Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old Shirt + Old Bedding + Packaging = RuffleBack Dress

girl dress tutorial

I originally thought this dress would be dubbed "The Mullet Dress."
Thankfully my husband had a better idea.  We officially call this dress the "RuffleBack Dress" (a nod to JT).
Besides, this dress is all party in the front AND the back :)

It started with this shirt that I inherited at the neighborhood yardsale.  Once I saw it I immediately thought it would make a great dress for BB.  

I played around with some ways to incorporate the ruffles. The idea to cross them in the back came because I figured that would be the best way to use the most of the ruffles.

From the moment I saw this shirt at the yardsale I knew that it needed a large ribbon; either pink and red.  I just had this vision in my head of the way the contrasting ribbon would compliment the ruffles.

Then I found it as we were redecorating BB's room.  One of the blankets from her bed came packaged with this gorgeous ribbon. It was too beautiful to toss out.

Last, I used some of the ruffles from her old bedskirt.  The fabric was already gathered; which meant I wouldn't have to make the ruffles myself.  One less thing for me to do :)

The first thing I did was deconstruct most of the shirt.  I removed the sleeves and the front panels.  The back of the shirt became the front of the dress.  I was careful to keep the ruffles attached to the neckline, which left me two long dangling ruffles.

Next I used a seam ripper to remove the darts.  I also folded the edges of the panel down creating a straight line from the edge of the neckline to the bottom.  This eliminated the existing armholes.  Then I pressed everything flat and trimmed any excess fabric from the sides.

mandy made upcycle dress

Then I bribed my daughter to let me try in on her.  I pinned the straps (ruffles) down while she had it on.  After taking it off I marked the spots with a crayon (I still haven't purchased a new fabric marker).  The shirt in the picture above is inside out.  I finished the side edges.  But I did not hem the bottom yet.

upcycled dress tutorial
And now for the back. After all, what good is a dress without a back, right?  The back is made from pieces of the bedskirt.  I cut three strips just above the gathering so that I would not have to re-ruffle.  I did not measure these.  I just made them wider than the front, and then some, so that I would have more than enough.  I cut a fourth strip just below the gathering.  I will refer to this fourth, non-gathered strip as the "base" from here on out.  I pressed all of these strips.

I finished the top edge of the base strip, and made a small casing wide enough for my elastic.  Did I forget to mention the elastic previously?  I used a thin elastic from my stash.  I stitched the elastic in on one side to anchor it.  Notice I chose to do this on the side that already had a finished edge.  That's one of the perks of upcycling :)

Back to the fitting room...

mandy chambers dress tutorial

See how she is smiling in this picture?  That is totally NOT how fittings usually go down in my house.

First I figured out where I wanted the ribbon to go (in the front) and pinned that to the sides.  Then I took the finished side of my base (the one with the elastic anchored in), and pinned that at the same spot that the ribbon was pinned.  

I pinned the other side as well and carefully removed the dress.  I marked the areas I had just pinned so that I would know where to attach the back and the ribbon.

Here is what I did next, however I would NOT do it this way again.  I sewed the other edge of the piping closed to secure the elastic and finished the edge.  If I had it to do over again, I would have marked the elastic instead so that the base would lay flat when I sewed the ruffles on.  Then, I could just gather it back up to the mark on the elastic after sewing on the ruffles.

I layed the base down beside the front, lining up the top of my base with the marker of where I wanted the ribbon to be.   Then I placed one of the ruffle pieces on top of the base, lining up the bottom of the ruffle with the bottom of the front.  The ruffle was slightly shorter than the front because I had not hemmed the front yet.

I pinned the ruffle in a straight line at this spot and sewed it on.  I did have to pull the elastic to get a straight line, which is why I recommend not finishing the elastic until AFTER the ruffles are sewn on.

I sewed the other two ruffles on in a similar way, starting with the middle ruffle and then the top.  The top ruffle is just below the elastic casing.  I measured the distance between the casing and the bottom ruffle seam.  I divided this number in half so that I knew where to pin the middle ruffle.

I sewed the back of the dress on from the ribbon down because I wanted the ribbon to match up exactly.  With the front and back facing, my layers were in this order: front of dress right-side up, front ribbon, back ribbon, back of dress.

My ruffle pieces were still wider than I needed.  So, I trimmed the open side just a tad wider than the base.  I finished those edges and sewed them to the front the same way that I did the other side.

I top-stitched the front sides of the dress starting at the neckline and ending at the ribbon.  I also sewed the straps on.

To get the back ribbon to fit snug against the elastic, I used double-sided fusible bonding.  I stretched out the elastic waistband on my ironing board before ironing it on.  The ribbon in the front is only attached at the sides.

This may be my new favorite dress.  BB is in LOVE with this dress.  She even insisted on wearing it to the playground.  I did make her take it off to eat though.  I'd like to get a few good wearings in before it gets totally stained with jelly ;)

mandy made dress

mandy chambers

girls dress refashion


  1. So cute and great instructions! Thanks for linking up at Grits & Giggles!

    1. Thanks so much! And thanks for hosting the party :)

  2. Adorable! Great tutorial! :)

    1. Thanks Angela :)
      I'm so glad you came by!

  3. This is so cute! Thanks for sharing......

  4. I fear at this point, I should just copy and paste a "this is my new favorite dress, shirt, skirt, wrap" and on and on and on generic statement. There is seemingly no end in sight to not only what you can do but what you envision and how you make it happen. There is never once an "I can't do that" statement or thought. I wish more mechanics would have the same attitude. So, once again, I am over-elated at how amazing you are.

    Keep 'em coming.

  5. That dress turned out super adorable, I love it! Thanks for linking up to The Fun In Functional!

  6. I adore this "ruffleback" dress! Also your model is adorably gorgeous.

    1. Thanks so much! I'm so glad you came by. I agree about the model... But I'm a little biased ;)


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