtle necks, and…jumpers with teddy bears. Teachers wear things for the benefit of the kids in their classrooms that they wouldn’t be caught dead in anywhere else. So while you are throwing up a little in your mouths remembering a teacher who wore sleigh bell earrings, please consider that she did it for you and she breathed a sigh of relief as she drove away from the Goodwill drop-off the day after her retirement from teaching for 35-40 years. 🙂

  • Renee Magouche

    You are amazing. Another lovely frock from something with which I would have wiped my floors. I have a question about dying though: Do you have a separate washer for this or do you use your regular washer? If the latter, how long until you can wash clothes in it again, without dying them as well? Thanks!

  • Mary

    I would definitely called this one a gone-er. But once again you’ve made it into something fun! Kuddos for the great re-fash

  • Kat

    When I saw the first picture I didn’t think there was hope! I love this dress, especially with the red “pops”! You never cease to amaze me!

  • Joan McClure

    This may be the worst original dress yet – unfortunately, I know some retired elementary school teachers who actually wore the same kind of dress. BUT, the finished product looks so cool on you! Great job!

  • Lana

    Great googly moogly. I hated those hideous dresses. My grandmother bought me the all denim version of this dress and hallelujah it didn’t fit! They are a cross between elementary teacher/librarian/church lady gone wrong. And I’ll never understand why anyone would want to wear such an infantile print. On a three year old – adorable. On me – psychotic killer. Great job making that hot mess look awesome!

  • Jamie

    I never comment but had to on this one! You made that hideous dress look adorable!! of course you look cute in everything. I love your blog, you make me want to learn to sew.

  • Andrea

    Wow! You took “that” and made it work. Kudos!!! It actually really looks cute. I’m shocked but not shocked at the same time because you can pretty much pull anything off. 😀

  • blacklambphotography

    I am not loving this one. I think what you did to transform it is amazing and I love the tint you added. However, I hate that you can still see those horrible teddy bears. Love the added splash of colour with the bright sash.

  • Yasmin Allen

    I actually quite liked the bears, but I’m a sucker for cute things. I adore the new shoulders! They’re so unique and inventive, I’m gonna have to try that in future!

  • Christina

    Eek. I think my mom bought (and wore – at least once a week) that jumper/dress back in the late 90’s. She had jean jumpers with embroidered apples and school stuff around the bottom, matching giant-collared button down shirts, reverse jumpers with jean on top and ugly fabric on bottom… it took me years to convince her that those had NEVER been “in style” for adults!

  • kat

    Oh come on…this can’t be the worst dress you’ve ever seen. Didn’t you once salvage a hand made dress printed with super creepy clown faces?
    Love the refash, as always! So glad you’ve got your mojo back!!!

  • Sondra

    Love it again! Did you use the washing machine for your dye bath? You have given me so many ideas….Thank you, thank you.

  • Michele

    Ugh!! That bear print is vomitous! *shudder* I love how you muted that puppy down and folding the shoulders and adding the fab buttons really gets the whole “pin up” feel going. I want to try that myself on a refashion I’ve had in my closet for a long time. Thanks for the great inspiration!

What do you think?

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