Maxi Dress into Ruffled Hem Sun-Dress...Beginner Refashion/Upcycle #1

Am I The Only One?

About a year 4 years ago, well before I began my journey of Upcycling clothing for myself--which started last summer 2019, interrupted by long pauses with my DIY costume blogging-- I starting looking for others who were interested in the same hobby.

I googled bloggers 'well niched' into Upcycling and Refashioning. Out of about 20 I looked at, most links not current, I found a handful of good quality artists, and I did my subscribing.

Following these women over the years, I would grab my morning coffee and sit down to enjoy my inbox full of links to familiar faces and their delightful creations. With my history of thrifting for clothes--most of them ill fitting--these blogs really inspired me to do my own alterations, not even recreations just yet.

Blogging About Costumes or Clothing? Can I Have It All?

But something even more magical happened for me, I saw how I could transform thrift store household textiles into lovely garments! And then pursued my interest in sewing historic costumes for children locally, turning my inspiration into a money making business (not a lot, just hobby-level amount).

While I sewed over 1,000 costume pieces for my business, and with lots of time to think, I started to think maybe I should be blogging about the costumes I am making...and I did just that. I enjoyed blogging. And with more time to think as I sewed until the wee hours of the morning, I thought maybe one day I will also blog about creating garments for myself.

Thrifted Clothing Ready For Me to Upcycle!

clothes ready to be upcycled by me

Cue Covid-19 and Q-Time

My business, which was on track to finally be in the black after 4 years of renting locally, came to a grinding halt because of Covid-19 and Q-Time. Because I was in the midst of my busiest season, I had just delivered almost 100 costumes to local schools. And had 2 more racks--another 50 or so costumes--ready to go to the next schools.

Thankfully my costumes are with good natured cutomers who will keep my costumes safe until the Quarantine is lifted.

My Costumes Ready To Be Delivered

costumes ready to be delivered

With time on my hands now, I have been able to revisit the thought of publishing blogs about MY upcycled clothing. I have published 3 new upcycles so far--this one being #4. I am loving it.

In a short period of time, with minimal outreach and social media efforts, I have been able to get a nice blog following and subscribers. Because of my blog following and increasing awareness of what I do, I am starting to have some collaborative opportunities.

Collaborative Opportunities

In fact, I have a couple of my upcycles being featured soon in a magazine in New Zealand...I live in Northern California...clearly across the world. I can't wait to post about this when this happens!

Also, I was invited to join a styling group Match Made in Seven, which is just a fun group of ladies who blog about styling creations suggested by a member's theme. My next post will be an outfit I upcycle with the theme 'Steel Magnolias'. Wait until you see the 'BEFORE'!

Wanner Label, A Sustainable Swedish Clothing Company

More recently, through Facebook Upcycling Groups, my path came made acquaintances with a woman named Josefin Wanner, the owner and creator of a Swedish company Wanner Label, which produces and sells lovely, wearable clothing from second hand textiles.

Although enchanted with design, style and construction of garments, Josefin, a 2019 graduate of fashion studies was concerned about the large fashion companies adding to climate change as one of the earth's largest polluters. Josefin could not envision herself working for a corporation where her voice about the environmental impact of mass produced, 'fast-fashion' would most likely go unheard. Therefore, she launched her own company focused on sustainable luxe apparel made from reclaimed textiles like cashmere blankets.

Wanner Label's Garments

examples of wanner label

When I first started my thrifting journey, I was 16 years old and the need was pure financial necessity. The idea that I was being 'green' was not even a concept in my simplistic teen mind. My mind-set it was more "How can I achieve the same 'look' as the other girls with my $6/hour minimum wage job".

Not only until my late 40's I learned that the fashion industry is a huge contributor to carbon emissions, water pollution, and exponentially to land fills. And although we as a society donate our clothes to charity to help others in need or sell to others, there's a tertiary market of selling unsold donated goods to 3rd world countries which at first seems like a great idea, but actually is detrimental to their economies by reducing their industry and employment opportunities.

Although thrifting and upcycling clothing back out of the system is my blip in effort, I still feel good about trying. And with many more people like me doing the same, collectively we can make a difference.

I admire Josefin's resolve to follow her heart and take action against the negative rippling effects of fast-fashion on our planet in a bigger way. As she is busy producing her 2nd collection and continuing to launch her new company (and I know what that's like!), she reached out to me to work collaboratively. Enthusiastically, I agreed to creating a Beginner's Upcycling Series for her website.



CTO does not receive any compensation, financial or product, for this post. Costume Take-Out and Wanner Label are not connected in any legally binding arrangement. CTO is not responsible for any claims made by Wanner Label, and all opinions here on CTO, are exclusively that of CTO.


Beginner Upcycling Series

Although I tend to be a little more trendy in style and Josefin's aesthetic is more earthy, bohemian with an emphasis on cozy textures, I will be producing a beginner upcycling series which applies to ANY style of clothing. Sewing is Sewing regardless of style.

My Beginner's Upcycle Series will be in addition to my personal styling upcycles. Right now it will be in blogging form, but come Fall 2020, as my daughter moves out of the sunniest room in our house, videos will be coming out!

So let's get started !

I may be middle-aged, but I pride myself on not having lost my pulse on what styles are currently trending. It doesn't mean I follow all of them--let's cross off booty shorts or strapless anything. The first is just not appropriate for me and the second, well, I have never liked strapless anything, ever...just kind of how I don't like asparagus.

The thrifted dress below was Target's Merona brand. When I bought the dress, I thought I would wear it casually, with a belt and blousing the top over the bottom, in a boho 1920's vibe.

Well, in typically Eva-lutionary style, I got bored of that silhouette last summer (but not the pattern!), and knew the dress was begging for a face-lift.

BEFORE green target merona brand dress

My vision was simple:

...Maxi Dress to Short, Summer Ruffle Dress

You are probably thinking:

...this can't be a Beginner's Upcycler project?

My definition of Beginner Upcycler:

Can you do a basic straight stitch on a sewing machine?

Can you figure out where your zig-zag setting is?

Then you can do this!

image of stitches to use for beginner upcycle


Maxi-Dress Upycle OVERALL Parts:

Although for a beginner upcycler, this dress project might seem challenging, it helps to break it down into overall parts.

I designed this tutorial so you can do just the 1st & 2nd Part to create a bottom ruffle for your dress. If you feel like your dress needs more, you can continue to parts 3 & 4, which are easier tasks than 1& 2.

Part 1: Shorten dress

Part 2: Add bottom dress ruffle

Part 3: Make optional sash

Part 4: Make optional shoulder ruffle


1st Step--Decide Hem Length

  • Determine where you want to length of the ruffle to fall. (For me it was right below the knee.)

!!! Keep in mind!!!

--Higher the layer, then wider the ruffle

--Lower the layer, then narrower the ruffle

proportions of maxi dress BEFORE

2nd Step--Create 1st Ruffle Layer Strip

  • Fold up hem to the new length of your dress. (For me it was right below the knee).

  • Put in about 2 pins to hold in place.

  • Measure the same length around entire dress

  • Press with hot iron

  • Pin layer up all around dress

Create 1st Ruffle Layer Strip

3rd Step--Create 2nd Ruffle Layer Strip

  • Fold up 2nd time and pin.

  • Pin all around dress.

  • Iron down folds.

  • Use Chalk to mark final edge. This is where you will cut off the fabric.

Create 2nd Ruffle Layer Strip

4th Step--Cut off fabric

  • Look for your chalk line from Step 3.

  • Find a vertical seam (use what dress already has)

  • Cut up vertical seam to chalk line

  • Cut horizontally at chalk line all around dress

Cutting off fabric

5th Step--Cut Along 2 Pressed Seamed Lines

  • Look at your removed fabric (Mine came out to 19 inches total width! Yours can be different, nothing to worry about.)

  • Find your your pressed edges

  • Cut up along entire length of fabric resulting in 3 strips

  • Pick out 2 strips for dress's hem ruffle and put aside 3rd strip

Cutting Along 2 Pressed Seamed Lines

6th Step--Set Up Your Sewing Machine &/or Serger

  • Pick out your thread

  • Set up your sewing machine &/or Serger

(I leave this is up to you since each machine is different...tons of online tutorials to help you! Personally I have a Brother XR3340--and very happy. It's just the machine that was at Costco the time my other more expensive machine broke-down. I own 3 Sergers, Babylock Imagine (for tight, 3-thread, silky overlock stitching as I will use for my ruffles), a Juki-m1000 which is my seaming workhorse), and a $50 1980's Bernette I bough off Craigslist (dedicated only to white thread--never changing. I am not affiliated with any of these companies.)

picking out thread

7th Step--Connect 2 Strips Together at Narrow Ends

  • 1 & 2-- Put one side of your narrow edges together of both strips, front-fabric side together

  • 3-- Sew with regular stitch down edges

  • 4--Zig-Zag or Serge raw edges

  • 5-- Lay out long layer and connect 2nd set edges together to make complete circle

  • 6-- Sew 2nd set of edges together

Connect Your 2 Strips Together at Narrow Ends

8th Step--'Finish' Edges of Ruffle

(PLEASE NOTE: Finish here does not mean completion! Finish here means to transform your raw edge into a completed edge so there is no fraying over time.)

  • Finish edges of fabric with either a narrow, fold-over hem with a regular sewing machine OR serge a silky edge with a Serger (finishing with a sewing machine takes longer, but has as nice of an effect).

'Finishing' Edges of Ruffle

9th Step--'Gather-Stitch' Entire Length of Circle

  • Find your machine's longest stitch (Basting/Gathering)

  • Stitch entire length of the circle leaving a little thread out (Mine is in neon yellow because it's easier for me to see, I have a ton of it, and I can easily take it out at the end of the process)

  • Pull that thread end and slowly pull while shimmying fabric down until it gathers

'Gather-Stitch' Entire Length of Circle

10th Step--Attach Ruffle to Dress Edge

  • 1-- Align your ruffle front fabric to dress front fabric at lower edge of dress and gathered part of ruffle. (You can see a blue hazy arc which I highlight to show you that I have not wrapped the ruffle yet around whole dress yet.)

  • 2-- You will need to adjust the length of the ruffle to your dress edge...if ruffle layer is too long, pull thread and adjust the gathering again, if ruffle too short, release some slack and your gathering will be wider apart. (This step does take some time, even for me, so don't get discouraged).

  • 2 & 3-- Pin ruffle layer to edge of dress.

  • 4 & 5-- Sew with regular length stitch the fabrics, and adjust ruffles if needed before being stitched down. (Again, take your time with this process...better to do it right the first time rather than have to take it all apart and start from the beginning.)

  • Zig-Zag or Serge seams together. (Not pictured.)

Attaching Ruffle to Dress Edge

11th Step--Give Yourself a Gold Star!

Sit back and look at your new dress!

Do you want to make a sash and some sleeve ruffles?

Not too much more work! The hardest part is done already!