Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cheap & Chic - Tutorial #1 - Nude cocktail dress

This is the first of many, weekly tutorials on how to turn a terrible looking thrifted, vintage dress, or something your mom had lying around, into a fabulous, one-of-a-kind treasure to be the envy of everyone!

Let's start with the basics. When looking for something to use, you want it to be quality fabric, nothing that is ratty or worn too thin. Also look for the color of the fabric, a fun print or bright color you just can't take your eyes off. Don't be put off by something that is too long, a few inches too big, this can be altered. Shoulder pads? Removed. Something fun and interesting but there are just a few things wrong with it? These things that are wrong with it are going to be fixed and it will become a wearable dress!

The nude cocktail dress.

I purchased it for $8 at the Goodwill in Grand Haven, Michigan in January when I was home visiting family. It had a jacket attached, shoulder pads, was floor length, no belt (but wide belt loops, this was key!), and just a tad too big.

Loose fitting but notice how it lines up with my natural waist, this is important to look for when finding an item to alter. Saves you a lot of work in having to reattach the bottom.

The wide beltloops

The attached jacket

I started by carefully detaching the jacket. It was sewn on by only one top stitch on each shoulder. Using a straight razor blade, more inexperienced sewers should use a thread ripper, I tore out the seam. With that came the shoulder pads. I set aside the jacket, it's actually not too bad over another shirt.

Then I figured out the length I wanted the dress. I tried it on, and made a mark with tailor's chalk right above my knees. Took the dress off, laid it out on my table, and carefully cut straight across about an inch below my mark, to leave room for a hem allowance.

Only a few more steps and it's done!

Next, I tried it on, inside out, and pinned the side seams about an inch on each side, to fit me a little more snug. I didn't want a tight fit. I took it to my sewing machine and sewed from the armpit down to the bottom.

Finally, I stitched up the bottom, using a double fold hem. This hem is created by folding the hem allowance twice. It hides the raw edge of the fabric in the hem.

I went to my closet, found a teal belt that went well with the dress. Carefully pressed the dress to get rid of wrinkles, and DONE!

The finished dress, with belt


I brought it with me to Vegas last weekend when I went on vacation with my friends from college. I wore it to "Love" the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show!

I don't get the chance to dress up very often, and I love wearing stilettos (I'm 5'8" so it's pretty infrequent). And it's an added bonus when I get to wear something I made! With my friend Betsy at the Revolution Lounge.

Next tutorial:
Is it possible to make this dress fabulous?

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  1. cute!
    i'm 5'8 too! i love wearing heels, but always makes me feel like a giant!

  2. I LOVE THIS!! You should start doing more of these - featuring them on the blog and putting them up on your Etsy showing the before and after! Girls would eat this up! I love it!!

  3. It's great being tall though huh?! I wish i were 5'10" or taller!!

    Great idea Tieka! I've thought about putting them on Etsy. I've planned on branching over into clothing in a year or so. And selling repurposed outfits such as this will probably be my transition.

    Thanks for the kind words ladies!! ♥

  4. I loved this tutorial! I'm just learning to sew and these are exactly the kinds of projects I want to try!