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’70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion

DIY Reusable Coffee Cup Sleeve (from a Cut-Off Jeans Leg!)
How to Refashion a Sweater: 24+ Sweater Refashion Tutorials

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

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

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

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


refashionista '70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion before and after
DIY Reusable Coffee Cup Sleeve (from a Cut-Off Jeans Leg!)
How to Refashion a Sweater: 24+ Sweater Refashion Tutorials

94 thoughts on “’70s Fortuny Style Mother of the Bride Dress Refashion”

  1. First, happy birthday! Second, I love your spirit! And finally, you have quite a spot of talent! #mydailyfix ❤️
    NTW: I can’t sew worth a lick!

  2. The dress looks like something the Golden Girls might have worn. Looks very Dorothy like to me. Don’t know what decade that was??? Happy Birthday and many more. Nice refashion. Keep posting brings so much joy and inspiration to others and myself.

  3. Happy Birthday Jillian!!! That refashion is one of my favorites that you’ve done, and you look gorgeous in it! A beautiful color on you! Congratulations and cheers to you, wishing you good health and happiness

  4. Happy Birthday. I hope the next year is wonderful to you.
    The refash looks positively Grecian. I hope you keep the top and do something with that. I was digging those sleeves. Hugs xx

  5. Happy birthday! Great refashion! You showed that you made a sash, but I didn’t see it on the dress? Can you show a picture with the sash? Thanks!

  6. What a gorgeous refashion and Happy Birthday, Jillian!
    So happy you had so many wonderful presents and attention from family and friends.
    My birthday is next week, the 17th. I don’t know what we’re doing but I want cake. LOL

  7. This is definitely one of my favorites. Awesome! it looks great on you. I hope you had a wonderful birthday and that 2021 is much kinder to you.

  8. That dress is gorgeous! This post made me smile. Your attitude throughout last year has lifted my spirits many times. I hope you have many occasions to wear that beautiful in 2021.

  9. Happy birthday!! Enjoy 39! Love, love, love the dress! Very elegant…you could wear that to a wedding also! Great job!

  10. That’s a great maxi dress! I think the pointed back is just the right length, and the vintage of the original dress is likely mid-to-late 80s I think. Happy BirthYay!

  11. Happiest of birthdays to you! You amaze me with your talent and it’s so wonderful to see you healthy and happy!!!

  12. Happy birthday, Jillian! ❤️❤️❤️ Your makeover was “totally awesome, Dude”!! (80’s vernacular from 40 years ago!! Say what!??)

  13. Happy Birthday and many many more!! The pictures are great. It was good to see your other half and a delight to see Erin, too.
    Regarding the refashion… Wow! It is wonderful. One of your best ever, I am sure and it looks lovely on you. You have more imagination than anyone.

  14. Brilliant refashion !! That was inspired ! And just in time for a birthday that was, hopefully, amazing. Wishing you many many happy more with your cute husband.

  15. Absolutely adorbs! Happy Birthday to you! Mr. Refashionista is a very lucky man to have you! And you him! xo.megan

  16. Vous êtes très belle dans cette robe ! I am sure that even with a non-existing french, you will understand – happy birthday, just enjoy it – and your little hair « petite repousse » is so cute – cheers !

  17. Happy, happy birthday to you, dear Jillian! And, 39?!? Maybe 30, at most…. (have you ever heard of American comedian Jack Benny? There’s a “39” joke in there LOL) And the dress is so very Greek goddess-y. It looks like a fabulous time was had by all. Just as it should be. Cheers!

  18. Oh my goodness! The small preview photo had not prepared me for the . . . Godzilla of fabric that was the original dress. You did great! Happy birthday!

  19. Happy birthday! I wish you the most joyous and blessed year, ever!

    Gorgeous dress. That will keep you going all summer, or until you make a cuter one, if that’s even possible.

    *Birthday Hugs!*

  20. Happy Birthday and wishing you many more! You look gorgeous, your dress transformation is stunning, and Lil V’s back is perfect! I have been inspired to try several of your ideas – the latest being shortening a much too long sweatshirt – and always look forward to seeing what you’ll do next.

  21. Happy Birthday! The dress turned out beautiful and looks great one you. You do excellent work and instructions all made sense.

  22. Happy birthday Jillian! May this dress transformation be a reflection of your new beginning- from a heavy, difficult year to a future of lightness and joy!

  23. Happy Birthday! This is my favorite refash you’ve done! You’re right, the color is awesome, those slippers are awesome, and the back is great. This is such a great example of no waste. I love the fortuny also. You have inspired me to start sewing again. I do not have the vision you have….yet. I have a few old dresses from Goodwill that are waiting on me to refash. I am working on more craft stuff in the meantime. And, you do look 19 like the above person said.

  24. Yes! Objectively speaking, I think it is one of your best refashions, ever! And I think the way the V dips in the back is perfect. Happy birthday! You are to be celebrated and you have so much to celebrate. Many more years of wonderful celebrations to you! I am always thankful for what you share with us. The inspiration that you offer us is a bright spot in our lives. A big hug from southern Colorado! Bless you and yours!

  25. What did you do with the sleeve fabric? Maybe a scarf, shawl, or handbag? Or pockets?

    I love what you do, but I cannot figure out why you never add pockets to your garments.

    • I ALMOST wore it as a matching headscarf, but it was warm out so I didn’t! You may see those sleeves again in the future!

  26. Great dress! Mary McFadden made clothes with Fortuny-like pleats in the seventies. My mother loved her.

    And, Happy Birthday!

  27. Looks good! I believe that piece of the dress is called a fauxverlay. SWIDT?

    You two are so cute together. Happy birthday!!!

  28. Happy Birthday Jillian! The dress turned out lovely, just as you are. Have a wonderful birthday and a terrific year!

  29. Happy birthday Jillian. Love this refashion, it´s an amazing transformation from that awful matronly dress. The colour is fab and looks fantastic on you. Tel Erin I love the birthday gift she gave you – so pretty and such gorgeous colours. Here´s to a happy and healthy year.

  30. Happy Birthday ! The dress is very becoming and quite a transformation. I miss the early dark pixie wig ! You are looking so well these days ! Hope you are getting some walking in daily to rebuild your strength.

  31. Gorgeous! Both you and the dress 😉 And the back side of Lil V looks good as is, not need to alter anything. Great job!
    Happy Birthday and I’m sending you warm wishes for your best year yet!!

  32. Understood your directions completely. I was followin’ ya girl! Absolutely amazing transformation and here’s wishing you a very special year. God Bless!

  33. Have a whole Happy Birthday year… you absolutely deserve it! Your dress and brooch turned out lovely. Peace and love to you two!

  34. The original dress looks like something that my daughter’s MIL wore to the wedding in 2013…perhaps she was saving it from the 80’s for a special occasion 🙂 Your new version looks fabulous, including the back view of Lil V…resembling a long fitted bodice. Good to see you smiling again, and a very happy birthday to you 🙂

  35. You look positively gorgeous in the pic with you and your handsome hubby! If it helps you date it, something about the original dress screamed Golden Girls to me. Love what you did with it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how you could possible transform it when I first saw the original. You have such a good eye and always impress me!


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