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Monday, June 8, 2009

Formal Dresses for Dress Up Clothes

I have always wondered at the thought that went through the thrift store employee's mind that thought pricing fluffy out-of-date 80s prom dresses/wedding gowns for $20+ was a good idea, but I have been on the look out for the the frilly 80s dresses believe it or not. My mother's boss when I was a teenager, cut down a few prom dresses to fit her kid, which I thought was neat, but this lady is an actual knows-what-she's-doing sewer.

But, since I have been keeping my eyes peeled this last year for formals to do this with, not knowing how well I can refashion them, I made a deal with myself that I would not consider any above $5. Amazingly, I spent no more than a dollar on any of the 8 that I picked up and one just happened to fit me which I like! Since it was in the dollar bag sale and it evened out that I got it for 3 cents, it hangs in my closet for sheer silliness. Not that it has the chance to see the light of day, but one can hope.

Anyway, so I had 7 dresses that either didn't fit me if they were nice ones or awful 80s poofy things and a lucky find of a flower girl dress. I have been debating on how to do this, because I don't want to make them all so small for my (almost) 3 year old and then have to go through the whole process again for her when she gets bigger, plus, I don't think I am skilled enough to really cut them down to size. So, how to sew them so the 2 year old can play in them, but still be salvagable or resewable so that they grow with her?

Basically, I did 3 things to the dresses. I took all the bodice seams and folded them up and sewed them in about 2 inches. Each dress has two seams in front and two seams in back. That makes most of them fit the size of a 2-5 year old (they are a bit big on the 2 year old). I am doing all my sewing in a color that doesn't match the item so that in a few years when I have to let these things out, I can easily identify the seams to rip.

Then I took the bottom of the dress if it was a long one and pulled it up inside the dress to the waistband of the dress and just tacked it there with about 2 inches of sewing. This makes it able to be a dress where my kiddos feet can poke out, capable of walking around in it, gives her a train (what girl doesn't want a train?) and yet I don't have to cut it and I can let it down as she gets older.

And then I had to bring in the sleeves somehow. Each dress was different. The one with the spaghetti straps, I just tucked in the straps and sewed the shoulder pieces together, a few I tacked it down onto the neckline, but most of them I just folded the shoulder down, creating a loop and tacked it together so that the arm hole is smaller, but the sleeve isn't cut. The seam will just have to lay back against her shoulder. I hope that is as clear as mud. The arrow furthest right shows the sleeve gather, the other two show the 2 inch seams around the bodice.

Hmmm, wonder if anyone but me understands that picture!

Here's a room full of dress up clothing, my child's favorite activity, now complete with two handfuls of formal dress up clothes.

And here's the happy model in a several of them.


Michelle said...

Beautiful! Again, amazing work. These are so much better than the cheap (uglly) dress up outfits they have inthe stores for little girls.

Heather - said...

This is great!! Great tips for altering old formals. I wish I had girls so I could do this! :) I'm going to link to this from Blissful Kids! :)

Jan Parrish said...

What beautiful dresses - fit for a princess. My mom had an old bridesmaid dress we used dress up in. Great idea.

Leslie said...


Lindsey said...

Hi, I found your blog when Heather posted about you on Blissful Kids. I don't own any formal wear myself, not even old ones, so I waited until Goodwill had it's $2 clothes sale this Saturday and picked up some dresses. I've only done one so far, but both my girls LOVE it! Thank you for a lovely piece of inspiration. I'll post the dress I made on my blog and link to you.

Melissa Jagears said...


Welcome! I don't have a goodwill here, but a $2 sale that includes formals is quite the bargain! Glad your girls are enjoying it.

Ann @TheAssetEdge said...

What a clever idea!@