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An ’80s Power Dress Refashion for a Modern Woman (Me!)

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When I see heavily shoulder-padded, lapelled, double-breasted ’80s dresses like the one I’m about to show you, I try not to judge.

Fashion has a history that mirrors what was going on in society at the time.

In the ’80s, women were at a place where they had been active in the workforce for a while. But now they were finally beginning to reach upper-management and C-Suite roles.

To visually reflect that they deserved respect for the power they had achieved to their colleagues, they wore sharply defined silhouettes…think power suits and shoulder pads. Women’s work clothes were more angular then.

refashionista '80s dress before refashion
Don’t I look clever & driven?

Sidebar: My book prop in the above photo was written by Brian’s Dad (Hey Jeff!)! Yep, I have super smart in-laws. 🙂

Jeff Morris wrote a book
Just a little light reading

Anywho…while I understand the rationale for this type of design, it doesn’t really fit with my muuuuuch more casual lifestyle.

refashionista looks at shoulder pad
I love that shoulder pleating, but hate those shoulder pads!

Things I loved about this dress: The color, the brass buttons, that fabulous shoulder pleating, the fact that it actually fits me okay (no need to take it in/out).

Things that bugged me about this dress: The shoulder pads, awkward length, lapels, and quantity of buttons (too many!).

I started removing what I didn’t like, starting with these monstrously large things:

refashionista huge shoulder pads
They’re huuuuge!

If you’re wondering what to do with removed shoulder pads, here’s an old post (with terrible photos) I wrote about that very thing.

I removed the non-functional row of buttons from the front of the dress, as well as from the sleeves.

refashionista removing brass button
Don’t worry! I save all my buttons!

Next, I tucked the collar and lapels in, and got to work removing some of that length.

refashionista dress refashion
Choppity chop!

I stitched down my new neckline, and then removed the extra lapel fabric with pinking shears. It may not look pretty on the inside, but that’s my lil secret.

refashionista sewing neckline
Shhhhh…don’t tell!

A new hem quickly followed!

refashionista pinning hem
Pin, them hem!

I quickly stitched the bottom scrap into a sash for a little extra waist definition, and was ready for an afternoon with friends!

refashionista black power dress after refashion
Sassy, no?

I styled my new dress with a black cami (necessary), black tights, an owlie brooch (#bringingbroochesback), and some animal print lace-up flats!

refashionista after with brooch by pool
This isn’t my pool, but I wish it was.

I brought over a super fun game called Don’t Get Got, and shenanigans ensued.

dont get got refashionista
This isn’t an ad, I just really like the game!

Don’t Get Got is a secret mission party game that happens in the background of the party. Everyone is given a wallet with different tasks they must execute, BUT if someone asks them, “Is this part of the game?”, they fail. :'(

I can’t say much more without spoiling the game.

refashionista dont get got
I got got many times, as I’m a very trusting person.

I was terrible at the game, but still had fun. 🙂

I got got by everyone on this sofa. :'(
refashionista and husband
Brian likes to suffer, so he roots for the Browns.


refashionista before and after
Feeling the Love in my Valentine's Day Shirt Refashion
How to Refashion a Sweater Vest into a Sweater

29 thoughts on “An ’80s Power Dress Refashion for a Modern Woman (Me!)”

  1. This is a great refashion!! You are so creative and I’m so happy you are blogging again. A couple non fashion comments… your puppy couch steps are cute and my hubby is a Browns fan too!

  2. Loving the refashion. So inspiring. There is plenty of scope in those old 80’s dresses. They are relatively well made. The one thing I don’t miss is how every outfit seemed to have buttons on the chest, but very easy to remove.

  3. Yes! Iggy Pop ! Yes! Stairs for the wieners! Yes! Great refashion. Was in college in the 80s so no power outfits, but I do remember them!! Great job- inspiring me to work on some 80s fashions.

  4. Nice job! I love the way you kept the buttons and how you refashioned their look so they look like they were always meant to be there. Very flattering for the figure but not overly sexy… Cool!

  5. You always make yourself look as terrible as possible for the ‘before’ photo’s it’s very amusing. (and Brian is so cute!)

  6. Omg you have stairs to your couch for your little pups
    And finally, a fellow brooch lover. I’ve been waiting for brooches to come back forever!

  7. Well, how cute is that! You are one talented missy. I love your blog, can’t wait to see your next surprise! Many thanks for sharing.

  8. You are so darn cute. I want to put you in my pocket and take you home. Well….that sounds a bit weird. But don’t fear. I’m just a grandma who appreciates every item you refashion. Such brilliance that you can see the positive in all clothing.

  9. I love the refashion, but I especially LOVE how you styled it! I aspire to a pair of leopard-print shoes, but so far I have been too picky to aquire any of the ones I’ve encountered. 😉

  10. I love seeing you work your gifts of creativity, design, style & sense of humor! So glad you’re back. I’m a 60 year old woman with incurable cancer. Diagnosed 8 years ago. So you can imagine my wardrobe: leggings, yoga pants, camis, T-shirts, you get the picture. It’s a real treat to see what you have done and laugh at your little jokes. Keep it up. You are a blessing!

  11. I really like this refashion. FUNctional pockets, helloooooo! And the overall look is extra cool styled with those pattered shoes. Nice balance.

    (Sidenote: whenever I see cheetah print footwear I get the first lines from The Stooges “Search and Destroy” in my head, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm…”)


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