How to Thrift Flip: Easy Upcycled Ruffle Top Tutorial

6 Materials
2 Hours

I love to thrift flip clothing and I especially love a challenge. You know, like those clothes that look so frumpy you can't imagine wearing them in any form?

Well I picked up one of those recently - a vintage handmade semi-fitted dress in heavy polyester, with long sleeves and a roll neck.

I took on the challenge and turned it into a fantastic ruffle top that I definitely will wear!

Read on to see how to thrift flip the frumpiest of garments.

Tools and materials:

  • Frumpy dress to thrift flip
  • 2 or 3 buttons
  • Seam ripper
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
Determining length

1. Decide on the length

The dress had a long zipper that I thought I might have to shorten, so deciding the finished length was my first priority.

There are several ways to work out the length you want. For example, you can try the dress on and mark the new length directly on to it. Or you could measure from your shoulder to the desired length on yourself and transfer the measurement to the dress. 

I simply took a top I knew was already the correct length and matched the shoulder seams with the dress. I marked about half an inch (1 cm) below the hem of the top on the dress with a pin.

Luckily for me, the pin was a couple of inches (4 - 5 cm) below the bottom of the zipper.

If you do need to shorten a zipper, hand or machine sew a few loop stitches over the teeth at the point you want the zipper to end. Then you can cut off the excess.


2. Hem the top

Cut straight across the dress at the new length.

Hemming top

Turn up a narrow hem and stitch it in place.

As you can see, I left the inside edge of the hem raw, because one of the big advantages of this polyester is that it doesn't fray at all.

If your fabric tends to fray, you'll want to finish all the raw edges with a serger or zigzag stitch, or turn them under.

Cutting fabric

3. Prepare the ruffles

I decided to add pintucked ruffles to the shoulders and neckline. 

For these, you need narrow, folded strips of fabric and my dress had a 2 inch (5 cm) hem already pressed and joined. 

If your hem is like mine, cut it from the lower part of the dress and cut away any bulky seams. 

If the hem isn't wide enough to use, cut 3 - 4 inch (8 - 10 cm) wide strips from the remaining fabric and join them together, then fold them in half lengthways and press them.

Shoulder ruffles

4. Shoulder ruffles

Seam rip the top of the armhole seam open for about 2 inches (5 cm) either side of the shoulder seam.

Shoulder ruffles

Cut two equal pieces of the hem or fabric strip, each about twice the length of the opening.

Fold, pin and sew the strips into pintucks that fit inside the shoulder openings.

Shoulder ruffles

Insert the ruffle into the open seam, with the right sides together and the raw edge inside the seam allowance.

Sew the seam closed.

Neck ruffle

5. Neck ruffle

For this I decided on a vintage cravat style. 

Cut the remaining piece of the strip in half, place one piece on top of the other and stitch the raw edges together, with the right sides facing. 

Open the strips out flat. Fold them into pintucks and sew the pleats in place, leaving an ungathered section at the top. Turn under and stitch the bottom edge.

Sew on two or three buttons, preferably vintage.

Neck ruffle

Hand stitch the top edge of the cravat in place at the center of the neckline and tack the lower edge to the dress.

How to thrift flip: Upcycled ruffle top

How to thrift flip: Upcycled ruffle top

How to thrift flip: Upcycled ruffle top

This turned out so well! From a boring old frumpy dress to the cutest top in just a couple of hours and with very basic sewing skills. 

Adding embellishments is a simple way to upcycle clothing with minimal sewing.

If you have a garment that’s a bit of a challenge to upcycle, I’d love to take it on. Let me know what it is in the comments and I’ll come up with some thrift flip ideas for you.

Next up, check out my post on How to DIY a Cool Stevie Nicks-inspired White Lace Duster.

Suggested materials:
  • Frumpy dress to thrift flip
  • 2 or 3 buttons
  • Seam ripper
See all materials

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