See How I Transformed These Vintage Dresses Into Cute Modern Ones

Jessica Shaw
by Jessica Shaw
4 Materials
2 Hours

On a recent trip to the thrift store, I bought three dresses. Now, I really liked them and thought they were really cute. However, for lack of a better description, they were very much grandma dresses. Like I said, though, they were cute. So I decided to get them and do some work on them to make them more modern. In this tutorial, I’ll show you the steps I took to transform these three different dresses.

Tools and materials:

  • Sewing machine
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins
Vintage dress

Determine the changes

Starting with the dark blue dress, the first thing I did was figure out how much I wanted to cut the dress. So I put it on and, using my measuring tape, measured from my waist down to where I wanted to cut the dress. I decided to cut it at my kneecap which was 26”. I also decided that I would need to remove the shoulder pads and cuff the arms. 

Vintage dresses

Determine changes to the second dress

I moved on to the second dress to decide what I wanted to do with it. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep it long or cut it shorter, so I decided to go with the flow. I did realize, though, that I would have to take the dress in at the sides to get a better fit. 

Vintage dress patterns

The third dress

I already knew I didn’t need to do much to this dress. I only needed to hem the bottom. So I grabbed my measuring tape again and measured from the top button down to my kneecap. I decided to hem it at about 3” above my kneecap but left more room. You can always shorten it later, but you can never lengthen it. 

DIY vintage dress

Cut the first dress

I flipped the dress inside out and cut out the shoulder pads. Then I folded the dress down the sides and cut about 2” from each side, including room for seam allowance. I cut the sides at a diagonal angle toward the top so that it would blend well. Then I cut the bottom of the skirt to the length I wanted. 

Alter vintage dress

Cut the second dress

Moving on to the second dress, I did almost the same thing to it as I did to the first. I turned it inside out and cut out the pockets that I didn’t need. Then I cut the sides diagonally the same way I did for the previous dress.

Vintage formal dresses

Make adjustments

I then laid out the third dress and cut off the bottom to my desired length. I then tried them all on and decided that I wanted the first and last dresses to be even shorter. So I cut off another 2” from each one, using another dress for length comparison, and left 1” for hemming. Pro tip: I kept all my scraps so that I could use them to make headbands later!

Vintage floral dresses

Prepare to sew

Starting below the waistband on the blue dress, I sewed diagonally and then straight down, leaving ⅝” for seam allowance. Then, to create the hem, I folded in the bottom edge ½” and folded it again ½”, then pinned the fold in place. 

How to refashion a dress

Sew the first dress 

It was now time to head over to my sewing machine. First, I set the machine to a straight stitch, the length to 2, and the width to 2.5. Then I sewed a straight stitch all the way down, starting and ending with a backstitch. When I was done with one side, I repeated the process on the other side. I then sewed down the hem. 

Refashion vintage dresses

Finish the next two dresses

The other two dresses were super easy at this point. For the floral one, all I did was sew the sides. For the last dress, all I did was fold over the hem, pin it, and sew it. With that, I was done, and ready to try them on! 

Modernize a vintage dress

How to modernize vintage dresses

Vintage dress made modern

And with that, I was done! I love the way all three of these dresses turned out! The second one wasn’t so different than it was originally, but the other two really look like completely new dresses. I think they’re all so cute and am so excited that I took on this project! Which of these three is your favorite dress? Let me know in the comments!  

Suggested materials:
  • Sewing machine
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 3 comments
  • Pamela Pamela on Jan 05, 2021

    Your end results all look a half size too small even though you did a nice job of updating the styles.

  • Sherry Sherry on Jan 08, 2021

    Enjoyed the video. Sewed years ago but it’s been awhile. Ready to start again.