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’70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion

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I woke up yesterday morning to Mr. Refashionista giving me a kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday! I love you.” he whispered before heading to work.

“Mrrrrphmrrrphloveyoutoo…” I groggily responded.

I didn’t get to sleep in for much longer though. I had to get up and figure out what I was going to wear for my special day!

I chose this Fortuny-style pleated dress that I think is from the the late ’70s, but could be from the early ’80s?

If you have a strong opinion on this (or even better, a definitive answer), leave it in the comments below!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion before
Check out those sleeves!

I love the color of this dress and I have a thing for fortuny pleating.

But other than that, this $1 thrifted find didn’t have much going for it. It’s matronly to the max…not how I want to look on my birthday!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion before sleeve
Welcome to my sleeve!

At first glance, this dress may appear to be a top and a skirt. But look closer!

'70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion 1
I’m not trying to flash you, I promise!

But could I refashion this matronly mess into a cute dress for a nice dinner with Mr. Refashionista in time?

*suspenseful reality show music plays*

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission. Thanks!

To get started, I used my seam ripper to carefully unpick that pretty beaded leaf appliqué from the shoulder and set it aside.

beaded leaf applique up close
So pretty!

Then, I made a big chop across the top of the dress.

cutting off top of dress
A bold chop!

Those sleeves just weren’t doing it for me, folks. I’m only going to be working with the bottom part of the dress henceforth!

top part removed from dress
A Farewell to Arms…or at least those billowy sleeves!

This effectively removed the V-shaped top part from the body of dress, which is totally fine (and what I wanted to happen).

I took the bottom part of my dress (sans V-shaped thing) and put it on my dress form inside-out, fitting it by the back seam.

fitting dress on dress form
Like this!

Here’s what the front looked like:

fitting dress on dress form front view

Next, I sewed a single seam down my pinned line.

sewing back seam of dress
The first whirrrr!

Then, I cut off the excess fabric.

Cutting off excess fabric
I’ll be using this part later!

Now that the body of my dress was fitted, I needed to deal with the top. I’m going strapless for this refashion, so I needed to add a casing, into which I’d be inserting elastic.

I folded the top part of my dress under once (leaving enough room to easily insert my elastic) and pinned it.

I used my sewing gauge to measure as I went.

pinning top casing for dress
Room aplenty!

Then, I sewed my casing down, leaving about a 1″ gap so I could feed my elastic through.

sewing casing
So far, so good!

I know I keep talking about adding elastic, and we’re going to get back to that, but now it’s time to switch gears and get back to that V-Shaped thing!

I didn’t want to leave the top of this dress as-is, so I grabbed the cut off part of the V-shaped thing (DOES THIS HAVE A REAL NAME????) and laid my dress over it.

I traced around the top of my dress with tailor’s chalk where I planned on adding a truncated version of the V-thing (which I’ll be calling “Lil V” from here on out).

tracing dress on v shaped thing
Can you guess where I’m going with this?

When I was done tracing, I cut Lil V out.

cutting out v thing
I folded it in two to make sure the sides were even!

This left me with two pieces like this:

front and back of lil v
We’re about to get fancy, folks. Hold on to your Vs!

I turned my V pieces with right sides facing each other and pinned the sides down.

pinning sides of v
Pinned and prepped!

I also took a moment to double-check that the measurement across the top of Lil V was just a teensy bit larger (1/2″) than the top of my dress.

I sewed each side of Lil V down.

sewing side of lil v
Sorry Lil V! This’ll only hurt for a sec!

Alright. Things start to get a little complicated at this part. I’m going to try to explain the next few steps as best I can, but they were kind of hard to photograph.

I knew I wanted to attach Lil V to the top of my dress for a pretty layered look (which is oddly evocative of the original piece now that I think about it. But I didn’t want to have a visible seam along the top of the dress (I don’t know why, I just didn’t).

Look closely at the photo below. You can see how I’m getting ready to pin the right side of Lil V to the inside of the top of the dress.

laying out v on top of dress
Please tell me this makes sense.

Attaching it this way means the fabric will be able to just flop over to the right side of the dress!

I pinned Lil V in place, making sure the front and back of the V were aligned with the front and back of the dress.

pinning lil v to top of dress
Seeeeeee?

Then, I sewed it into place, stitching right on top of the stitch I added for the casing.

sewing lil v
I just left Lil V flipped out for this part.

Just like with the original casing, I left a gap in Lil V for the elastic I promise I’m about to add very soon.

Here’s what my dress looked like from the inside when I was done.

Lil V sewn to dress
Got it? Pllllllease tell me you do!

I hope my instructions are clear. As I said, this process was challenging to photograph in a way that made any sense at all. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments and I promise I’ll answer them.

Now to add some elastic!

I grabbed a length of elastic from my stash, wrapped it around myself right below my armpits, and snipped off a length that felt snug but not too snug.

piece of elastic
You shall do!

Then, I grabbed this little guy. He’s called a bodkin and he’s great for all of your elastic-inserting needs. You can get a bodkin of your own here.

bodkin in packaging
So easy!

I attached my bodkin to the elastic…

bodkin attached to elastic
Neat, huh?

…then I threaded it through!

inserting elastic into casing
In ya go!

You can use a safety pin attached to the end of piece of elastic to push it through as well!

elastic threaded through casing
But this way is waaaay easier.

I sewed the ends of the elastic together.

sewing ends of elastic together
Backstitch a few times to make sure it’s secure!

Then, I sewed the small gap I had left earlier….

sewing gap
Clooooosing tiiiiiime!

…along with the pleated part.

sewing down pleated part
Almost done!

Whew! Now the dress was basically done and all I had left to deal with were my accessories!

I needed a sash for my waist, so I took the scrap from where I took the dress in and pinned it into a tube with right sides facing each other.

pinned fabric tube
Future sash!

Then I sewed it down and turned it right-side out.

sewing sash
The final whirrrr!

Please note: In my “after” pics, you’ll notice my sash looks thinner than this. That’s because it is (no sewing trompe l’oeil here!). I thought the original version was too thick so I went back and sewed it to be thinner.

But what about that pretty beaded leaf?

I couldn’t just leave it behind! It’s one of my favorite things about the original dress!

Rather than sew it to my new dress, I decided to turn it into a brooch that can be worn with all sorts of things!

First, I hot glued a safety pin to the back.

hot gluing safety pin to back of detail
I heart my glue gun.

While the glue was still gooey, I pushed a tiny scrap of fabric over the pin with my fingernail.

adding fabric to back of safety pin
Careful! It’s hot!

Check out my new birthday dress!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion after
Innit cute???

I really really like this one and am pretty proud of the overall transformation!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion arms out
I feel pretty!

All refashioning aside, I think it’s just a really nice dress!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion closeup of dress
I maintain it’s an objectively good dress.

My new dress was perfect for warm sunny day.

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion one hand on hip
So elegant!

I’m glad I kept that beaded leaf!

refashionista selfie
It’s quite a lovely accessory!

And check out these sweet vintage velvet slippers I thrifted for $3!

closeup of velvet slippers
Jealous much?

The only thing I don’t like about this dress is how long the back of Lil V ended up being (since the back of the dress dips a little).

back of dress
not as flattering as it could be…

This could be remedied by making the back part of the V shorter than the front, but I didn’t think it looked bad enough for a total do-over.

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion arm out
It’s fine. Really.

I headed out the door for drinks at Craft & Draft with Erin, followed by a birthday dinner at Il Giorgione with Brian.

I ended up waaaaay early (rare for me) and hopped into a nearby art gallery where I scored a little birthday gift for myself.

closeup of champagne and cat sculpture
Treat yoself.

That ceramic cubist cat is by Jeri Burdick. I’ve wanted one forever. When I worked in the nonprofit arts sector I could never afford one, and then she stopped making them.

Jeri Burdick cat sculpture
Mrow!

The boutique owner decided to sell one from his personal collection, and I got lucky!

I had a lovely time sitting outside with Erin, who also brought me a sweet gift!

Jillian and Erin
Birthday buddies!
birthday present and flowers
She made me take a photo of this.
closeup of flowers
“Get a good photo of the flowers too,” she commanded.

For those who are wondering, I just turned 39!

This birthday was a really special one (for obvious reasons). 38 was…tough. I kept receiving flowers, chocolate, cookies, and other really sweet gifts from my friends all day. It made my heart smile.

Jillian and Brian
Hoping for more years with this wonderful man.

Mr. Refashionista and I enjoyed a delightful dinner and of course, wine.

two glasses of wine toasting
*clink*

Here’s hoping 39 is filled with health, love, happiness and all the good stuff.

Cheers!

refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion before and after
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