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Mother of the Bride Dress Upcycle

DIY Ath-Flow Coverup: Refashion the Trend
Crumple Tie Dye Technique: Sweatshirt Edition

When you’re in a wedding party, you just kind of accept the fact that you’re going to end up buying and wearing a single-function item of clothing.

Bridesmaid dresses look like bridesmaid dresses and nothing else. Mother of the bride dresses are the same. And sorry Brides, but the oft-uttered phrase, “You’ll be able to wear it again!” is a lie. When you say this, you’re lying to your friends, family and yourself.

Given my previously stated opinions on wedding wear, you’ll probably be surprised to learn I snagged this Mother of the Bride dress for $1 at the thrift store and couldn’t wait to wear it.

refashionista mother of the bride dress upcycle before
Unless you read the title of this post that is.

If you’ve been wondering what to do with your Mother of the Bride dress (after the wedding, of course), it’s your lucky day!

I took stock of my new-to-me frock and found a few issues I needed to address.

First, the top of this dress (including the sleeves) was riddled with sequins…lots and LOTS of sequins!

closeup of sequined top and sleeves of dress
So sequined!

I wanted my dress to be more appropriate for a nice dinner & cocktails with the hubs than awkwardly doing the Macarena in a hotel ballroom, and those sequins felt like a bit much.

A lot of the sequins were loose and falling off as well.

I’m not sure if my washing (in cold water and then hanging to dry), rather than dry cleaning (as per the label’s instructions) this dress caused a problem.

Why do I think this? Check out that bottom hem!

bottom lining sticking out under lace over layer of dress
Well that just looks sloppy.

As you can see, it looks like the lace has shrunk a bit as the lining is much longer than the lace over layer.

Otherwise, the dress itself fit me just fine.

I brandished my seam ripper and started the long & boring work of removing alllll those sequins!

seam ripper ripping a sequin from dress
One at a time!

This took forever, which is about two hours, in case you were wondering.

If the fabric was more solid than lace, I would have been able to just unpick the threads holding the sequins down from the inside of the dress.

Unfortunately, these were really difficult to see. I worked from the front instead, pulling a sequin’s thread out a little, and then cutting it with my seam ripper. Sometimes multiple sequins came undone at the same time, which made the process a little faster.

using seam ripper to remove sequins
Pull, and rip!

It was slow going.

half of bodice done
GAAAH!!!!!!! I want my life back!

When I was finally done, I was left with this pile.

pile of sequins
Good riddance!

While my seam ripper was still out, I attacked the dress’s shoulder pads as well.

removing shoulder pad with seam ripper
I wonder how many shoulder pads I’ve removed over the years…

This was a much faster process.

two shoulder pads on cutting table
10 seconds vs. 2 hours

Now I needed to deal with that bottom hem.

I decided I wanted to shorten my dress, as it was still looking pretty fussy for my taste.

First, I marked where I wanted to make my cut with a safety pin.

safety pin marking above the knee

I cut through the lace layer and lining (four layers total).

cutting new hem for dress

I made another cut to shorten the lining so it would once again be shorter than the lace layer.

cutting lining of dress
Just a lil.

When I looked at the back of the dress, I noticed the lining and the lace were sewn together at the back seam.

lining and lace layer sewn together
Well this is annoying.

Remember how the lining was longer than the lace in front? I wanted to avoid that happening again if at all possible.

The best way for me to do so was to hem the lining shorter than the lace layer, which would be impossible to do if I left the two parts attached at the back like that.

So, I picked them apart at the bottom.

unpicking bottom back of dress
I really thought this refashion was going to be quicker than this.
unpicked bottom back of dress
Their separation anxiety was only minor.

I folded the resulting raw edges under and pinned them…

pinned bottom back of dress
See where I’m going with this?

…then stitched them down!

sewing back bottom parts of dress
a wee baby whirrrrr!

I turned my dress inside-out pinned a hem for the lining, and then pinned another, slightly longer hem for the lace!

pinning lining of dress
We’re almost doooone!

Next, I stitched the hem for the lining & the lace.

sewing hem for bottom of dress
a most lace-y whirrrrrr!

I grabbed the discarded lace from the original bottom of the dress, folded it, and tied an off-center knot.

Voila! Instant matching scarf!

bottom scrap tied into scarf
An accessory is born!

I think I have successfully taken this Mother of the Bride dress from matronly to martini-worthy!

refashionista mother of the bride dress upcycle after 1
I’m really loving those lace sleeves now!

I styled my new dress with a matching navy beret, green tights (almost went with black and am so glad I didn’t!), repurposed fork and spoon earrings, and my favorite cowboy boots.

refashionista mother of the bride dress refashion after
Feeling très français!

Even though it was a last-minute afterthought, I love how my scrappy scarf works with my overall ensemble!

refashionista diy scrap scarf selfie
It’s a nice touch, methinks.

Those lace sleeves stand out so well now that all of those distracting sequins are (finally) gone!

refashionista mother of the bride dress upcycle after 2

And here’s what it looks like from the back!

refashionista mother of the bride dress upcycle back view
You can see how I tied my neck scarf here too!

My handsome hubby appears to have been inspired by my color choices when selecting his outfit for the evening. 😉

jillian owens and brian morris
Yes. We match. 😉

I know some of you are curious as to how I’m holding up now that I’m done with my course of chemo.

I’m feeling better and better every day, but it’s still an uphill climb to get back to where I was health-wise.

My hair and eyebrows have started to grow back in (!!!!) and my head currently feels fuzzy like a peach. Mr. Refashionista calls me his “little tennis ball”. 🙂

One of the most upsetting effects from chemo for me was seeing my skin– which I try to take really good care of– go from bright, soft, and healthy to dull, patchy, and dry. It’s starting to look much better now!

refashonista mother of the bride refashion after closer
I’m starting to feel more like my old self!

I still get worn out very quickly, and it’s frustrating to discover that workouts that used to be easy are extremely difficult, if not impossible for me right now. But I’m eating really healthy (lots of ugly green smoothies!) and slowly ramping up my activity level.

I’ll probably write a longer post about what life is like after chemotherapy treatment ends, but didn’t want to leave you guys hanging in the meantime. I feel like you’ve been a part of my journey.


refashionista mother of the bride dress upcycle before and after
DIY Ath-Flow Coverup: Refashion the Trend
Crumple Tie Dye Technique: Sweatshirt Edition

69 thoughts on “Mother of the Bride Dress Upcycle”

  1. You are not only adorable, your re-fashioned style is truly amazing, and your love of life is inspiring!!! MUCH love to you!

  2. I was skeptical that anything could be done to save an outdated MoB dress, and was so delighted to be proven wrong! The final outcome is SO CUTE and fashionable. One of my favourites for sure. So happy to see you on the mend and sending all the good vibes 🙂

  3. I am so happy to hear you are healing! And once again–your styling is the most important part of this refashion.

    With this refashion, I might have considered keeping the lace long but cutting the liner short–maybe with the lace being a high-low hemline. However, your version is cute and makes you smile, which is all that matters!

  4. Looks great! You have so much patience to rip off every single sequins, lol. I’m glad to hear you are starting to feel a little better as days go on . Thank you for sharing!

  5. Great upcycling, looks fab. Am I the only one whose having trouble with the links in your emails? I’m having to copy and paste them. It’s not a great problem but I wanted to let you know.

  6. Which is why when my daughter got married I told her that whatever she did was fine as long as she didn’t make me buy one of those stupid dresses. I made my own out of fabric I had bought years ago and had never made up. I like it fine!

  7. I’m so happy you’re on the mend. Yaaay!!
    I love to re-fashion, too. I’ll pick up something at a thrift store knowing I’ll probably have to take it in or lengthen the hem (I’m 5’11” and nothing is ever long enough!) or do some sort of mending. I’ve got to say I would probably never have given a dress like yours a second glance – but you have completely rocked it! It looks fantastic on you and I love and admire your knack for accessorizing and color mixing.
    Where’s my “thumb’s up” emoji?

  8. Not only do I enjoy sewing your refashions…I like to see the outfits that you put together. I am happy for you that you are starting (gradually) to feel better

  9. Love to read about and see pictures of your garment transformations. You are so cute that everything looks good on you.
    Praying that you’ll regain your strength and be healthy again!

  10. What do I think? I think you’re a most delightful, interesting person. I find your sewing re-fashions fascinating and have read through quite a number since discovering your blog. I think you express yourself in a lovely way, with such refreshing glimmers of humor!

    I also think you are tremendously brave and a true light in this world. I am so sorry for the serious suffering you’ve had to endure and wish you only good things – better and better health – and increasing strength by the day.

    Thank you for being such a beautiful person and bringing worthwhile and creative ideas to the rest of us even in the midst of your own struggles.

    Cathy in Missouri

  11. Love the refashion Jillian! It’s very sixties, I think. Glad you’re feeling better and love the picture of you guys together xx

  12. Wau, what a transformation.. I love it. Lots of love and hugs, You are gonna get better! I’ve missed your thrift-flips. Greetings from the Netherlands, Rita

  13. We have a winner!!! Loved this transformation. Your styling, especially the cowboy boots, really make the look. Such an unlikely ugly ducking and dynamite refash! Be patient as you return to your old self. With you all the way.

  14. Fabulous! The funny thing for me is that my mother of the bride dress for my youngest daughter’s wedding was/is so similar. Mine already is knee length. It’s sleeveless with a short jacket – all in navy with the sequins. I will never wear it again either. It’s fine hanging in the closet.
    I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better. You are doing all the right things with the good food and the workouts. Thanks for sharing with us. Take care!

  15. You are so beautiful and so very inspiring – I cannot wait for your posts! Love your refashion – that new dress can go many places and many different combinations!!

  16. I LOVE those leggings! You’re right, black would have been a worse choice. You look great! Love you and your blog! Thanks for keeping us updated! You may not have the strength for workouts, but the fact that you had the PATIENCE to de-sequin that dress is a huge feat to me!! I would have popped one off and then been like, “Ugh, I’m over this.”
    Way to go!!

  17. Yay Jillian! Often the material in these wedding dresses, bridesmaid and mother of the bride are lovely! Not to mention expensive too! I don’t mind a bit of bling either! I love the lace on the arms! Only you ( and probably me) would spend all that time removing sequins, however it was sooo worth it. Your outfit is lovely, classy and it fits you beautifully!
    Ah Jillian, you have done it again, our brightest, clever girl!
    Thanks for the update on your health, we love and admire you and are relieved to hear you are getting stronger.
    Much love Jillian, Warrandyte, Melbourne, Australia.

  18. Jillian I am so glad you are starting to feel more like your old self!! It takes time so don’t over do! Love all o
    f your innovative ideas, always fun!! Take care!

  19. How many shoulder pads have you removed over the years? ALL OF THEM!
    This remodel came out beautifully! It looks so much better without the sequins and shortened. Thanks for the health update. You look great and everything will start to come back with patience. Love you!

  20. You look terrific! The dress turned out great. Only you could pull off those funky earrings that are a fork and spoon and still look adorable! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is just a slow journey – kind of like molasses in January!

  21. Hi Sweetie… I’m totally delighted to see that your disease and chemo treatments have done nothing to curb your creativity! This remake is smashing! I love the scrap for the tie…it really works and you can use it or not as you wish. You really took this dress from being glamorously frumpy to chic and beautiful! Glad you are starting for feel better…. This, too, shall eventually pass! Keep up the good work! Bravo!

  22. Hi Jillian. You look so pretty! I’m having a vision of you with short white hair (like if you used peroxide, but a wig). life altering experience, for sure. So impressed by your tenacity and how you’re always taking action. Those sequins were so weird. What a color! Anyway, love the tights and the boots, of course. Take care of yourselves.

  23. Thank You for the update.on health. Just listen to your body and do can. I did.notice that your hair is.starting to a little,

  24. Thx for your health update, each day you are doing better!! The updated dress certainly does look good. You’re still a cutie

  25. Woohoo! Glad u r feeling better. Just do what your body tells u how much you can tolerate. Luv, luv, luv your remodeling of the “wedding” dress. It is super and perfectly styled. Green tights and red boots r perfect. U go girl! What fun! Best, Claire

  26. Always look forward to your posts. So glad you are feeling better day by day! You have a truly wonderful supportive husband. Better days are just around the corner. Soon you will have a full head of hair, many times it comes in curly! God speed

  27. Ah, once again you’ve taken dowdy to adorable! Such a pretty cocktail dress now, I can see it working for many functions. I can’t tell what the color is, but it could certainly work as a “little black dress” sub any day.

    Brava! You’ve done it again.

    I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better and better…Hip, hip, hooray! <3

  28. It is always good to get an update on how you are doing. The dress is adorable, as are you. Being up for tackling another refashion is a good sign! Pace yourself and know that we think of you often and pray for only the best for you and yours! Hugs from southern Colorado!

  29. Another excellent refashion, but I’ve come to expect that. Here’s hoping you continue gaining energy every day. And looks like Mr. is still your biggest fan.

  30. I’m sending you lots of love and positive energy from Eagle, Idaho. You are a refreshing part of my day! I literally get excited when your email notifications pop up! My favorite saying during the past 11 months is, “live to fight another day.” You are leading that charge! Stay well.

  31. I loved this dress (and your sense of style!!) from the get go — when I couldn’t see the sequins. HATE sequins…and glitter…but that’s another story. At first, I was thinking more of a Halloween-y Morticia Addams. But then I began to see your take on it, and this dress is so worth all it put you through. The finished refashion is absolutely smokin’ hot on you, m’dear. And I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better. Happy days to you both!

  32. Cutest “baldie” ever, especially is that fancy lace sleeve mini dress. Bet you will miss (but, not too much) all the variety of hair styles you wore when chemo took your hair away.

  33. Love the refashion, and I’m glad that things are improving. I can imagine not being able to workout as much would be super frustrating.

  34. Tres chic Jillian! I love this refashion and the way you styled it. Thank you for the quick health update, too. I’m so glad you’re beginning to feel a little better… like the Little Engine that Could!

  35. Looks great, and you look wonderful! I envision a sad resting place in some dark corner of this earth for all the overpriced, discarded bridesmaid dresses. I knew a rewearable bridesmaid dress would be impossible, so I picked out dresses that were only $35 from a mail order catalog when I got married nearly 20 years ago. I don’t regret it for a second. They were simple and classic, so our wedding pictures still don’t look dated.


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