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1940s-Inspired Dress Refashion

Art Deco-ish Dress to Strapless Top Refashion
A Decorative Zigzag Hem & How to Dye Washable Silk

Oh 2020, you vicious minx you.

Just when I start thinking maybe things are getting better, I am proven to be entirely, woefully wrong.

To say there’s a lot going on right now would be an insane understatement.

My heart and brain are both struggling to oscillate from every new awful thing 2020 seems to be so happy to introduce. The pandemic. Losing my job. The systemic oppression of a group of people that deserves so much better (Learn more from the NAACP Website).

It’s a lot, friends. And I don’t want to weigh you down. But this blog has always been about authenticity, and I’m sticking to that.

Just like a lot of folks, my heart is just so heavy lately.

Then a new lousy thing happened.

Completely out of nowhere, Benson showed signs of being in pain and was struggling to use his back legs.

Benson the Dachshund on Couch
Poor little bub.

Brian and I exchanged looks of exhausted sadness.

“No…It can’t be that,” he said.

I fought back tears while clenching my jaw.

Because of their long spines, Dachshunds have a 19-24% chance of developing IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). Douglas had it a year and a half ago and eventually ended up needing surgery. Our single-story house is dachshund safe (steps for the sofa and no jumping allowed), but here we are.

I was able to get him to the vet, and found out that yes…he has IVDD, but also that it appears to be a very mild case and he should be able to recover with crate rest and meds.

Benson looking up from crate
We love you little Bennybub!

Watching Douglas struggle to recover was one of the hardest things Brian and I have been through together. But he did eventually recover.

I’m happy to report Benson’s case DOES seem much milder, and he seems to be getting better. He can still walk (he’s just a little wobbly), and his pain seems to be well-managed with mild painkillers (Douglas was on much stronger stuff during his bout with IVDD). He’s not happy about being kept in a crate for most of the day (only coming out for snuggles), but we’re hoping one day he’ll understand.

I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on Benson’s progress. Please send some healing vibes his way!

Time for a 1940s-Inspired Refashion!

Because, if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, I might as well be well-dressed for the journey.

I started with this $1 ’80s dress.

1940s inspired refashion before
This is my “What the freaking what?!?!” pose.
1940s-Inspired Dress Refashion 3
This is my “Is THIS what you want 2020? FINE! TAKE MY LAST ROLL OF TP AND PUT ME IN A BETTER TIMELINE!” pose.


*Deep breath*

Okay. Let’s focus on a little thing. Even if it’s a silly thing like a refashion.

Because if I can tackle this little thing, maybe it’ll help me tackle bigger things, right?

While I pretty much loathe every single thing about how this year is progressing thus far, there are a couple of things to like about this dress.

I like that cool triangle pleating around the shoulders. This detailing reminded me of dresses from the 1940s, so I decided to lean into that with this refashion. I also like the color.

But other than that, there are many improvements to be made!

First, I ripped out those pads!

1940s-Inspired Dress Refashion 4
This pad is not rad.

As you can see, they were quite large!

Large Shoulder pad with hand for comparison
Hand for Comparison.

Next, I cut off part of the sleeves.

Cut off sleeve

I knew I’d be removing a bit more of the sleeve after I took my dress in, but didn’t want to make that big chop too soon (before I knew how the dress would fit overall).

Speaking of fitting, I put my dress on my dress form inside-out and got to pinning.

I only pinned the bust, waist, and hips.

Pinning bust, waist, and hips on dress form
Pinning bust, waist, and hips!

I took my dress off the dress form and pinned the rest of each side seam.

Pinning side seam of dress
You can see Benson in the background. Poor bub!

I stitched each side down.

stitching side seam of dress

I cutt off the excess fabric from each side and tried my dress on.

I decided that yes, I wanted to remove more of those sleeves, opting to go full sleeveless.

cutting off more of the sleeve
The final sleeve chop!

I pinned my armholes under, and stitched them down.

armhole pinned under
Pinned & Prepped!

Unfortunately, here’s what they looked like when I was done! :/

too-big arm hole
Dude. It’s HUGE.

Well that’s no good.

There’s no way I could wear this dress with its giant armholes (sideboob is out this year).

But this dress Refashion can still be saved! Several people I know who are new to refashioning make the mistake of giving up too soon when something in the Refashion process doesn’t work.

To these people I say, Your Refashion isn’t a fail, it’s just not done yet.

You might need to do a little creative problem solving, but that’s part of the fun of refashioning in the first place, amirite?

I evaluated the top of the dress, and realized had a little room under the armholes to take them in, thus making them smaller and the top of the dress a bit more fitted.

I pinned each side (measuring, of course, to make sure they were even) and stitched them down.

re-tailoring arm hole
Much better!

The last thing I needed to tweak was the length.

I tried on my dress and marked where I wanted the hem to be (adding an inch for seam allowance) then I made a big chop!

chopping off bottom of dress
The final chop!

I pinned my new hem…

pinning bottom hem
Lots of pinning in this Refashion, eh?

…then stitched it down!

stitching down bottom hem
“Geez! Wrap it up already!” (what you’re undoubtedly thinking)

I pressed everything down, and was ready to get out of the house for a much-needed beverage with the hubs!

We chose Weco Bottle & Biergarten as our destination. Things have started to open up here in SC, and Weco has taken every precaution to keep folks safe.

refashionista 1940s Inspired Dress Refashion After
But which beverage shall I choose?

You can see my dress is now a V-neck.

refashionista close up
Gimme a V!

I actually didn’t sew this part. I just removed the top button and pressed each side of the front placket inside. It stayed put just fine (the weight of the placket fabric usually holds it down pretty well without sewing).

refashionista holding can of dry cider
One of my favorite beverages. C’mon cider companies…sponsor me!
1940s-Inspired Dress Refashion 5
Mr. Refashionista…exasperated with…well…everything.

I’m still hopeful that we’ll all see some positive changes in 2020. I just wish the path to these changes didn’t have to be this hard.

refashionista with cider
Seriously…can we all play 2020 in Easy Mode henceforth?

Take Care, Friends.

Refashionista 1940's Inspired Dress Refashion Before and After
Art Deco-ish Dress to Strapless Top Refashion
A Decorative Zigzag Hem & How to Dye Washable Silk

77 thoughts on “1940s-Inspired Dress Refashion”

  1. That’s a darling dress! I hope Bensen feels better soon. I hear ya about 2020! It’s a really horrible year. My husband and I filled for bankruptcy. My big sister passed away at 36 leaving behind her husband and her two kids. We moved from Washington state to Arizona to help with my family. I thought I had a job in Arizona, but due to the Coronavirus, I don’t. My family has very different views on everything that’s going on and I have to tread on a fine line between my parents. I just want 2020 to take a deep breath. At least my kids will be done with school soon. Homeschooling for 3 months has not been easy.

  2. Great post! Could you please tell us what you would do with those armholes if you couldn’t have taken it in more? I have a refashion I’m working on and the arm holes are way too big, but it’s perfectly fitted in the bust, so I can’t just take it in. Advice, anyone? Love your blog, thanks a ton!

  3. I like your refashions but I would really love to see some different takes on pants, culotts, and capris, or even how to on making Bermuda shorts or how to make front slits on different pants, etc. Some variety in these areas would be great.

  4. I love you and all your creations! So sorry about your pupI ‘ve had doggie trouble too. It sucks when your pups get old.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear your pup is in pain. 🙁 I know how much you love that little guy.
    I look forward to all your posts. I’m a sewer/crafter too and your blog inspires me to look at clothes differently. In a few years I will be moving to Murphy, NC where I have plans to have a gargantuan Sew/Craft space! Then I’ll really get my Refashionista on! Keep your chin up. We all love you and your fun witty posts. Oh and all the Refashes!

  6. Sorry your Benson is ill and I hope he does well.
    I really like this refashion. Can hardly believe the difference between before and after. Wow… It is great!!

  7. How about we put on our dresses from our desperate ‘drobes send you a pic you cast your beady eye over it and what we could do with it’ kinda rehash we drop you some moollah go and snip & stitch then do a twirl or shimmy in it hope Benson gets well soon xx

  8. With all that is happening to you, you still regaled us with a fantastic refashion? I love how it turned out, and how quickly you fixed the armhole issue. Hope Benson recovers quickly, and that you find a new job worthy of everything that you give any endeavor you are involved with! Best wishes and prayers for all!

  9. When I saw the before it was kinda scarey. I did like the white spikes on the shoulders though. The finished dress looks really nice. One way of the other we will get thru 2020, we all had such high hopes it was gonna be a great year. If it was a movie it would likely be a total flop! I do hope your fur baby gets better. We had a sick and now recovering puppy here this last two weeks as well. She just turned 14 and we know it is a matter of time but she is still hanging in there…………..they just provide so much love in our lives.

  10. To be honest, I really hated those white arrow things…. but once you got done, I loved them! Nice save, btw! I’m glad your puppy will be better. I’d say, that day, your luck was at it’s best. The wee doggie would probably agree!

  11. Ooo, that turned out so cute! Poor Benson; sending best thoughts for a good recovery. It’s so upsetting to see our pets with health issues.

    And I agree, 2020 has been so weird and hard on people. I hope things start looking up soon. In the meantime, you are helping cheer us with your refashions. I love your outlook: Your Refashion isn’t a fail, it’s just not done yet. What a great thing to remember.

  12. heartbroken for you and Benson… my lab, Wally is not doing well with digestion and is frail…so i understand : (
    on the cheerful note, beautiful Refashion—I love anything Vintage and i definitely feel the 40s’ vibe on this one!
    xo Eva

  13. This refashion is adorable, one of my favorites! You know, all of your stories over the years along with your styles would make a great TV show! Every week, a new refashion and continuing your story from your swinging single days, your girlfriends and now!

  14. Have you ever thought of a pack and play used for babies that you could use for your puppy so he could have a little bit more room to stretch but still be safe. I love your posts They help me feel bright and shiny when my days are dull. And they’ve helped me become a better at sewing

  15. I am so sorry Benson is unwell. Hopefully he will mend in time! Love this refashion! You are such an inspiration to us all!

  16. This dress is so cute, and you are adorable in it. I am glad that your furry friend is doing better. I wish you much success this year. Your blog is great and inspirational. I am grateful that you speak from the heart.

  17. I can’t sew but I love the hell out of all your refashions. Hope your pup is on the mend, and the last half of of 2020 treats us all better than the first half.

  18. Hugs and prayers for sweet little Benson’s recovery.

    The refashion turned out wonderful and you look great in it! Texas is hot and I understand the need for sleeveless garments and lightweight fabrics.

  19. Hugs to Benson and hoping for a full recovery. Refashion is adorable on you. Hang in there to all of you. Thanks for keeping us smiling.

  20. Hope Benson is doing well, it is so hard to have our babies sick. Like the refashion, looks perfect for cider drinking.

  21. Healing vibes to little Benson!!thanks for sharing this refashion! It looks gorgeous on you! 2020 is tough but you are tougher! Plus you are young, beautiful, skinny and have a very handsome hubby! Life IS good…

  22. Perfect refashion! I love it! And those the biggest shoulder pads I have ever seen!
    Hugs to little Benson as he recovers. 2020 has been a tough year for the world, for sure. I’m grateful that with meds, rest and lots of cuddles he’ll be ok. Cheers Benson, you won’t have to be in the crate too much longer! My dogs Zander and Ripley say hi!❤️

  23. Luv it! What started out as a hideous dress ended up looking so cute on you. It’s very inspirational. Best wishes to Benson and to you & Mr. Refashionista.

  24. You and your Mr. like many of us are having a rough time, but we all must tough it out. These rough times will make the coming good times even better. Keep up your refashions, keep up caring for your pup, and keep up loving your big man. All of us out here look to you for inspiration because you never let us down.

  25. Krissy sends hugs to Douglas, she thinks he is so handsome, get better Douglas.
    I love the cap like sleeves after your refashion, beautiful transformation.
    I do not want to hear the words covid 19 coronovirus lockdown or 50% restaurant and reservations ever again, it is sickening that here in Minnesota 85% of the people dying from the virus are in nursing homes, this makes me think of euthanasia, I hope I am wrong.
    I think that many wine companies should use you as their ad Lady, oh yeah.


  26. Praying for a speedy recovery for your little fur bambino. Love this re fashion too, those white points make me think of the backgammon game, I’d call this dress the backgammon dress 🙂

  27. This is a wonderful refash! Looks great on you. It may be in my “top 10” favorites! I feel for you with Benson having IVDD. So Sorry. But it sounds like you caught it early enough for him to get well without surgery! Sending you all the healing vibes! And you might need a hug so here’s an online hug for your and your Mr.

  28. Poor Benson, such a sweet little dude! Speedy recovery wishes and lots of extra pats and snuggles!!

    Give yourself extra snuggles too, it is hard seeing loved ones in pain.

  29. Love to read your blogs – so inspiring and a great read! This year is terrible for so many people, and even worse when you get a personal tragedy on top of it. BUT, hang in there, do what the vet advises and don’t be tempted to think things are better before their time… like coming out of lockdown too soon. That’s some strong advice out of an experience we had a few years ago, except with a cat ;-). Lots of love and gentle hugs to Benson. We’re all with you on this I’m sure!

  30. Get well soon Benson! …The V neck makes so much more sense than the round neck! It is in keeping with the dynamics of the white triangles. Nice job. Thanks for posting!

  31. Best wishes for Benson’s speedy recovery. It sounds like he is on the healing path and looking forward to spending less time in his crate!

    This refashion is amazing! It’s so much better as a v-neck and is beautiful, whereas before, well, what is there to say about those sad shoulder pads!. You rock!!

  32. I just realized that I’ve been watching your great refashions and reading your fun posts for YEARS and it’s high time I said thanks!! THANK YOU for bringing fun and inspiration to my life!!! Sorry to hear about your tough road (2020 has really sucked so far for everyone, I think) and very sorry to hear about your cute pupper…I hope he feels better soon! And last but not least, I LOVE this refash and I think it might be the best one you’ve ever done, in terms of truning something truly vile looking into a dress that’s not only cute, but flattering, and (best of all) a nod to the fashion and style of my favorite era in fashion. Thanks again!!

  33. As always, your refashion is amazing, and you are adorable! Sending love and healing thoughts to your fur baby <3

  34. Nice refashion! I’m curious: what do you do with all the pieces you remove from a garment? Do you re-purpose them? (shoulder pads have me stumped for a re-purpose, btw) Healing thoughts to your sweet Benson!!

  35. Best wishes for Benson’s speedy recovery. Your dress make over is a winner! Even w/the armhole challenge, you pulled it through.

  36. This is one of my all time favorites! Looks amazing on you. Thanks for sharing your creativity and joy. It’s so needed!

  37. WowI think this is the most amazing refashion I’ve ever seen! When I saw the before picture, I had to wonder who would ever have worn this thing–80’s or not. Truly awful in almost every way. But, you saw past all that. And saw promise. (And isn’t that what life is all about as well.) This is one of my favorites of your posts as it offers some very timely advice about not giving up, looking for new ways to solve old problems (in this case a garment problem that’s existed for almost 40 years!). The dress looks amazing on you. And, I love the v-neckline. On a Bension-and-Douglas note, I had a beagle/terrier/dachshund mix many years ago who had this. No crates back then, but “bed rest” healed her back up and she was my favorite dog for 17-1/2 years. Best to all of you. Your fur babies are so fortunate to have both of you!

  38. This is an awesome refashion! Thank you for also mentioning the systemic oppression and including the NAACP website, very informative. Cheers to you, the mister and the pups! <3

  39. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE everything about this refash! Navy blue is my favorite color and with the white shoulder detail and how you restyled the dress to be sleeveless, I’m just in love with it. It’s your best ever, IMHO.
    Hope your poor Benson recovers quickly and fully!

  40. I hope your little guy gets better soon. I never had a problem with my female dachshunds, but my male had back problems twice. It was very difficult for him to be crated while he healed, but he lived a good long life after doing so.

  41. Girlfriend- this is your best refashion of the year! Congratulations! Hang in there baby! Things will get better eventually.

  42. Like always a beautiful refashioned, everything looks good on you, I enjoy your blog very much. Good luck with your fur baby, is like having a child when they hurt you hurt too,anyways best wishes for the future for you and the Mr.

  43. Great re-fashion. The clothes even as recent as the 1960’s had better details and were made better, in my opinion.

  44. Our doxie had that same problem. She was not walking at all. Our vet wanted to to surgery….$3-5,000! We took her to an alternative veterinary practice and she had 3 acupuncture treatments $300, and she was walking again.

  45. I loved EVERYTHING about this post except for your poor puppy. You are totally on top of it though and it sounds like things are going well. I love your blog and usually save it to read on my lunch break. Thanks for making me smile!

  46. This has been a crazy year. As a tailor I may open my shop BUT!!! can not have a fitting room. People are being rightfully careful. Most of not all my bridal fittings will be after November as brides have postponed or canceled. I too am out of work. I am doing what I can do also.
    I’m enjoying my gardens again , my husband is cooking with me again, I truly believe that this is our time of ( for) TRANSFORMATION. If the last couple of weeks hasn’t showed us all of that, we are blinded.
    Your blog is on point in so my ways and I appreciate you and your jest for the challenges placed before us all, in you pleasant ,kind and comedic “fashion”.
    You shout be proud that you are still followed 7 yrs after you began. Who knows something big could be around the corner for you.
    Stay well sweet girl.

  47. First off, hope Benson gets well soon! Second off, love this refashion, especially your decision to turn your neckline into a V-shape, ending your V at the same point of those white shoulder triangles. Third off, If pressing the new turned-under armhole doesn’t remove the waves (which looks like it did with these armholes), I cut bias strips or a modified facing and … waves be gone!

  48. Once again you worked your magic and made a blah dress into a fabulous dress! Way to go!
    So sorry about little Benson. I hope he heals superfast. Poor little pup.

  49. This is one of my favourites – the sleeveless is flattering when it’s a wide shoulder like that, almost a cap sleeve. Maybe it would cheer up Benson if Douglas were to lie on his dog bed right beside the cage? I like the video you did too – perhaps some future vlogging?

  50. I enjoy your blog so much, great ideas and and fun stories! Hope the pup gets better soon, they are our children and we hate to see them suffer!

  51. Whenever I’ve taken in the sides to try to reduce the size of an armhole, I get fabric waves at the arm, just like you did. If I knew more about design I’d know what to do about it. I’ve tried darts, but they don’t always look right either.

  52. I have a standard wirehair dachshund. When he was 3, his back went out. He had surgery( I had insurance on him, thank gawd). The surgery was successful, he had to have 6 months of rehab too. He is 8 now, since that happened, he’s never walked up stairs again. We carry him up and down. It was a long road, but not jumping off stairs is so important. I joined the IVDD FB group, they were a big help.


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