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Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion

Slit Bottom Sleeve Dress Refashion
Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater

You guys.

I’m going to start this post by just saying I’m super proud of this one. I think it may be one of my best refashions yet!

It all begins with this dress.

Refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion before
I put it on and it instantly aged me 20 years.

When I first saw this dress, I HATED IT.

It’s super unflattering and somehow makes me look like the kind of person who doesn’t let other people talk during HOA meetings and has strong feelings about windchimes.

Is anybody else picking up safari vibes as well?

Refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion before safari vibes
The only animals I see on my safari are squirrels.

Alas, it was only $1, so I snatched it up. Whatever I did to it would have to be an improvement, right?

Right away, I knew I wanted to turn this dress into a jacket…but not just any jacket…a cape sleeve jacket!

That’s right! I’m going to show you how to create your own jacket with cape sleeves, including how I drafted my own sleeve pattern!

First, I removed those shoulder pads that weren’t doing this dress any favors.

removed shoulder pads

Then, I used my seam ripper to remove the sleeves.

removing sleeves with seam ripper

I carefully put them aside, as they’ll be coming back into play later.

removed sleeves on cutting table
I’m not done with you guys just yet!

I knew I’d need to harvest some fabric in order to make the cape sleeves for my soon-to-be jacket. Luckily I knew exactly where to find it.

I pinned my dress where I wanted the bottom of my jacket to end, and cut off the rest.

cutting bottom off dress
Such a bountiful harvest. I shall surely survive the winter now.

Now for those cape sleeves!

I grabbed one of the original short sleeves from the dress and pressed it where it had been folded under.

pressing removed sleeve
You’ll see why.

Now that it was nice and flat, I grabbed some pattern paper and traced the shoulder part of the former sleeve onto it.

tracing shoulder part of sleeve onto pattern paper
Just like this!

If you don’t have pattern paper, you can use parchment paper, wax paper, newspaper (Lol Just kidding. Print is dead.), or any other paper taped together to be large enough to make your sleeve pattern.

I only traced the top of the curve, as I’m not making a full sleeve.

top of sleeve traced onto pattern paper
Just this.

Then, I laid that bottom scrap (folded in two) over my pattern paper and marked where it ended.

cut off scrap laid on pattern paper
This is the max width of the future sleeve!

I used a straight edge to draw a line from the end of the curve of the shoulder part to the notches I made for the width of the scrap.

I made the front part of the sleeve narrower than the back part of sleeve (You’ll see why when I’m done).

I also marked the pattern piece to show the center point, that this side is for the right sleeve, and which part was the front and back of the sleeve.

sketched out pattern piece for cape sleeve
Following along so far?

I only needed one pattern piece, as the reverse of this piece will work for the left sleeve.

Feeling very much like a fancy fashion designer, I cut my freshly-drafted pattern piece out.

pattern piece cut out on cutting table

Just to be on the safe side, I pinned my pattern piece on my dress form with my future jacket to make sure I liked it so far.

sleeve pattern piece pinned on jacket
I think it’ll do!

Then, I laid it over my bottom scrap and pinned it down.

laying pattern piece on bottom scrap
Eat your heart out, Project Runway!

Since the scrap is folded in half, I can just make one cut to get the two sleeve pieces (the bottom one is automatically going to be the reverse of the top).

I cut around my pattern piece.

cut out pattern piece and fabric
Easy so far, right?

I marked my right sleeve and left sleeves with tailor’s chalk.

cut out cape sleeve pieces
Future cape sleeves (I promise!)
R in tailors chalk on sleeve
Very important!

I didn’t need to add a bottom hem, since I incorporated the original hem of the dress into the sleeves.

I couldn’t leave the edges of my future cape sleeves a raw unraveling mess, so I grabbed some bias tape…

roll of thin grey bias tape
A friend recently gifted me a huge bag of sewing notions, and this was among them!

…and sewed it to the sides of each sleeve!

sewing bias tape on edge of sleeve
No pins needed!

You can see I’m not using pins for this, as they actually make this part more difficult and messy than not using them.

I sewed slowly and carefully, making sure the raw edge was securely tucked between the two sides of the tape.

Here’s what my sleeves looked like when I was done.

bias tape sewed on sides of sleeve

You can I didn’t add bias tape to the top part of my sleeves where they’re going to be connected to the shoulder. That’s to make sure I’m not adding any bulk there when the sleeve is attached.

I folded the bias-taped edges under and pinned them in place.

pinning side of sleeve under
It’s gonna look real nice when I done!

Then, I sewed the edge down.

sewing side of sleeve
Such a nice detail!

Here’s a closer look:

sleeve with sewn binding up close

I pinned my sleeves to the body of my new jacket, and began to get prrrrretty excited.

sleeve pinned to body of jacket
Feeling like an incredibly brilliant bespoke tailor right about now…

From the top shoulder, I pinned about 5″ to the front and 6″ to the back. In other words, the sleeves don’t go all the way around (They’re not supposed to! It’s okay!).

You can see how I pinned it with the jacket and sleeve turned inside-out.

To sew it in place, I tucked the sleeve inside the body of the jacket, and carefully stitched it down.

sewing sleeve to jacket
It’s hard to see here, but that’s what’s going on!

The areas below the sleeves (the armpit area) were still open and raw, so I pinned them under and sewed them down.

pinned armpit of cape sleeve jacket
Pin & Stitch!

Now that my sleeves were done, I just needed to give my jacket a new hem!

I folded it under twice (1.25″ to match the sleeve hems).

pinning hem on jacket
Woo hoo! The big reveal is coming up soon!

Next, I giddily stitched my new hem down!

sewing bottom hem of cape jacket

Now for something unprecedented in the history of this blog!

I know some of you are going to be taken aback, but I reattached the original shoulder pads!

hand stitching shoulder pad into jacket
This is the FIRST TIME this has EVER happened!

That’s right! While the shoulder pads looked pretty terrible in the original dress, the jacket really needed a little shoulder definition and these definitely fit the bill!

I pressed everything, including the shoulders and new hem, and stood back to bask in just how awesome my new cape jacket was!

refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion after
I seriously can’t believe this turned out so well!
refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion side view
From the side!

I styled my new cape jacket with a basic black long-sleeve T-shirt, jeans, big earrings, a brunette pixie wig, and a pair of leopard print booties.

refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion after by mural
Don’t mind me. Just awkwardly taking photos of myself with a tripod in an alleyway.

I am just so so SO thrilled with this piece.

Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion after back view
Le back

You might also like this dress to blazer refashion!
This military-style jacket refashion (from a dress) is pretty swell too!
You can even refashion a lightweight dress into a jacket!

refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion after in alley
It was a windy day!

This is a jacket I know I’ll get tons of wears out of, as it works with practically everything.

refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion close up
Is it terribly functional? No. But who cares?

I hope this upcycle tutorial inspires you to give those boring button-down dresses at the thrift store a second look!

I think this refashion would look amazing in a bold print, as well as the neutral khaki I used here.


Refashionista Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion before and after
Slit Bottom Sleeve Dress Refashion
Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater

70 thoughts on “Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion”

  1. You have been such an inspiration to me and I want to say thank you!
    Since finding your blog I have been re-examining my own closet, and so far I have:
    •Taken the sleeves off a sweater and attached them to a cable sweater dress
    •Chopped 10″ off a too-long skirt that I never wore, re-hemmed it and and have now worn twice
    •Used those 10″ to make a scoodie (scarf with attached hoodie)
    •And am currently turning a pair of ill-fitted jeans into a skirt
    Sending you lots of love and prayers and gratitude. You are awesome!

  2. This post really shows how much your sewing knowledge has grown over the years! I love your use of bias tape, and the pattern you drafted was impressive. Isn’t drafting your own pattern from clothes so rewarding???

  3. I used to follow your blog years ago, enjoying every clever refashion. Then you went off to do other things for a while, and I lost track. Soooo happy to have stumbled across your “new” site; it’s like running into an old friend. I see a lot has gone one in the intervening years — I look forward to catching up on the refashions, and send you my best wishes for a fabulous (dare I say well-fashioned) future!

  4. I see an optical illusion where it looks like you have 4 arms – 2 black & 2 tan-coloured. It could be the lighting, or because the shirt sleeves are black, or because my eyes are tired. Ah well, don’t get “up in arms,” I still love your blog & what you do! 🙂

  5. Jill, you are a genius! I love the jacket cape and I am totally surprised by it. You are a really designer and your sewing skills have grown so much. I’ve been tracking your blog for years now. I’m wishing you all the best and I hope your hair grows back pretty, but you look so cute in the wigs you are wearing. I love the way you styled your jacket too.

  6. This is awesome! I especially like the unprecedented reattachment of the shoulder pads. Goes to show that there is always room to learn and reevaluate one’s opinions.

  7. I think this is my favorite refashion yet!! Have you tried using clips? I seem to get really good results with bias tape when I use clips.

  8. This refashion looks very chic and high-end. A versatile finishing piece for so many outfits – I don’t see it as limited at all. It is both trendy and truly classic. I’ve seen every one of your imaginative refashions and this one is stellar. A couture creation. Well done, Jillian. This falls into the “timeless” realm.

  9. This is AMAZING! I have a natural linen dress that looks very outdated as is, but I think it might look amazing as a cape-jacket! So inspired… THANK YOU!!!!

  10. Wow — whoever (besides you!) would’ve thought. Jillian, this is just nothing short of amazing. You have every right to feel very much like a fancy fashion designer as well as an incredibly brilliant bespoke tailor! Neither the designers nor the tailors have anything on you! Love this!

  11. This is Uh-maze-ing! Great job. I was a little concerned in the beginning, but it turned out fantastic! I love the shout out to Project Runway… I always think of that show when I see your refashions and think that they should have you on as a guest judge!

  12. WOW! This is a fantastic makeover. You are very clever and talented, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us. xx

  13. This is definitely my fave so far. I found you on Pinterest, I think and immediately signed up for your weekly posts. You are a-dor-a-ble!!! I look forward to your post every week! The cape sleeve jacket is super in right now (at least where I am!). Great job!!

    • To be fair, it usually is either him, Erin, or Phillip (it takes a village). 🙂 But when they’re at work, I have to make do!

  14. Wow! I’ve followed you for a long time and it’s incredible to see how much your sewing skills have progressed over the years. This is a prime example of how far you’ve come!

  15. This is sooooo creative, stylish, cute, unique…..I could go on & on!! LOVE it! You’ve inspired me. Keep refashioning & sewing. You’re T-riffic!!

  16. Like Starr, I’d never seen cape sleeves on a jacket (although I knew about cape sleeves attached to dresses). Interesting… functionality seems, erm, limited? But what’s important is that the refashion was TOTALLY successful in achieving this look. And it was *really* fun to see the process, including the pattern making. Thank you for sharing that! My favorite refash of yours in which you totally changed a garment’s type (from skirt to dress, in that case) was (and will probably always be) your Day 302 Party Animal Dress. Drool….

  17. You are a miracle worker. The before was simply tragic and you had the vision to transform it into something super chic. Best work ever.

  18. Did you change the colour of the dress/jacket? It looks brighter in the after pics. In any case it is absolutely lovely. I’m wishing I kept…oh wait, wrong style, but see, you’ve inspired me.
    Well done! Brava!

  19. How funny! I also had a dress like this (donated to my favourite 2nd go boutique) and have verrrry strong feelings about wind chimes – dislike!!! Glad to see you well and refashing xxxx

  20. Looks very nice and interesting. You made me transform outfits again. Thanks.
    You look great. Keep fingers crossed for you and your husband.


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