Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Day Sweater Dress Makeover

The record-setting snow storm that hit the mid-Atlantic this week gave me 2 snow days (!!!) and plenty of time to work on my newest project--except for the 3 hours we lost power Wednesday afternoon.  The snow was absolutely beautiful but after the 15 inches we had last weekend I wasn't even tempted to go out and play.
I've had this gray sweater dress from Express for about 3-4 years now and it's always bothered me to wear it.  I always get compliments when I do but its so overwhelmingly gray and the long sleeves annoy me, plus its kind of itchy.  I decided to spruce it up and change the neckline, since boat collars don't really work for me.
I based the idea for the new shape of the dress on this Butterick pattern (that I own but haven't made yet).  I obviously really like this purple broadcloth fabric (since I've used it in the past 3 of 4 projects) and I like the purple-gray combination.  To give the dress a little more flair I decided to use the belt as a ruffle that would just peek out of the side of the purple strips.

I started off by shortening the sleeves to 3/4 length.  I simply measured how long I wanted them to be, cut, and reattached the original cuff.  In order to get the sleeve to fit in the cuff I had to baste it and gather it a bit.
Next I prepared the purple strips and the ruffles.  I decided that I wanted the waist band to be about 3" wide (I checked other dresses I own with waistbands), and knew that I would want the 2 strips that make up the collar to form a strip the same width when they joined in the middle.  Therefore the collar strip would be 1.5", joining at the bottom of the v-neck to form a 3" strip.  I marked the design on my dress with chalk, which may give you a better idea of this.
For the waist I cut a strip 4" by 33", and did a double fold hem of about 1/2" on each side.  For the collar I cut a strip 2.5" by 44" and only folded over once (since it was going to be completely attached to the shirt anyway).  Now may be a good time to say that once I was partway through this project I realized that my dress was very stretchy, while the broadcloth was not.  I knew this would cause problems if I attached the waistband all the way around, as I probably wouldn't be able to get the dress over my head and shoulders.  So I decided to leave the waistband unattached in the back, and I'll show you the rest of my solution a bit later on.

After cutting the purple strips I was ready to prepare the gray ruffles.  I cut the belt in half (it ended up being 1" by 67").  I decided to use 1.5 times the length of the purple strips for the ruffles, so I used 1 strip for the collar, 3/4 of one for the top of the waistband, and the rest plus some extra strips I cut from the leftover sleeve material for the bottom of the waistband.  I then made a ruffle with each long strip, gathering them enough so that they were the same length as the purple strips.
Next came the pinning...and repinning...and more pinning.  And between each step trying on the dress and getting hundreds of tiny stabs and scratches.  My arms look like I was mauled by a very weak and dull-clawed kitten.  But I finally got both sides of the collar pinned correctly and I sewed very close to the edge, slightly overlapping the 2 strips in the middle. 
The final step was to add the waistband.  As I said earlier I realized that I would never be able to get the dress on if I attached it all the way around, so I decided to leave it unattached on the back.  In order to do this I first pinned the front and 2 inches around the back.
Then I hemmed the top and bottom of the waistband that were not attached to the dress, going right up to where it would join the dress but being careful not to go too far.  I left the ends unhemmed since I knew I would have to remeasure and do them last, once everything else was in place.  Next I sewed the waistband top and bottom to the dress and tried it on.  Luckily I'd left enough room in the back and was able to get it on!  With the help of my boyfriend (who marked where the 2 ends should meet) I was able to finish the back, hemming the edges and adding 3 hooks and eyes so that once the dress is on the belt can be "buckled" in place.
This is what the back looks like when the dress is on.  By looking at it when its off you can see just how much the dress stretches!
I'm really happy with the way this dress turned out and it was definitely a great way to spend my snow days!  You may not be able to tell but the waistband and vertical strip only ended up being about 2 1/4 inches wide, instead of the 3 I was going for.  I must have used more fabric than I meant to when hemming.  And even though this didn't really help the itchiness problem I'm sure I'll wear it more than I did before!


  1. I'm really enjoying your projects!

  2. Very nice. Gives me some ideas! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. this makeover turned out beautiful!! great job and thanks for sharing the tutorial!