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How to Update a Too-Big Collar

5 Vintage Summer Outfits to Try
How to Turn a Thrifted Dress into a Top

I seem to be on a collared dress kick lately, don’t I?

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How to repurpose a too big collar before
But y tho?

Whether I’m removing the collar from a dress, or refashioning a collared dress into a top, or taking in a dress from the front to hide a really juvenile-looking collar, I can’t seem to stay away from them!

This collar, however, was a doozy.

dress with big collar close up

Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

But I don’t hate everything about this dress, or even that collar. Celadon green is one of my favorite colors, and that decorative stitching on the collar is actually quite pretty.

I can work with it.

Priority #1 was to address that too-big collar.

I grabbed my seam ripper and got to work unpicking it from the neckline.

unpicking too big collar from neckline of dress

Other items were removed as well.

removed shoulder pads
removed sleeves
Sleeve me alone, okay?
removed fake under layer
No fake under layers on my watch!
removed buttons
Farewell functionless buttons!
cutting of side ties of dress
Later, side tie thingies!

I fiddled around with the original collar, figuring out how much I wanted to keep for my new dress.

laying out collar for repurpose
This’ll work, right?

Once I found a position I liked for my collar, I snipped off two matching pieces.

cut off corners of original collar
Looking better already!

Then, I pinned them between the two layers of fabric from the neckline.

I’m basically just returning the collar to its original location, but in a different form.

pinning repurposed collar on to dress
Make sure to face it the right way!

If you’re playing along at home, make sure to keep in mind the collar is going to be folded over at the end, so the wrong side is going to be facing out.

I stitched the neckline back down and my new collar was complete!

stitching new collar into neckline
Stitch it down!

However, my work was far from done!

The sleeves were removed, but I really wanted to make the shoulders narrower.

My new French Curve came to the rescue!

using french curve to shorten shoulder of dress
Mon dieu!

I’ve never played around with one of these before, but I’ve got to say I’m already a fan! As the name suggests, it’s used to connect points to create a true curve, which is incredibly helpful for pattern drafting (which I don’t do) or alterations (more my speed).

Be on lookout for a french curve how to post in the near future!

After my new armholes were chalked out, I cut them out.

cutting new armhole

I folded the raw edges under, then pinned them.

new arm hole pinned
Hello new arm hole!

Then, I stitched them down.

stitching arm hole
You will be much comfier for a humid SC day!

I went a little wild with my french curve and made the armholes slightly too big. Luckily, this wasn’t an issue as I needed to take in the sides.

I put my dress on my dress form and pinned the sides, measuring to make sure they were even.

dress pinned on dress form
Just a lil bit!

Then, I ran each side through my machine!

taking in sides of dress
We’re almost done, I promise!

After I cut off the excess fabric and tried my new dress on, I still wasn’t quite happy with the fit. The armholes were sort of gapey, and the top sat a little too low.

So, I took the top of the dress in from the shoulders!

First, I pinned each shoulder where I’d be stitching.

pinned shoulders of dress
I know…this is a finicky process, isn’t it?

Then, I carefully and slowwwwwly stitched them down. Since the fabric was super thick here, I didn’t want to break a needle!

Carfully stitching down shoulder
A slow and careful whirrrr!

I grabbed those side tie thingies from earlier and stitched them together to make (what else?) a sash!

stitching sash for dress
The final step!

And just like that, my new dress was reborn!

How to Repurpose a Too-Big Collar after
Not too shabs, I say!

I styled my new dress with my favorite pink TOMS and a coordinating glass of Rosé!

updated collared dress after
Come a little closer!
updated collared dress after closeup
Nope! Too Close!

So there you go! Hopefully, this post will encourage you to see those dowdy gigantic collars in a new way!


refashionista How to update a collared dress
5 Vintage Summer Outfits to Try
How to Turn a Thrifted Dress into a Top

43 thoughts on “How to Update a Too-Big Collar”

  1. Lol I had this same dress when I was young except in pink, your fav color. Nice refashion. Very cute. I like your treatment of the sleeves sometime use the turn over method when sewing outfits. Back in the day when I was taught to sew facing and bias tape was the correct way to finish seams and I still do it sometimes when I am fixing a fancy garmet. Things change and I am just glad to see young people continuing the tradition of sewing regards of their method of garment construction.

  2. Love it, I use dresses all the time and the refashions you do help me to do somewhat the same; even thou mine are not as classy as yours, thanks for the inspirations.

  3. I like everything: the color, the texture of the fabric, the pleating, your detailed explanation, your ingenious way of writing and your surprising ability to see behind horrible designs and achieve a surprising and flattering result. Take a look at the wonderfully well-cut elegant pleated dresses that Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, next Queen Consort of England, is wearing, and you’ll see something similar to your dress. Than you for sharing!

  4. Yes to absolutely everything you wrote!!

    Isn’t it a wonderful thing that Jilian makes so many people, from all over the world, so happy with her writing, humour and re-fashion work.

    I stumbled across her blog years ago and was a silent reader/watcher/enjoyer from afar. It was more than a lovely suprise to have her posts popping up in my email again. Especially during this crazy, weird time…Yay for happy, funny, witty people, yay for fantastic vision!!

  5. Sweet!

    How is it that you manage to pull off every colour in the book. I adore green, actually it is my favourite colour, but that green would have people asking me if I was feeling ok…

  6. I absolutely love your vision! You always make me laugh, but in a good way! Not a smirky laugh or snicker… But your humor is adorable! You are so talented and I just wanted to thank you for sharing all of YOU! Please keep those great ideas coming and keep smiling, girl! You help us through our days!

  7. As always loving the refashion. I never knew the name for that green hue, now I do.

    I love how the pleats now stand out as the feature with all the other busy frippery gone. Lovely

  8. Oh my goodness. This may be the most gorgeous refashion of all time!! I absolutely love the colour, the collar (obviously) and the front pleats, minus the buttons. Love love love this!!!

  9. I’m guessing you have so many big collared dresses in your stash because, by now, you’ve used up so much of the preferred styles! These obviously take extra planning and work.

  10. Thank you for another amazing refashion. I enjoy hearing your processes, the refashions and the back atories.

  11. You saved a dress that looked like it was for the 5th wife in some cult. Gotta say: I wouldn’t have thought it was savable, except it had a LOT of fabric.

  12. Darn it, you’ve done it again. Every time I see you do something fabulous with an outdated dress I could kick myself for getting rid of my old clothes. The original of this dress looks very similar to a dress I wore for a second time marriage and didn’t even save for sentimental reasons.

  13. Hi, Jill! I am actually shocked at how modern the final product turned out. The redone collar is cute, but for my own tastes, I probably would have preferred a plain neckline. I wear scarves ridiculously often, so that’s probably why! I need the versatility. 😉

    In regards to the armholes being too big after cutting and hemming them, I have a few thoughts. First, use the French curve to measure some of your professionally-made sleeveless tops or dresses to get an idea of the right size/shape for your frame. Second, each time you folded over that raw edge, you actually widened the hole you had created. Based on my limited experience using patterns and dissecting sleeveless garments, there are actually better ways for you to finish an armhole. First, you can encase the raw edge in bias tape, even if you make it from the scraps leftover from taking in the garment. The second, arguably easier option, is to use a scrap of matching fabric to make a facing. Basically, it would be about two inches wide and follow the length and shape of the armhole. You would line it up with the raw edge, wrong sides together, then stitch it to that edge. Next, you fold the flap to the inside of the garment and press it flat against the inside of the main garment. The edge of the armhole should now be the seam where you just stitched these two pieces together. If you inspect professionally-made sleeveless garments, you should find one or both of these techniques, since I think a visual will make this all make more sense. I hope I at least gave you an idea of what I mean–I’ve been wanting to share this trick for awhile!

  14. You did it again ! Love the mint green color, too. I wish you would have taken the sleeves, removed the useless buttons, picked out the little pleat and shortened them to make them kind of loose fluttery sleeves. They would have been good for humidity as well.
    I will use that collar idea. Genius.

  15. I bought a set of these for my toddler, then started using them in just the same way! I would still like to experiment with tailors chalk same day, but the ultra clean markers work just fine for now.

  16. This is fabulous! And, maybe I’ve been quarantined too long because when I saw those shoulder pads I thought “hm, facemasks!” Lol!

  17. This turned out great! I haven’t worked up the nerve to start sewing, but I did pick the seams of a too large skirt to cut and tie the elastic in a knot to make it smaller. You can’t tell I did it, but I think I’m going to cut out the knot and stitch the elastic, then close the small hole I made on the inside of the waist band. I also cut the sleeves off of a denim jacket, which is much too hot for FL, to turn it into a vest. Thank you for the inspiration!

  18. Lovely. This week I had the courage (thanks to you)cut the too long sleeves off a dress and make pockets out of them! They are a little wonky, but I might be the only one to notice. Thanks for your inspirational redos.

  19. It’s adorbs! I liked what you did with the collar and the whole refashion totally updated that dated dress. Dated no more! I had to giggle at “coordinating rose”.

  20. Google DIY dress forms. Best one is ‘fashioned’ from duct tape!

    Also the best fabric markers are Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers 10 pack. I have using them for years to mark on anything that can be slightly wiped with a damp cloth to remove the marks. I have never had any problem removing any of the 10 colors. I have ironed over the marks on purpose (and mistake!) and the marks came out. Bye bye expensive fabric pencils, chalk, and tailor chalk/soapstone!

  21. This dress had great bones! with the color, the fabric, and the texture of the collar is lovely! and i wish i had those buttons! i love to recycle those kinds of buttons into my Pioneer costumes, women’s blouses…ps the ad that pops up for me on your website is Ken’s dressings–OMG my family polishes off bottle after bottle…hands down our favorite salad dressing!

  22. Personally, with thick fabric, I like to press open and stich down the seam allowance. There’s obviously stitch line on the outside of the garment, but as long as its straight and parallel to the seam it’s no big deal for me.

  23. I love what you did with the collar but I must say, I quite liked the little sleeves (minus shoulder pads and buttons) and would have kept them, but then that may be because I am at the age where my arms are best hidden under fabric! 🙂

  24. French curve lesson please! Seems useful. Also, do you have any advice for finding a bargain dress form? They’re sooo expensive and I’ve never seen one in a thrift store. I’m not as jealous of your weather today, as it’s finally warm enough to go out without a jacket up here in Canada

  25. Loved this new look as green is my favorite color. Looks great on you but everything looks fabulous on you. Thanks for the ideas you post.

  26. That was very clever indeed. I do enjoy your blogs, they are so interesting and inventive. Keep up the good work.

  27. I love this one! When you took in at the shoulders, did you cut excess fabric after stitching? How did you get it to lay flat?


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