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An ’80s Jumper to ’50s-Inspired Dress Refashion

Thrift Store Style: It's All About Unique Pieces!
Keeping it Classy: A Cut Out Dress Refashion

I always feel a little sad when I see handmade clothes on the $1 clearance rack while thrifting.

'80s seersucker Jumper before refashion
Someone lovingly created this.

Someone spent hours on this, friends. And it’s really well-made!

I know, it’s super-dated now, but dresses like these used to be a thing, and it makes my heart sad to see some person’s hard work on a rack of castoffs.

Luckily, I was there to rescue this dress. With just a few tweaks, I knew I could turn it into something I’d be proud to wear out and about (You know…when we can actually do that again)!

I liked the yellow seersucker fabric of this dress, but it was a little plain for my tastes. Fortunately, I saw a couple of opportunities for embellishments.

First, I removed the yellow buttons from the shoulders.

seam ripping off buttons
That yellow-on-yellow just isn’t working for me!

Then, I pulled out my magical tin ‘o buttons to pick my replacements!

tin of buttons
These used to be my grandmother’s!

I pulled out my finalists…

selecting buttons for dress
Which ones will I choose?

I ended up choosing these sweet vintage green buttons.

replacing buttons on dress
Old regime, meet the new regime.

I stitched my new buttons on. In case you don’t know how to do this (or need a refresher), here’s how to sew on a button.

sewing on button
Hand stitching is quite zen!

Now it was time to make my dress a bit more fitted. This was tricky business because there’s no back zipper or closure.

That means the only way to get into this dress is from the top (since the buttons are functional) or the bottom. Since I didn’t feel like adding a zipper, I planned on being able to put this dress on over my head from the bottom with the top unbuttoned.

All that to say I couldn’t make this too form-fitting or I wouldn’t be able to get into it.

Not to worry! I had a plan!

First, I removed and saved the very thick bottom hem.

removing hem from dress
You will come in handy soon!

Then, I took the dress in just a smidge.

taking in dress
taking in dress with sewing machine

Once done, I cut off the extra fabric from the sides.

cutting off excess fabric with pinking shears

I gave my new dress a new hem…

pinning hem for dress
Pin that hem!
stitching hem for dress with sewing machine
Stitch that hem!

…but still thought my dress was a bit boring. 🙁

That’s when I started looking at the decorative stitches on my machine for ideas!

decorative stitches on Pfaff sewing machine
I have quite a few options, as you can see!

After careful consideration, I selected the stitch that represented where I’ve been confined for two weeks, and where I kind of feel like I’ll be stuck for the foreseeable future.

decorative house stitch on Pfaff sewing machine
You’ve gotta have a sense of humor, folks!

I loaded my machine with a green thread that matched my new buttons and got to work!

decorative house stitch being added to hem
Cute, innit?

I know most of you guys probably don’t have quite the array of decorative stitches I do on my machine, but you very likely do have some stitches that are decorative, or could be used as decoration. Even a couple of zigzag stitches layered over each other can look really cute!

decorative house stitch on bottom hem of dress
Stay home. Stay home. Stay home…etc.

I hemmed the ends of the bottom hem I removed and added this same decorative stitch to the bottom edges of that as well.

And that’s it!

An '80s Jumper to '50s-Inspired Dress Refashion after
Much improved, I say!

You can see how I wrapped the sash obi-style around me a couple of times to help nip in the waist (and why it had to be fairly thick to do so).

An '80s Jumper to '50s-Inspired Dress Refashion After Closeup
Feeling quite fetching!

I’ve gotta say, it feels incredibly weird doing refashions and literally getting dressed up with nowhere to go. But it also feels really good to keep myself busy with creative projects.

I hope you’re finding similar opportunities to help occupy your time in positive ways. If you have some good ideas for your fellow readers, why not leave them in the comments? I think we could all use a little inspiration right now.

refashionista drinking Rosé
Like day drinking Rosé!


Refashionista An '80s Jumper to '50s-Inspired Dress Refashion Before and After
1950s Inspired Dress Refashion
Thrift Store Style: It's All About Unique Pieces!
Keeping it Classy: A Cut Out Dress Refashion

73 thoughts on “An ’80s Jumper to ’50s-Inspired Dress Refashion”

  1. Really cute refashion. Made many dresses like the one you refashioned(popular back in the day). Thanks for giving new life to someone’s handmade creation. I haven’t been doing much fashioning during the covid outbreak been sewing masks and dominating them to hospitals etc. Stay safe and creative.

  2. So much day drinking here (at least on the weekends) right now! Between being at home for at least another 2 weeks (in MN, our governor just extended our stay-at-home order – I agree with the decision, it’s just difficult to be completely happy about it) with a teenager who has been home for almost 2 months now and running a family childcare with 6 kids daily – the wine on the weekends helps me get through the week.

    So glad to read your blog again, it’s a wonderful way to spend this weekend – reading your blog and day drinking and spending it with my (for the moment) happy teen.

  3. You are incredibly talented creative and such a cutie. I don’t se w and at 70 too old to learn but I enjoy trying to keep up with you.

  4. I must say this is one of my favorites. It is nice to see you do something a little different. You kept the fullness of this one where you usually make everything straight.

  5. So, so cute. Just think of all the things you’ll have to wear when we get through this! I also have my grandmother’s button box. I spent many hours with it growing up.

  6. That’s an awesome plan, Gail! I thrifted a few sets of cloth napkins and coordinating placemats years ago. I have never regretted it!

    I use cut up t-shirts instead of dish sponges and to clean up small spills, worn out wash cloths instead of cleaning sponges, and worn out hand towels instead of paper towels.

    Right now, I have been cutting up fabric scraps and threadbare rags and clothing to create filling for new crate cushions for my dogs. They love to “dig” on their pillows, so I am trying to create a filling that can accommodate that for free! Normal poly-fill gets so clumpy and weirdly shaped. 🙁

    Love the refashion Jillian. Perfect for spring!

  7. Adorable dress! I’m glad you’re keeping busy. I’m trying to teach myself to crochet. It’s slow going, my friend. I guess if we’re quarantined long enough, I could possibly finish a small potholder.

  8. LOVE this dress! I’ve always been drawn to 50’s and 60’s inspired fashion for women and after watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series, I want to see more!!!!!! You have more 50’s inspired ideas? Love!!!!!

  9. Oh, Gillian, what a Covid-Cutie that dress is. You are definitely a life-saver. I am now working remotely from home so can’t get too my stash but when I do LOOK OUT. Meantime I love watching your amazing refashions. They offer a rare few minutes where I’m not thinking about work or despairing about the world. Thankyou, thankyou!

  10. What a ray of sunshine with this charmer! Your blog and the community of commenters here is getting to be my favorite place “to go” these days. So many great ideas today. I’ll definitely be spending some quality time with my sewing machine this evening, inspired by all. The buttons and trim on this happy yellow dress are the frosting. Thanks so much for keeping us in the game.

  11. I’ve been making face masks, too, Alison. Most of the hospital staff here in Midland, Texas are wearing homemade face masks right now. I can’t believe I don’t have a house design on any of my machines. I love that!

  12. I love this refashion! Cute as can be, especially with the little houses as decorative stitching. Thank you for sharing your great ideas during this stressful time. I look forward to them.

  13. So cute! Love the house motif, so appropriate to our current situation. I’m taking steps (and stitches) to reduce paper use. First project, cloth napkins. Thrifted fabric, three yards for $3.00, will make a dozen 18″x18″ napkins. Thanks for posting often during this crazy time. I’m addicted!!

  14. Your creative ideas are helping me get through these stressful days. I have been doing some sewing projects, some refashioning, some shorts by tracing a pair that fits well, and also a small lap blanket using scraps left from projects. I look forward to your posts and just love how creative you are. Thank you for offering some interesting ideas for us to think about. I never went thrift shopping before I started looking at how wonderful your things turned out. Now I love to give new life to a garment that has good material. I actually look first at dresses a size or two large so I’ll have extra material to work with.

  15. Love the houses stitch. I do nail art each week and today have on tan and purple colors with white dots, aka TP with white toilet rolls on it, therapy! I also can sew and do a little refashioning. You are my inspiration always.

  16. Love it. Such a great colour/ fit you. I have the same exact sewing machine as you so Im going to need to find something to use that stitch on. Maybe on the covid19 mask I’m making!

  17. I’m addicted to you and your refashions! U inspired to make some t-shirt dresses and skirts. Working on them today. Not sure what I’m doing but you need to start somewhere. Thx for all your posts!

  18. Keep it up, Jillian!! We’ll be out and about again soon! We are doing lots of yard work projects at my house and YouTube yoga and Zumba strong workouts!

  19. Adorable! It is comforting that there might be someone out there who will appreciate the sewing projects that have been donated to thrift stores. That there is someone who appreciates the many hours and thought that is invested in its creation.
    Thank you for your inspiration. Will be finishing a sloper today to make a dress from several different patterns. Perhaps some day drinking as well!

  20. How clever to hide the dropped waist with a wonderful looking belt. I absolutely love that neckline–very flattering.

  21. I am so pleased to see another post, I look forward to seeing you new creations. This one is adorable.
    Thanks for brightening my day.

  22. Oh so cute, I love the decorative bottom, that is a good color for you.
    I think you should make a really really cute bracelet with some of those buttons.
    Stay Healthy


  23. That is a great color on you! The fabric and the style look so cool for the summer heat ahead. Here is a refashion idea that you can make out of bandannas or fabric cut to that same size. The face masks require no sewing and they are 12 layers thick…much more effective than all those face masks people are sewing. I used 2, 3 inch rubber bands, as the hair ties make it a bit tight. You can also cut a coffee filter and tuck it in the layers for additional protection.

    Thanks for sharing all you do!

  24. I think it would be really fun if you started a refashion challenge for while we are all at home. Challenge to refashion something that is in your house now but is not worn by anyone. Maybe it is to small or to big but is not worn and turn in into something that gets a second life. You can have contacts can you get someone to donate a prize and let people turn in pictures of what they come up with. Require before and after pictures. Another idea I have is make a roaring 20’s custom. I recently refashioned a dress so my 83 year old mom could go to a roaring 20’s party I am proud of my refashion and would love to share the pictures

  25. Love this! I have a couple of favorite things from long ago that, because of your inspiration, I will be refashioning 3>

  26. I love it! I also get sad when I see homemade items at Goodwill. The decorative house stitch is so funny. Loving all the refashions lately. Extremely jealous of all your tree bloom evidence in background though! Ohio is not there yet.

  27. Just got my first sewing machine…. excited!

    welp, I’m going to make face masks right now. But later, inspired by your blog and delightful refashions like the above dress (those buttons, so cute) who knows??


  28. I am constantly inspired by your refashions! Your work and commentaries add a joyful spark to these pandemic
    days at home. Keep up the good work!

  29. Very cute!!! I’m digging your yard and the flowering trees too! What’s that black roll of something or other on the ground behind you? Landscape fabric?

  30. I’m so very glad you are blogging again! You inspire me to look at my clothes to see if I can modify them. I hope to be able to do some sewing soon! Thank you!

  31. How cute!! This (almost) feels like something I could do, seeing so many of these dresses hanging sadly on the thriftstore racks. Very clever choice of stitching! I have a few choices and am now curious enough to try them.
    Thank you, Fabulous Fashionista… I am newly INSPIRED 🙂

  32. I’m loving this… seersucker also. I have a few hidden gems like this that I am waiting to do. However I am finishing some memory quilts for friends…..but it is always nice to take a break for a bit and do something else. Have a nice day as we stay in!!!!

  33. This is totally cute!!!!!! Are you layering it over a tank? I hate sleeves things usually because I feel like my bra is always peeking out somewhere 🙂

    • I am! I had to wear a camisole and half slip with one since the fabric was pretty thin, and I also dislike gapey armholes!


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