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!
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!
At first glance, this dress may appear to be a top and a skirt. But look closer!
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*
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To get started, I used my seam ripper to carefully unpick that pretty beaded leaf appliqué from the shoulder and set it aside.
Then, I made a big chop across the top of the dress.
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!
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.
Here’s what the front looked like:
Next, I sewed a single seam down my pinned line.
Then, I cut off the excess fabric.
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.
Then, I sewed my casing down, leaving about a 1″ gap so I could feed my elastic through.
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).
When I was done tracing, I cut Lil V out.
This left me with two pieces like this:
I turned my V pieces with right sides facing each other and pinned the sides down.
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.
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.
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.
Then, I sewed it into place, stitching right on top of the stitch I added for the casing.
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.
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.
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.
I attached my bodkin to the elastic…
…then I threaded it through!
You can use a safety pin attached to the end of piece of elastic to push it through as well!
I sewed the ends of the elastic together.
Then, I sewed the small gap I had left earlier….
…along with the pleated part.
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.
Then I sewed it down and turned it right-side out.
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.
While the glue was still gooey, I pushed a tiny scrap of fabric over the pin with my fingernail.
Check out my new birthday dress!
I really really like this one and am pretty proud of the overall transformation!
All refashioning aside, I think it’s just a really nice dress!
My new dress was perfect for warm sunny day.
I’m glad I kept that beaded leaf!
And check out these sweet vintage velvet slippers I thrifted for $3!
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).
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.
- You might also enjoy this mother of bride dress refashion (similar original dress, totally different refashion).
- Here’s another dowdy Fortuny pleated dress I refashioned into a cute strapless top.
- And here’s a no-sew Fortuny pleated dress refashion from waaaay back!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Mr. Refashionista and I enjoyed a delightful dinner and of course, wine.
Here’s hoping 39 is filled with health, love, happiness and all the good stuff.