Modernizing a Vintage Dress

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

Hi everyone! It’s Lauren from Blooming Leopold with a new sewing post to share.

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

A few months back, I found this great linen blend sailor dress in the little girl’s section of Goodwill. I loved it. Although I would have worn the dress exactly as-is not so long ago, lately I’ve been inspired by less frills in what I wear – that excludes most bows, and especially bows when paired with double breasted buttons and puffy sleeves. I knew I had to change the dress to make it more wearable for my style.

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

In an effort to make the dress more modern, I followed 3 (yes, just 3!) simple, go-to steps:

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

1. Remove embellishments. I used a seam ripper to (gently!) pull out the decorative buttons and bow on the front of the dress. Gentle is key. You don’t want to accidentally create holes where the buttons were. The sailor collar at the neck was a perfect amount of frill for me, so I left that in.

2. Shorten the dress. Maxi dresses especially get a modern look when shortened. It is one of the fastest and simplest alterations you can make, and it goes a long way (pun intended) in changing the style.

When it came to this dress, I didn’t have to shorten it by much. I pressed an inch and a half inside the dress and sewed it at the pressed edge, creating a stiff (and adjustable in the future if necessary) hem.

Another option – if you like drop hem skirts, measure it out and cut it high in the front and low in the back!

3. Remove or shorten the sleeves. At about 8 inches from the shoulder, I cut the sleeve and finished the seam with a simple rolled hem – I folded 1/4 inch inward twice and sewed it in place, then pressed the sleeve.

And that’s it! A simple dress for spring.

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog
modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

Other steps to consider…

*Add your own embellishments. Add graduated stripes by sewing on strips of ribbon or fabric to the skirt or bodice. Shorten and add interest to a dress at the same time by creating horizontal pleats or pin tucks. Put in some studs. Make it your own!

*Create a coordinating two piece playsuit. All you need is some elastic and a dress to cut up (DIY post here!)

*Replace the collar. This is a great option for a button up as well – add a contrasting collar for some interest.

modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog
modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog
modernizing a vintage dress - drifter and the gypsy blog

See you guys next month! – Lauren (DIY Sew Contributor)

click here for more diy sew!

    19 responses to “Modernizing a Vintage Dress”

    1. Liz says:

      This is so adorable! I love the dress both before and after, but I agree that it looks more grown-up-ish after the changes.

    2. Lagelle says:

      Great job here, you look super cute btw thanx for your comment & visit to my blog!


    3. Ruzu says:

      She looks cute, but honestly I prefer the before style.
      anyway she did a great job cutting and sewing, is her dress at the end XD

      • Yeah, it’s definitely a subjective thing – I knew some people would like the before dress a bit more than the after, but for me it was a little too girly. I already have a hard time looking younger than I am! :) Thanks for reading!

    4. Chloe Moon says:

      What an adorable dress!! It is so cute! I love it with or without the buttons!

    5. Steph Waung says:

      You are so crafty! so cute, this is really amazing! you look great in this dress. how long did this take you?

    6. norbyah says:

      what a gorgeous find that dress was. i’ve been on the lookout for a sailor dress myself, but then i haven’t really been able to find one that doesn’t make me look exactly like a sailor girl. i love what you’ve done with your dress to modernize it. perfect. sailor-inspired.

    7. meg says:

      this is very cute! what a great find. I love this diy

    8. kw says:

      I really like how it turned out!

    9. Genna says:

      This is amazing! Brilliant!

    10. Maria says:

      Love that dress – SO CUTE!

    11. Lora says:

      I love the “after!” It has the same feel as the “before,” but a little more grown up and versatile.


    12. michelle says:

      I have been following your blog since it was just starting up, and I want to say how happy I am for you and your success! You are a wonderfully talented girl, and you deserve all the good thats coming your way!
      -Much love

    13. Nalitye says:

      This is an amazing post! Love it! And I just published my first blog post! Hope you check it out! :)

    14. Elsha says:

      Amazing revamp! Such a cute piece now, whereas before Shirley Temple could have sported it :) Way to see potential!

    15. Sandra Miles says:

      Came across your site while looking for sailor sewing patterns. What you have done with your thrift purchase is absolutely fantastic and it looks beautiful on you.

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