Easy Shift Dress Refashion

So there’s this dress that I have. You probably have one too, actually. You’ve had it for, oh, about 5 years now, and somehow loved it when you first bought it. Alas,  after wearing it only once, you never worn the thing again. It’s not like its an all over sequin number that can ONLY be worn on new years, or a red dress with a huge heart on it. The dress you have is fairly simple and pretty, but you can just never seem to find the right way to wear it.  You might not know why, but I do! It’s because it doesn’t want to be worn as a dress. You need to do a dress refashion and turn it into a more wearable shirt!

The dress that I have is a shift-like pale grey number with small silver balls attached in a pattern on the front. There is a tie at the waist, and it’s got small sleeves. I liked it when I wore it for New Years, but it just didn’t translate very well to the rest of my life. I also hate going out for New Years now (I’ll stay home where it’s warm, thanks) so the dress no longer has a purpose.

Originally, I was just going to take the beads off and wear it as a less fancy dress, but I’m still not in love with the fit. This is where the dress refashion comes in.

I’ve been trying to minimize my wardrobe lately, and have found that I have no nice tops or blouses. Literally zero. Thus, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to turn a never worn dress into a few favourite top! This is what the dress looks like on me now without the belt. Super unflattering:

There are a couple different style that I could have done with my top, but I decided to go with a dropped waist peplum style for my dress refashion. My dress had a slight A-line silhouette, so I was able to cut off the bottom, gather it, and achieve a peplum style. You might have to play around with your dress and see what will work for the style that you have.  Doing a looser peplum style also meant that I didn’t have to do much tailoring, or sewing, so this project was super quick! Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl, & perfect for the spring.

Easy DIY Shift Dress Refashion

Time: 2hrs
Difficulty: Fairly Easy

This is What You Need: 

  1. 1 shift style dress that you never wear anymore
  2. thread - In a colour that matches your fabric
  3. Sewing machine
  4. ruler
  5. Pen or fabric marker
  6. Serger (optional)
  7. Pins
  8. An Iron


  1. Try your dress on and mark on either side where you want your drop waist to hit.
  2. Take the dress off and lie it flat. Mine had a lining that was attached by a string on the inside, so I just cut the string on either side, and ignored the lining while I cut the dress fabric.
  3. Using your ruler, draw a dotted line on the front from one side to the other. Try to make it as straight as possible. 
  4. For the back, you can do a straight line too.  For mine, I drew it in a “U” shape so that the back would actually hang lower.
  5. Cut off the bottom of your dress around this line. Make sure that you do not cut the lining if your dress has it!
  6. When I bought the dress, it was a size 8 which is much too big for my chest (had to buy the larger size to fit my hips). To make it fit better, I made a pleat in the center back. I simply turned the dress inside out, and with right sides together, I marked 1 inch and then sewed the pleat down about 1 inch.  I then pressed the pleat flat and tacked it down on either side of the label. This really helped the neckline to not gape so much.
  7. Now take the bottom of your dress that you cut off. Remove the stitching from the hem and press the hem back open
  8. Measure the length. Mine was 16″ long, so I measured 8″ and marked a line across the dress. The plan was to cut it in half so that I could gather it quite a bit.
  9. Cut along this line so that you have 2 pieces of the same width fabric.
  10. Now, you need to open the pieces up so that they will lay flat and can be sewn together. Take 1 piece and cut off the seam. Repeat on the other piece.
  11. Take one piece and lie it on top of the other with right sides together. Pin along the cut edges and then sew together with about 1/2″ seam allowance. Serge if you wish.

    You can see here that I have pinned both edges of the fabric. It is just gathered together so that I could get both sides in one photo. I also didn’t remove my hem until later, but it will be easier for you to do it first!

  12. Take your bottom piece that is now a large tube of fabric, and sew a line on the front about 1/4″ down from one of the edges. Repeat on the back. Make sure that you use a long stitch (a stitch length of 4) because we are going to be using this to gather the fabric. Make sure that you do not back tack, and that you leave a few inches of thread on either side of your sewing.
  13. Now take your dress top and turn it inside out. With right sides together, line up the side seams of the dress top with the bottom. Pin.
  14. Start to gather your bottom portion until it lines up with the dress top. Pin around the entire gathered edge.
  15. Sew along this line about 1/8″-1/4″ away from the gathered stitch line. Serge if you wish. 
  16. At this point you can cut your lining to about 1″ shorter than your top and serge the edge. I was in a bit of a rush to get this done, so I didn’t serge anything at this point, but I’ll go back and serge it when I get a chance. Oh, and the time to change my serger thread. Any avid sewer knows how much of a hassle that is!

    Here, you can see the pleat that I made in the center back. It actually fit the label perfectly.

  17. With your top inside out, press the hem up about 1/2″ using an iron. This will become your new hem. 
  18. Sew the hem using a normal stitch length (about a 2) 1/4″ away from the edge.
  19. Turn right side out, press & enjoy your new top!

Outfit Details:

Shoes: Urban Outfitters - Kelsey Dagger
Jeans: J Brand
Top: H&M Dress Refashion!
Jacket: H&M
Necklace: Gifted
Sunglasses: Bailey Nelson Audrey Lunettes
Lipstick: MAC Flat Out Fabulous

P.s: thank you to Nick for quickly snapping these photos before our Easter Dinner!

I’m definitely loving how the top came out! I can see myself wearing this a lot more now that it’s a more flattering style for me. It’s the prefect breezy top for this coming summer 🙂

I also now have at least 1 nice top that I can wear out!

Let me know what you think of my dress refashion, or if you need any pointers on refashioning your own dress 🙂


xo, tess.



11 responses to “Easy Shift Dress Refashion”

  1. Cora-lynn says:

    Beautifully done Tess!

  2. Candy kage says:

    You have been in my closet. Great idea

  3. Danielle says:

    You seriously just created something that I would find in Forever 21. This is so dope and you have some serious talent. AWEEEEESOME job!!!

  4. Shift dress & a DIY peplum? Yes, please! I love this!

  5. Amy Scott says:

    Wow you are talented, it looks wonderful! You wouldn’t even want to imagine the mess I would make of this! I’m getting better at baking and homemaking but sewing is NOT my forte!

    • Tess says:

      Awe thank you so much 🙂 I was awful at it too when I first started, just gotta start with a simple project to build your skills 🙂

  6. Brilliant upcycle-LOVE how you styled it with an edgy leather jacket!

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