DIY Dress-to-Top Refashion

August 26, 2014

Hello, friends!  I am very excited to be bringing you another refashion tutorial, especially as I have been trying to get back to sewing more often and I feel like I am fiiiiinallly starting to get back into the swing of things!


As you can see, I started with a fairly simple, but rather dowdy dress, and ended up with a cute, Prairie-style top.  I found the dress at a local thrift store, tried it on as a whim, and fell in love with the neckline with its fun buttons and piping trim.  I knew, however, that it just wouldn’t work on me as a dress – it looked like a little old lady’s nightie – so the bottom half had to go.

Luckily this refashion couldn’t be any easier!  If you decide to try this at home, here’s what you’ll need:

  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread (& coordinating bobbin)
  • chalk or regular pencil
  • iron
  • sewing pins (optional)
  • seam gauge (optional)

Since this dress had pockets that were just going to get in the way of my soon-to-be top, I decided to remove those first.  I started by turning the dress inside out, making sure it was flat and smooth, and then pinning the pockets closed so they wouldn’t shift while I sewed.  To sew them closed, I simply followed the side seam line already sewn into the dress (you can clearly see the seam line in the photo above).  Once the pockets were sewn closed, I just cut ’em right off!


Next up, I needed to decide where I wanted my new shirt hem to fall.  To do this, I simply tried the dress on inside out and marked with a pin on the front and a pin on the back where I wanted the shirt to end.  **I used a pin in front and in back because I decided to make a slight dip hem, so I knew my hem was going to be slightly longer in the back than in the front.


Then, I took the dress off, folded it in half lengthwise (so the side seams met in the middle) and laid it flat on my work table.  I wanted to make sure my hem was symmetrical, so folding it in half ensured that the side seams would end up an even length, while allowing me to draw my dip hem to whatever shape I wanted.  (I drew over the chalk line in Photoshop so it would be more visible in the photo!)


Since the chalk line marked where I wanted my shirt to fall while wearing it, I knew that I needed to add two inches of seam allowance for folding the hem under and sewing.  I used my seam gauge to help me cut two inches down from my chalk line (but you can easily use a regular ruler).


After cutting the bottom half of the dress off, you can easily see the fun dip hem line I created for my new top!  At this point, I decided to try my almost-finished top on to make sure it was looking how I wanted.  I’m glad I did because I realized that I wanted the hem just a teensy bit longer.  Since I couldn’t easily add the fabric I just cut off back on, I decided to make the hem a little smaller instead (1/2 inch instead of a full 1 inch).

Which brings me to the next step, preparing your hem.  I grabbed my iron (and handy tabletop ironing board) and used my seam gauge once again to measure, fold and iron a 1/2 inch seam.  I folded and ironed 1/2 inch from the bottom all the way around the top and then folded another 1/2 inch and ironed all the way around again – this encases the raw edge of the fabric, allowing for a clean and neat hem.


Once my hem looked straight and neat, I added a few pins just to keep everything in place while I sewed.  Then, I sewed a 1/2 inch seam all the way around my hem and – voila! – my new top was finished!


I absolutely love my newly refashioned prairie top!  I especially love the way the dip hem ever-so-slightly bells out at the bottom, making it look almost like a swing top.  As you can see, this refashion is extremely easy and simple, the perfect project for a beginner!  It really is just adding a new hem and closing up some pockets, if the dress even has any pockets.

What do you think?  Are you ready to transform an old dress into a fabulous new top??

As always, thanks for reading!  Love, Kristi :)


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  • joey and the owl

    Love the top! I’m impressed!

    August 26, 2014 at 10:57 am Reply
  • CH&CO

    Great post! X

    August 26, 2014 at 11:03 am Reply
  • emilygeraghty

    That top is so you. I wish I could DIY things, but I’m the worst! Great job.

    August 26, 2014 at 11:24 am Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thank you! It really is super simple to do a hem, you don’t even need a sewing machine with cool things like iron-on hem tape!! ;)

      August 26, 2014 at 11:26 am Reply
  • Gracey the Giant

    Brilliant. I love this! I need to get better at sewing…

    August 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thank you!! All it takes is a little practice! ;)

      August 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm Reply
  • funkyfashion007

    Wow! Never would have thought that dress could end up being a stylish shirt. You got some skills! :)

    August 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Haha thanks!! I wasn’t sure I would be able to do anything with this dress until I tried it on, but the top was so cute I thought it was worth a try! :)

      August 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm Reply
  • The Two Cent Chick (Justine)

    Well done, friend! So if someone who is DIY-challenged (me) was going to attempt a refashion, what’s the easiest type of project to begin with?

    August 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thank you!! I would suggest starting with something that is “mistake friendly” or something that won’t show any mistakes, like tie dye, splatter painting, a tote, a t-shirt, something like that. Or a really easy alteration to a garment is always a simple hem, you don’t even need to sew if you use iron-on hem tape!!
      Hope that’s helpful – maybe I’ll have to come up with some good beginner tutorials! ;)

      August 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm Reply
  • allthoughtswork

    Cute idea! I’m gonna remember that.

    August 27, 2014 at 10:06 am Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thanks! Be sure to share if you give it a try!! ;)

      August 27, 2014 at 10:18 am Reply
  • allthoughtswork

    I just brainstormed: you could make some cute accents on a purse or pair of jeans/shorts with the extra fabric.

    August 27, 2014 at 10:08 am Reply
  • PlungingSilk

    Good job! I wish if i could do tht much. I am just so lazy! Love the top!

    August 27, 2014 at 3:10 pm Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Haha thanks! I definitely have to make the time for sewing, but it’s something I enjoy doing so it’s not too hard! ;)
      (ps. Stick around to see how I style this top on my blog tomorrow!!) :)

      August 27, 2014 at 4:36 pm Reply
  • Feline Creatures

    This looks great as a top! I love the 3 buttons on the left which gives it a fun twist. Great DIY tutorial :) – Lena

    August 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thanks, Lena!! I totally love all the details on the top, and I think it’s pretty cool the buttons are actually functional, too! :)

      August 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm Reply
  • Prairie Girl in Fringe Boots | Thrift Style Thursday | Alligator Toe

    […] I like to think of this look as “Little House on the Prairie meets Dances with Wolves,” a sort of home on the range chic, although I’m not sure Laura Ingalls Wilder and Kevin Costner would make a very attractive baby….  That thought aside, I am totally loving my newly refashioned top! […]

    August 28, 2014 at 6:46 am Reply
  • Ninutschka

    way too sweet. I love the pink cording (I hope that the rights word) paired with the red! cute combination! :)

    August 29, 2014 at 2:26 am Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thank you!! Yup, cording totally works or I call it piping, too! ;)

      August 29, 2014 at 6:08 am Reply
  • Thrift Outfit

    Good job fabulous top!

    August 29, 2014 at 5:18 am Reply
    • alligatortoe

      Thank you, I love my “new” top!! :)

      August 29, 2014 at 6:09 am Reply

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