How to Upcycle a Maxi Dress Into 4 New & Cute Garments

Wendy Herrera
by Wendy Herrera
8 Materials
3 Hours

We are all about sustainability and versatility today! In this tutorial, I'm going to upcycle a maxi dress into four different garments, all worn in different ways. Follow along and make your own gorgeous upcycled clothing!

Tools and materials:

  • Maxi dress with a ruched or smocked top
  • Scissors
  • Marking pen
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Needle and thread
  • Own skirt to use as a pattern
  • Old bra straps with the hooks
The original maxi dress

Cutting the bodice under the ruching

1. Ruched top

This is super simple. Make a small hole under the ruching with the scissor to start.

Ruched top from an upcycled maxi dress

Cut in a straight line all around and once the cutting is done - the top is done! You’ll have lots of fabric left over from the skirt to make a few more items.

Tracing an existing skirt for the pattern

2. Skirt

Flip the maxi dress skirt inside out. Lay it flat and place a skirt you love right on top to serve as the pattern. Mark the wrong side of the fabric to get the measurements. Add extra for seam allowance. 

Measuring the slits for the skirt

The dress I’m using has slits. I measured about 12 inches from the top down and where the slits are an additional 5½ inches on both sides of the slits trying to be as straight as possible. Use the skirt as the pattern. 

Measuring the waist and bottom of the skirt

Measure the waist from the center. I measured 13 inches for myself and marked the skirt at the top. Now measure the bottom. My skirt width at the bottom was about 15 inches.

Working upward, drag the ruler, slowly decreasing in a slightly diagonal fashion to create a slight curve to the waist.

Cutting the fabric for the DIY skirt

Once everything is marked, it’s time to sew! Sew along the marks with a 1-inch seam allowance, then cut off the remaining fabric.

Leaving part of one seam open

Leave one seam partly open at the top of the skirt.

This way, you can use those two open corners and ties at the back.

I also changed my mind and sewed one of the side slits at the bottom closed. Hem all raw edges and the bottom of the skirt, then you're done!

Long scraps of fabric sewn in the middle

3. Belt

Use scraps of long fabric or sew pieces of fabric together to make one long piece.

Folding in the raw edges to sew down

Fold the raw edges in and sew them down so all the frayed edges are on the inside. 

Making a DIY belt

Sew the ends as well for a polished and professional look.

Tube top fabric

4. Tube top

Ok, this may be the easiest one. For the remaining long rectangle of fabric I had left, I simply finished the edges. This way, I can wrap the top how I like; tuck it around a bra and wear it multiple ways. You'll see what I mean at the end.

Making straps for the DIY tube top

To make detachable straps, cut 4 strips that are 2 ½ X 14 inches long. Fold inward with the right side showing, then sew at the edge. 

Cutting old bra straps

Use 4 old bra straps with the hooks attached. Cut them down leaving about an inch or so of the bra strap fabric to attach to the straps.

Sewing the fabric onto the bra straps

Pin and sew into place.

How to wrap a tube top

How to wear the tube top

Version 1: Grab the strip of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise or to the length that works for you. Wrap it around the front so the open ends are toward the back. Tuck the ends into the back or tie them closed.

Tube top with straps

You can wear it just like that. You can also add the bra straps and attach them to your bralette.

Tube top wrap top with a sweetheart neckline

Version 2: After folding the fabric, wrap it around the back so the open ends are in the front. Tuck one in under the bra or bralette. Now tuck the other side in for a sweetheart neckline. For a more secure fit, use a safety pin pinned to the bralette right in the center of the bust.

Ruched top with denim shorts and belt

Maxi dress upcycle tutorial

Here's the ruched top with the belt, which looks great with denim jeans. The belt could also be worn as a headband, or tied to your handbag. You can wear the belt with the tube top or skirt as well.

Upcycling clothes ideas

These pieces all match, so I can wear the tube top with the skirt, or the ruched top with the skirt, then pull them together slightly so they look like a short dress. Add straps or keep it trapless - it's up to you!

Upcycling clothes tutorials

I'm so proud of turning one pre-loved item into four new upcycled garments! Please comment and let me know which is your favorite. Thanks for joining me in this tutorial.

Suggested materials:
  • Maxi dress with a ruched or smocked top
  • Scissors
  • Marking pen
See all materials

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Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Caroshina Caroshina on Sep 15, 2021

    Yes I enjoyed your project very much Wendy. I preferred the short dress look, but not for me. (I think my granddaughter- in- law would look nice in it).

    Thank you for sharing your projects. Sincerely, Caroshina