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15 Thrift Shop Dress Alteration Tutorials

We are self admitted thrifting masters. There are very few things we love doing more than searching for great, fashionable finds at thrift stores and really seeking out pieces we love and will actually wear in order to save a little bit of money on brand names and pricey styles. If we had to choose one thing, however, that we enjoy even more than just plain thrift shopping, it would have to be doing awesomely transforming alterations on the things we find there in order to turn them into something even cooler and more wearable!

We haven’t always been total pros at thrift shop clothing alterations, however, and even now we often feel like we need a little bit of guidance, so we’ve been keeping a list of great tutorials that we can try depending on what we find at each second hand store haul!

1. Skirt to caplet

Skirt to capelet

Have you found an old woolen skirt that you absolutely adore the fabric of but you’re just not sure you’ll wearing the skirt itself at the length or in that style? Then we think perhaps we’ve found the perfect alteration for you! This tutorial from Trevor Loves Mommy shows you how to split, shorten, and finish the skirt into a new shape in order to make a stylish caplet that can be worn casually or dressed up fancy. Getting a versatile garment out of something you paid sale prices for at a thrift shop is like an extra bonus.

2. Baggy dress refitting

Baggy dress refitting

Have you found an old dress that you adore the colour of and you even like the feeling of the fabric but it just plain and simply doesn’t fit? Well, if you really like the other aspects of the dress that much, it’s still worth getting as long as you’re up for the prospect of getting a little creative when you get home! Fashion Toppings show you how to tailor it to your shape a little bit more so you can actually see your silhouette.

3. Shift top to party dress

Shift top to party dress

Have you found a negligee, shift, or other piece of nightwear that’s made of an absolutely gorgeous fabric you’d have worn in a second if it was an actual dress? Well, what’s to say you can’t make it into a dress with a little bit of creative altering? So You Think You’re Crafty is here to tell you how it’s done! We love the lovely silky floral style of this dress that was created out of a shift.

4. Prom dress to pleated skirt

Prom dress to pleated skirt

Have you found an old prom dress that you love the flared bottom of thanks to the pattern and pleats but you’re unsure about buying it because you’re not very fond of the top part and you don’t really have anywhere to wear a full gown right now? Well, if Trevor Loves Mommy‘s prom dress story is anything to go by, there’s totally still a reason for you to buy the dress! Their tutorial shows you step by step how to detach the bottom part that you love, refinish and resize the top, and turn it into a pleated high waisted skirt instead.

5. Loose maxi dress to fitted sun dress

Loose maxi dress to fitted sun dress

We know that there was a point in time where very baggy fitting clothes were fashionable, but we simply don’t like the way they look on us when they fit that way. We’d rather a shorter style that fits a little more closely, but the colours and fabrics we like don’t necessarily always come in that design. That’s where you take matters into your own hands! Ruffles and Stuff shows you how it’s done.

6. Vintage dress to modern sleeveless dress

Vintage dress to modern sleeveless dress

Sometimes it’s surprising how simply a dress that’s a little outdated in its style but still great in terms of fabric can be updated and altered to look more modern and wearable. This dress that Thriftanista in The City found, for example, featured sleeves in a length and fit that’s no longer stylish, so they show you how to remedy that by removing the sleeves, adding a sassy slit in the skirt, and making the dress into a lovely sleeveless cut.

7. Men’s shirt to kid’s dress

Men's shirt to kid's dress

Maybe it’s not really a thrift shop find that you’ve got to work with but rather a hand-me-down from daddy’s closet that your daughter likes the colour and pattern of? In that case, the project is even cheaper for you and just as easy! we love the way Pennies into Pearls turned a large men’s short sleeved dress shirt into a nice buttoned dress for a little girl in just a few surprisingly simple steps.

8. Thrift dress to vintage inspired 20s dress

Thrift dress to vintage inspired 20s dress

Perhaps you quite like the larger fit of a baggy dress that you found at a thrift shop because it reminds you of vintage fashions you’ve seen from the 1920s, but there are just a few details and cuts missing to make it really accurate? Then we’d pick that piece right up and consider it an investment, because those changes are quite easy to make! Evelyn Wood shows you how to add straps at the sides, shorten the length, and add some buttons down the front to really get the look.

9. Thrift dress to casual top

Thrift dress to casual top

We already talked about what happens when you like the bottom of a dress and want to upcycle that, but what if it’s actually the top of the garment that you really like instead? Don’t worry, that can be saved and transformed too! Dream a Little Bigger shows you how to crop the bottom off, finish yourself a new bottom, and adjust the fit if you need to.

10. Baggy short dress to fitted long dress

Baggy short dress to fitted long dress

usually when we find a dress that’s too baggy and wide, it’s also too long. Every once in a while, however, we find one that we just think would look better if it had a little more length so it cuts us at a better place on our legs. That’s why we were glad to find this awesome tutorial from It’s Always Autumn that teaches you how to both resize something to a smaller width and lengthen the bottom of a dress by adding a cute contrasting hem.

11. Resizing a belted dress

Resizing a belted dress

Do you love the idea of resizing a wide, baggy dress in length and width at once but you still kind of feel when you try it on that it just needs something else around the waist to really finish the look off and make it look complete? Then try using a piece of what you cut off the bottom to make yourself a simple belt that you can cinch the middle with! Sarah Tyau shows you how it’s done in just a few simple steps.

12. Shortened, hemmed skirt

Shortened, hemmed skirt

As much as you admire the other things you’ve seen on this list so far, are you really just looking for a simple tutorial and guide that will help you short a skirt and create a new hem along the bottom so you can practice your basic techniques? In that case, we have a feeling you’re going to find this easy tutorial from Duck in Yellow very helpful!

13. Mexican dress to tote bag

Mexican dress to tote bag

What if you’ve come across a thrift dress that you absolutely love in terms of its colour, design, pattern, or detail, but you really just can’t get into the style or parts of the garment further away from the part you like are damaged? To us, it sounds like you’ve got yourself a versatile new tool for making yourself something else other than clothing! We absolutely love the idea of salvaging an old dress that might otherwise never get worn again by turning the best parts of it into a tote bag instead, which is why we were so happy to come across this instructional guide for just that from Tea Rose Home.

14. Rainbow tie dye dress

Rainbow tie dye dress

Maybe you’ve found a dress that fits perfectly and sits in a style that you really like but you’re just bored with the colour? We’d say scoop it up at the thrift store anyways, especially if it’s white, because even colours can be adjusted! We’re huge fans of the way The Mermaid’s Den turned this cute kids’ dress into an adorable rainbow piece using a little bit of fabric dye and a dip-dye method of striping.

15. Double thrift refashion tutorial

Double thrift refashion tutorial

Are you decently experiences with making simple clothing alterations and you’re not sure that you’re looking for a specific project right now so much as you are collecting simple ideas for future garments so you can reference them any time? In that case, here’s a two-for-one deal that’s totally worth hanging onto! This double tutorial from The Sorry Girls shows you how to turn a dress into a casual, long summer jacket, as well as how to change a dress with long sleeves into a cute halter!

Have you refashioned and altered other funny thrift store finds into amazing “new” garments for yourself before, but you don’t see anything quite like what you created on our list? Tell us all about how you did it in the comments section or link us to pictures of your work!

1 Comment
  1. Thank you so much for posting these ideas for refashions. I have recently discovered a local thrift store that frequently puts out a rack of clothing for $1.00 each. I have found some garments made with fabulous material and have collected quite a pile! Now I need guidance as to how to make them into new pieces for me. So your posts are just what I was looking for! Please give us more!

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