Subscribe to updates via email!

A Dress to Cowl Back Top Refashion

An "It'll do for work." Refashion
A Cameo Print/Asymmetrical Lapel Dress Refashion

When I found this frock on the 50 cent sale rack at the Goodwill near my house, I thought, “Wow!  A dress I don’t even have to refashion!”

dress to cowl back top refashion before
Not too shabs!

But then I looked a little closer…

hole in thrift store dress
See it?

Here.  Let me help you out a bit.

closeup of hole in dress

Do you see the bizarre patched-up crotch hole?  

HOW DID THAT GET THERE?  WHYYYYYYY?  And WHY am I so terrified of the implications of said crotch hole? :/


Step 1: Cut off everything below that weird hole!

cutting off bottom of dress
Ahhhhhh! Much better already!

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel much better now!

So, I could have reattached that bottom bit to the newly crotch-hole-less bit, but the temps here have dropped, and I definitely need more shoulder coverage now!

Next, I needed to restitch the top of the elastic waist that had come undone.

sewing elastic back on dress
…like Duran Duran no more!

Then, I had that bottom raw edge to tend to.

sewing bottom raw edge

I used a straight stitch for this, but it was quite finicky with the weirdo stretchy knit of this fabric.  I SHOULD have used a tight zigzag, as it would have saved me a bit of frustration.

I promptly reset my machine for the remainder of this refashion!

setting sewing machine to zigzag stitch
Now we’re talkin’!

Now for that bottom scrap!  

First, I unpicked the hastily hand-sewn hem that was already in place.  

I commend the effort, but I wanted something a tad sturdier for my new top!

seam ripping bottom edge

Then, I pinned a new hem for each side of the scrap.

pinning hem
No big.

I stitched each hem down.

Zig zag stitch

But now what?  I’m going to be a bit chilly without some upper arm coverage, no?

I took that scrap and did this with it:

pinning to dress form
Just playing around a bit…

Then I did this!

pinning front to dress form
back of top refashion

I stitched down those parts I pinned at the front.

stitching with zizag stitch
Once again, using a zigzag.

The back was left drapey.  πŸ™‚

And here’s my new top!

refashionista dress to cowl back top refashion after
My shoulders are now draft-free!
back of dress to cowl back top refashion
Le back!

Amauri thought my new top was pretty swell too!

Jillian and Amauri
Love this fella right here. πŸ™‚

I had a blast wearing my new top at Soda City’s Oktoberfest!

Jillian and Erin
They juuuust might…


A Dress to Cowl Back Top Refashion | Refashionista
An "It'll do for work." Refashion
A Cameo Print/Asymmetrical Lapel Dress Refashion

106 thoughts on “A Dress to Cowl Back Top Refashion”

  1. The top is much more flattering than the dress, especially for the low, low price of 50 cents!

    My theory on the crotch hole:

    The dress was once longer and much-loved. Then, the wearer got careless one night (most likely after drinking one too many daiquiri while spring breaking in Florida), and her beloved dress received a ghastly burn (most likely from a cigarette, but maybe from a flying bonfire ember). In desperation, the next morning, the owner, still slightly hungover, cut off just enough of the bottom to fashion a make-shift patch for her wounded garment. Her mind was clear enough to match up the pattern, but still foggy enough to think this was a workable solution. She threw the patched-up affair into her suitcase, gathered the rest of her things, and headed back to South Carolina, USC, and her masters degree in political science. In the cold, hard light of her tiny studio apartment, she knew in her heart the dress couldn’t be worn as-is, but guilt and love of what once was kept her from simply throwing it away. For months it hung in the back of her closet, sad and unworn, until it was finally bundled off to Goodwill with a pile of castoffs. Passed over again and again, it made it’s way from the dress rack, to the $1 rack, to the $0.50 rack. Then, when it least expected it–salvation! A feisty, creative, young refashionista gave it new life and a new purpose. The dress was now a top, and it was finally freed of its crotch-hole shackles!

  2. Love it !!! You have quite an eye..this is so much better than the original item..I keep looking at the goodwill racks for a print that will catch my eye but you definitely have a talent for recognizing hidden gems !!

  3. This is one of your best ones yet. I love how you just go for it. I’m learning to loosen up in regards to restyling, and your blog has been quite helpful.

    My first comment here and I’m gushing. Forgive me.

  4. This is adorable! I’ve been stalking your website (I guess it’s not stalking if you intend it to be read eh?) for several months now. I’ve been sewing for years, mostly home decor lately, but you’ve inspired me to 1.Buy a dress form of my own (and fit it to my body…shudder) 2.Try several refashions of my own! Maybe I’ll muster up the courage to send you some pictures at some point! Now this will sound very β€œstalkery” but I’d really like to hang out and drink wine with you sometime! Don’t worry, I live FAR away in Michigan! πŸ˜‰

  5. Great save! Also just wanted to tell you I did a good bit of sewing over the weekend (X-mas presents) and said “whirrrrrr!” in my head every time I used my machine.

  6. Hi! I have been reading your blog for over a year and a half now. I have to say–I love what you do! I love that you are unafraid to try new things and then share your works of art with the rest of us. Sometimes the hardest part of being an artist is sharing your creations with others because it opens us up to critique–including the self-inflicted kind. πŸ™‚

    I have shared your blog and your refashionista motto with as many people as I can. I bought a sewing machine (something I never ever thought I would do) and taught myself how to sew on scrap fabric. Then I started shopping at the thrift store for nearly all of my clothes. I can’t tell your how much fun it is to walk into Goodwill with a $20 max budget and see what awesomeness I can come up with. I’ve also refashioned a lot of the clothes that I already own as well as my kiddos clothes. Sometimes my refashions end up looking amazing and other times they become fabric scraps for another project. Either way, I enjoy the journey and am glad that I am no longer so wasteful!

    Someday I hope to share one of these refashions with you. In the meantime, thank you for the inspiration. Keep it coming!!!

  7. When I started reading this post I was pretty sure I was not going to like it. Happy to be totally wrong. I am fairly top heavy and can’t wear all those strapless minis that look so cute on you, but this is an idea I will save!

  8. Love this one! I have a dress I want to do the sleeves and cowl with (it is not becoming for older ladies to show too much skin you know!) and now you have shown me how!!
    thank you!!

  9. Love the top, what you did with the neck line front and back is a clever idea. Every time I go thrifting I have you in mind. It never fails that I find a piece and think Jillian would love this to work on (always brings a smile to my face).

  10. Jillian I think this could be one of the best transformations you have done. It is awesome. Just to think that your new top was that ugly dress is beyond belief.
    I love the way you look at things and make up something beautiful out of something no one would want except maybe for a Halloween costume. Keep it up. You give me encouragement that I might be able to do something cool.

  11. This is so cute – one of your best, Jillian! And personally I think the owl necklace is great with the top – goes great with the fall/Halloweenish theme. I’ve actually been on the lookout for an owl pendant thanks to you!

  12. That is so cute! Definitely, one of my favorites that you have done. You are so freakin awesome! And I love the owl necklace with the top! : )

  13. Wow!!
    Great use of dress fabric for recycling to a cool top with jeans. Note :
    did not like owl necklace with it. Suggestions, a heart or a beautiful cross necklace.

  14. swag. the hole was probably made in the clothes factory by some cutting machine, and this piece of fabrics should have ended in the rubbish. (i’ve been given clothes factory rags with similar holes on them). by the way those stripes are just fab’.

  15. I love this! It’s such a cute, stylish top. I’m not a fan of strapless…get tired of watching people constantly pulling their tops up ;))

  16. I’ve recently discovered your blog & have started reading all of them from the beginning (I’m up to Oct 2011!) & I have to say, this is my favorite so far! A\I’m also in my 50s, & I can’t just go around with a strapless top (bras are important at my age LOL)
    This refashion though, I can wear with confidence. Thank you & keep up the great work!

  17. You are SO clever! It would be hard for me to choose a favorite from your refashes, because they are all so good. But if I had to choose, this might be it. πŸ™‚

  18. I love how you did the straps and how it looks rounded in the back. It reminds me of the same cute idea you had with the elephant dress. I have been shopping around for a dress to do that to. It looks so cool!

  19. So, so cute! And maybe the reason for the hole was a dropped cigarette ash – knit would burn through very easily – so shudder no more πŸ™‚

  20. One of my favorites that you’ve done! You’re so talented! (On a side note I did my first refashion. Made a skirt for my daughter’s doll out of a shirt sleeve LOL! But hey at least I did it correctly after learning from your blog!)

  21. good job, really turned out to be a lovely top, who knew you can do this from a ruined
    kind of dress. You just do your magic to just about everyone of the garments you get.
    Good for you that you are so tiny and you can just snap away at things… May be one day you find a friend who wears let’s say size 14 or 16 and you get two garments and
    turn the two into a super sexy something for that bit larger person. Would love to see
    what you would come up with. Have a lovely day… Edith

  22. This refashion turn out so adorable! *Waves to you from the Texas Gulf Coast* The temps here are probably similar to where you are so I understand about the humidity and such. Looking forward to your next refashion.

  23. Long time listener, first time caller.
    Wow, that is a lovely transformation. Well done! Thanks for all the work you put into your blog, I really enjoy it. I’m a grad student and get so busy with work that I don’t have time for anything else…except reading your posts. Thanks for keeping me sane (well, saner). Best wishes.

  24. I agree with all comments. (I didn’t like the dress at all, so I’m glad you found the weird patch.) I can’t do strapless at all and sleeveless is sketchy since I have flabby arms. Love how the adding the top creates interest with the stripes going different ways. Can’t wait to see more with sleeves. LOVE your blog. I’m going to try it one day soon.

  25. Very nice Job,I do agree with blissinger on many of your previous redo’s. A lot of times you do not need for the him in the middle of your thighs. There’s an old saying sometimes the less you show the better you look.

  26. This is one of the best ones I’ve seen you do. Frankly, I’m not all that crazy about strapless styles anyway (I’m over 50, so I have good reason), so I’m always looking for a way to alter them, even if it just means adding spaghetti straps. The cowl drapes nicely and is a great way to use leftover fabric.

  27. I’ve been following you since your humble beginnings…I’ve loved a lot of things you’ve refashioned, but this just might be my favorite!!!

  28. Oh my gosh!!! How on earth did you come up with this?? I absolutely LOVE it. Would be something that would grab my eye in the store for sure! You have amazing vision and don’t even need a pattern…bravo!

  29. Oh I absolutely LOVE this!! GREAT JOB!! I see you have a new sewing machine?? LOVE the haircut too!
    You are very inspiring and make my head spin with ideas! Thank You so much!!


What do you think?